I have been a counselor for over twenty years, and during that time, I, like many of you, have sought answers to very difficult questions about mental health. I love counseling and helping people with personal problems, but after about ten years in private practice, something happened. A client came in and gave me a tape by Ann Blake-Tracy in which she outlined the effects that antidepressant drugs were having on people. She described the horrific effects, such as suicide and self-harm, and a host of other effects that were damaging the lives of persons using psych drugs. I was stunned.
Like all behavioral health professionals, I was trained in the medical model, whereby we would learn to diagnose the various mental disorders using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). We were taught that by using this guide, we would be following the medical model. Thus, I and my colleagues entered the realm of psychiatry, and came under its hegemony. There was no deviation from this system allowed, and we all had to memorize the various symptoms and syndromes to make the correct diagnoses. I must confess, at that time I felt like a mini-doctor and it was a powerful feeling. Remember, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Of course, I obeyed, and made diagnoses and sent people off to their family doctors for the prescriptions I was taught would help them achieve mental health.
But was there trouble in paradise? Could it be true that people were not getting better at all, and in fact were getting much worse? I was not dealing with psychoses or seemingly very serious mental problems, just mostly depression and anxiety in their various forms. The question arose in my mind: Had I been taught something that was not true? The fact that I might be causing harm to my clients was quite alarming. I started looking for answers, and really, for the truth.
I found an organization founded by the famous psychiatrist, Peter Breggin, which is currently known as the International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry (ISEPP), and immediately joined it. There, over many years, I learned through my colleagues that the use of psychiatric drugs and other psychiatric treatments does not cure mental problems. Worse yet, this approach was harmful to the brains of those treated.
I became convinced that psychiatry was essentially a sham. Psychiatrists have enormous power over us in that they can deliver us to false imprisonment in mental facilities, merely by declaring we are mentally disordered. Many reading this article will have suffered that fate, and perhaps are still suffering from it.
Eventually, I learned more about the medical model from Fred Braughman, MD, a neurologist, who has shared this information with ISEPP. And I share his information with others who were not taught the whole truth about the medical model, but only that which would continue the spread of psychiatric hegemony.
The medical model teaches physicians to think like doctors, in the process of diagnosing various disease states. To make a disease diagnosis, there must be present a gross, microscopic or chemical lesion (a change in the body). Without detection of such a lesion, the word “disease” cannot be applied. Another word for “disease” is “illness.”
Of all medical specialties, only psychiatry does not diagnose diseases. Instead, it deals in syndromes, which are collections of symptoms reported by the patient. This is why the DSM refers to mental disorders, not diseases. All psychiatrists are physicians, trained in the medical model. They all know that a mental disorder is not a disease or illness.
The history of psychiatry is a strange one, with two threads persisting throughout. One is that mental distress is caused by something taking over the mind, like demonic possession, which is purely a spiritual phenomenon. The other thread is that madness is caused by something in the body, but what that is was very hard to pin down.
In the early 19th century the famed physician Philippe Pinel declared: “The primary seat of insanity generally is in the area of the stomach and intestines.” This idea drove decades of research into medical treatments to cure insanity, including drugs, lobotomies and ECT.
In the early 20th century, Sigmund Freud revived the non-material viewpoint, jettisoning demons and substituting his own theories of Ego, Id and Superego. Many accepted this theory, and ignored the ideas of those who sought a physical etiology. In addition, Freud discovered cocaine and recommended it to many of his patients. This kicked off the use of drugs by psychoanalysts to change mental status, but it was not based on any brain science, merely observation of effects.
Unfortunately, cocaine, like all drugs designated to fix mental disorders, was a bust, and highly addictive to boot. But the quest for that perfect pill continues to the present day, with horrific and life-destroying results.
Freud rejected the medical model, but invented a new way of looking at mental disorders, with neuroses and psychoses as the main categories. Eventually, these disorders congealed into the first DSM, which was a quite slender volume.
Here is where Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew, comes in. He wrote the book Propaganda in 1928 and is considered the Father of Public Relations. He wrote that he who controls the language, controls people and their behavior, and this fact was not lost upon psychiatrists. They have pushed the idea of insanity arising from what people think and believe, and they now stress the “chemical imbalance” theory which teaches that mental disorders arise from physiological substrates—notably, neurotransmitter problems. Drugs are now sold to supposedly correct these imbalances. They never have shown any scientific proof for this theory, as there is none, and there are no tests to confirm their diagnoses. As such, belief in psychiatry falls in the realm of a rigorous belief system or secular religion. Dissension equals heresy, and apostates are punished.
If there is no disease to be found in examining mental patients, but just a label from the DSM, this means that there is no way to locate the disorder in the body. The term “mental illness” instead of the more correct “mental disorder” entered the lexicon and was used to describe unwelcome mental states. The fact to remember is that the phrase “mental illness” is a metaphor and does not describe a real thing. It is merely a poetic representation of mental distress.
I would judge that there is almost no one on earth who has not heard and used the term “mental illness.” It is everywhere! And, as psychiatrists well know, this is a misnomer and essentially a lie. The concept “mental illness” resides in the realm of fantasy. This is the reason many of us who know this always enclose it in “air quotes.” This indicates that we do not believe in its use.
Here is what I tell you: There is no such thing as a mental illness. Let that sink in for a while.
Once the term “mental illness” was let loose on society, it seemed that if a psychiatrist, like any other doctor, were treating an illness, there should be a drug for that illness. After all, this is the basis for allopathic medicine—a drug for every disease! With this semantic sleight of hand, “mental illness” now gives the psychiatrist a seemingly rational reason for treating this disease with a drug.
Of course, there are more and more persons who suffer from mental disorders every year. It is said that 60,000,000 Americans are taking psychiatric medications. Babies to the elderly are being drugged for supposed mental illness. But: There is no mental illness, no disease state that a medication would fix. It is also very true that Americans are getting sicker and sicker every year, and their bodies are not functioning properly. For example, 75,000,000 Americans suffer from autoimmune diseases, and the three leading causes of death are degenerative diseases with their roots in nutrition.
Having now taken the concept of “mental illness” and sent it to the dustbin of history, what is left? I believe we need a new paradigm for understanding mental disorders, and fortunately there is an answer to the search for relief.
I will share a bit of my personal background to help you understand how I came to believe in the new paradigm.
I was born into a second-generation Polish family, and I have always been in touch with that culture, including its food. My mother was an adventurous cook, and we also dined on a wide variety of foods from different lands. I married a man from Sicily and learned about healthy Mediterranean cuisine. I was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study music in Poland, and I traveled throughout Germany and most of Europe, and studied in Siena, Italy. All the while, I was eating foods that were traditional to those lands. I remember a christening in Graz, Austria, held in a tiny private chapel on an Alpine mountaintop, where large platters of sizzling schnitzel were brought out for our feast. A ripe peach eaten after ascending from the catacombs in Rome remains one of the singular culinary experiences of my life. Another was feasting on a rooster I watched my great aunt slaughter on a big stump in the yard of the farm where my grandmother, Tekla, was born, in Siedliszowice, Poland. And in Polynesia, I can never forget a feast of fish cooked in coconut over a fire on a large coral reef. As I look back, all of these experiences were deeply rooted in the traditional foods of each country.
When I returned to America, I was invited to teach at a university in Canada, and at that time, for fun, I started cooking feasts of foods for the other faculty members, always expanding my repertoire of cuisines. Returning to New York, I trained professionally with a French chef who taught me the glories of French cuisine.
I returned to my hometown and had the pleasure of creating a healthy cooking show on local cable which ran for nine years. I catered special parties for our local museum. I learned all I could about food and cooking, mastering a number of the cuisines of the world. Through all my adventures in understanding the foods of different nations, I realized that all peoples in touch with the traditional foodways that had sustained their cultures for thousands of years were possessed of life-giving and health-sustaining means to nourish themselves. Sadly, though, in America, few among us had maintained continuity with those ancient cultures.
As a professional counselor, I became convinced that psych drugs were certainly not the answer to mental health. By chance, I found the answer to connecting the two disciplines of counseling and nutrition.
At an ISEPP conference about ten years ago, I attended a seminar by Gary Kohls, MD on how to help clients withdraw from psychiatric medications. Dr. Kohls introduced me to the Weston A. Price Foundation as a good source of nutritional knowledge. Even though I knew a lot about food and cuisines of the world, I knew little about the science of nutrition.
As I learned and studied more from the sources at Weston A. Price, I saw an ad for a program called Nutritional Therapy. I had never heard of this discipline, and looking into it, I knew that I had to pursue it. I became a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) and soon after, a certified GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) Practitioner. The GAPS Program was created by the neurologist Natasha Campbell-McBride and is concerned with healing all problems arising from a distressed gut.
Now I had knowledge of nutrition, and the methods for conducting functional nutritional therapy. I was provided effective tools to help those with nutritional problems and poor digestion. This was very powerful and heartening.
But what about persons with mental problems? Could this program work for them as well? I kept studying, and found that there are over 3000 articles on nutrition and mental health in PubMed, the very large online medical research resource. Articles showed how so-called bipolar disorder, or anxiety, or schizophrenia and most other disorders could be helped by attending to nutritional deficiencies. I followed the work of Russell Blaylock, a retired neurologist who devoted himself to finding nutritional answers to diseases and mental disorders. I found that there is a whole world out there that promotes the idea that proper nutrition is the answer to most physical and mental problems Americans are facing.
I did more and more research into such things as toxicants in our environment, the poor quality of the food supply in America, how our very foods have changed over the past hundred years, and the fact that Americans are constantly being propagandized with nutritional messages that will never lead to health. And, especially, I studied the work of Dr. Weston A. Price, who traveled the entire world in search of the answer to the question “What do human bodies need to function properly?”
The final answer to my quest came from a line in Dr. Price’s masterwork: Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. After traveling around the world in search of societies that had not succumbed to the Western diet and were eating their traditional, whole food diets, he stated that in all the cultures he visited, he found people who were vibrantly healthy and “whose mental health and general character were outstanding.” Reading this, I experienced a paradigm shift. If mental health depended upon proper nutrition, this, and not psychiatric treatment, would be the road I would take to help others heal.
I decided this information was extremely important, and set about creating a seminar that would be offered to behavioral health professionals. My six-hour seminar was delivered to audiences across America. I visited sixty-five cities, from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, and points west, south and east. I have presented to several thousand professionals, and almost without exception, they agree that psychiatric drugs do not cure people. But there are problems.
First, mental health professionals, like most physicians, are woefully ignorant of the relatively new science of nutrition. If nutrition is the answer, they are not the ones, yet, to fix things. In addition, there is a veritable abyss between the behavioral health professionals and those trained in nutrition. With my seminar I was attempting to bridge that gap and point the way, but this doesn’t mean that these behavioral health professionals are up to the task of fixing their mentally troubled clients using nutrition.
It is my belief that all those trained in mental health need training in nutrition, so that they can make available to their clients and patients the benefits of proper nutrition. Most of my seminar attendees agreed with this premise. How to bring it about is another story.
This will require a rethink of the current hegemony of the DSM over all our work. We need to break away from the rule from above. Psychiatry has become largely a drug delivery system, and other behavioral health professionals must accede to this dominance, for some reason. I cannot tell you how many articles are sent each month through Medscape to psychiatrists on nutritional interventions and how they help with mental disorders. Here’s a quote from one Medscape article sent to all psychiatrists, entitled: “Dietary Change Key to Improving Mental Health.” It begins: “A number of nutrients…have a clear line to brain health, including Omega-3 fatty acids, Sam-E, B vitamins, choline, Vitamin D and amino acids…” But what do psychiatrists do with this information? Very little. And yet, as behavioral health professionals, we are bound to use the DSM in all our work in diagnosing the mental disorders of our clients. We must label the disorder, and by extension, the person. No space is given for nutritional interventions.
If DSM disorders are the result of poor nutrition, what does a psychiatric label mean? What does it mean to label a child as “having” ADHD, when the truth is, they are lacking in nutrients that would calm their brain and allow them to function properly? When the brain again functions properly, are they in remission of the disorder, or is it gone? Did it ever really exist? Was the diagnosis a big mistake? Once full functioning is restored to someone, do they lose the label? Wouldn’t someone prefer to know that they have a nutritional dysfunction or deficiency, and that it can be taken care of and removed, compared to having a label like “schizophrenia” attached to them? I believe so.
There are hundreds if not thousands of professionals out there who can help with these disorders, since they arise from poor nutrition and other digestive problems. They are not difficult to correct if the client is willing to follow the protocols prescribed. I chose the new discipline of nutritional therapy, and it is a wonderful aid in resolving supposed mental disorders merely through dietary protocols.
The process of nutritional therapy, which is a form of functional nutrition, involves many different steps. There is an interview, the administration of a comprehensive online assessment, the use of Food Journals, often a hands-on functional exam, other screening tools, eventually a personalized recommendation protocol, and then continual monitoring of progress for several months. And, very importantly, together we must create a healthy diet for the client that they would enjoy. This process works!
There are two major components of nutritional therapy. First we must look at digestion, and correct any problems there. In other words, we need to heal the gut! Without proper digestion, the use of different foods or supplements will probably not produce results. However, once this is accomplished, clients can begin to see that their mental disorders are receding, and probably cured.
Very often nutritional problems are a question of having either too little, or too much of something in the body. Too much involves things like parasites, bad bacteria taking control of the gut, or too much of some substance like sugar, alcohol, bad fats and dead processed foods or other foods that can overwhelm and destroy the digestive tract. On the other hand, there can be many problems when people have too little of things such as stomach acid, beneficial bacteria, food enzymes from raw foods, essential fatty acids, protein, vitamins and minerals and even nourishing foods. Another significant consideration is the problem of intestinal permeability, popularly known as “leaky gut.” This damaging condition is responsible for the development of a toxic brain, and it must be addressed if it is detected. Leaky gut leads to autoimmune diseases, as well as any mental disorder that is concerned with perceptions of reality being altered.
In addition to these concepts, there are about fifty nutrients that are considered “essential” for proper function of the body. Few know what they are, but if even one of them is not present in sufficient quantity, the body begins to falter, and both physical and mental health decline.
Many people are becoming aware that the human body is actually an organism in league with 100 trillion microorganisms like bacteria, yeasts and viruses. Many of these reside in our gut and are responsible for many processes we need to survive. I am referring to the microbiome, and we must learn to take care of this precious resource.
The diets of people hundreds of years ago were created by trial and error to include all the nutrients a human needs to thrive. Now, most Americans, cut off from their traditional diets, have absolutely no idea what their body needs. So, entering a modern supermarket with 200,000 different foods, picking out the right ones is something of a crap shoot. Many just go with what they “like,” not realizing that what they like might be dictated by harmful bacteria and yeasts in their gut. Yes, we are controlled by messages arising in the microbiome when we experience dysbiosis or a negative state of being overrun by bad microbiota. This is part of the problem with people who are suffering with mental problems. The microbiome can be repaired with help from someone trained to do so.
What we consume on a regular basis matters, a lot. When we do not know what this should be, or will not consume it even if we do know, our physical and mental health decline. This is the basis for the new paradigm in treating mental health. We must nourish our bodies, and give them the raw materials to create the proteins—and in the case of mental health, the neurotransmitters—that contribute to good mental functioning. It is not rocket science, but it is science! And a final thought: Talking to a malnourished person cannot correct their nutrition. Only proper nutritional intervention can do this.
I love counseling, and helping people deal with their emotional and relational problems. But in addition, I encourage anyone suffering from mental issues to consider that nutritional issues are also involved in their distress. There are thousands of nutritional professionals trained to do this work across America. A holistic approach looking at body, mind and spirit is the key to health. A whole new world awaits those who can be freed from mental suffering through proper nutrition.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to serve as medical advice, and anyone reading it is urged to contact someone trained in functional nutrition or functional medicine to address nutritional problems, especially if you are currently taking psychiatric meds.
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.
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Thanks, Elizabeth. I enjoyed reading this.
One thing that you did not mention (and I think it is true) is that many drugs actually selectively destroy the body’s bacterial balance and also selectively USE nutrient elements for their metabolism – thus aggravating deficiencies and imbalances.
Even with supplementation, it may be difficult to counter the effects of continual drug administration of ANY kind. Older allopathic doctors seemed to have been aware of this. Newer ones are so deep in the ‘sell’, I think they have lost their original caution.
I advocate a free, unified alternative therapies program that includes Nutritional Therapy because better nutrition (better physical health) promotes better “mental health” (UnifiedAlternatives.org). However, claiming that mental distress is caused by nutritional deficiencies and solved by improved nutrition is advocating a new “medical model” that seems illogical for numerous reasons.
Well, mental distress is certainly aggravated by poor nutrition, whether or not you believe it’s caused by same. In any case, you’d want your clients in as good shape as you could get them- they’re more coherent that way.
Yes, they are more coherent, but what about the fact that they can be cured of their mental problems. This is reality!!!
I see no problem with that, myself. I was just answering a comment from someone who had difficulty with the philosophy behind nutritional treatments. Since I’m one of those sinners who consumes multiple grams of B3/day and have hallucinatory friends who’ve recovered on nutrient therapy, I can hardly diss such treatments. After all, I first read stuff by Natasha Campbell McBride around 20 years ago and subscribed to the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine (where I read her work), for years before that.
Well, then we are definitely on the same page. I just struggle to understand why so many are adamant in resisting the idea that nutrition could be at the root of mental problems. So you, then, would be vitamin B3 dependent, according to Orthomolecular theory.
Yep. Found out after stopping it, many years ago, when I didn’t think I had disperceptions. I’d done megascorbate earlier, when I was working outdoors on a seismic crew in the winter, and still do.
Yes, all drugs cause nutritional depletion of important micronutrients, vitamins and/or minerals. And, of course, antibiotics destroy bacteria, which often causes the fungi or yeast to rapidly proliferate. This is why nutritional therapy is a crucial piece in the healing puzzle. In addition, there are other conditions, like leaky gut, which allow toxins to enter the brain, and wreak havoc with clear thinking. For me, madness is a toxic brain, not a psychological problem. The work of many researchers show that very many people labeled “schizophrenic” have leaky gut, often due to gluten problems. There was a study in Sweden that went like this: They took 36 so-called schizophrenics off gluten for six weeks, and at the end of that time, ALL returned to complete proper mental functioning. Was it a fluke? They continued, putting half back on gluten foods, and the other half stayed off. Six more weeks: The non-gluten consuming patients were still doing great, and the others had returned to psychotic thinking. This experiment was replicated in America. What does this mean? It demonstrates that foods and other elements of nutrition can either help or harm people, and mental conditions are part of this. Many people reject this truth, but there it is.
I request the date and those responsible for the study of gluten and 36 mentally ill persons. I have heard this story many times but do not have the documented proof to reference to others who disbelieve.
Gluten restriction shows promise in the treatment of schizophrenia. Pubmed: Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2006 February.
Why is the fact that nutrition greatly influences mental health illogical? It would seem to me to think that social forces or thinking could cause brain dysfunction is much more illogical. “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food” — Hippocrates in 480 B.C. He was on to something. Another way to think about it is: Those who are properly nourished have the raw materials to create the neurotransmitters they need for brain function. Is this illogical? If you provide the body with the raw materials, it knows just what to do with them! Some estimate that we have over 200, or even 600 neurotransmitters being created in our bodies all the time. A poor diet does not provide those essential amino acids needed!
I clearly state that nutrition greatly influences “mental health” in the first sentence and assume that it was the predominate influence circa Hippocrates. However, today in the US, socially distressful experiences are the predominate cause of mental distress. What I said was illogical is replacing the old medical model (of mystery diseases) with a new one based on dietary problems. Consistently, a new medical model paradigm of dietary problems continues to advocate that injustice and socially distressful experiences do not affect “mental health.”
Right, there has been an overwhelming proliferation here lately of articles on diet as a “cure” for something, with the implication that these “mental illness” labels are legit in the first place.
There is no mental illness, and no labels for it that reflect reality. Reality is, human bodies need certain nutrients to function properly. This is not a hard thing to understand. If you are malnourished, both your brain and body do not function properly. For example, here’s an easy one:
Many persons in America drink quantities of soda. It contains a lot of sugar. Every molecule of sugar requires 56 molecules of magnesium to process it in the body. Ergo: someone drinking lots of soda and not taking in sufficient magnesium is prone to depression. Is this a mental illness? No, it is a magnesium deficiency. I can’t tell you how many teenagers I counsel, and even adults who are drinking 5-10 cans of soda a day. Add to this the fact that sugar is more addictingr than cocaine, and you have an epidemic of depression, caused by insufficient magnesium/too much sugar.
Perhaps the real problem is assuming that “mental disorders” all have the same cause or type of cause. My belief is that SOME depression is the result of physical things like diet, sleep, other drugs, etc., but that much or maybe most is stress-related. Of course, unresolved stress also results in loss of sleep, poor nutrition, etc., so there is no way to separate the effects entirely. Bottom line, it is the idea that “depression” is a disease state that creates the impression that there should be a “treatment” that works for all situations. That impression is absolutely false.
Talking about stress is talking about the autonomic nervous system and perhaps the adrenal glands, which produce cortisol, the stress hormone. We can follow protestations of stress back to the body, which is registering it. There is no escaping the body, I’m afraid. Not that this is disease, it is just poor functioning. And, some clients can resolve their issues through counseling alone, of course. Some, however, benefit when we address poor functioning and give support to those body systems that are stressed and tired. It’s really not that difficult to figure all this out for someone trained to do so.
Steve: Look at it this way: Every human body needs the same 50 essential nutrients to function properly, and beyond that, a life-sustaining diet. You state that today, mental problems are caused predominately by socially distressful experiences. I ask: What is the proof of that? And here is the problem, behavioral science will do lots of research into the causes of mental disorders, and ask lots of questions as to why people think they are upset, etc., But, do they EVER ask about the nutritional status of those subjects. Or better yet, do they ever do an assessment of their nutritional status. You know the answer is “NO!” So, you have a closed system, and the one thing that would help is NEVER considered. So, you can blame social constructs or whatever else, but I can tell you one thing, proven through endless articles on nutrition and mental health: People are not healthy! Their bodies do not function properly, and that includes their brains. It’s like the Emperor’s new clothes, in a way. Everyone just looks past the obvious and keeps on the same old path. We need a new path to health!!! Yes, it is a “new” idea, and I call it a new paradigm, but so what? The old one certainly is NOT WORKING!!!
So you really are saying that all “mental illness” is caused by poor nutrition? Can you PLEASE answer that question with a simple YES or NO?
As for “what is the proof of that?”, I think the ACES study by itself is absolute proof that early childhood stress and trauma is a causal factor not only in “mental health” problems as defined in the DSM, but also in a wide array of physical health problems. It seems absurd to suggest that a person being abused by his/her parents systematically and then being removed and put into multiple foster homes while separating him from his siblings and other relatives would not cause anxiety/depression/anger issues, not as “disease states” or nutritional deficiencies, but as very normal reactions to very abnormal childhood circumstances. To deny that these circumstances substantially affect kids’ emotional well-being, mood, and ways of thinking seems just plain ridiculous.
I think you risk substituting nutritional dogma for psychiatric dogma. Again, I agree 100% that nutrition is massively ignored in both psychiatry and general medicine as both cause and treatment of a wide variety of conditions, and that SOME conditions will resolve with nutritional interventions (and in some cases ONLY by nutritional interventions), but it is a very, very large leap to move from there to saying that all “mental distress” is caused primarily or only by nutritional deficiencies, as if how you were raised or the social conditions that affect you are irrelevant. I think it would be insulting to the vast majority of my foster youth clients to suggest that all they need to do is eat better to overcome 15-20 years of abuse and neglect by their parents and the system.
It doesn’t seem dramatic enough. That some missing or deficient nutrient might be responsible for dramatic changes in behavior seems trite, compared to enduring continuous abuse from your family and significant others. It isn’t trite, if you’re aware that 1/3 of the beds in Southern US mental institutions used to be occupied by pellagrins, or that sailing ships of the alleged good old days, set out from port with twice the crew they needed, so that some crew members would still be around to sail the ship after everybody on board got scurvy during the voyage.
I said repeatedly that physical health directly affects “mental health,” and that prior to understanding the basics of nutrition, nutritional deficiencies were the main source of “mental health” problems. What is trite is arguing that nutritional deficiencies that were understood centuries ago could still be the main source of “mental health” problems. You are suggesting that psychiatry should morph into gastroenterology without support from gastroenterologists.
The science of nutrition is quite young. Vitamins, for example, were not discovered until the early 20th century. Nobody knew about carbohydrates, proteins, and fats until chemistry got going. Enzymes, were unknown quantities until recently. Of course, neurotransmitters are still largely a mystery, with some researchers proposing we have over 600 different ones. The brain is a complete mystery, being the most complex object in the universe. So, when we learn a bit, and find ways that make people feel and function better, without any drugs, this is a very good thing. People did not understand nutritional deficiencies hundreds of years ago, but what they had was a long history of eating their traditional diets, which served them well for thousands of years. We have lost our connection to our ancestral diets, and are awash in what I call anti-food: Substances that LOOK like food, and perhaps TASTE like food, but which actually rob your body of nutrients. Have a Pop Tart!!
I liked this Liz, then you said:
In addition, there are other conditions, like leaky gut, which allow toxins to enter the brain, and wreak havoc with clear thinking. For me, madness is a toxic brain, not a psychological problem.
Doh – I thought we were beyond blaming the brain in MIA…
Those who are properly nourished have the raw materials to create the neurotransmitters they need for brain function. Is this illogical?
People are screwed over by inequality, poverty and injustice- not neurotransmitters. So what u r saying is illogical. Oh Liz… don’t blame the brain- learn that context and experience is everything.
The trouble isn’t with your brain, but what’s going into it.
If I’m blaming anything, it is malnourishment and poor nutrition, not the brain.
Those who are nourished properly also have problems in life external to themselves, but what they seem to have is resilience, and the ability to cope. Again, this is based on the availability of raw materials to make the neurotransmitters the brain needs to function properly. I relate this to PTSD as well. In a given traumatic situation, in war, 81% of those so traumatized suffer from acute stress syndrome for about thirty days, then they come out of that and are all right. This leaves 19% who go on to develop PTSD. What could the difference between these groups be? Could it be their nutritional statuses?: Some more nourished and others less or malnourished. Again, the second group could not be producing enough GABA or other calming neurotransmitters, leaving them in a sympathetic state where they cannot calm themselves. This occurred to me after reading the recent book by Porges on PtSD. It’s also very logical.
Yes. Maybe it’s responsive to nutrient treatment, as well. Abram Hoffer treated a few individuals- POW’s and camp survivors- with niacin a number of years ago and said he got good results, although I’d think multiple nutrients would be in order.
Hoffer was fantastic!! He treated thousands of persons, many of them who were labeled “schizophrenic” with orthomolecular medicine. He also cured Bill W. of his alcohol cravings. When Bill W. reported this miracle to the AA Board, they didn’t want to hear about it: A gigantic opportunity missed. Millions of people could have been similarly helped! The recent work of researchers like Felice Jacka in Australia are proving continuously that just giving micronutrients to people (vitamins and minerals) can completely cure many mental problems, and at a cost of only 2% of inpatient treatment. There’s a new world out there!
I thought Hoffer had been exposed as a fraud? Can anyone else comment on this.
See here for citations – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abram_Hoffer#Controversy
It seems even Thomas Szasz thought he was a quack.
Wikipedia is very carefully guarded to promote certain ideologies. Szasz was a physician, so by extension, not trained in nutrition. Most doctors are very defensive about nutritional ideas, having no knowledge of that science. My friend just was board certified as an internist. I asked her, “how much nutritional training did you have in medical school?” She replied, “Oh, I think two days.” Right.
I think all psychiatrists have been implicitly exposed as frauds. If there were any value to Hoffer’s work it would be as a physician, not as a psychiatrist.
I would love to have been the fly on the wall as someone tried to convince Szasz that even though “mental illness” doesn’t exist, it can be cured by good nutrition.
In my case my brain is toxic and my brain chemistry is indeed askew. I have been drugging myself with addictive neurotoxins for 25 years and am still forced to take 65 mgs of effexor. In a year I should be drug free.
What’s wrong with a four-pronged approach to madness? It is not a true illness, but extreme emotional states that cause suffering are. A lot of people who go through this want to end it. If you enjoy having delusions or hallucinations, you have the right to experience them.
(We all know psych drugs DO NOT WORK. You could have as much relief with street drugs–probably more. Your dealer would allow you more control over how you used these “medicines” and what types you used.)
Prong one: Attend to verifiable physical needs. Get exercise, proper nutrition, sleep, adequate hydration. Rule out thyroid issues and real diseases. Avoid mind altering drugs–with the possible short-term use of a sedative for 1-3 nights. This can sometimes break the pattern of insomnia and end the psychotic episode. No need for a lifetime on uppers, downers and benzos!
Prong two: Attend to emotional needs. Restore quality human relationships and learn to make better life choices.
Prong three: Attend to spiritual needs. Not sure what to say here.
Prong four: Work on ending social problems such as: various kinds of discrimination, bullying in school, the breakdown of homes and other social structures. There’s also a lot of unemployment similar to what happened during the Industrial Revolution. All the unemployed (especially fugitive “consumers”) need help making necessary adjustments to the new economic system.
I appreciate what you are doing, Elizabeth. I’m sure you make less now than when you worked with the system. Nutrition doesn’t hold ALL the answers, but you never made that claim in your article. I’m sure my gut would have benefited if I had received your kind of therapy in high school. That might have helped me cope with social stress and prevented my being sucked into the MI system for over 2 decades.
Feelingdiscouraged: We should call you feeling courageous! What a great plan you have put together for yourself. I am quite sure you will do well on it. And, if I am permitted to say this: God Bless You!
Thank you Elizabeth. I often feel downhearted when people who mean well and want to help encourage people to end “stigma” because it’s “a brain disorder related to chemical imbalance and bad genes.” And all you “mentally ill” people keep taking your “meds.” I had to endure that in church one Sunday.
I don’t need addictive mind-altering drugs like diabetics need insulin. (Insulin actually belongs in the human body, unlike abilify or effexor and other crap.)
I don’t need enabling or patronizing from others either. If I act like a jerk, please tell me. It’s not “my illness.” It’s a choice and I’m in control of it. As long as I bought into the disease model, I refused to exercise self control on numerous occasions.
Hey, the doctor says it’s a sickness. What’s a poor sick, crazy nutter to do? There are benefits to wearing the MI label, I found. That’s one reason why so many people defend their “insanity” labels and refuse to recover or leave the system.
I meant extreme emotional states that cause distress are real. Left off that last word.
No. Please. Just, no. Someone please set the record straight here. How do we make the illogical leap from the myth of “mental illness” to confirming that there is such a thing as a mysterious “mental health” that depends upon nutrition. Once a person understands that “mental illness” is a myth it should go without saying that “mental health” is likewise a myth. The sooner we get rid of “mental illness” and “mental health,” the sooner people start minding their own business instead of going around trying to “cure” people. If we want to talk about the health of the body or the brain, and the importance of healthy nutrition, that is fine. But for heaven’s sake, let’s not pretend that we object to the biological model of psychiatry only to replace it with our own biological model.
Please people. I beg you. Please read Thomas Szasz. Read Breggin. Read Whitaker. Read. And please discard these silly notions of “broken brains” and “mental health” and all other such nonsense. When will people start minding their own business and leave these poor suffering people alone, or at least show them that their brains are great, their bodies are great, their minds are great, and their souls are great. “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a SOUND MIND.” Everything else is nonsense.
Of course people suffer. Of course people should eat healthy food and take care of themselves. But that is a choice that people need to make for themselves, through education and not by the tyranny of psychiatry or any of its off-shoot replacements. The sooner that psychiatry and the “mental health” industry go, the sooner health will flourish, and the sooner that well-meaning “health care” workers can put their energy into worthwhile pursuits such as gardening or educating themselves.
Of course people will feel better if they have proper diet, nutrition, sleep and exercise. But the problem is that there are vast hordes of busybodies who are convincing everyone that their brains are broken. Please. I beg you. Make it stop. Eat good food. Exercise. Sleep. And most of all, Slay the Dragon of Psychiatry.
I just repeat your words: Of course people will feel better if they have proper diet, nutrition sleep and exercise. Case closed. I am just someone who helps people understand what proper nutrition is. And mental health does exist: It is the ability to form good relationships with oneself, with family, with community and with God. That’s the definition I use, and it is not the least psychiatric or medical. It’s about being a joyful human.
Case not closed. Feeling better, eating well, proper diet, nutrition, exercise and sleep are one thing. The mysterious “mental health” is another. It is wonderful that you understand proper nutrition, and that you help people understand proper nutrition. That is commendable. Why not call that nutrition education? Your claim that “mental health does exist” is highly dubious. Easter bunnies exist, perhaps, and tooth-fairies, and Santa Claus. But what evidence do you have that such a thing as “mental health” exists? The definition that you offer is highly questionable. The ability to form good relationships with oneself, with family, with community and with God… that’s completely in line with psychiatry. Psychiatry is the medicalization of behavior. Why support that, even indirectly? Of course you are perfectly free to make up definitions for inchoate concepts, and I defend your right to do so. As Thomas Szasz once put it “In the animal kingdom, the rule is, eat or be eaten; in the human kingdom, define or be defined.” As soon as a person asserts the category of “mental health,” no one in their right mind would choose to exclude themselves from the category. We are the “mentally healthy” ones, whereas those with poor diet, nutrition and exercise are the “mentally ill” that have “broken brains” that we must fix. If you were just someone who helps people understand what proper nutrition is, you might be a nutritionist. But that’s not what you are claiming. You are claiming to be a nutritionist who knows not only what “mental health” is, but who also has the tools to provide it. It has nothing to do with being a joyful human. There are plenty of joyful humans who help others and who impart joy without labeling others as “mentally ill” or “mentally healthy.” Don’t get me wrong, it is great that you enjoy proper nutrition and that you think that others should enjoy it as well. That is wonderful. But the case is not closed concerning “mental health.” That is still an open question, and there are some very smart people who consider that “mental health,” like “mental illness,” belongs in the same category as Easter Bunny, Tooth-Fairy, and Santa Claus. And Elizabeth, let me make it clear that I mean no offense, and I think that your work in the area of nutrition is very valuable. From your story it seems that you are on the right track, and that you have discovered many valuable things about the fiction of “mental illness.” Perhaps the next step is to question the paradigm of “mental health” that psychiatry advances along with the rest of its propaganda. In any case, no hard feelings, and best of luck, especially in gardening and reading. 🙂
Because it’s part of your physical health.
Thank you Dragonslayer.
Now I’m going to go eat a Snickers bar and some ice cream after a meal of pizza and soda. FREEEEEDDDDDOOOOOMMMM!
If people were as passionate about liberty as they were about nutrition, perhaps the nutrition would take care of itself.
You are so right, Slaying. i think it is dangerous to replace the evil psychiatry medical model with another “aha! I have found the exact cure to mental distress” model. the things that disturb our inner peace are wide and varied and the things that help us are wide and varied as well. of course, like you said, healthy food and exercise and fresh air and a good night’s sleep will help a person. but, as i say, no one is crazy or we are all crazy. we all fall on the spectrum of humanity and can live our best lives if we have support and validation and strength from many sources and the knowledge there is nothing “wrong ” with any of us- as well as better nutrition and clean air and all the rest. all the best, -erin
Thanks, erin, for the ‘spectrum’ statement.
I use that analogy all the time when trying to explain my opposition to labels and the ‘mh’ system.
there is no one alive without a challenge, a vulnerability, a problem, a weakness. call it what you want, but we all suffer and we are not ill and we all have the inner power to overcome and live a full life. another of my favorites- next time you say, or hear “i can’t” swap it out and say ” i choose not”. everything changes! we can choose to label ourselves by our vulnerabilities or we can label ourselves as human and make the choice to be strong and positive and thankful for what we do have. take care
I don’t know if we’re all crazy now, but we can all become crazy, without exception, by eliminating all sources of niacin from our diets. That’s what pellagra’s all about.
Pellegra: Dementia, dermatitis and death. The three “D’s”
Thanks Erin. I’m glad that there are other people who are tuned in to truth and reality, or in other words, my commentary.
Another slap in the face from MIA.
Thanks Elizabeth! What you say makes a lot of sense and is very logical. MIA was always about science and finding out the truth about mental illness. Those who deny that mental illness exists have never met my son.
What an awful thing to say about your own offspring. God bless him, and spare him.
She didn’t correctly say-physical illness with psychological consequences. Too much typing?
Just remember, if you call your son a genetically inferior monster, half his genes come from you!
Either you gave him rotten genes or chose to mate with a genetically inferior man. According to the bio-medical model this would mean it really is your fault your son went crazy.
This is something they never mention in NAMI meetings. But according to the idea of “mental illness” stemming from crummy genes and bad brain chemistry the parents ARE to blame. Who gives offspring their genes after all?
Yes, NAMI mommies. By your own analogy and admission. It is your fault! 😛
What an ignorant thing to say about your child. Ignorant in the sense of lacking education, which is hard to fathom as you’ve been on MIA for awhile.
I do recoil from the term mental illness. Actually it’s a trigger but in order to dialogue with folks until they become more aware I will merely mention my discomfort and put it on the table.
Please think on it. Your ideas Elizabeth are interesting and very worth consideration as one piece of a multilayered puzzle.
Where and how that piece is located is still unknown.
If we take off our 1 st world glasses and take a very painful look at let’s say
South Sudan and child soldiers who are returned home in apparent altered states nutrition would play a role as well in a big way trauma
And how do we heal these children much less our own foster children who are experiencing devastating but different trauma as well
Healing costs in time – money – labor intensive with each individual persons own code so to speak to and for maintained healthy living.
Cry the Belived World
OF COURSE, there are millions of people who are suffering from mental problems! Millions, and more every day. We might ask, Why???? Again, we must go back to this answer: People do not have any idea what their bodies, and brains, need to function properly. No idea! They go into a supermarket and are faced with 200,00 different products, and they choose what they “like”. But here’s an easy way to look at this. Sugar is more addicting to the brain than cocaine. More addicting! How many teenagers or adults do you know who drink 5-10 cans of soda a day. Every molecule of sugar requires 56 molecules of magnesium to process it. The enormous intake of sugar w/o sufficient magnesium leads to depression. Is this a mental illness? NO, it is a nutritional deficiency, but it LOOKS like something the DSM could glom onto, and medicate, to no avail, because the person is still drinking the soda and is still deficient in magnesium. No mental illness here!!! But, since doctors are usually never trained in nutrition, and their model is a drug for every problem, that’s what people get. And remember, every single prescribed medication depletes the body of nutrients. So is this an epidemic of mental illness? I think not! And, know that for 50% of Americans, their diet consists of 95% processed foods, the bad stuff. Check out the carts in Walmart if you want a scare, and see what people are buying for their families!
Just to clarify, are you saying that the ONLY reason people feel mentally/emotionally unwell is because of poor nutrition? Do you discount the impact of childhood trauma, poor relationships, the incredible stress of working a mindless job in an industrial society, exposure to racism, sexism, etc. as contributory factors? Because I agree that nutrition is very important and can resolve some cases, but to suggest that ALL cases are caused by poor nutrition seems a very large leap!
No, but clinical nutrition’s too important to effective mental and physical function to ignore, particularly when dealing with allegedly mental issues.
I agree 100%, and understand your viewpoint. My question was for the author, though. I’m not sure she’s made that point clear in her presentation.
Thanks for the reply!
No, not everything is nutritional in origin.
I agree with you. Poor nutrition is at the heart of a great deal of emotional distress. This includes people binging on sugar and its demonic cousins such as aspartame.
People get touchy about this subject because typically they have child-like eating habits, and don’t want to fess up.
They keep a firm grip on the lollipop.
Constipation can make anyone feel badly, lead to a short temper, depression, and impact appetite/enjoyment of food . The psychiatric drugs that are designed to interfere with brain biochemistry also interfere with the stomach/colon biochemistry.
“Most of my patients have a very good understanding that there is a close connection between their emotions and their guts. But there are still very few neuroscientists who understand the complexity of this enteric nervous system and its links to the brain.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201111/your-backup-brain
“20 reports of serious gastrointestinal adverse effects resembling obstruction, three of which were fatal.”/”Death from clozapine-induced constipation prompts warning” http://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/news-and-analysis/news/death-from-clozapine-induced-constipation-prompts-warning/11100557.article
This post brings the enteric nervous system into the game. Humans actually have TWO brains, the “other” one being the enteric nervous system. It directs all of our gastrointestinal operations, plus a lot more, and is responsible for our “feelings”. Think of the phrase “gut reaction”. Think about feeling sick to your stomach when you are anxious. The vagus nerve (nerve X) is the highway between the two brains. We must begin to think holistically. Our two brains are connected, we are connected to our microbiome, and that, too affects our moods. There are no broken brains, or we would be dead. There are only brains that are not getting what they need, or are getting things they don’t need. This is the science of nutrition, and it’s time is upon us!
The amazing thing is that I have over 100 brains. Most people only have only one brain – their stomach. Some have two: their brain and their stomach. The third brain I need not mention. If you allow me to call forth my 98 other brains to help with this question… and if we must begin to think holistically… then we need to think what “holistically” means. When we are talking about a human being, what are we talking about? Is a human being a mass of atoms, molecules, and cells that function on a biological level in a random universe for no apparent reason? What is man? This takes us back to classical Greece, to the time when Socrates called forth philosophy from the heavens, and began to interrogate the “wise” of Athens. There were some atomists among the ancients, such as Epicurus and Lucretius and Democritus, but Socrates was skeptical of most everything. Plato and Aristotle understood that man is a teleological, or purposeful being. How did we get to the point in post-modern times when human beings are considered merely as a conglomeration of particles? I will let my other 99 brains rest while I eat a Snickers bar that I bought at Walmart.
Did you hear me properly Elizabeth?
Again you used the word mental and you totally ignored the current untenable situation with South Sudan which hilights terrorism and trauma to the max.
You used the word “they” in a pejorative manner not taking into account or taking the responsibility to share with your readers a fact that every nutritional student in college knows the pervasive desert islands of grocery stores in urban lower SES neighborhoods.
And the pervasive in your face marketing of the Big Pharma of food companies. They all use the same playbook. They all make tons of money off of us.
You may have interesting information but that and a cup of coffee will help no one and only continue to hurt your soul.
Until you allow yourself to go from they to we you will be worst than any the worst of us
Until you can share in the human world you and your work are nothing
You are like the APA NAMI Big Pharma all the moneyed interests that care less for others than for themselves
Read the latest on Syria
Read the recent books out on mass incarceration
Read about The Lost Boys of Sudan
Have you ever once talked with a refugee?
I have- a family who lived under a card table on the Main Street of Phom Phen sp?
Have you ever talked to a grown man who was a lost boy? Gentle kind men and so so very fragile with the torture they survived.
Have you ever spent time with folks in deep deep trouble and trauma?
Have you ever experienced times if deep deep trouble and trauma?
Until you can honestly claim both and use the vocabulary of compassion
Don’t bother replying
Cry the Beloved Country – one of the first of many many good reads on Aparthied.
Mary O’Malley MSW MFA
Catnight: I don’t think that Elizabeth is saying that poor nutrition is the only problem facing the world. However, there are many people in the developed world who have what is commonly referred to as “mental illlness” and they have never been traumatized but they may be suffering from nutritional deficiencies. My son is one of these people and I believe that he has been very poorly served by psychiatry. I am very grateful to Elizabeth and the other writers on this site who are researching in this area.
Yes, that is the point of my article. Thank you!
I am glad you finally figured out how ineffective psychiatry is MIC. Your son will be better soon, I hope.
Nutrition is nutrition. It has nothing to do with “mental health,” which is a bogus and insulting concept, and those who still use it have some catching up to do.
It has plenty to do with it, in addition to the mood and sanity changes you get from classical deficiency diseases like pellagra and scurvy, you can get them from idiosyncratic reactions to foods and environmental chemicals of one sort or another. I, for example, am incapable (or barely capable) of controlling my temper if I consume anything containing caffeine. Where do you think you get all those neurochemicals that the poisonous neuroleptics are trying to tinker with? Addictions are likely to be nutrition related in some form or other- the results of chronic heavy drinking sure are. Loss of the senses of smell and taste (occurring in some depressed states) are responsive to zinc supplementation.
There is no “mental illness”; there is no “mental health.” Why is this so hard? What you’re talking about, rightly or wrongly, is HEALTH, period.
I understand but everyone needs to think long and hard on how to dialogue with each other in order to change things as the are.
First is respectful listening with a vocabulary of compassion.
Then there needs to be an acknowledgement that we all have hidden or visible trauma.
You can’t be human and not have it.
You have to take off the masks and get down on the floor
Some folks do it better than others and it is a learning curve.
See the musical
“Fantastic” and “The Madwoman of Chailot” in particular the ragpickers speech.
And we have to acknowledge we are working on a puzzle with no box top cover to follow.
We each have pieces and it will take time and effort and mud and dust and ash to deal with the process.
Psych survivors like myself suffered trauma in treatment and in life circumstance or with something.
Our feelings and needs for the ability to acknowledge and help deal with inherent triggers in dialogue had to be understood and acknowledged.
I am very aware that if I use my name and degrees it will be seen and heard in a different light then if I use my name here.
Same person two sets of realities.
The voice changes and the stigma begins when you state your full reality many many times.
Before my time in the belly of the beast I was aware of psych survivor movements and some in the professions.
At times the ones who opened up were gossiped about and derided behind closed doors.
I hated that as well and I am so sorry I was not able to stand down their words.
We all carry baggage memories of what was done and what we could have should have done.
My concern with this blog was in Elizabeth as well intentioned and so well informed could not hear my plea for compassionate listening and then responding
She has replied so Thank you for that!
What is so hard in saying I
Oh I am sorry
I never thought about that aspect
I will try to keep that in mind.
Not expecting perfection here just real humanity
Thanks for your reply.
I am sorry for the hard times.
What would your family member think of all this?
Could there be a dialogue?
Please think on my thoughts8
“Then there needs to be an acknowledgement that we all have hidden or visible trauma.
You can’t be human and not have it.
You have to take off the masks and get down on the floor
Some folks do it better than others and it is a learning curve.”
Beautiful, CatNight, all the way through.
Catnight: I am absolutely with you when you talk about the horrors of psychiatry. Terrible things have been and are being done to many people in the name of medicine. I have found a way for many people to get past their mental suffering, and this is why I am so adamant about what I have learned. I would like it if no one on earth ever was prescribed a psych drug, and that everyone still on them could be helped to come off safely. At the same time, I wish we could teach everyone what they need to stay physically and mentally healthy and that they would adopt those teachings and have good, joyful lives.
Equally terrible things are being conducted under the name of “nutrition.” That is something to consider. I know that you are not guilty of this personally, but imagine the suffering of the innocent people who have been labelled as “mentally ill” or with poor “mental health” who are then subjected to strange diets and countless vitamins and holistic remedies to fix their supposedly broken brains. Psychotropic drugs are more harmful, in many ways, but it’s hardly any better to label a person and then throw vitamins at him or her. People need to be educated that they are children of a loving God, and that laws of health can be learned and applied in individual situations without the imposition of psychiatric overlords or even well-meaning nutritionists. It is fine to be healthy, and to teach people what we think health means, but the moment we insert the word “mentally” we have entered the realm of psychiatric fiction.
The point people have been trying to make is pretty basic — using terms such as “mental health” is destructive and insulting to those whom the author is no doubt trying to help. This is 2017 folks. “We” moved from the demonic possession model to the medical model, and now it’s way past time to move on from that as well.
Btw check out the email I’m about to send you, and if you encounter Frank in any of your MIA conversations please ask him to do the same.
Towards the end of his career, Abram Hoffer used to tell appropriate patients they had vitamin B3 resistant pellagra. He was no fan of the DSM’s, either.
With the madness you are talking about personal or social invalidation that exceed thresholds of coping. People have mad making experiences, people aren’t driven or go mad because they’ve drunk too much soda- lol.
You might have bitten on the wrong worm there, misfitxxx. My earliest exposure to mental health types came shortly after first exposure to colas, tea and the caffeine in them. Even after losing most of my disperceptions and distortions, I still had “anger management issues.” Eventually I learned caffeine was bad for me if I had a snit, but didn’t realize I had to totally avoid it until the early 1990’s. I’ve saved unknown sums, by not breaking my personal and household items, since.
Another thing to remember is that we are all bio-individual, which means we are all completely unique in our biological makeup. So, a one-size-fits-all approach will never work. Maybe you can handle lots of sugar, but that guy over there is going to develop problems like depression, and possibly diabetes. If someone is even more depressed, suicide could rear its ugly head, or cutting behavior, etc. Again, many people now cannot handle much or any gluten, while others are downing loaves of bread every day, and doing fine. Young people today are often terribly malnourished. It is tragic. And, they have lots of mental problems because of it.
There’s that word again. “Mental.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2y8Sx4B2Sk
I hope you grasped the notion about biochemical individuality, Slaying. That’s more important than quibbling over a misnomer (“mental illness”).
I grasped that with the brain in my stomach. What I hope that people will grasp is that the notion of “biochemical individuality” plays right into the hands of psychiatry and is a result of post-modern reductionist thinking that fails to take into consideration that a human being is more than a conglomeration of molecules. And to be frank, nothing is more important than combating the false notions of “mental illness” and “mental health,” because such false notions lead to the abuse, torture, stigmatization, suffering and death of millions of innocent people. In other words, let’s stop quibbling over food and start talking about substantive issues, such as how to combat the psychiatric fiction of notions such as “mental illness” and “mental health.”
It’s not biochemical individuality, it’s bio-individuality. This refers to the fact that everyone is unique in their physical makeup and in all other ways, too.
“Biological Psychiatry” will hardly embrace this. No chance to get all those pharma perks, trips and shines when you’re dealing with cheap, non-patentable substances.
That’s more important than quibbling over a misnomer (“mental illness”).
So now hate speech has been downgraded to a “misnomer”?
Again Elizabeth reread your words!!!!!!!! ” I have found a way to get many people get past their mental suffering.” I am not denying your knowledge base’s truth or ability to help folks. You are not a savior and your terminology is still problematic in my eyes. That’s what got Carl Whittaker, the famous family therapist, in trouble – he drank his own cool aid.
I think most psych survivors are open to new helpful ways. The terminology you use is important. Mental suffering my foot! Let’s do the time warp again! As far as I know you have no idea what suffering really is. It would be helpful to take off that mask. Get in the mud and find a way to describe trauma issues, nutrition issues, medical issues – pellegra sp? – actually did cause altered mental states as well as syphllis – the environment ! “Silent Spring”.
I was also a LISW for twenty years in the trenches of urban areas and severe trauma, humility is everything. Again think on it.
You mean well Liz but its beginning to suk, call it- catnight has it right…
How much do u earn btw?
Elizabeth, I believe good nutrition has some benefit. But only if the problem is caused by a deficit of vitamins or minerals.
In high school I suffered from IBS. My nutrition was probably poor because of this. But my spastic colon resulted from excessive social fears which finally peaked in scopaphobia. I was insanely terrified of people looking at me. At 17 I had an overwhelming urge to shun humanity. My dream job was hermit. 🙂
My guess is the constant bullying/sexual harassment and resulting social fear led to chronic diarrhea, but then the malnutrition started a vicious cycle. Maybe better nutrition could have helped.
For 6 months I ate little but rice, bananas and broiled white meat. And sometimes a little jello for dessert.
Excellent example of the complexity of these issues. The physical affects the emotional and the spiritual and vice versa. Any attempt to come up with one solution for every case is going to end up creating havoc!
I overcame my social phobia the old fashioned way–repeated exposure to the source of my fear. I had a lead role in a play as a college freshman and made many new friends in the process.
Unfortunately I thought this was due to the 6 mgs of stelazine I had been prescribed. Dr. X deserved all the credit. Boy was I wrong!
I am sorry people don’t like the word “mental”, but we do have minds, after all. We have brains, and we have bodies. We also have souls, but I won’t get into that right now except to say that our souls use our minds to function. Some people may disagree that we have souls. OK, but I don’t think anyone would say we don’t have minds. The word
“mental” refers to the mind or intellect. So while there is no mental “illness” as a disease, there are mental problems, when the brain is affected by something, and is not functioning properly. Just in the past year or so the reason we need to sleep was discovered: When we sleep, the vasculature in the brain opens wide and all the toxins accumulated through the day are flushed out. This is why sleep is restorative. It’s a reset to neutral when things are going well. Therefore, people who do not sleep for several days can become disoriented and if you like the word, psychotic – out of touch with reality. Is this psychosis a mental event? Yes, I believe so. Is this person up for some psych label? I would say they have a toxic brain, and it can be cleared up with sleep. This way of looking at mental problems is one which is fluid, ever-changing and malleable to amelioration. It’s not a genetic thing, it’s not a permanent thing.
You are preaching to the choir when you talk about souls, Elizabeth–at least when you talk to me. 🙂
In my case the religious model helped me with nasty, destructive personality traits. I call those sins–not MI symptoms. I benefited more from a few hours with an elderly preacher who had a lot of experience as a deliverance minister than 25 years with the bio-model.
I may write about this someday. But MIA is not a good place due to all the atheists/agnostics I would needlessly offend.
Unfortunately everyone at my church and all my family members have bought into the “science” of psychiatry. To all intents and purposes they have rejected the spiritual element of reality. Do they even realize this?
I am sorry people don’t like the word “mental”
You don’t sound too apologetic to me.
“Sorry” in the sense of “Sorry you’re all wrong” or “Sorry you feel that way”? Feels more like denial to me.
There are many rude awakenings in the realm of psychiatric fiction. The first shock is to emerge from the myth of “mental illness.” It may be just as much of a shock to emerge from the myth of “mental health.”
I wonder if the term “mental” is what leads to so many psychiatric professionals to think we’re hopelessly stupid even when “compliant” and possessing “insight.” This is especially true for social workers and those wonderful shrinks we all adore! 😛 Not!
Just ask Jeffrey Lieberman. He won the title of Runner-Up in the most recent Dr. Deity contest. Now he gets to wear a banner and ride around in a convertible while throwing rose buds to the throngs lining the sidewalks.
There are plenty of full-length mirrors lining the way. That way the winners of the Dr. Deity contest will have someone worthy of receiving the kisses they blow. Ha ha!
I agree with many of comments here challenging some of your central beliefs.
In the recent blog on nutrition and “mental health” by Bonnie Kaplan and Julia Rucklidge, I raised the following question and comment – to which they never answered:
“You said: “…our research has helped put on the map the idea that mental health problems CAN be addressed through nutrition, offering an alternative to our current approaches.”
“What exactly is meant by this statement, especially your emphasis on the word “CAN”? I am a firm believer in science and the scientific method. I support your efforts at researching the value of nutrition as a valuable “aid” to recovery, but I believe it can be harmful and even dangerous to exaggerate its meaning if not backed up by proven science.
“In my comment above I stated the following:
“And more importantly, RECOVERY from these negative and harmful experiences in life must ultimately be UNDERSTOOD AND ADDRESSED in each person”s own experience and timetable for recovery. This may, or may not, require therapy, but most certainly will require A SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT to nurture one’s recovery.”
“It is here where good nutrition and gut health may be an important ENHANCEMENT or ADDITIONAL SUPPORT for such recovery by aiding a more suitable INTERNAL BODY ENVIRONMENT for such recovery, but NOT the PRINCIPLE MEANS for such recovery to take place.”
“A person in recovery will STILL have to address the original traumas that began their conflict with their environment AND the subsequent traumas that took place when they encountered AN OPPRESSIVE “MENTAL HEALTH” SYSTEM that added to, and reinforced, earlier traumas. There can be no SUBSTITUTE OR SHORTCUT for doing this work.”
Very well said, Richard! Agree 100%.
Maybe using the word “does” would be better than “can”. Nutrition does resolve many mental problems. And therapy isn’t needed, in my mind, except in a supportive role to bring the client to a realization that they have solved a problem that may have plagued them for many years. There is a genetic condition called pyroluria, which is a bit complicated, but I will skip that and say, persons who have this condition are in a constant state of anxiety. They are constantly excreting zinc and B-vitamins from their bodies. These nutrients are very calming, so the absence of them leaves the person anxious. When these nutrients are then provided in sufficient quantity, the anxiety subsides, and the client can begin to see what life is like if one is not anxious.
And the other part of my answer: If one has never tried nutritional therapy, how can he or she say it doesn’t work? If one has never been assessed as to which nutrients are missing from the diet, how can he or she say it doesn’t matter what is eaten? What would be lost by trying to nourish oneself? We all have to eat, so why not try to find a diet that enhances your physical and yes, mental heath?
You leave us with the impression that if we just had a “Revolution in Nutritional Health” all the “symptoms” that get labeled as “mental illness” would disappear in the world. This view is steering people AWAY from a more centrally important and vital political and social agenda.
Extreme psychological distress PRIMARILY arises out of one’s conflict with a stressful, unjust, and often traumatic environment that frequently pushes the human species beyond its ability to adequately cope and adjust to these circumstances.
I would strongly contend that these enormous stressors in society mainly have their origins in a class based and profit based economic and political system. Psychiatry has clearly evolved into a major institution of social control within this political framework.
While nutritional health has some SECONDARY importance in the overall scheme of things, it is primarily a POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC REVOLUTION that must take place to create the material conditions in the world to eliminate those conditions that give rise to “extreme forms of psychological distress” that get mislabeled as “mental illness.”
We all live in society, and are affected by the political. But, first, we reside in our bodies. No political system change is going to fix malnourishment, it will persist unless we make changes to our nutrition. It’s really fundamental, and we ignore it at our peril.
So the big question I still need to hear your answer to: Do you believe that nutrition is always the best approach to what we call “mental health” issues in our culture? Do you or do you not think that traumatic experiences or chronic unresolved stress can cause “mental health” problems as defined in the DSM? If so, what would you do or suggest beyond nutrition and exercise?
Well, those are wonderful steps to take! Yes, supplements do cost a lot sometimes, and people struggle with that. Perhaps you could work on including nutrient-dense foods in you diet. For example, a can of salmon is not expensive, or sardines, either. Liver is cheap! Eggs are cheap! You can learn to make yogurt and then it is also cheap. I don’t understand the comment about vitamins. They are absolutely necessary for proper body and brain function. It also might be the quality of the vitamin: Synthetic versus based on whole food. Keep going on your path to wellness.
No political system change is going to fix malnourishment
Ever hear of socialism?
Millions of people starved to death when the Red Army took over Russia. Socialism didn’t solve their nutritional problems.
A similar thing happened in Red China. I read a book by a young woman who managed to leave for America after ten years under the communists. At the end she experienced hunger day and night. She and all her classmates became emaciated. Her hair fell out in clumps because almost all they could eat were “cakes” made from empty corn hulls.
One day her friend told her how he had heard someone singing in the bathroom stall,
“Socialism is good!
Socialism is good, yes!
But it cannot feed my stomach!”
In hopes of getting a government reward the boy tried to find out who the dissident was. But the singer refused to identify himself. He hurried out of his stall before the boy could leave his and escaped.
Some of this is propaganda, some of it happened as a result of poor planning, and some would have been even worse without socialism. Plus, as with Cuba, both countries faced constant military threats from the U.S. and the western bloc which forced them to divert a lot of wealth into self-defense.
As a result of this cumulative pressure, socialism was largely defeated in the USSR in the 50’s, and in the early 80’s in China. The important distinction: it was defeated, it didn’t fail based on its basic principles.
Let’s just think back to former times. Like, around 1650 in America. People came over on small ships, braving monstrous ocean voyages. They landed here and went into the wilderness, where they were at the mercy of the Native Americans, who might want to kill them, and who often did just that. No security, is what I mean. No real food supply, either. They then left the coast and moved into the further wilderness, charting unknown paths through dangerous territory, meeting up with wild animals, and more angry natives. They persevered, and planted themselves across this land. Do you honestly think that those times were less stressful? But, for the most part, no one was suffering from serious mental problems, and no one was on psych drugs. Shouldn’t they all have been traumatized by their lives? Something has happened, and people are now unable to cope with regular, boring life. What is the difference? I think a look at the food supply would be in order. You have our ancestors’ resilience in the face of grave danger and uncertainty. Could we do that today?
they were at the mercy of the Native Americans, who might want to kill them, and who often did just that
Those poor brave genocidal conquerors. Those nasty natives.
Your logic has become so unraveled that I don’t think it needs to be further deconstructed.
Elizabeth, How could you know that “no one was suffering with serious mental problems” around the year 1650 AD?
Let’s give some citations for our “facts”, please…
Really……..oh those poor, poor European, white colonizers! Being murdered by blood thirsty savages just because those colonizers were stealing land and murdering off entire tribes and communities of indigenous peoples! Those savages should have been so ashamed of themselves! How dare them stress these poor white colonizing conquerors.
I’m with Oldhead on this one.
Yeah, I wonder if the “savages” had any “mental health consequences” of surviving genocide? Perhaps if they were able to return to their original healthy diet, their accommodation to the dominance of the violent European culture and over a century of intentional suppression of their culture and way of life would be much simpler, eh?
Elizabeth, I agree with the others here.Some may find their lives regular and boring but that is a rather subjective statement. If a person is unemployed vs employed is that person’s life “regular”? I thought “regular” referred to the bowels. Or maybe it refers to the workplace shifts. Or when a person has sex.
I don’t think depression or any other struggle comes from “regular and boring lives,” on the whole. I honestly never met anyone in the nuthouse who showed up because their life was “too easy.” I saw people who lacked passion and motivation, people who “felt dead inside,” but often that was because their passion had been stolen by some sort of harm, often drugs or repeated psych incarceration. I saw an awful lot over the decades.
Supplements cost more than I can afford–really very simple. It’s all I can to do buy organic on my disability stipend. Fish oil–hah! right…pro-biotics, sure thing./s
(I’m) Dealing with iatrogenic damage from psych drugs. I cannot tolerate B vitamins, now, among other things. In fact, supplements are somewhat discouraged on the support boards due to the sensitivity of our nervous system. They seem to exacerbate symptoms for many of us.
Avoiding sugar, caffeine, chocolate, gluten is about all I can do right now, and otherwise eating well.
While there is no biological marker for the state of mind we call madness, I guess it’s safer to serve people broccoli than prozac.
At one time there really was a brain disorder caused by lack of iodine. People who suffered from it would lose touch with reality as the disorder progressed. Once they started iodizing table salt, it went away.
This was a biological disorder with an easy biological solution. A similar thing happened for syphilis victims. Nowadays if you get syphilis treated early enough you won’t wind up mentally incapacitated. No thanks to the psychiatric industry either, btw.
What you call table salt is a terrible industrial product. For thousands of years people gathered salt from salt mines and from the sea. All salt is sea salt until it is processed into table salt, which began in late 19th or early 20th Century. They processed sea salt because the new product didn’t clump as much. Big deal. What they did, though, was removed the scores of minerals that were in the sea salt, and left only sodium chloride, plus aluminum, a neurotoxin. After a few years thousands of people started developing goiters, a thyroid condition, because the iodine had been removed from the sea salt during processing. So, in their great wisdom, they “iodized” the crappy salt, and that was the end of the goiters. However, our bodies needed the other seventy or so minerals in the sea salt, and they were gone forever. Nutritional deficiencies began. Now we know that everyone should be consuming at least a half teaspoon of sea salt every day to get the minerals and electrolytes the body needs for proper functioning. So, get some good sea salt and eat it every day. Throw the industrial salt onto the roads when they are icy! That’s all it is good for!
Great idea! We only use sea salt now, anyhow. I’ll tell Mom we need to eat MORE of it. She’ll be happy.
Salt is a different product around the world. In some countries, table salt is not sodium chloride alone. It has potassium chloride in it, and also, fluoride salts. They do this instead of fluoridating the water. When you buy imported products you should be aware of this. It may, or may not list “salt” among the ingredients. It could be loaded with salt and still not list the salt. And also, the salt may or may not be sodium chloride alone. It might be any number of salts including the fluoride. We cannot control this between countries and we don’t really know when it says “salt” what type of salt.
I survived the drug lithium. My kidneys got badly damaged. To ensure that I stay alive I made the decision to stay away from sodium such as salty food. Normal functioning kidneys should be able to handle salt but mine can’t. Yes it was a crap shoot for me, since unlike most damaged kidneys, mine need extra fluids, not fluid restriction, but by trial and error I figured it all out. I also discovered 99% of nutritionists do not know a thing about handling lithium survivors since we tend not to survive!
Steve McCrea: I think looking at nutritional status is a quite simple and effective starting point, unless the problem is one of something like sub-assertiveness, or marital conflict. Even then, I think about nutrition, too, because when a person is well nourished, they really can cope with a lot more. Many people are eating lots of sugar, and eventually, this involves the adrenal glands, and then you can get someone with no coping mechanisms left. Stress affects the body and the mind, so why not see if we can help with better nutrition. Of course, there are lots of counseling strategies for stress, too, so I use those. But lets think about this: Is this person being subjected to overwhelming stress, or are their adrenal glands over-stressed, so that they cannot handle one more thing? It makes sense to strengthen body functioning. Any spiritual practices you might undertake are likely to help, as well. Exercise is good, too!
I’m certainly not arguing against anything you said. But there are often issues much more deep-seated than a current bad relationship. I have worked for 20 years with foster youth and even longer with domestic abuse victims and adults with childhood sexual abuse issues. I guarantee you that nutrition alone, or even spiritual practices, are not sufficient in most of these cases to create a positive outlook. These people need help sorting out why their lives went the way they did, why they hate themselves and/or others, why they can’t make friends, etc. so they can DO something about the coping measures they adopted to survive the awful situations they were in. What is your approach to such people BEYOND improving their nutrition or exercising or even practicing mindfulness? Or do you believe all such cases can be addressed by nutritional approaches alone?
I do counseling and I do nutritional therapy. Sometimes one, sometimes the other, and sometimes both. They are both great disciplines to help people reach their potential.
Richard and others have already said it, but yes, to posit that nutritional deficiencies are the causes of most problems in living is at best misguided and incomplete, and at worst a major distraction from other factors which cause distress, such as abuse, neglect, trauma, poverty, discrimination etc. The ACE study is quite clear about how these factors are linked to severe distress in adulthood, as are dozens of studies of serious distress by John Read and others.
I think the essay above has now been modified and softened a little bit, but it’s still a pretty extreme position. That’s not to say at all that good nutrition isn’t very important and can’t in some cases be a large cause of distress. But it’s just one piece, and in many cases a small piece, of what contributes to distress in the general population. Overfocusing on some cases where nutrition is very important isn’t a justification for positing that nutrition is the sole or primary cause of distress of everyone in our society, as the original version of this article incredibly did.
A thought example might be instructive: consider if someone had been confined in a supermax prison isolation cell for two years and was experiencing depression, hallucinations, and severe anxiety. One could replace their crappy prison food with the best organic nutrition available, delivered three times a day, but leave them otherwise totally isolated without any human contact for 23 hours a day. Does anyone seriously believe such a person would “recover” emotionally if they continued to live in that environment, despite having great food? Let’s get real here. Human relationships, meaningful work/activities, feeling part of one’s community, a connection to nature, exercise, creativity, and many other environmental factors are at least as important, and collectively often much more important, than simple nutrition. To overfocus on one factor is not doing us a service in the big picture.
Matt: You take the most horrible situation imaginable as proof I am wrong. I am not extreme, just trained to do these nutritional interventions. And, if you look at all kinds of research, for example 700 articles on PTSD in PubMed, you would not find the word “nutrition” in any of them. Think about your criteria: Abuse, neglect, trauma, poverty, discrimination. At least three of those generally would involve poor nutrition. Certainly neglect and poverty, and probably abuse. Discrimination? I don’t see that as a major cause of mental disorder. Trauma, again, is handled by the brain, and no one has yet looked into this angle, although I plan to do some research in this area. Nutrition certainly could be involved in that as well. But, the behavioral health world never thinks about nutrition, because they are not trained in it. If they were, they would be making these connections, too. As far as nutrition being a “small piece”, you should do more research on Mental Health and Nutrition, and you would find 3000 articles in PubMed on the topic. People are dying because of psych drugs and poor nutrition, and I am standing in the breach.
Nobody is saying you are wrong, just that there is more to the picture than ONLY nutrition. It is misleading to tell someone who was raped by his dad repeatedly for 15 years and whose mother didn’t protect her and who later got into an abusive relationship because this guy put her on a pedestal at first and she had no way to screen his behavior for abuse that if she just ate better and got some exercise, all of that past trauma would no longer concern her. I think giving her nutritional counseling is not only good, but excellent advice, but it would only be the beginning of how to reconsider the meaning of the survival strategies she learned in all those years of abuse.
I hope that is clearer. Thanks for hanging in the conversation!
No, neglect and abuse can be and often are primarily emotional / relational; there is no inevitable correlate there with not eating good food.
With poverty, there may be a link with poor nutrition, on average. But the psychological stress of being poor and unable to pay your next bill is something completely separate… and we don’t have as much data on poor nutrition causing emotional distress as we do, for example, about abuse and neglect causing it via the ACE studies and those cited in Models of Madness (John Read).
Experiences of discrimination is clearly often a cause (in group studies) of severe emotional distress, as cited in the two sources above.
Human problems are complicated and we can’t narrow it to one factor, I think we can agree. I am totally open to nutrition being important, by the way. I just don’t think we should go telling most people it’s the main cause of their distress, unless we somehow know that in a particular case. The research I’ve read in Read / ACE makes it pretty clear that traumatic experiences in the world and in relationships are often enough, alone or primarily, to cause emotional breakdowns. We are relating, experiencing creatures, not just bodies that eat food.
I should say the correlations between discrimination / abuse / neglect and severe distress are so strong as to look like virtual causes. That is how this type of quasi-experimental research actually works.
Matt, I’m not sure what you mean by ‘original version’ — this article has not been modified at all since it was published, and it never took the extreme position that some seem to be reading into it.
Well I have a couple of questions after reading this.
#1. Just for myself. I have what seems to be permanent inability to sleep, at all, as a result of long term use of psych drugs. Any solutions? I believe this was damage to my brain. I have been hoping my brain, being plastic, would repair by now. I hasn’t. I see no evidence of improvement. I am unable to sleep at all, nor sustain sleep, nor sleep during any time of day at all. Not without external intervention, which I finally caved in to without having to see a doctor.
#2. This has not been mentioned yet in comments. Elizabeth, do you have any answers to eating disorders, or, as it is sometimes called, “disordered eating”? I voluntarily took myself to therapy in 1981 due to this problem. I had anorexia and binge eating both. These were ignored for the next 30 years. In order to be seen at all, i had to claim I was suffering from other maladies, so I ended up falsely labeled with these for life. I left psychiatry behind in 2014, much to my benefit. I know many who are hoping for a real answer to ED, not this hocus pocus they hear from the specialists, who don’t know very much. The kids generally don’t listen to me, though they find me an interesting novelty, I suppose.
Regarding your sleep issue
I worry about this too. It is my most persistent ‘symptom’ and leads to a cascade of all the other impairments. I don’t like reading about how it is permanent–altho I have those thoughts, too.
What ‘outside’ intervention are you referring to?
Human being, I tried everything I could think of. Not one of the “pat answers” worked and it certainly is not due to anxiety. Not sleeping is rather consistent for me, I could go to a doc right now, leave out the psych drug history and for sure it would be dxed as narcolepsy, which is a sleep disorder, not a psych disorder, and they say it can be from chemicals such as drugs you are given. Also they say it’s incurable, but I don’t believe it. Also, caffeine helps! I used caffeine pills and it was like a miracle, coffee too, even cacao. And they say to avoid it. But stopping it wasn’t a good idea for me. I needed to end the mini-sleeps I was getting. I am amazed that I sleep better at night. Yeah it is a crap shoot figuring this stuff out.
Anorexia is starvation, not a mental disorder, but profound malnourishment. I will tell you the protocol my teacher, Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD, a neurologist created. First, I won’t get into all the details, but, anorexics suffer from leaky gut (1200 citations on PuBMed for this). What she does is put them on the GAPS diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome), which means they start drinking bone broths to heal their intestines and keep toxins from seeping to their brains. The toxins cause disordered thinking, and this perpetuates their delusion, i.e., I am fat and need to lose weight, regardless of their extremely low weight. Once she gets them on the GAPS diet, she starts adding some supplements, probiotics to restore gut health, and more and more nutrient dense foods. Slowly, they are nourished, and she reports that at some point the client will have an “Aha!” moment, when they look in a mirror and see clearly what they look like. At that point she knows they will get better. In other words, there is a long runup to anorexia, and no one can tell when they have gone too far until the leaky gut more or less takes over brain functioning. There are many eating disorder programs that encourage the patients to “eat whatever you want! Just eat!”, but this is wrong. The best way to overcome this is to get at the root of the problem, a leaky gut, and the only way to heal it is to consume healing foods and some supplements. If you want more information on this, you can get her book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome”, from gaps.me.
As for the insomnia, there are non-drug solutions. Just a general recommendation that everyone should be consuming anyway: A good essential fatty acid supplement is healing to brain inflammation, which means it calms the brain down. You should be taking that anyway, unless you are up in Alaska living on blubber and fat!
After I left psychiatry I knew by gut instinct that ED was not a psych disorder (not that anything is!) and that it was in a classification on its own. I felt that we ED’s (as we sometimes called ourselves) were barking up the wrong tree by going to therapists and psychiatrists in the first place. Why were these folks heading up our “teams”? Why were the nutritionists not the forerunners of the teams? Why did the usual ED “treatment” make very little sense,and yet, this was the standard protocol, endorsed by these big businesses, claims to work, and obviously makes kids very sick, turning them into permanent patients? Outcomes are very poor, AN has very poor “recovery rate.” Suicide is high for AN, very high for BN as well. BED, they don’t even have data on! I can’t believe after all these years they’ve finally figured out BED is a problem! They’re in the dark ages and very few activists even care about ED and human rights. The rights violations are so bad, so few get out and so few alive to talk about it right now……
Ok, so let me get this straight; “eating disorders” are caused by “leaky gut” and solved by changing ones diet and/or nutritional intake. How dumb of me to think these were complicated questions.
So, no need to examine any possible trauma history which could have directly affected a person’s body image or related desire to “disappear” (and not be noticed) or become less of a sexual object within a society with high rates of sexual abuse and objectification of the female body etc. OR explore other unresolved psychological stressors that could manifest themselves in power and control issues with food etc. etc.
You are presenting a potentially dangerous oversimplification of these kind of problems and other forms of extreme psychological distress. This becomes almost the flip side of the same REDUCTIONIST type of coin promoted by Biological Psychiatry, even though it is dressed up in some anti-Psychiatry type language.
Richard, Often the diet comes first, then, the person’s presentation as disturbed increases as a result of the diet. The reasons for dieting are the same as anyone else’s. Many wish to diet for many reasons, and many wish to disappear, too. All this worsens if you are starving.
I am highly skeptical of “leaky gut.” But I do believe that if you are starving, the cycle will continue for a long, long time, and it’s a very hard one to break. It’s so hard that anything that LOOKS like psych will likely be called a psych disorder even though it comes from malnutrition. I have seen it happen first hand, and unfortunately kids are literally so starved they cannot fight back nor argue.
Here’s a straight-forward example. When you aren’t eating enough, you also cannot possibly take in enough fluids. You are inevitably dehydrated even if you drink enough. This means no matter what, you are at risk for electrolyte imbalance. If you have ever known anyone with low sodium or electrolytes that were not right (say, at a sporting event, which happens sometimes) they can barely stand up, they might faint, or even lash out, or talk nonsense. This is the condition many kids are in. Now…Do these kids need shrinks, or immediate medical attention? What happens is that in that state the get diagnoses. All kinds. Obsessive compulsive. Depressed, psychotic, you name it. It’s easy to talk these kids into it, and their unfortunate parents, too. These diagnoses stay on record, too. The drugs do so much harm, it’s unbelievable while in medically compromised state. A person my age with ED risks being locked up forever mistaken for having dementia.
Many people have trauma in their lives. But ED is a very serious medical condition. I can tell you the physical effects of starvation will kill a person no matter what the reason.
Julie and others
Do you (and others) not see the major problems with the OVERSIMPLIFIED and REDUCTIONIST views being promoted by this author?
While I’m sure there are many origins for problems that get labeled as “eating disorders,” they DO NOT mainly DERIVE from “nutritional intake” issues. I believe it is correct to say that their origin derives more from ONE’S CONFLICT WITH THEIR ENVIRONMENT. This includes various forms of trauma experiences (or perceived trauma), especially in the early years of growing up.
This author is using a lot of anti-Biological Psychiatry language, but then is using a REDUCTIONIST approach to say that bad nutrition is both the CAUSE and the SOLUTION to everything that gets labeled as a “mental health” issue.
This author’s approach IS NOT helping our cause. She may be well intentioned in her work, but we must be equally as critical of this particular form of REDUCTIONISM as we are of mainstream Psychiatry.
Richard and anyone else,
If a person goes to a therapist, why is the initial assumption “early childhood abuse”? What if this assumption is incorrect? Man I am so tired of this!!!! I am not the only one who has been seriously harmed. Why not listen instead! I have had so many people come to me and tell me they were so badly harmed by these ED treatment centers or ED therapists, and they are still traumatized by this abuse.
I am not one of those who was convinced or had inserted memories of ritual abuse. However, I can recall “group therapy” where many others had been genuinely child abused. I had not. So I was supposed to tell some similar story, and I didn’t have one. What now? They tried to get me to tell one! “Oh, you must have something….” They would find anything, anything at all to nitpick.
One day they got my parents into group therapy and said my dad was “disordered” because my dad had taken out a pocket-sized notebook and his usual mechanical pencil (he was an electronics engineer) and the therapist told him to put the notebook away.
They told me being Jewish was a disorder by default. Being a good student must be a disorder. Going to a liberal arts college was a disorder, and being a music major, that, too, was a disorder. You have a wrong brain, a musical brain that by default isn’t right. And being female, that was disorder, being born at the wrong time.
They might as well have killed me. So in response, I sacrificed 34 years of my life. This did nothing to help my ED.
Just because I had an eating disorder, they assumed incorrectly all along, and this did much harm. Don’t assume. Many who have ED were NOT abused in early childhood, and to automatically assume does very bad harm to individuals and their families. I will do anything at all to get my family back, to undo that harm that was done.
SO the long and the short of it is, it is always a very bad idea to assume that ALL cases of “mental illness” or a particular “diagnosis” are caused by the same thing or require the same kind of intervention. Even the DSM admits as much: “There is also no assumption that all persons qualifying for the same disorder are alike in all important ways.” (From the intro of the DSM IV) That’s the real problem with psych diagnosis – it is based literally on NOTHING except a set of social assumptions and biases about a certain set of behaviors. The idea that we can “diagnose” a particular problem simply by looking at how a person is acting or feeling. To postulate that all “eating disorders” are caused by sexual abuse is dumb; to assume that all “eating disorders” are caused by nutritional problems is equally dumb. Everybody is different!
Richard and others,
Yes, very true, to assume that anyone who walks into a therapist’s office has been child-abused is a reductionist attitude. It is so wrong, so harmful. I can tell you many people have approached me privately and told me, “Me too.” They, too, were harmed because they were told they had abusive parents and they didn’t. Their therapists assumed and never even asked! Geez! And this takes years to undo. Look what happened to Justina. Automatically, they assumed. Even now, I have had people come up to me and say, “But you MUST have had abusive parents.” But I did not. You simply cannot assume. I know it is hard given the world we live in to imagine a mental patient who comes from an okay family. We are brainwashed to believe that all people who end up in the System must have had horrible parents. The media teaches us this. Sadly, this is untrue. The reason for people ending up in the System is CONTACT WITH MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL and nothing else. This is why in countries where they don’t have mental health professionals, there are fewer people with diagnoses, not that this says anything about suffering.
I remember about ten years ago, I went to a reputable therapist. She immediately tried to put words into my mouth, trying to find things wrong with my upbringing. Trust me, they all did this. All of them. Fishing for problems, when there were NONE that were that so serious as to be any justification (in their eyes) to warrant a cocktail and years and years of disability and incarceration. None. These were invented nonsense.
Julie and others
Even though I have a history of being a therapist, I NEVER mentioned “therapy” and NEVER mentioned “bad parenting,”(even though I do believe this can be a factor in some cases). I DID mention the possibility of a trauma history AND other types of conflict with one’s environment as being causal factors in what gets labeled as “eating disorders.”
All this is predicated on the fact that we live in a very stressful, unjust, and often trauma filled world. Do you deny THIS reality and the fact that it is THE PRIMARY source of those human problems that get labeled as “mental illness?” As opposed to the “genetic theories of original sin” and other “diseased based” theories promoted by Biological Psychiatry, that represents pseudo-science at its best.
And yes, I believe that what gets labeled as “eating disorders” (that happens FAR MORE often in women) is very much connected to women’s overall oppression within our society, especially the high rates of sexual abuse and the treating of women’s bodies as sexual objects. Do you deny this reality?
I DO NOT say this is the ONLY factor, but certainly is a SIGNIFICANTLY IMPORTANT factor in these problems. And I believe most research would back this up.
These problems are certainly NOT based in nutritional deficiencies as a primary causal factor as the author has promoted. Why are people NOT CONCERNED about this problematic form of REDUCTIONISM?
And BTW, I would NEVER defend OR promote the kind of “treatment” offered in all the current inpatient Psych Hospitals for WHATEVER problem people end up there for.
Julie, I appreciate your detailed critical comments and personal accounts of the horrible “treatment “you have been subjected to over the years.
You have to realize that dieting causes physical problems, very severe ones. Crash dieting causes a cycle that people get caught up in. Look it up. It causes binge eating and that is a cycle that can last many years. Crash dieting affects one’s resistance to insulin and how insulin acts in the body.
Look up the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, for one.
I know that after anorexia, the body acts as if the person is going to starve again, so it braces itself for another famine again for many years. What happens is that the body may store fat, or, it may not fail to feel hunger for many years, or it may cause the person to binge eat in effort to forage for more food, or it may cause irregularities in eating regardless of “discipline” or “will power.” After a crash diet this is what happens, and it’s a physical reaction that nature gave us.
After repeated binge eating, likewise. The body is used to binge eating, so it braces itself for the next onslaught of extreme food intake. This means at the next suggestion that a binge is coming, the body will shoot itself up with insulin. What happens now? The person wants food! Badly. This cycle is very hard to break.
The entire original reason for the crash diet….well, that very well may have to do with poor self-image, or social stuff going on, but we’re dealing with serious dieting stuff here.
The cycle has to be recognized. By the person him/herself, not by some outsider imposing their idea of “YOU ARE” onto that person. This is why force generally doesn’t work. To me, allowing a ‘safe space” would mean allowing freedom to find out, freedom to experiment and explore the reasons why the cycle might have started. To me, “safe space” means not imposing ideas, but being safe to ask questions and share ideas. Safe to say, “me too,” or safe to say, “this is how it feels for me.” To me, “safe space” means safe to try new foods you have never tried before, or what you might be afraid to try, and safe to find out what you like or do what works for you.
A lot of my childhood trauma stems from something called spiritual abuse that most psychotherapists know nothing about. At age 4, I had a Sunday school call me a wicked girl and tell me I would go to Hell. I was guilty of the cardinal sin of daydreaming in her class.
You raise a good point about “spiritual abuse” being a form of trauma.
I am aware of this problem and have frequently used the phrase “genetic theories of original sin” (which was originally coined by Ashley Montagu to describe biological determinism) to describe Biological Psychiatry’s “Disease”/Drug Based based theories and practice.
The whole concept of “sin” can be very harmful to people, especially because it is based on myth and things that don’t exist, and is used punitively to make people feel bad at a core level.
In regards to spiritual abuse, I learned about this when I joined anti-cult organizations. Then, years later, people were saying they’d been abused this way in mainstream churches, too. So these actually were streamlined to call it spiritual abuse. This is not the same as the bizarre sexual abuse you hear about that isn’t too common (I hope) that might happen in a church situation. The abuse done via “You are a sinner” is far more common, and it’s done in a religious context in churches, particularly the stricter kind, usually to very young and impressionable kids, OR, it can happen in rather deviant (that is the word used) religious cults that use a lot of coercion. They take these impressionable people, use isolation, and knock down their former beliefs by calling them sinners. Then, replace these former beliefs with new ones. The emphasis on sin and use of “God” and concept of punishment by whatever the idea of the person’s deity is can be terrifying to a young or impressionable person.
By the way, this is done in mental hospitals but not usually done using the deity concept. To do so in the USA would not be legal, given separation of church and state. But it’s done, if you read what I wrote about Ed. You bet.
In the MI context, whoever you were before, college student or whatever, is destroyed. Who am I now? Whatever they tell you. You aren’t a student. You aren’t a law student, you aren’t a salesperson. You aren’t a mother. Go ahead, cry, But we can give you a new role. Here is your wonderful gift from us. We can save you. You are bipolar, you have a very serious illness, and you will need medication and therapy for the rest of your life. This is the new person, the new role this person now takes on. Most do, sadly.
I agree, psychiatry as practiced is a form of spiritual abuse. It insists that you believe in a set of dogma and punishes you if you don’t. It involves a set of “scriptures” which are not something that can be questioned. It is authoritarian – the “parishioners” have no say in the rules, and even the higher authorities (the psychiatrists) have no power to question the rules set by THEIR superiors, and they are attacked or shunned if they challenge the dogma of the group. All they are missing in being a solid cult is a single charismatic leader. They also invalidate any effort of the “parishioners” to empower themselves, and in fact are able and willing to use force to gain “membership.” I think the analogy is pretty complete.
Perhaps I was mistaken about that. It seemed like a few sentences had been softened the second time I read the article. But maybe it was all a “delusion” on my part.
No doubt, if I did imagine these changes, the delusions could be attributed it to some undiagnosed and untreated DSM disorder that I still have. If only I could find the right pill for them 🙂
Matt, Can I suggest a pill for these delusions? I can suggest a budget version (since folks are concerned about price of vitamins). You can even buy these on food stamps. M&Ms. Only certain colors, though. And avoid generics. The dosing isn’t right on those. I can write you a script. Be careful, these can be habit-forming, and might have side effects. Let me know if the delusions go away.
A lot of you commentators–excluding Julie and others–are putting words in Elizabeth’s mouth. Respectful disagreements and constructive criticism of her article are okay. But please take the time to make sure that you are disagreeing with what she has actually said; not just some straw man effigy. Perhaps you should reread the article.
Elizabeth has raised a lot of eyebrows by using the term “mental illness.” Some of us consider that hate speech. I don’t, because it’s usually employed due to ignorance rather than hatred or conscious discrimination. The term is misleading though; therefore confusing.
Sometimes I’m forced to use the term because there is no other term people will be able to recognize. If you use words that only a small splinter of a fringe minority understand you might as well speak a foreign language.
When I comment on most websites I never say things like, “Mental illness does not exist.”
This is true. But due to lack of common semantics people unfamiliar with the anti-psychiatry movement, Robert Whitaker’s books and Peter Breggin and other dissident psychiatrists imagine I’m saying something very different.
They usually think when I’m denying the existence of “mental illness” I’m denying prolonged periods of sadness when a person lies in bed for several days or losing touch with reality so they hear voices, see nonexistent objects or believing they are a dead hero–like Abe Lincoln or Catherine the Great. Worse yet, they think I’m accusing these people of faking the emotional pain.
It’s easier to explain there are no known biological markers for mental illness and that the symptoms stem from emotional pain rather than faulty brain chemicals or bad genes. That in itself is good at reducing discrimination according to research.
Elizabeth’s article never did state that nutrition was the only cause of emotional suffering or eating spinach would solve all our problems. Good nutrition does help you think clearly and can therefore alleviate emotional pain in a way that psych drugs won’t–even short term.
The solution to madness is multi-fauceted. Nutrition is only one faucet, but the writer never claimed it was the whole.
I went around the country and informed thousands of seminar attendees that there is no such thing as “mental illness”. I hate that lie, and some of you think I used it in my article. I did, only to demolish it. Better reread!
And you point out that those “miracle pills” are worse than useless. Thank you!
If more people in the therapeutic profession were as honest and ethical as you, there would be no anti-psychiatry movement needed. Psychiatry would crumble from within as people realized it did not work. Then we could seek out real solutions to emotional distress.
People are reacting to your use of the term “mental health,” which is based on the same fallacies and linguistic contortions as “mental illness.”
Some of us consider that hate speech. I don’t, because it’s usually employed due to ignorance rather than hatred or conscious discrimination.
On an institutional level it is hate speech. And it RELIES on people’s ignorance for it’s existence.
Sometimes I’m forced to use the term because there is no other term people will be able to recognize.
You can use phrases like “people LABELED ‘mentally ill'”; otherwise you are validating people’s misperceptions that there is such a thing.
Emmaline and Elizabeth
I worked with RD’s and still know some.
What is important hear is the “othering” unintentionally going on.
In order to dialogue well and there is a learning curve here
Read Kein Uris he has a great section in working through listening and responsibility.
It would have helped if Elizabeth had said
I hear you and others have a hard time with the use of my terminology in the article
How best can I reframe those phrases?
Oh trauma yes thanks for bringing it up and I will have to do more research on that aspect
Power plays a role even in conversation and now blogging.
It would be interesting to have a lunquist well versed in oppressive societies do an analysis of the power plays in this dialogue
May not have been intentional
but there you have it.
Words Leon Uris
Sorry finger issues!
While I do not ever agree with reductionism, I also feel that nutrition is usually ignored or downplayed. When it comes to ED, guess what is done in the ED treatment centers? You are forbidden to discuss food! Yep, forbidden. You are told that discussing food will trigger other patients. You are also told that “owning a scale is a disorder.” It isn’t. Then, many people get this extreme fear of scales and fear of weighing themselves or knowing their weight. Or even fear of all numbers. So now, you are forbidden ever to mention any numbers. You can’t say, “I am twenty-seven years old.” That’s a no-no, since you said a number. Yes it goes to very bad extremes.
They also tell you that if you disobey them, this Devil named “Ed” will get you. This Devil person is named Ed as acronym for “Eating Disorder.” This ploy is a scare tactic to keep patients obedient. So if you question them, they’ll say, “Don’t question, that doubt in you is Ed talking.” They’ll even tell the parents of patients that “Your daughter has another person inside named Ed who is telling her what to do.” In other words, they tell parents their daughter is POSSESSED by a devil. Yep, young girls now possessed by devils named Ed. And this is a standard of care, this Ed business. “Don’t do that, Ed will get you!” They’ll tell you you’re married to Ed, and to “Get Ed out.”
Go to ED treatment sites and you’ll see this, they’ll tell you they do psychodrama and have people “talk to their eating disorder” as if it is this Ed person. If the patient is male sometimes they’ll say he’s married to Ana or Mia. “Talk to Ana,” they’ll say. And they’ll have these stuffed animals you have to talk to.
That is what I walked away from. And people are still there, being harmed by this, wondering why these kids have grown into adults and are still not getting better. Many die.
I am not being reductionistic, but some of you are! I am not saying that every single mental disorder is entirely caused by poor nutrition. Never said that. But, the truth is, many are. Yes, there are external circumstances that cause distress. Yes, yes, yes. BUT: since I have done the training and lots of research, I know that proper nutrition is essential for proper brain function. There are many considerations in diagnosing or assessing problems. .
And, I just wonder what I should call mental disorders, or mental problems. It seems the word mental has to be in there somewhere, unless you use brain, but the brain is not the mind, it is only the organ that is used for thinking. So, tell me, what is the non-upsetting terminology to describe problems of being?
As far as terminology goes, I don’t use “distress” and I have never liked that. I find it’s just a substitute word for mental illness and much of the time it’s used that way, too much of the time. Same with “spiritual emergency.” Just a substitute word. Or used that way too much.
Sometimes I think I could go through news articles about people perceived as mentally ill, or even go through various textbook articles and re-write them leaving out that terminology. I could substitute “perceived mental illness” or “misunderstood” or “medicated as if mentally ill” “treated as if dangerous” or some such thing, and iron out awkward sentences that result, and I wonder how different the articles would then seem.
distress works for me
perfectly describes what led me into the system
I like “distress”, and will think about that one. Distress is usually mental, I think, because otherwise “sick” would do it. She’s sick: What disease is it? She’s distressed: What is going on? Maybe that’s good. I mean, you can go with therapy, or look into nutritional status, or do lots of other things, so maybe I like “distress”. It could be mental, physical or spiritual and be distress. Hmmm. We can’t jettison the word “mental” because it describes mentation, and certainly, we need that! But maybe backing away from it’s use too soon would be good.
Who is this “we”?
I usually say “emotional distress” rather than “mental,” but it is a shame that the term “mental” has been so co-opted by the current system. As soon as one says “mental,” people either think “mentally retarded” or “chemical imbalance.” Sad, but that seems to be where our culture has moved.
I agree Julie. SOME people who end up in the system are distressed indeed. Others have only distressed their captors. Plus “distress” is similar to “depression,” it’s a short step to start talking about the “disease” of distress and prescribing drugs.
Oldhead, if we end forced treatment the only people in the system would have to be distressed. The rest of you could stay away. More power to you!
My biggest complaint about the “treatment” I received? I was never needle raped or involuntarily locked up. But everything done to me was based on lies. No one ever told me the truth because they thought I was stupid and needed to be tricked into taking addictive brain drugs “for my own good.”
I never would have agreed if I had known they were the same as street drugs, because of my moral values. I feel my religious rights were violated along with all the rest!
I will never trust a shrink again. They’re a bunch of sociopaths and pathological liars. I never tell them how I feel if I have to talk with one. If I shake hands with some psych specialist at some social functions I can barely suppress a shudder. It’s like shaking hands with Ted Bundy–only you know this serial killer will never be punished for his crimes against humanity.
Calling shrinks “psychopaths” and “sociopaths” plays into the same mentality that psychiatry uses against us.
I like “labeled with X” as a way of describing the reality without buying into it. “X”, of course, always in quotation marks. Sometimes I even add “so-called” in front of the quotes to make sure no one is misinterpreting.
Only if you’re trying to describe what has been perpetrated against someone (i.e. being labeled), otherwise the terminology shouldn’t be used at all.
I personally do not use the word “narcissist” to describe one of my former therapists even though the abuse she did was certainly along those lines. I won’t describe a certain person in my life as a narcissist because I do not use psych disease labels. I refuse to do so. No matter how pissed off I was, I just don’t do it. No matter how bad the abuse was, I will not excuse an abuser’s abuse by saying it was due to a hopeless brain disease! I’m actually not even pissed anymore anyway. Listen to TalkWithTenney where she had Dr. Paula Joan Caplan on there, talking about how important it is not to disease-label Trump no matter where we may stand politically. We cannot disease-label political figures, not Hitler, not anyone. If we didn’t like being called mentally ill, then we need to not call anyone else mentally ill, either, not even those that harmed us. They weren’t sick, they were cruel. These shrinks didn’t have a brain disease that caused their cruelty, right? If they knew what they were doing, and did it anyway, they were using bad science and bad policies and were dishonest and illegal and nothing they did is at all excusable by a nonexistent brain disease or chemical imbalance we all know is nonexistent. “Oh, you poor doc, take some tylenol….” Agreeably, some may have simply been naive, or totally ignorant, but you wonder how long were they oblivious to that big giant obvious lie they were living? We can only hope they come to their senses and stop doing what they are doing.
I agree 100%! If someone (like a certain political figure) is an evil bastard, let’s call him that and not give him the “out” of a “mental illness” (especially since all of those “mental illnesses” are made up anyway!)
As a survivor of sex-trafficking and ritual abuse, I developed anorexia as a way to become sexually unappealing and therefore of less value to my traffickers. In addition severe starvation caused amenorhea, which prevented me from being used as a baby breeder for the sadistic cult I was raised in. While I can not underestimate the value of nutrition in my recovery from anorexia, I also can not discount the necessity of ongoing psycho-dynamic therapy with a compassionate and trauma-informed therapist. I realize how fortunate I’ve been to find such a person.
For me the trauma therapy came first. I needed to learn how to counteract the lies I was told about my body, my worth and my abilities, before I would even consider allowing myself to eat healthily and maintain a normal weight.
Eating Disorders like most other conditions, have numerous causes which differ for each person. There is no single modality that works/ doesn’t work for everybody.
Steve McCrea wrote,
“It is misleading to tell someone who was raped by his dad repeatedly for 15 years and whose mother didn’t protect her and who later got into an abusive relationship because this guy put her on a pedestal at first and she had no way to screen his behavior for abuse that if she just ate better and got some exercise, all of that past trauma would no longer concern her.”
This is how many eating disorders begin – through the misuse of diet and exercise to manage other problems.