“Life is pain, Princess.
Anyone who tells you different is selling you something.”
– Dread Pirate Roberts, in “The Princess Bride”
Everywhere you turn, you see “OCD, ASD, MDD, ADD, ADHD, BPD, GAD, PD, SAD, PTSD, NPD,” etc. The problem is not limited to this acronym soup, but the pseudo diagnoses they represent. Patients today get stained by the specious medical diagnoses of biological psychiatry. And furthermore they are brainwashed to believe that these fictitious brain ‘diseases’ are genetic. Biological psychiatry treats people like they are mechanical objects, renaming them almost as they are re-branding products. The one I like the best is the renaming of ‘manic-depressive’ to ‘bipolar.’ Instead of a name which accurately describes the states of suffering, it was turned into something mechanical — a battery with two poles. We’ve gone from something human to something Frankensteinian.
But fear not; we have psychoactive drugs that will correct the imbalance in your genetically damaged brain. We have antidepressants for your depression; Benzodiazepines for your anxiety, amphetamines for your ADHD, anti-psychotics for schizophrenia, antidepressants for your OCD, etc.
Sadly, I have heard many stories from patients that began when they received their “diagnosis.” They are told they have a disease. “It’s not your fault,” they are told; “it’s genetic.” For the lucky few it may take only a few years to discover that their biological diagnosis is bogus, then to find their way to a good therapy, and/or continue on their journey.
We are sold a bill of goods where it is believed that taking drugs could possibly attend to the incredible complexity of human suffering. How did it happen that within a generation such a delusion captured the public imagination and currently holds sway? Young people have said to me, “You’re a psychiatrist and you do psychotherapy? I never heard of that.” Initially, I was shocked. Now, I get letters all the time from people who ask me if I know any psychiatrists in their town who don’t give drugs.
There have always been two competing currents in psychiatry — Psychodynamic (fundamentally psychoanalytic) psychotherapy vs. Somatic psychiatry. Now there is only one. For the story of somatic psychiatry, see — “Do No Harm: The Destructive History of Pharmaceutical Psychiatry and its Bedfellows — Electroshock, Insulin Shock, and Lobotomies.” This gives the true story of somatic psychiatry. Its practice has been to act directly on our brains — shocking them, reaming them out with ice picks — and now reaming them out chemically. Somatic psychiatry has always done great harm, but its sordid history has gotten lost in the amnesia of time. But make no mistake; pharmaceutical psychiatry is the current incarnation of somatic psychiatry. And we are doing harm all over again.
Regarding the psychoanalytic, there have been many very good therapists; illuminating writers like Fairbairn, Winnicott, and Harry Stack Sullivan, as well as important understandings about attachment. And there were many excellent teachers. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of problems due to faulty psychoanalytic theories which interfered with responsiveness to our patients. Nevertheless, I am suggesting a new paradigm in the psychotherapy tradition.
“The Psychotherapy of Character” is a specialized form of human engagement that repairs the damage to one’s personality by acting on the play of consciousness in the very way that it formed in the brain in the first place. It is an art and a science that bridges the old divide between psychotherapy and the brain. To put it simply, human struggle is purely a human problem. It is derived from the consequences of deprivation and abuse in our formative years, followed by additional struggles that result from our adaptations to the ongoing traumas of life. Psychotherapy promotes the recovery of a person’s “Authentic Being” through genuine and trusted engagement with the therapist. Mourning the pain of this inner play heals our symptoms and our suffering.
The specious enterprise of healing ‘brain diseases’ is based on a faulty understanding of neuroscience and the brain. The biological orientation has mistaken parts of the brain for the whole. Separate elements of the brain operate mechanically, and are not the cause of psychiatric symptoms. The parts all work in concert to create the Play of Consciousness. The truth is that memories of trauma, stored throughout the limbic system, the amygdala, and the hippocampus, are the seat of our suffering and symptoms. The invisible replay of the scenes in the play generate our symptoms. Our genetic temperament gives form to the symptoms — phobias in one person, or obsessions in another. And when the trauma is mourned — as when, watching a tragic play, we undergo a “catharsis” — we sit with the pain, and the brain changes all on its own.
Psychiatry has always been a poor stepchild of medicine. In doctorly circles it was demeaned and disrespected. The somatic psychiatrists wished to achieve status, and if they invented medical diseases they could put on their white coats and qualify as “real scientists.” Real psychiatrists, however, never cared about this. They understood that psychiatry is different where the medical model does not apply.
When I was a psychiatric resident in the early 70’s, it was fully understood that psychiatric diagnoses are not medical and they never have been. At best, a diagnosis was a short-hand understanding that was intended to be an aid to the therapist in highlighting pertinent issues. All that mattered was the true story, the actual history. That is to say; ‘his story,’ or ‘her story.’ Each patient would lead the way to whatever needed attended to. Ultimately the ‘art’ of psychotherapy is about feeling, caring, and meaning-making.
A good psychotherapist does not need to be a doctor, but there are certain experiences in becoming a doctor that helped shape me in a positive way. The experience of dissecting a human body changes a young medical student forever and plunges him into the secret mysteries of life. To be in a position to make informed life-and-death decisions for patients breeds a sense of responsibility. It changes a young doctor powerfully. To learn about the mysteries of the body and the life-course of diseases, to understand about life-altering conditions such as cancer, immunological diseases, asthma, heart disease, real neurological conditions, etc., provides important experiences in grappling with the full spectrum of human experience. Eventually all people get sick with something. It was important for me, for instance, to have evaluated a “psychotic” man, and recognize that he had late-stage syphilis, not schizophrenia.
The core paradigm of the Psychotherapy of Character is a unified field theory of human consciousness and how the brain actually operates that is consonant with neuroscience, myths, dreams, religion, art, and Darwin. The medicalization of the human condition did not begin with psychiatry; humans have been looking to nature — herbs, tree barks, trepanation (drilling holes in the head) — for cures of psychic distress since civilization began. However the cause of much of the psychic distress we sought to relieve is really to be found when we look inward, to our selves, and to civilization itself. “Psychiatry” refers, after all, literally, to the “medical treatment of the soul.” Which begs the essential question of what a “soul” is, where it resides, and by what means it can be addressed. In my understanding, as the patient mourns the pain of his inner play, he writes a new script infused with his own authenticity and his own capacity to love. This is his soul, or in my terms his ‘Authentic Being.’
When I was a resident, a senior psychiatrist who was influential in the alcohol world announced that alcoholism should be referred to as a ‘real’ disease. He explained that since people make moral judgments about alcoholism, shifting the metaphor to ‘real’ will help them not blame themselves or be blamed by others. He said that this was just an innocent shading of the truth and will help people. I objected, because it wasn’t a disease. Truth matters. Words matter. About a decade later medical insurance came into play; it wouldn’t cover alcoholism because it was an addiction (which it is), not a disease. In 1987, to deal with the insurance issue, the AMA redefined alcoholism into a disease. Do I smell money here?
But the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have always been a spiritual practice. “When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.” When alcoholism was referred to as a physical disease, it was understood as a metaphor. Then people actually started to believe the ‘disease’ concept. When brain scans showed differences in the brains of people who were chronic alcoholics, this was taken as proof that it really is a disease. (It didn’t matter that when people stopped drinking, their brains returned to normal.) The brain reflects behaviors, it doesn’t cause behaviors. Once the disease model was accepted as an established fact, researchers found pseudo-evidence that alcoholism is also genetic. Though not true, it has become accepted as fact.
Psychiatric diagnosis has followed the same trajectory as alcoholism. Each diagnosis in turn has been constructed by somatic psychiatrists as a disease, in each case building a similar house of cards. It doesn’t seem to matter that the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry and its influence-peddling in academic psychiatry has been exposed as financially and scientifically corrupted and manipulated. The drug companies have engaged in study suppression, falsification, strategic marketing, and financial incentives.
Take, for example, the antidepressants: the chemical imbalance theory has been discredited, but this didn’t alter the fact that the theory is still believed. Never mind that antidepressants don’t actually do anything constructive, apart from the fact that people believe they do (which has also been proved). And in their wake a lot of harm has been done (see “No, It’s not the Neurotransmitters, Depression is not a biological disease caused by an imbalance of serotonin” ).
The brain reflects. It doesn’t cause. Time and space don’t permit me to go through the entire DSM-5, but each ‘disease’ is a work of fiction. Brain scans showing thinned areas of the cortex in “affected” regions of brain which correlated to a “symptom” are taken as proof of genetic disease. This cannot be so, or therapy would not magically reverse the thinning, as we know it to do.
A so-called landmark study, all over the press, is that a gene related to eliminating connections between neurons in adolescence is the “cause” of schizophrenia. Since neurons are eliminated in adolescence, the new theory is that an overactive gene variant is responsible. This theory is believed, then taken as a major breakthrough. But it doesn’t prove anything. Conclusions, in the absence of real mechanisms, or solid and comprehensive explanations that fit every instance, end up creating a false and speculative fantasy that is then taken as “knowledge.” Once these conclusions are established, they become reified and operate as beliefs. This one is already (falsely) established, as if it has been actually been proven that schizophrenia is biological (see- “‘Evidence-based’ Psychiatry is ‘Evidence’ in Name Only, A call for the science of psychotherapy has taken a wrong turn”).
Here are two random — yet typical — examples that popped up on Google: “Genetic Discovery Could Lead to Development of New Bipolar Meds.” The research indicates that abnormal variations in PDE10A19 might (my italics) impact signaling of cAMP by engaging with another protein, restricting that protein’s activity and its signaling. “Once we understand how this protein helps neurons remain healthy, we might (my italics) be able to develop medications to treat neurons when they function abnormally, such as in patients with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.” These leaps are delusional. In addition, one study then uses a previous study as a fact and extends them. There is nothing here but a house of cards.
And how about this one, “Biomarker Could Lead to Earlier Detection in Women of Mental Disorders”:
“A newly identified biomarker linked to mental illness in female psychiatric patients could lead the way for a simple blood test for improved interventions and treatment, (my italics) according to a study in EBioMedicine. … overproduction of XIST has been found in female patients with mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia. About half of the female patients had abnormally higher levels of XIST and other genes related to the X chromosomes, which could (my italics) indicate that overproduction of XIST and genes from the inactive X chromosome are common denominators in the development of psychiatric disorders in patients … in the general population of female psychiatric patients.”
This study has already taken as fact that these three conditions are diseases in the first place. There has never been a study where these assumptions ever turn out to lead anywhere.
We have to stem the tide of somatic psychiatry and bring sanity back to psychiatry. A recent article by Peter Kinderman, “Mental illness mostly caused by life events not genetics, argue psychologists” challenges the waste of research money in England which has been based on the assumption that the cause of human struggle is biological. We need to do this in America, and worldwide. Our understanding of human suffering needs to return to a legacy of caring and wisdom. Our children’s futures — all our futures — depend on it.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
A good recounting of the delusions, distortions, fabrications, and ignorance that has led to the present pitiful state of American psychiatry, Dr. Berezin. Although two more factors leading to this state should be added: greed and laziness. Many psychiatrists today are all too content to grovel at the altar of the drug companies, which they metaphorically do via lazily conducting 15-minute sessions followed by fake diagnoses and pill-pushing, while receiving large salaries that they emphatically do not deserve in relation to the actual value they provide relative to other professionals.
The amazing thing is that so many psychiatrists today still tell themselves they are doing a good job at “treating” their patients’ “mental illnesses”. It just goes to show how easily and completely many human beings delude themselves into believing things that are adaptive for them but harmful for others.
I am not sure why you consider people practicing mainly or only psychotherapy to be psychiatrists; they are not, and you seem confused about this terminology. To me you were basically a psychodynamic therapist who happened to have an MD, the MD might be useful for other reasons, but it’s not central to what you do, thus being a psychiatrist is not your primary identity.
A psychiatrist is a pseudo-doctor who believes in the existence of fictional brain diseases with a biological or genetic basis and treats them with medications that do nothing except dull down the central nervous system. And that is not you, nor was it the psychodynamic therapists who happened to have MDs in the 70s.
As for this, “The brain reflects behaviors, it doesn’t cause behaviors.” This summarizes well the contradiction and delusion at the heart of biological psychiatric research. The problem for research psychiatrist is that admitting this would require admitting that their diagnoses are fraudulent and that human problems are rarely or never, depending on the type of problem/feeling, caused by brain chemistry. It would be an admission that they are quacks. Psychiatric research is so weak and brittle because it requires assuming so many things that are simply false and unproven. That is why it’s so easy to see through the house of cards that is biological psychiatry, once you read widely outside of the biological research.
The piece of advice I wish I’d been given when I was very distressed, and which I now tell to others is this: Do not see psychiatrists, avoid contact with mental health workers as much as possible, do not take drugs, and do not believe in mental health diagnoses. Therapists can be fine if they work in a humanistic, relational, dialogical way like you do. But they are polar opposites to psychiatrists in their causal beliefs and in their way of working with people.
That essential piece of advice should be given to every single potential future victim of psychiatrists and the mental death industry.
Or, if they are unable to process this in their pain and despair, it should be given to their advocates or loving family members. These quacks have been the source of such misery, suffering, disability, terror, and death that it is hard to comprehend how or why they have not been driven out of “business”. Who would trust the well-being of a child, a teen, and mother, a wife, a husband, in fact, any human being to the ignorant, dangerous, useless, and arrogant fools who largely make up the psychiatric “profession” ( bit of a stretch calling it that).
What kind of “work” do they do? They kill little kids like Rebecca Riley, torture people like Garth Daniels with ECT, murder poor Luise, and poison people who end up with tardive dyskinesia, increased psychosis, homicidal or suicidal ideation, and any number of other conditions involving the deterioration of ones physical and emotional health.
I have long thought that it would be a good idea to have psychiatrists in training take hallucinogenic drugs and then get admitted to a psych ward unbeknownst to staff while tripping. You’d obviously need some sort of “minder” to get the pseudo-patient to the hospital, but once there, your wannabe shrink is likely to have an educational experience that (s)he would find enlightening.
No, not hallucinogens. Too benign. Feed them huge doses of the antipsychotics with a side order of benzos, sleeping pills, and antidepressants. The “full meal deal” and preferably have the neuroleptics injected… Then, after a month of restful incarceration, take them off all the drugs cold turkey…
I think this “training” and “lived experience” would go a long way to informing their future practices…
No, we don’t need robots in the waiting room, although it would be entertaining to see what the diagnoses would be if the staff didn’t know what you were doing (Zombie Personality Disorder?).
My first 3 “manic episodes” were caused by stress.
These used to be called “nervous breakdowns”.
It seems that the meds taken while manic push me into depression.
Then the meds for depression push me into mania which CAUSES Bi=Polar symptoms.
Mt recent “manic episode” happened when I was taking Prozac for depression then I cycled up into mania.
This episode lasted 3 months!
I lost my Family, House and Job because I wasn’t taken off the Prozac.
I’m told that I was a raving maniac for the ntire 3 months.
My family is afraid of me and I do not remember most of what I did.
It was like I was a totally different person as in a split-personality or maybe even Demon Possessed!
Also I learned that Lithium Orotate is much better than the prescribed Lithium Carbonate.
Google: John Gray
Here’s what caused my episodes:
1. 1985 – Friend joined a religios cult.
2. 2006 – I learned that 9-11 was planned and the Illuminati own the Federal Reserve but nobody wants to hear the truth.
3. 2011 – Boss threatened to fore me for absurd reasons like “using a spreadsheet to keep records”.
4. 2015 Prozac pushed me into mania on Sept. 23 which is also the date many people were predicting that CERN would open a portal for demons to enter our world.
I was manic until December (3 months) because I was not taken off the Prozac.
I lost everything I cared about, spent a month in jail for domestic abuse and 2 days homeless. I have 3 years on probation and taking 54 weeks of Domestic Violence Classes for things I do not remember doing.
I may never recover from the damage that my manic self created. I remember very little at all, like I was a totally different person – the opposite of my normal caring self.
It is interesting how few psychiatrists seem to take drugs themselves, or to let their kids have drugs prescribed to them. A psychologist I knew once told me a story about how his town’s most successful psychiatrist, with a huge practice where he drugged every kid, was adamantly against his own children receiving any drug when they began to have behavioral problems, and referred his own kids to the psychologist for non-drug psychotherapy!
They might also have been the biggest heads in town without him knowing it.
See D.L. Rosenhan; On Being Sane in Insane Places. Published in Science (Jan 19,1973). still available online.
Rosenhan (a psychologist) and 7 others (some in the field of mental health, all of them otherwise sane) did an initial test of the ability of MH professionals to recognize sanity. They each went to different psychiatric hospitals and claimed they had been hearing voices. They were admitted, given a psychiatric label and remained (from 7 to 52 days). The other patients recognized that they were sane. The doctors and hospital staff didn’t and the 8 were released with a diagnosis of mental illness.
When the report was published in Science in 1973 it was denounced by psychiatrists as a hoax. No one dared repeat the study to prove or disprove it for over 40 years (probably fearing they would be blackballed professionally).
Rosenhan quietly stood by this brief test of the mental “health” system’s ability to recognize sanity for the rest of his life–but he got into another, related field of law relating to mental illness and taught at Stanford in California.
Yes, and by virtue of their title of DOCTOR, they are able to hide behind the law and declare people incompetent and/or dangerous, thus relieving them of ALL of their human and legal rights!
Dr Berezin, while I appreciate your stance on these issues and found your book quite interesting, despite your explanation above, I still do wonder why you cling to the illusion that being a doctor is either necessary or desirable in the practice of psychotherapy.
Were you actively fighting to also end the legal un-touchability and forced treatment regimens along with its disease mongering, then your stance might be more logically consistent.
However, that psychiatrists have the power to incarcerate and drug their patients surely precludes the development of a truly trusting and honest relationship.
And if a deeply trusting relationship does develop and then the psychiatrist commits and drugs a patient against their will, then the betrayal is MASSIVELY DESTRUCTIVE.
I know, it happened to me, and 11 years down the track it still reverberates as by far the most traumatic event in my life. The betrayal by someone in whom I had developed a deeply trusting and intimate relationship – the force, the stripping of human rights and reduction to a sub-human life form deserving only of contempt, incarceration and drugging – was very nearly lethal for me.
I am over 60 now, and last year, that same psychiatrist was able to deny my treating doctor access to my medical records from the time so we could better understand what had occurred and work through it. He said I’d become dangerous if my treating psychiatrist read my records – neither my psychiatrist nor I were allowed to see what “evidence” he had proffered, because that also could make me dangerous. My treating psychiatrist (who had been practicing for over 20 years) did not lodge a complaint because my original psychiatrist was “more senior”.
How such power structures and abuses could contribute to a person’s development, recovery, or well being is totally beyond me. Needless to say, I no longer have a therapist/psychiatrist as I find the power imbalance and potential for abuse simply too great and am aware that there are absolutely no protections for patients. Karen Horney’s books seem a far cheaper and safer alternative.
I would really appreciate it if in a future article you could address issues surrounding the inherent and very real power imbalance and the use of or potential for use of coercion and issues of betrayal and abuse in the therapeutic relationship against the backdrop of the legal powers and protections enjoyed by psychiatrists.
There must be some interesting plays being enacted there!
Oh…and I have NEVER been dangerous or committed any offence in my life…not so much as a parking fine..never smacked my children, never threatened anyone, was an upstanding well-paid, successful professional.
He was relying on Spectral Evidence, like the judges in the Salem Witch Trials.
Speaking as a soulless monster, I find the act of making sense out of mental tossed salad a project beyond my capabilities and prefer to live an ordinary existence as one of the oblivious (fortunately, without the great benefits of the zombie drugs), enduring occasional flushing as the penalty for not seeking Enlightenment.
A good recounting of the delusions, distortions, fabrications, and ignorance that has led to the present pitiful state of American psychiatry, Dr. Berezin. Although two more factors leading to this state should be added: greed and laziness. Many psychiatrists today are all too content to grovel at the altar of the drug companies, which they metaphorically do via lazily conducting 15-minute sessions followed by fake diagnoses and pill-pushing, while receiving large salaries that they emphatically do not deserve in relation to the actual value they provide relative to other professionals.
Psychiatry – an absolute evil. Psychiatrists commit crimes so obvious, so unacceptable, amazing how such a society accept?! How the human soul accept this? It can not be. Nobody consciously, voluntarily accept this can not be!
Mankind is forced to take. Coerces totally! Psychiatrists have incredible power. Above them, only the devil. Above them there is no justice. Therefore is not possible solidarity victims. And even many of the protesters suddenly, quite illogical stop responding and become silent.
Much of what of what you say here has value, still I think you let non-“somatic,” psychoanalytically-based psychiatrists off the hook a little too easily.
While it may be true that aspects of becoming a physician may provide insights into character and the human condition, there are also many other avenues of endeavor which do the same. It still doesn’t make psychiatry a school of medicine. While non-“biological” psychiatrists may have more integrity, or wisdom in terms of comprehending the nature of a metaphor, than those who deliberately confuse “mind” and “brain,” they don’t spend much time pointing out the treacherous nature of their biopsych colleagues’ practices; further, insisting on retaining the requirement that to be a psychiatrist one must have a medical degree perpetuates this confusion. To be consistent and progressive, the “psychodynamic” wing should consider abandoning this requirement.
I agree; psychiatry is not a branch of medicine, but a pseudoscience.
Beyond that, if psychiatry has two wings and one points and whispers and makes fun of the other, why just be honest and separate into two distinct fields? Then people could pick and choose between counselors and alchemists.
It should be a branch of medicine only insofar as they can discard the possibility that the symptoms are not biological in origin. Many so called mental illnesses are due to thyroid malfunction, food allergies, immune disorders, toxicity, etc etc. This should be addressed by people who know how the entire body works i.e. functional medicine training . Mainstream doctors don’t test for that sort of thing because it is too expensive. And God forbid they might find the cause of it.
The people who are most likely unable to cope with ‘life’s pain’ are the most vulnerable ones of society who suffer from unemployment, abuse, neglect, and without the compassion from other peoples money, they wouldn’t receive the tools necessary to tolerate the pain of life as the mentally healthy who are happy, or are pursuing happiness despite life’s pain.
With all respect even therapists like yourself won’t get paid without the diagnosis of Depression from the insurance companies. The pharmaceutical companies making big money is one thing, but there still needs to be coverage for people who can’t afford to be treated when they need help from life’s struggles.
Saying capitalism has no room for competition in helping people who are sad or depressed at least in the form of charity, is just as dangerous as the crony capitalism that exists with the overuse of medications for it.
This is why some say: the opposite of addiction is NOT recovery but connection. People with no support are unlikely to ever be functional. I see it in the homeless, even if they are prepared to do everything to get better, they can’t if they don’t have the basic of necessities: shelter, proper food and proper sleep. The government does nothing to help these people. Get on the list.. wait for 6 months or a year. Maybe you’ll be dead by then. Thank you for nothing. Many of them self-medicate to ease the pain but really what they need is a place to call home. Welcome to Canada folks!
Yeah, kinda makes me wonder about my diagnosis. I was forced in mental heath care about 4 times back to back . Now I have been using Risperdal by government order since 2010. They do not know what to label me schizo or bipolar. I have never heard or seen things that are not there. I am sure some of their actions violated my civil rights in some way.
Yikes! Risperidol. Surely you have read the side effects by now. How long can they force you into treatment?
I get the sense that many psychiatrists know that the DSM codes don’t describe brain problems, but they use them anyway, both to “help” and to deliberately harm. I’ve had conventional shrinks who don’t do therapy and aren’t trained in psychoanalysis or anything of that nature pull out the Freud on me. The old psychoanalytic theories and labels –are– sometimes used…in a campaign of labeling, shaming, and condemnation. This same shrink now tells people (its a small town, lol) that I’m “schizophrenic.” Again: labels used as weapons, to shame, demean, and invalidate a “trouble maker.”
Caring, compassionate psychiatrists who will take the time to listen and talk have always been around…for people with money and status. The impoverished, the stigmatized, the low status; for us/them, there’s somatic psychiatry. I think it was Szasz who wrote something to the effect that the psychiatry currently en vogue is the same sort of psychiatry poor people have always received, the somatic psychiatry born of the madhouse.
I applaud your efforts, but your profession, and Mental Health, Inc. in general, are riddled with problems. How can anyone recover when even the counselors, armed with only a masters degree from 3rd rate schools, think they are superior to the “patient” and focus on making money and keeping the person/patient “in line,” not helping him resolve any issues? When even the lowly LPCs in Mental Health, Inc. are so self-important and elitist (not to mention racist, homophobic, and misogynistic), how does anyone, anywhere, get any meaningful assistance?
There are some compassionate, creative, insightful people left in mental health, I”m sure. I just don’t think there are that many. When an entire profession is marked by rampant fraud, lies, deception, incompetence, cruelty, and various forms of discrimination, then its probably time for those of us who deal (or have been forced to deal with) that profession to do what we can to get out and find new solutions.
“The old psychoanalytic theories and labels –are– sometimes used…in a campaign of labeling, shaming, and condemnation. This same shrink now tells people (its a small town, lol) that I’m “schizophrenic.” Again: labels used as weapons, to shame, demean, and invalidate a “trouble maker.”
Yes…I was told I was “repressed, regressed and resistant – the dreaded three R’s” , and had the threat of being diagnosed with “Borderline Personality Disorder” held over me. Golly. Was told I had “bitten the breast” and had a wide range of insults, accusations, and diagnoses hurled at me on the appointment at which he threw me out of his office after four years’ therapy. I had done nothing: merely turned up for our usual appointment to be greeted by tirades of abuse.
Eight years down the track I still have no idea what happened, and really, suffer ongoing trauma. For a while I tried to re-engage him to work out what happened, but with no success. He is untouchable because he is a DOCTOR of medicine and he knows it, so no need to reflect or to explain.
Appalling what psychiatrists can get away with BECAUSE they are DOCTORS!
We live in a toxic world but this is why educating oneself is so important, only you can be your own doctor. With mental health, it is always very complex but with enough motivation, one can find all the info they need. Integrative nutrition is quite useful… but a little scientific background doesn’t hurt at all. People need to learn to love themselves as well as the techniques available to calm their brains. Or better yet, how to bring balance in their lives with natural means.
I was thinking just yesterday that I hadn’t read something from you in a while, Dr. Berezin. Thanks for admitting that psychiatric diagnosis is fraud. And it is so tragic that the psychiatric industry has been lying to their patients about fraudulent “chemical imbalance” theories for decades, and lying about the scientific validity of their made up disorders, and lying to their patients with fraudulent claims of “lifelong, incurable, genetic” “mental illnesses.” And today’s psychiatrists have now defamed, poisoned, tortured, and murdered more innocent Americans, in the past several decades, than the Nazi psychiatrists murdered Jews. It’s evil on such a massive scale, it still boggles my mind. And by those who had promised to “first and foremost, do no harm.” Complete hypocrisy, and a total betrayal of humanity, due to medical and pharmacutical greed. I used to believe all could be saved, now I see the evil within humanity, and it’s an evil that seems incapable of learning or repentance. I’m glad that at least some of the Harvard psychiatrists are not spinners of lies and scientific fraud.
I am very interested in this topic but also a bit confused. Are you saying that all diagnoses are just names for human struggle? For those who are really suffering who have not been subject to apparent deprivation and abuse, do you believe that their pain is due to perceived deprivation and abuse? I can see that this might be true, but I have a lot to learn.
My daughter (she’s 21 now) has struggled her entire life with so much emotional pain. She just recently went through psychological testing because she felt like she wanted to know if there was some real reason for all her suffering, and she has been given several diagnoses. From my point of view, she had a nice very young childhood with me always home and more attention than anyone I’ve ever known.
She has been to a couple of therapists, and they have not been much help. She will not even consider taking any medication because it terrifies her. And we are left with so many questions and no real answers. Why is she suffering so much, and what can we do about it?
I do look forward to reading more here. I am so tired of hearing the same old advice to “just get some help” as if the simple act of seeing a therapist or psychiatrist will fix things.
We are not denying the suffering of people when we deny the validity of the bogus diagnoses. The emotional and psychological suffering is real but the labels that psychiatrists slap on people benefit only themselves, insurance companies, and the drug companies that manufacture all the toxic drugs.
I believe that your daughter is wise in not wanting to take any of the drugs. Has she ever had a therapist who was able to make a real human connection with her, a therapist that she came to trust, a therapist who truly cared about her welfare and well-being? And of course, a therapist doesn’t need to be a psychiatrist. Some of the best therapists I’ve ever dealt with both personally and as working companions were social workers or licensed therapists.
But truly, the diagnoses are only bogus creations that spread the net ever wider so that more and more people can be dragged into the “mental health” system.
I feel for you in your struggle to help your daughter. I was once a daughter like that, trying to deal with things going on in my head that I didn’t understand, and terribly fearful of psychiatrists and their diagnoses and medication. I went to one, and he scared me half to death, because I could see he had only two ways of “helping” me deal with my problems: medication and/or hospitalization. Just listening to me and trying to understand what I was trying to tell him was not even on his horizon.
Here are some things it would have helped me to know. There is a famous psychiatrist named Dr. Peter Breggin who tells new patients upfront that he does not hospitalize, and if that’s what the patient wants, then please go to somebody else. He gets excellent results with talk therapy only. He’s written several books; go to Amazon.com and look him up.
An award-winning journalist, Robert Whitaker, has written a couple of eye-opening books (“Mad in America” and “Anatomy of an Epidemic”) about the poor results of psychiatric medication and “therapy” in recent decades. Books like this would have been a great comfort to me in my scary decision never to go back to a psychiatrist again. Whitaker’s books are likely available in your local library (along with Peter Breggin’s).
For help, I wish I had known about a system of therapy called “Open Dialogue” that does not require a therapist to give diagnoses or medication, but does require the therapist (or a team of therapists) to meet with the patient and family and work out solutions to their problems that all agree to. Google “Open Dialogue” and read about it.
I also wish I had known about the Spiritual Emergence Network (also Spiritual Crisis Network) that helps people who want counseling but not psychiatric treatment. Try googling these too. They’re in the US and also Europe and the UK.
Finally, I wish somebody had told me that 20th century psychiatric treatment is on its way out, and the Internet is full of therapies and philosophies that are taking its place. Keep reading “MadInAmerica.com.” There’s also a Yahoo discussion group called psychosisspirituality you might be interested in. Go to groups.yahoo.com and do a search for it.
First off, yes, psychiatric diagnoses are just names for manifestations of humans struggling with some aspect of existence. It’s not that there can’t be biological causes in some cases (sleep, diet, exercise, other medical or recreational drugs, and toxins all can play a role in a person’s distress). It’s that lumping ALL cases of depression together and seeking a biological explanation and/or “cure” for ALL such cases is just raw scientific nonsense. People are depressed, anxious, angry, delusional, etc. for a wide variety of reasons, and simply slapping a label on a person and giving them drugs to “make it go away” is the most primitive approach imaginable.
As to the question of why she is suffering so much, it is my belief and always has been that the only person who knows the answer is her. There are a lot of shabby therapists out there who don’t know what they are doing, but finding a really good one can be hugely beneficial in helping sort out what is going on and why. It is also important to remember that specific trauma are not always the cause of these manifestations – there can also be accumulation of stress over time from negative environments, such as living in a rough neighborhood, being exposed to bullying or more specific oppression due to weight, skin color, sexuality, social preferences or whatever else, or such as having to go to a school that forces you to engage in spiritually deadening experiences under uncaring teachers for years (this was a big contributor to my own issues). It is also possible that you or other family members may have been inadvertently doing things that were perceived as hurtful or stress-inducing without knowing it, because kids don’t always tell you what is going on, especially the very sensitive ones who don’t want to hurt your feelings.
In other words, it is a very, very complex question why someone feels anxious or depressed, and someone outside simply can’t figure it out without some direct help from the person in question. And in the end, that person is much better off if someone helps him/her to find his/her own solutions rather than imposing our idea of “help” on an unwilling or unwitting participant.
It sounds like she is finding her voice. That is the first step toward empowerment. Encourage her to respect her inner voice and keep looking for a person or process that helps. Ones that have helped me are hiking/biking/athletics, playing piano, meditation, reading self-help books, and talking to a quality therapist, who helped me challenge myself to do things I used to be afraid to do like telling someone off for being rude or sticking up for myself when I feel I’m being taken advantage of. These things may or may not work for her – she has to find her own path and her own options. But thinking about what she can DO about it is a lot more productive than trying to blunt her emotions with drugs.
It is shocking to realize that these diagnoses are actually made up by committees and have virtually no research basis, but that is the reality we face. It’s better to recognize that “the emperor has no clothes” and that she has to find her own way than to continue to delude ourselves that these people know something we don’t. She has to become the expert on helping herself, and on finding other people or activities that she sees as helpful. No one else can do it for her.
Hope that helps explain things. Good luck!
From my point of view, she had a nice very young childhood with me always home and more attention than anyone I’ve ever known.
I think what’s important is her point of view. Why does she doubt that there’s a “real” reason for her suffering?
Yes, her point of view is what’s important. I was trying to say that it is difficult for me and others to understand why she suffers so much. People tend to assume that anyone diagnosed with BPD has had a horrible and abusive childhood, and she doubts herself so much. She feels like her feelings don’t really count if she hasn’t gone through the horrors that other people have.
From her earliest days of infancy, she has been extraordinarily sensitive, intelligent, and intense in her emotions. She feels so much more than anyone I’ve ever known, and she can’t seem to stop the constant turmoil in her head. She feels like the world is a horrible place and too many terrible things can happen, and it is overwhelming.
I’ve been wanting to respond to some of these comments all week, but the problem is so big, and it’s hard to know what to say. I appreciate the input though.
Maybe a peer support group where people help each other, might suit your daughter. They often have funny names but most of the sharing is the same and just listening can be beneficial.
“It is derived from the consequences of deprivation and abuse in our formative years, followed by additional struggles that result from our adaptations to the ongoing traumas of life.” This is where I don’t agree with Dr. Berezin and others that make these blanket statements on causation. He is coming around from labeling every mind problem as genetic so there is hope.
Find some good help for your daughter. Stay off the drugs for sure. The spirit is in the mind and the heart. Spirit is what needs the guidance in life.
#1 rule is to seek fun and adventure.
Try this spirit meditation. Have your daughter draw a box or get a small nice little box. On or inside that box write what is important in life. Church, home, mom, dad, sisters, brothers, and the other things she loves about life and is grateful for. Put one small item that will be used to represent her spirit into that box. Put that box where it is visible, think about that box and what it represents. Have her center her focus to the item in the box that represents the spirit and meditate once or twice a day for 20 minutes. One doesn’t have to look at anything just close eyes and relax…the mind during the meditation should be focused on the spirit item in the box. As the thoughts of the mind wander bring the focus back to the spirit item. Do this for 20 minutes a day, twice a day, and the spirit and the mind will become one.
If she is looking for adventure I recommend http://www.mum.edu
Christy, a good book on this which reframes human suffering in relational terms if Working the Organizing Experience by Hedges.
I would be interested to hear what ideas your daughter has on the origin / causes of her distress both at the present time and historically. Seeing a therapist may not fix things, but gaining real hard-won insight and developing/using interpersonal resources always will make things better over time.
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Take THAT psycho-pharma marketing fraudsters !
Anyway its always fun to point out at 12 step meetings when they talk about God that biological psychiatry, the medical model and the theory of broken brains, is entirely based on the assumption that we are just bio chemical robots with no soul. It confuses the heck out of many of them but gets them to think.
If someone wants to argue with me that alcoholism is genetic I bet them $100 I can debunk any so called evidence they can find. But everyone knows alcoholism is genetic… “Everyone knows” is not scientific evidence, its what myths are made out of. No one ever takes my bet.
The psychiatric industry worked hard to make psychiatry bashing in 12 step meetings taboo but of course I do it anyway and its so easy cause I know most young peoples psychiatry story before they even tell me 5% of it. They drugged you at a young age for ADHD, it gave you insomnia and anxiety, they fed you more pills that didn’t help or made you feel even worse then they said you were bipolar and gave you even more drugs… You turned to alcohol or opiates after psychiatry screwed you up and got sick and went to treatment, again, and they want you to take the same pills than never helped in the past but they made you think it will be different this time…
Its like shooting fish in a barrel and I have done it enough times that the know it all ‘old timers’ that were taught not to bash psychiatry have nothing to say anymore.
It doesn’t sound to me that this fellow understands neuroscience very well. When he says things like “the chemical imbalance theory has been discredited” he sounds like a rank amateur. No one who studies the neuroscience of depression ever seriously used the term “chemical imbalance”. Does the neurotransmitter serotonin affect mood? Yes it does. Can drugs based upon this help people – yes some. No doctor practicing evidence-based medicine thinks drugs are the be-all and end-all in psychiatric illness. But for this fellow to promulgate the notion that there are no biological bases for psychiatric illness just shows that he a) doesn’t read (or understand) the literature very carefully and that b) he doesn’t understand neuroscience very well. For instance, schizophrenia has strong associations with over 100 genes (indicating that the biological bases are complicated) and has also been shown to have altered connections during development between the temporal and frontal cortex. These findings have been replicated and incontrovertible. Now how one goes from these alterations to the constellation of symptoms that we call “schizophrenia” is very complicated, but by understanding the biological substrates we can make progress treating the disease with BOTH drugs and/or psychotherapy.
A reason contemporary psychiatry has lost its moorings is simple to understand. First, psychiatry is one of the lowest paid medical specialties. If someone comes to your office and you have to treat them with a long psychotherapy session, you will make less money than if someone comes to your office and you see them for 10-15 min and send them away with some drugs. So you punt the psychotherapy off to the clinical psychologists since they can’t, for the most part, prescribe medication. If you are a psychiatrist looking to pay off medical school loans and make an upper-middle class living you go to shorter patient visits to reap the volume. That is why your primary care doc sees you for such short times.
What do you cite as your proof for all that you state here about schizophrenia being strongly associated with over 100 genes?
Psychiatrists today going through med school are not trained in any forms of psychotherapy. They don’t know how to do talk therapy. If they do know how it’s because they paid to learn it on their own.
Are you aware of the reality that the neuroleptics alone can create the negative symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome? And this is frequently misdiagnosed, resulting in higher neuroleptic doses. And higher neuroleptic doses (or poly pharmacy) can create the positive symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via neuroleptic induced anticholinergic intoxication syndrome.
And I know lots of psychiatrists who believe “drugs are the be-all and end-all in psychiatric illness.” Trust me, once I finally embarrassed my last psychiatrist, by quoting my oral surgeon, “antipsychotics don’t cure concerns of child abuse,” esspecially after the medical evidence of the abuse had been handed over by some appalled nurses. That psychiatrist took me off the drugs, and said there was no reason to see him any longer. No need for drugs, no need to see the psychiatrist – end all, be all, period. Although, that psychiatrist did break the law, and neglect to report the child abuse to the authorities. Seems to be a common psychiatric crime, given the reality that 2/3’s of all so called “schizophrenics” today are child abuse victims. Who were likely turned into “schizophrenics” with the neuroleptic drugs.
I can’t agree with you when you say schizophrenia is “strongly associated” with over 100 genes. First off, being associated with 100 genes, some of which are present in some cases and some in another, is a pretty weak way to demonstrate genetic causality. Secondly, the strongest correlation I’ve ever seen is about 15%, but that was for a range of “mental health” conditions including depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, and ADHD, and despite the large number of markers they considered and the wide range of “diseases” they included, they still got only a 15% correlation. Whereas correlations between schizophrenia and childhood trauma range in the 80%+ range, and are especially high for childhood sexual abuse.
No one is saying that genes and/or biological processes don’t play a part in any form of mental/emotional distress. What I think the author IS saying is that the idea that depression (or any other “mental disorder”) can be categorized as a biologically-caused “disease” in all or most cases is absolutely not scientifically supportable.
It is also interesting that you claim that no one seriously promotes the idea of chemical imbalances who is familiar with the literature. Well, there must be a lot of docs out there who are not, because this language is used very, very commonly all across the country. Some docs have even admitted during radio interviews that they know it’s not true, but that it provides a “useful metaphor” (as one of them put it) that helps convince people to consider taking medication. So the idea that this is some urban myth that educated professionals don’t really use is not true, in my observation.
I’d strongly encourage you to read “Anatomy of an Epidemic,” the book which inspired this website, as a means of understanding better where folks are coming from. This effort is not from ignorance of the literature – it is actually based on a thorough review of the literature from a very different point of view, namely looking at long-term outcomes vs. short-term symptom management. You may find it an eye opener.
for this fellow to promulgate the notion that there are no biological bases for psychiatric illness just shows that he a) doesn’t read (or understand) the literature very carefully and that b) he doesn’t understand neuroscience very well. For instance, schizophrenia has strong associations with over 100 genes …
Welcome to MIA. Actually Dr. Berezin is way ahead of you and most of the “amateurs” here can deconstruct everything you just said. Rda and learn…
Make that read and learn. 🙂
Zetetic, the so-called schizophrenia findings you cite are very weak indeed.
Firstly, there is no unitary illness called schizophrenia, and what severe psychoses there are exist along a spectrum of severity and could be understood as a continuum without a clear boundary with more troubled normality. Here Jim Van Os explains how schizophrenia does not exist but vulnerability to psychotic experience does – https://www.schizofreniebestaatniet.nl/english/
The claim of strong genetic links to this illusory illness (schizophrenia) has already been debunked here in other articles, for example:
As these articles, particularly Jay Joseph, show, there is little reason at all to believe that there is some illness called schizophrenia that is heavily genetically influenced. That doesn’t mean severe psychosis is not real. But the primary causes are bad things happening in the world and in relationships, not genes. John Read’s research has convincingly demonstrated that as has the Adverse Childhood Experience study.
We should always remember that schizophrenia is just a word arbitrarily given to people based on showing 2 out of 5 symptoms, meaning people labeled with it could have nothing in common. There is no unitary phenomenon or illness called schizophrenia at all. It’s time to let schizophrenia die.
And what evidence do you have that neurotransmitters affect mood with the direction of causality going from the brain chemicals to mood? Perhaps a better explanation would be that changing brain chemistry and changing mood are reflections of person-environment interaction…
If you have any authors, books, or papers to cite, maybe you could be taken more seriously…
So this is what I want to know. When bad things happen to people in the world and in relationships, it seems like that affects people differently. While some develop psychosis, others may become depressed or do OK in spite of the trauma. If different individuals respond differently to stress, why could that not be partly due to their genetic makeup?
I’m trying to understand, but it just seems like for so many other things it seems clear that genes play a role. Things like height or weight for example, seem to me like they run in families, but are also influenced by something like nutrition. Why would so-called psychiatric problems be different? I’m really struggling with how it seems so obvious to some here that genes don’t have anything to do with it.
Yes, height and weight can be genetically determined. However, factors like nutrition and exercise play a considerable role as well. Regarding psychiatric problems, no study has pinned down any genes responsible for these conditions. If we take schizophrenia for example, genes appear to explain only about 0.001 percent of outcomes – check out the following article: https://theconversation.com/there-are-no-schizophrenia-genes-heres-why-57294
Also, numerous studies have shown that it is our experiences that bring about changes in brain chemicals and also result structural changes in the brain. For example, when mice are subjected to various psychological stresses (e.g. being restrained) their neurochemicals and their brain changes and these changes are REVERSIBLE through psychological means (e.g. when stressed, restrained animals are released). If someone loses their job, all the rumination, worry, and regrets, etc., will change their brain chemicals and when the person gets a job again (or if their life circumstances change), these chemicals return to normal again. Other research has shown jugglers gain more grey matter in certain areas as a result of engaging in juggling. Taxi drivers gain grey matter in other areas. Even attaching to different intentions is known to change the brain.
So, stated differently, the organization of brain circuitry is constantly changing as a function of experience or learning. This phenomenon is well known to neuroscience and is often listed as a key discovery of neuroscience, and yet, it is very much ignored. Additional research has shown that our experiences are capable of bringing about changes in genetic expression (this is the field of ‘epigenetics’ – I can provide references if you need them).
The brain is very complex organ with billions of neurons and trillions of synapses that connect and interact in complex ways – there is so much we do not know about this organ. So, introducing chemicals to it following a hit-or-miss fashion (with someone’s idea of “treating” mental illnesses), simply messes up the natural biochemical pathways, and adversely affect the functioning of the brain in the long-term. Psychiatric drugs work for some people (who can tolerate their side effects) only due to their “placebo effects.”
Hi Nancy, thanks for your response!
Perhaps I wasn’t being clear in my thought process. I was trying to think of an example where both genes and environment have an obvious contribution. It seems self-evident to me that experiences alter the brain, as you eloquently described. It’s less clear to me that we don’t inherit to some degree our own unique susceptibilities to stressors. It seems like this question is getting all entangled with the idea that genes determine things or are the only or main cause of so-called psych disorders. I agree that it doesn’t look like that to me at all.
You said, “no study has pinned down any genes responsible for these conditions. If we take schizophrenia for example, genes appear to explain only about 0.001 percent of outcomes”
Maybe I’m missing something, but I’d like to gently suggest that isn’t what the linked article says. They say 10 out of 8000 cases was due to this one particular gene. A very small number for sure, as you say .001%. Taking this at face value though it suggests that a gene is involved in this very small percentage of cases (I don’t know if the evidence for this is good or not). If I understand correctly, this doesn’t mean that genes as a whole explain .001% of outcomes. These gene scientists haven’t been very successful at finding specific genes that cause so-called psychiatric disorders. However, does that mean many different factors of small effect in our DNA can’t explain the tendency of some people to respond to stress in different ways?
As you mention, it looks like the brain is highly sensitive to the environment and its structure and chemistry is constantly changing. I’m not under the impression that most psychs or scientists would argue with that… (maybe I’m wrong). My sense is that some assume that any discussion of inherited sensitivities to stress is tantamount to saying genetics is the only or main cause of so-called psych disorders. My observation alone indicates to me that stressors are not the only thing that determines behaviors or “symptoms” that are being called disorders. As you say, the brain (and genome for that matter) are immensely complex. If that’s true, I can’t figure out what the other factors are if they aren’t our inherited tendencies. I see that we are all unique and very different from each other, doesn’t some of this come from our parents (similar to height or weight).
Thank you for your reply. Of course, we all are different in terms of our susceptibilities to stressors, and some of these can be genetic. I think pharmaceutical companies love to keep the “genetic” story alive, because they can profit from it by promoting their drugs. Also, you are right about 10 out of 8000 cases (I probably shouldn’t have divided the number!). However, as Steve McCrea has explained here, the contribution of genetic factors are insignificant and are of not much use to investigate either.
Now, regarding other factors: numerous studies have shown that unhealthy mental habits such as rumination, worry, etc., activate the default mode system of the brain and lead to various psychiatric problems [for example, check out following reference: Querstret, D., & Cropley, M. (2013), Assessing treatments used to reduce rumination and/or worry: A systematic review, Clinical Psychology Review, 33, 996-1009]. So, any interventions that would reduce excessive worrying, etc., can bring about good mental health. Engaging in and being involved in various activities (such as physical activity) can help. Also, numerous studies have shown that mindfulness practices considerably reduce rumination, worry, etc., and also result in measurable changes in the structure and function of the brain in positive ways (such as increases in gray matter and cortical thickness, brain connectivity, etc.). Mindfulness practices are also known to bring about changes in genetic expression (you can do a search on google).
No one would deny that genes are INVOLVED in how people react to stress and trauma. What I object to is two ideas: one, that genes are the ONLY thing (or even the MAIN thing) that causes what is called “mental illness.” The other is the idea that what the psychiatric profession calls “mental illness” is anything but a collection of biases and social constructions that are most likely caused by a bunch of different things, and sometimes aren’t even “disorders” at all.
For the first idea, I would ask you this: not everyone who gets hit by a car breaks bones. I would guess there is some variation in genetic bone strength that makes some able to withstand a greater impact. Does it make sense to diagnose people whose bones break from impact with “weak bone syndrome?” Should we research the genetics of bone weakness so we can provide extra protection to the weak boned?
Or should we try to reduce the number of cars hitting people?
As for the diagnoses themselves, let’s take a look at “ADHD,” the one I’m most familiar with the research on. Possible causes of “ADHD” symptoms include anxiety, trauma, low iron, low or high thyroid activity, nutritional deficiencies, sensory issues, sleep apnea, poor parenting, inappropriate classroom structure, kids being admitted to school too young (a one-year wait reduces “ADHD” diagnoses by 30%), boredom, foster care placement, and many other reasons. Of course, every one of those casual factors would require a different approach. So what’s the meaning of a “diagnosis” that doesn’t tell you the cause and doesn’t tell you what you should do about it?
The final point I’ll raise is that even if we discover some genetic cause of any of these “disorders” (and 50+years of research have failed to find ONE “mental illness” that has a consistent, identifiable genetic cause), genes are the one thing in the scenario that CAN’T be altered. Why would we spend all of our money and time researching about the one thing that we can’t do anything about? If we know that both genes and environmental impacts combine to create “mental illnesses,” why wouldn’t we want to focus our energy on the environmental issues that can actually be modified?
Hope that helps answer your question.
Hi Steve, you bring up some great points, thanks.
I have to disagree with you though that “no one” would deny that genes are involved. This is what I’m struggling with because a lot of what I’m seeing seems to suggest that genes have zero impact (or close to it, see my response above). Of course the idea that the environment has no impact would be equally ludicrous. I’m just not that sure a lot of people are arguing that genes explain all or most of so-called psych disorders either though.
As far as the bone analogy, I’m not so sure. What if a small number of people were breaking bones during regular activities. Let’s say your kid broke his leg just playing soccer without a clear cause. At first you might say that’s just a weird fluke, but what if the next week they broke their arm just swinging on the monkey bars? If it was my kid I’d be worried there was something wrong and want them to have some sort of medical evaluation. It doesn’t seem crazy to me to say that could be caused by a “weak bone syndrome”. I’m no expert, but I believe a condition like that does exist. Where do you draw the line between that and people who are just slightly more likely to break bones in a car accident? I have no idea, but I think drawing the line somewhere is a reasonable way of conceptualizing it if it’s an obvious issue.
Whether we should spend a lot of money trying to figure out the cause of these bone issues is another question. Your feeling that this might be a poor use of resources seems reasonable to me. I would also agree with devoting resources to protecting sensitive people or helping with the healing of any resulting injuries.
If you read about and look at most people’s experiences with psychiatrists these days, you will see that many if not most propose that the MAIN cause of “mental illness” is biological. They need to do this in order to justify using drugs as their first line treatment.
Clearly, there are situations where a person is very easily injured from almost no impact. However, the psychiatric field is taking NORMAL reactions to traumatic situations and blaming the brain of the patient for their “wrong” reaction. I had this conversation with a very mainstream psychiatrist, smart guy, generally rational. He argued that people who react with flashbacks to a traumatic event are “disordered,” simply because not everyone reacts that way, so there “must be something wrong with their brains.”
As for people claiming no genetic impact, I think you have to be careful not to confuse the idea that genes may influence people’s reaction to trauma and stress, which most people would agree with, with the concept that any of the DSM “disorders” are caused by genetic defects, which is nonsense. The real problem is in the diagnoses, which are made up by committees based on things that are uncomfortable or difficult for society, rather than being based on any common biological problem causing these “diagnostic” categories. If you think about it, why would they? Why would all “depressed” people have the same thing wrong with them? Why would they all need the same kind of help? They have nothing in common except for feeling a certain way. Diagnoses should flow from biological findings, not the other way around.
Schizo and compulsion disorders are genetic.
Character or family of origin disorders are not.
If two children are sent into foster care at the ripe age of 2 months. If one has schizophrenia, the other is 3x as likely to be schizoid. Similar results are seen in compulsive disorders and depressive disorders, because it’s genetically based.
However, those same two children and one develops BPD (borderline) the other at no higher risk for developing a character disorder. Because borderline, narcissism, anti-social, etc are primarily based off family of origin issues (or basically how they are raised).
It’s true that a person with bi-polar can also have family of origin issues and develop BPD. And because of the nature of bi-polar their chance of this happening is increased. So at which point BPD can be successfully solved with therapy alone, but the bi-polar part can not. It can be helped, but never fully managed without drugs.
This is just one single psychiatrist. For each one with his views there are 100 with differing other views. But what isn’t a view, are the genetic links they have found with people suffering from OCD or who are schizotypal.
Are you aware of the fact that today’s recommended “bipolar” drug cocktails state that “bipolar” should be treated by combining the antipsychotics and antidepressants? However, every doctor is taught in medical school that combining the antidepressants and antipsychotics can make a patient “mad as a hatter,” via anticholinergic toxidrome. And doctors are not skilled enough to distinguish the central symptoms of neuroleptic or poly pharmacy induce anticholinergic intoxication syndrome, from the symptoms of “bipolar” or “schizophrenia.” What’s your proof the “bipolar” drug cocktail recommendations work, or benefit anyone? My understanding is the psychiatrists freely admit they do not have any cures at this point.
Please cite the information that proves your statements here. So far, I believe that all the twin studies about schizophrenia and all that have been debunked very thoroughly. You make a lot of statements here as if they’re fact but you need to provide the actual factual material that supports your assumptions and statements. People who post here are not impressed with anything unless you can back it up with good supportive material. You can’t just make statements and go merrily on your way.
Even if your 3x claim is true (even the most optimistic reviews I have seen only claim a doubling of the risk), that still leaves an extremely large group of people sharing the exact same or very similar genes who don’t develop the same condition. And the association with trauma is the same or higher than 3x.
“Researchers at the University of Liverpool have found that children who have experienced severe trauma are three times as likely to develop schizophrenia in later life.”
So a strict biological causality argument is pretty well dead in the water at this late date. Genetic vulnerability is still a viable position to take, but there is oodles of research now showing that trauma, as well as other psychosocial issues such as immigration/emigration and racism, contribute at least as much and probably a whole lot more to the development of psychosis than any genetic pattern ever studied.
Hi Steve and Oldhead
What makes more sense to say in this situation is that ALL human being are genetically predisposed to exhibit the thoughts and behaviors that get label as “schizophrenia” (or any other substance abuse or psychiatric “disorder”) if subjected to a similar set of environmental stressors for a certain length of time. These thoughts and behaviors are therefore ALL within the NORMAL range of human expression under relatively ABNORMAL circumstances.
These thoughts and behaviors are therefore better looked at as various forms of COPING MECHANISMS that usually work for a certain period of time but sometimes get stuck in the “ON” position and can become misunderstood, socially unacceptable, and self defeating within our present culture.
It would also make more sense to say that the human species is genetically predisposed to “RECOVERY” and/or “TRANSFORMATION” from these culturally viewed extreme states. We have a cerebral cortex in our brains that allows for rational decision making about what thoughts and behaviors serve our best interests, and also influences our ability to seek out more social and compassionate forms of human support.
Any other discussion about genetics in this context is a waste of money and time and misdirects us away from understanding both the systemic barriers to human progress and the actual solutions to the problems confronting the human species at this juncture in our history.
Could not agree with you more. I’d also add that culture appears to exert a great influence on how psychotic experiences play out. In cultures where voice hearing is accepted, the voices themselves tend to be much more positive and supportive, whereas in cultures (like ours) where voice hearing is denigrated, the voices appear to be more hostile and menacing. This certainly supports the idea that voice-hearing is a very culturally-bound phenomenon and that how it is viewed dramatically affects the experience of the person having these phenomena. Is this true of any other “disease?” Does diabetes or heart disease present differently depending on a culture’s acceptance of it?
The idea that psychotic experiences are always a direct consequence of some kind of malfunction is nonsense. While there can be physiological causes (such as lack of sleep or some of the wonderful drugs given to supposedly combat it), viewing it as a coping measure that any of us could potentially adopt is both more accurate and more helpful to anyone having such experiences than blaming their brains.
My experience with so called “psychosis,” was that I had evil and incessant “voices,” while on the psych drugs. And kind and accepting remembrances of friends, neighbors, and teachers encouraging me to heal, when going through my drug withdrawal induced super-sensitivity manic “psychosis” / awakening. And my research indicates it to be common for people to hear the “voices” of their abusers, when taking the neuroleptics. So it would be wise to rethink the use of this drug class for so called”psychosis,” IMO, especially in cases of actual real life trauma.
War is peace. Because I said so.
And Peace is War because I said so.
And I said it louder.
I blame the popular press. I read articles in Huff post and other places all the time that make wild claims about genetic and biology and mental illness. They usually quote no sources, no published peer reviewed articles and no reputable journals.
What I hear is that the media science and health editors have almost no science training and often just rehash a press release and then publish it as an an origianl piece of journalism.
Of course this could be rubbish but it looks that way to me. Maybe I will research where that point of view came from sometime.
It is sad to see this ignorance. People like this Original Poster are all over Reddit, Psychcentral and other forums, people who think they know so much about these brain-based illnesses, but in reality know jackshit about how to accurately conceptualize human suffering…
Wait, I don’t think the problem is the press not having scientific training. After all the original findings that these journalists are reporting on are actually from the scientific community. They are often peer reviewed by other scientists. So if the press had similar scientific credentials they would likely be even more supportive of the main findings of the work right? The truth is that the interpretations of those on this forum are still a minority opinion in science. Until the majority of scientists agree, it’s unlikely that much will change about psychiatry or public opinion of its so-called disorders.
Do you have any evidence for these far-fetched statements about genetic links for illusory labels like schizophrenia and bipolar?
If so let’s hear them. And saying that most psychiatrists are deluded in what they believe (i.e. that these problems are heritable brain illnesses) is not an argument…
You also seem deluded into believing that BPD and bipolar and so on are discrete separable illnesses that can be reliably identified… sad to see this.
Great points, only the journal pieces at the end of your piece point to what is really the problem. It pays not to rock the boat. It pays to go along with the deluded crowd. You’ve got drug research and development to complement what folks here at MIA termed the “disease model” of mental health treatment. Bad genes and “chemical” deficits are merely the excuse. There are people speculating now on the next pharmaceutical gusher. Once for schizophrenia it was Zyprexa, now it’s Abilify. They can, and do, with FDA approval give Abilify for “treatment resistant depression”, too. What was once “off label”, with FDA assistance, is now on label. The FDA, in bed with the drug companies, rather than seriously looking after peoples health, is hoping to reclassify “shock treatment” “safe and effective”. Commerce can, and does, sell bad health in the guise of good health, especially when it is just a matter of marketing pharmaceuticals.
The article about the “female bio-marker” was blatantly sexist. Two X chromosomes is somehow supposed to be bad for your “mental health”? People should be up in arms about this kind of loaded dice in the research department when the dice is loaded against a particular sex. The question of whether any of this research can be replicated, in the long run, is less important to the researchers than getting this or that substance approved for the market. . Custom is their standard, and not, in actuality, regard for health. It’s okay to treat people in such and such a manner, and to make money at it, because a lot of people are doing so. When mental health treatment causes bad physical health you’ve just blurred all lines. These physicians selling ill health should be ashamed of themselves, and very ashamed at that.
Good post. Thanks to author and MIA.
“We have to stem the tide of somatic psychiatry…” Good luck with that.
A big part of stemming that tide means that mainstream media [‘Science’ sections run by uncritical journalists are the worst offenders] need to actively question and critically report the press releases they receive from the industry [difficult, since ‘the industry’ includes respected institutions and lots of intimidating professional titles]. That never happens, and isn’t happening anytime soon [since pharma advertising dollars support all those big, mainstream media outlets].
Every parroted press release by the ‘New York Times’, ‘CNN’, ‘Time’, or ‘Wired’ is more evidence of ‘science facts’ in the minds of readers/viewers.
(Honestly, Robert Whitaker is the superhero of journalists for having taken this on.)
One more thing, I think most here agree that there is some element of greed corrupting mental health.
So how do we treat but moreover cure people who are chronically sad without the label of Depression, and without the insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and psychiatrists?
If therapists are an important part of the answer to the treatment or cure for Depression, how do we develop a system where they are fairly compensated for their time? There is also the problem of the poor who are disproportionately sad but can’t afford help, and are freely medicated by the taxpayer to be happy so not to cause problems to society whether they want to or not.
Very good article,. Unfortunately, insurance companies don’t see the value of extended (beyond two times a month) psychotherapy.
I’ve been working with a couple of families over the past year. One of them has a college age kid that had started feeling “panic attacks” and was experiencing depression and sudden bouts of low self-esteem, along with negative self-talk that was interfering with her ability to focus.
The mother asked me if I felt her daughter would need ‘medication,’ and I suggested that, instead, she teach her kid the meditation and focus techniques which I taught her, as well as the new perspective, that these are manifestations of energy which are guiding her. This shifted her perspective entirely, and along with that, she found her voice and learned how to self-soothe and self-heal.
As a result of her daughter’s temporarily disabling anxiety, the two of them came together for natural healing, and it worked. They formed an even deeper loving bond because of this. The daughter is back in school with a new lease on life and sense of self. All systems and drugs averted.
In the other family, the mother also recognized her role in the healing and began to practice grounding and centering through meditation while learning about the properties of energy and how this applies in healing, and her adult child began to come out of her catatonic episode, and is now doing fantastically well and putting her life together, her way, based oh her dreams and desires. The entire family has been healing by leaps and bounds.
Healing–especially regarding issues of distress and other mental/emotional functions–is never about just one person, and is always about the community at large. Everyone has a role and responsibility in it. I can see it no other way.
Imaginary causes and cures are claimed by psychotherapists just as they are by psychiatrists.
It is ironic that Dr. Berezin uses the term “heal” to describe what happens in psychotherapy. The use of this very physical term, e.g. “Mourning the pain of this inner play heals our symptoms and our suffering,” is not supported with objective evidence.
Human minds don’t “heal”. They learn. There is no evidence that “mourning” is necessary or even a guarantee for “healing”. Mourning is just the “cure” that psychotherapists are selling. A more objective explanation is that we learn, in various ways, to change our thinking.
Thank you for your cold and oh so rational explanation. I will continue to go with what Dr. Berezin talks about here because it makes more sense to my spirit and soul. How do you know that human minds don’t heal and that mourning isn’t a cure for what people experience. As a hospital chaplain I would totally disagree with everything that you stated here. My clinical hospital training as a chaplain certainly took science into account but wasn’t afraid to speak in terms of what Dr. Berezin stated here. Thanks but not thanks, I will pass by your explanation and mourn and heal as I need to.
You’re all right depending on how you understand the terms. In a medical sense there’s no literal healing going on . Metaphorically one can speak of “healing” from an emotional “wound” (just as metaphorically one can speak of “mental illness”). These semantics only became a problem when psychiatry stepped in to confuse people, claiming that the “illness” metaphor was a literal reality to be treated by actual physicians. Now it’s tricky to use “healing” metaphors at all without risking being misunderstood.
To me, healing means getting stronger, clearer, grounded, and more at peace–that something has changed from bad to better; and that we’ve released inner obstacles to personal growth and evolution through learning, in order to create a better life experience for ourselves.
Overall, though, I believe it is all very personal and subjective to our own experience, call it what you will.
Nice article. And to think that so much funding goes to find out which neuron is connected to which neuron! I also think that even Alzheimer’s disease has psychological causes (such as stress, worry, regrets, etc., that activate the default mode of the brain leading to plaque formation – many studies point to this), although billions of dollars are currently spent to investigate its biological causes.
Fraud seems to be a very American thing. Unfortunately it is not a new thing but it does seem to be getting worse. Every day the media puts forth what generally amounts to misleading information if not outright lies. Politicians right to the very top make a career out of telling falsehoods about which they count on the public’s weak memory to preserve them from later embarrassment. On the one hand money can be made with drugs, lots of it. Any half awake psychiatrist can write a prescription but it takes a real person to engage with another real person. Your material catches my attention. Thanks.
We believe that the dysfunction caused by illness is real no matter what the condition is called and that at times medications do help. However, the fragmentation and schisms that are so frequent with conditions like schizophrenia cannot probably be addressed by drugs alone. For a mental resynthesis to come about, considerable effort has to be expended in evaluating what the root cause of distress is. For this, an honest appraisal of what constitutes the self is likely as important as any diagnoses or medications. The debate of what the ‘I’ is has been going on for millenia. Centuries ago, there were no psychiatric diagnoses, however, there was dysfunction and illness which many attempted to address. ‘Emptiness’ was a radical way to look at existential angst as well as mental illness, and could be just as important in modern times:
“Schizophrenia” is a meaningless term in every possible way, as more and more are beginning to realize. Whether you call it “emptiness” or alienation, etc. your philosophizing would be more credible if you referred to specific individuals and the “etiology” of their circumstances rather than perpetuating the myth that they are members of a category.
Good comment, oldhead. It is indeed meaningless.
Dr Berezin, what do you mean by alcoholism is an addiction not a disease ? I ask because people still use the term addiction so I’m not really sure what you mean.
Yes, in my opinion it is an addiction and not a disease.
Seems like circular reasoning. They say those women have a mental illness with no proof. Then they find a biomarker that supposedly proves it. What “mental illness” did they claim those women had?
“To be in a position to make informed life-and-death decisions for patients breeds a sense of responsibility. It changes a young doctor powerfully.”
Part of the problem is that people feel themselves to be gatekeepers.
I don’t see alcoholism nothing but an accidental coping tool, found accidently through that first drink, then habit, then addiction on physical and emotional levels.
It’s certainly not something to blame people for.
There is something about the article that bugs me. Perhaps it is the theorizing presented as facts of another kind. Perhaps the lack of evidence that labels are not actively used and labels are huge in self image and in society’s views and impact people as much or more than drugs.
Perhaps the theory that there is still an “illness” just using different wording.
The views held by those who have more power are the problem. The views that there exists that “difference”.
There is a massive gap between client and gatekeepers. But then I always tend to be oppositional.