For over one hundred and fifty years, psychiatry has promoted the idea that what is called schizophrenia is a progressive, deteriorative disease of the brain, and that science is on the horizon of finally discovering the biochemical nature of this debilitating mental disorder. From the age of Kraepelin through the reign of Freud and now the neuroscience of the new psychiatry, we have been promised that a test for schizophrenia is right around the corner, a few years away, the next big breakthrough in biological psychiatry. But we have been waiting for more than a century. It is time to reevaluate the claim that schizophrenia is an organic brain disease.
Before considering the evidence regarding the nature of the problem called schizophrenia, it is important to note the weight that schizophrenia has historically—and presently—held within psychiatry. The psychiatrist Thomas Szasz called schizophrenia the “sacred symbol” of psychiatry1 because those so labeled have long provided and continue to provide justification for the classification of psychiatry as a branch of medicine and for the use of coercion in psychiatric practice. While many reasonable people might doubt the existence of an entity called “seasonal affective disorder,” for example, very few reasonable people doubt the existence of the entity known as “schizophrenia.”
Even the term schizophrenia carries with it great power and influence. In the 1950s and 1960s, virtually every form of human suffering was categorized as schizophrenia, even cases without psychotic symptoms—referred to as “pseudoneurotic schizophrenia.” The term has also been used as a powerful political weapon (see my article here on the political uses of psychiatric labels). Schizophrenia has occupied, and continues to occupy, a position of great import in psychiatry, and it is frequently used to assert the supposed biological nature of the field.
What evidence is there to suggest that what we call schizophrenia is a disease of the brain? Surprisingly, very little. In a 2013 paper titled “The Myth of Schizophrenia as a Progressive Brain Disease” published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin, psychiatrist Robert Zipursky and colleagues reveal that what is called schizophrenia is not associated with any known brain abnormalities. The authors challenge the conventional wisdom by reviewing the MRI research and conclude that secondary factors, such as neuroleptic medication, substance abuse, and social factors, are responsible for the brain changes observed in some patients labeled schizophrenic.
Many of the early studies on brain changes in schizophrenia were flawed and incredibly overhyped—they did not control for the effects of long-term treatment with neuroleptic drugs, which have been shown themselves to cause brain shrinkage.2
Suppose future studies do indicate brain changes at a biological or chemical level that are associated with schizophrenia. Would this prove that what we call schizophrenia is a disease of the brain? Not exactly. Common sense and experimental evidence indicates that all sorts of extreme emotional states are associated with changes in the brain. Prolonged exposure to stress, such as physical trauma or emotional abuse, causes the brain to increase production of certain hormones, such as steroids. Conversely, if a person is relaxing, his steroid output may decline. In both of these instances, a person’s emotional state (and to an extent, his environment) influenced how the brain reacted, not vice versa.
The same results can be found examining brain waves. If a person is excited, the brain is likely to generate fast, low-amplitude electrical waves on an electroencephalogram (EEG). If the person then relaxes, the EEG will show alpha waves—slower, with a higher amplitude. Again, in the case of brain waves, the emotional state influenced how the brain reacted, rather than vice versa.3
However, the biopsychiatrists, without realizing it, usually just assume that a change in the brain means the existence of a disease entity called schizophrenia. This is why they search for physiological abnormalities in the brains of people so diagnosed, such as dopamine hyperactivity and ventricular enlargement. Given the vast research linking schizophrenia with early experiences and the family environment, the idea that a person’s emotional and environmental state might relay to brain changes seems plausible.
It is an unfortunate truth that many young psychiatrists today are unfamiliar with the vast literature from psychoanalytic psychiatrists on the human problem of schizophrenia, written by intellectual giants like Silvano Arieti, Harry Stack Sullivan, Theodore Lidz, and Thomas Szasz. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the medicalization of schizophrenia is that the patient’s communications get lost in the process. The organic psychiatrist is unlikely to see the patient’s hallucinations and delusions as possessing any meaning—they are viewed as mere “symptoms” of the patient’s supposed underlying neurological disease.
I contend that what is called schizophrenia is a complex human condition that has at its locus a breakdown in interpersonal communication. The person, unable to communicate via traditional means, resorts to a metaphorical and symbolic “protolanguage,” which is to be interpreted and made sense of during analysis (Szasz, 19654). Over time, the patient’s apparently nonsensical speech and perceptual experiences begin to be understood as an expression of internal conflict. Despite common belief, many patients diagnosed as schizophrenic go on to do quite well, and a substantial minority of them regain full functioning.5
Sadly, there is no sign that the field is ready or willing to adopt a non-biological explanation of schizophrenia. There is, it seems, no room in American psychiatry for those who voice disagreement with the biological theory of schizophrenia. Loren Mosher, former chief of the schizophrenia research branch of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), was fired from his post after advocating a psychosocial approach to psychosis. He remained a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego until his death in 2004. Similarly, the pharmaceutical industry has no interest in repositioning schizophrenia as a psychological or psychosocial problem; antipsychotic drugs bring in $11.7 billion annually.6
Psychologists and social workers, many of whom had been steadfast proponents of psychosocial theories of mental distress, now mainly endorse the biological model of schizophrenia. The reasons for this are complicated but involve the increasing medicalization of these fields and the natural tendency to consider human experiences beyond normal appreciation as being biological aberrations rather than understandable differences.
Common misconceptions notwithstanding, the evidence is dwindling—not expanding—that schizophrenia is a brain disease of biochemical origin. However, the field of psychiatry remains so enmeshed with the pharmaceutical industry and the reductionistic biological paradigm that it refuses to realize that the emperor called schizophrenia has no clothes.
- Szasz, T. S. (1976). Schizophrenia: The sacred symbol of psychiatry. New York: Basic Books. ↩
- Ho, B., Andreasen, N. C., Ziebell, S., Pierson, R., & Magnotta, V. (2011). Long-term antipsychotic treatment and brain volumes: A longitudinal study of first-episode psychosis. Archives of General Psychiatry, 68(2), 128-137. ↩
- Breggin, P. R. (1991). Toxic psychiatry: Why therapy, empathy, and love must replace the drugs, electroshock, and biochemical theories of the “new psychiatry”. New York: St. Martin’s Press. ↩
- Szasz, T. S. (1965). The ethics of psychoanalysis: The theory and method of autonomous psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books. ↩
- Zipursky, R. B., Reilly, T. J., & Murray, R. M. (2013). The myth of schizophrenia as a brain disease. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 39(6), 1363-1372. ↩
- Grand View Research. (2017). Antipsychotic drugs market by drug class. Retrieved from http://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/antipsychotic-drugs-market ↩
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.
“Common misconceptions notwithstanding, the evidence is dwindling—not expanding—that schizophrenia is a brain disease of biochemical origin. However, the field of psychiatry remains so enmeshed with the pharmaceutical industry and the reductionistic biological paradigm that it refuses to realize that the emperor called schizophrenia has no clothes.”
Here’s medical evidence that “schizophrenia” has primarily an iatrogenic, rather than “genetic” etiology/origin. I’m not quite certain how this relates to a “biochemical origin.” The “schizophrenia” treatments, the antipsychotics/neuroleptics, can create both the negative and positive symptoms of “schizophrenia.” The negative symptoms of “schizophrenia” can be created via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome, and the positive symptoms can be created via antipsychotic induced anticholinergic toxidrome.
And since neither of these known neuroleptic induced illnesses is listed in the DSM, they are always misdiagnosed as one of the billable DSM disorders, like “schizophrenia” or “bipolar.” Let’s hope the “inmates who are running the asylums” soon overcome their “delusions” and “delusions of grandeur.” But, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Thank you for speaking out about this psychiatric fraud.
Thank you for this article; I agree with most of it. However… “Sadly, there is no sign that the field is ready or willing to adopt a non-biological explanation of schizophrenia:” Psychiatry seeks legitimacy as a medical/biological science so it will never adopt a non-biological explanation of its subject matter.
Yes it does the raise the question of whether psychiatry as a discipline should even continue to exist, in my opinion.
With a lot of “help” from psychologists, social workers, and other members of the “helping” professions. Bureaucrats, politicians, law enforcement officers, peer support specialists, pharmacologists, and other drug salespeople included. If they were less “helpful”, perhaps, at least, in that regard, so much the better for all of us. As far as I’m concerned, the list of non-salvageable professions only starts with the profession of psychiatry.
I think one problem with many analyses of psychiatry is that its easy to neglect putting psychiatry in proper social context. The issue isn’t simply psychiatrists, individually and as a group, pushing various ailments as “brain diseases,” obviously to their benefit. Psychiatry operates within a social framework, and I think one reason the pseudoscientific, “Bio-Bio-bio” (as opposed to bio-psycho-social) approach is so popular is because of the nature of 21st century, capitalist societies.
Especially in the US, there’s been a strong denial of the very existence of society and social factors since the Reagan era. Much of Mental Health, Inc. (predictably…) has profited by reinforcing this focus on the individual, defective “coping mechanisms,” defective brains, etc., while also gaining more and more power as “experts” on everything, from parenting to “healthy” relationships to “healthy” eating habits.
“Schizophrenia” is, in all likelihood, -not- a “brain disease,” as E. Fuller Torrey and friends want us all to believe. However, the psychiatrists pushing this pseudoscientific belief system on us are able to do so, and profiting by doing so, because of social and economic factors.
Schizophrenia isn’t a disease at all, but a syndrome, just like most other psychiatric diagnoses. Syndromes are just collections of signs and symptoms, not independent diseases unto themselves, and thus require personalized regimens instead of simple-minded prescriptions of (psych) drugs.
This is one reason why so much psychiatric research is flawed, because the researchers can’t bother to tease out the subgroups of particular syndromes in their studies, so only a fraction, if any, of the individuals in their treatment groups are actually receiving remotely proper treatments.
A syndrome refers to a collection of signs or symptoms that consistently occur together and represent a disease process or medical condition. Obviously, no DSM mental disorder represents a scientifically established disease process. Regarding signs and symptoms, a valid syndrome is one where a given collection of signs and symptoms can be shown empirically to reliably occur together, and to be distinct from other syndromes. As far as I know, schizophrenia (like other DSM diagnoses) is not a valid syndrome in the scientific sense and thus represents a “presumed syndrome.” I think by referring to DSM diagnoses as syndromes that are implicitly assumed to be scientifically valid, we give them undue credit as scientifically legitimate.
I can agree, except that syndromes don’t necessarily represent a disease process or medical condition. The consistency of their appearance can suggest a medical issue, but there is no requirement that a medical issue be present, or else it would be a diagnosis, not a syndrome. An example: insomnia. You could break down insomnia into a couple of syndromes, such as failing to fall asleep, waking and being unable to get back to sleep, or waking repeatedly and reducing quality of sleep. We could map out “symptoms” that occur together with each of these sub-syndromes and outline the adverse consequences. But there is no distinction as to why a person “has insomnia.” Could be any number of medical conditions, could be psychological in nature, could be the dog wakes him/her up every night at 3 AM. Obesity and high blood pressure would be two more syndromes that may or may not be caused by a medical problem nor “treatable” by medical means. Some psych “diagnoses” qualify as syndromes (“ADHD” probably does) and some certainly do not qualify, but being a syndrome doesn’t imply medical treatability or causality, in my opinion.
Steve, I must admit that I took my definition from Wikipedia, which seems to capture what most sources say about what defines a syndrome: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syndrome. I’d always thought of a syndrome as a collection of signs/symptoms, but it turns out that’s apparently the first half of the definition. I think it’s also important to put “symptoms” in quotes as you did because a lot of what we call “symptoms” constitute normal experiences and, unlike a fever or sore throat, don’t represent a departure from normal, healthy functioning. I never use the word “symptom” in my practice unless I am specifically critiquing the misguided notion that unwanted psychological experiences constitute “symptoms” caused by an underlying “illness” (or syndrome).
Well, in that case, than none of the psych diagnoses are “syndromes” at all. They’re just plain old fiction!
I was thinking about how general symptom clusters get differentiated into distinct entities; e.g., “the fevers” being subdivided into individual diseases, like malaria, yellow jack, pneumonia and such. Psych diagnosis is back in “the fevers” stage, with generalized clusters of symptoms being taken as real entities unto themselves.
Precisely! Except that at least with a fever, you can agree on some measurement that tells you what is too high, even if you have no idea the cause. Psych diagnosis is like diagnosing a fever, but without a thermometer.
Patient: I’m feeling warm.
Psychiatrist: You obviously have a fever!
Who needs a thermometer!?
Bradford, you forgot:
Psychiatrist: Take these new wonder pills to make you feel better every day! Even if you quit feeling feverish. It’s essential to take them every day for the rest of your life!
Patient: Why is it essential?
Psychiatrist: My kid just got accepted to Bryn Mawr. Suckers like you are putting him through college!
Yes, tomaytoes or tomahtoes, potaytoes or potahtoes, “sick” is still “sick” just the same as thick is still thick. I’ve got better things to do with my life than to be “serviced” by members of the phycho-medical or medico-psychological profession and community. Playing psychologists against psychiatrists, and vice versa, misses the point that they’re both partners in the same business. Its an old trade that has seen better days, and, frankly, that I would like to see scrapped. Making fools pays, no doubt, but it also tends to make fools out of the deceivers. In other words, how better to deceive others than to deceive oneself? Not deceiving? Sorry, wrong ball park.
Frank, I am a psychologist. Can you clarify what you are saying regarding my role? Am I a partner in the same business as psychiatry? Should we abolish psychology?
I am not in favor of eliminating psychiatry or psychology…we just need to be better at understanding causes and better at treatment..i am not in favor of anti-psychiatry..i want to follow truth wherever that goes….
You can either “follow truth”….or follow psychiatry. Ultimately, you can’t do BOTH, unless you’ve figured out a way to be in 2 places at once.
The TRUTH has no place in psychiatry…..
I began to learn about TRUTH while working the 12 Steps of A.A.
The more I leaned to live an honest life, the farther behind I left the LIES of the pseudoscience drug racket known as “psychiatry”. But I value your comments, “littleturtle”. Maybe for you, the truth is something different. And maybe in a few years, you will think very differently. I only wish good things for you.
I see this business historically as arising in conjunction with the rise of forced institutional treatment. The position of psychiatry (and psycho-pharmacology) is such that it is, in major part, because of the collusion of psychologists, social workers, and other welfare and “mental health” workers. The “mental health” empire is, was, and has been an expanding empire. (What do they say today? Approaching 20 % of the population.) Actual “mental health” so-called, as it is a “mental health” treatment system, lies outside of the system. I don’t need it, and I want no part of it.
I consider myself anti-psychiatry. Our psychiatric survivor movement started in a anti-psychiatry direction but later changed course. I think the early focus solely on bashing psychiatry in part a mistake. There would be no forced treatment without all these accomplices to psychiatrists. I don’t see zero psychiatrists ending forced treatment. They aren’t the problem, forced treatment is the problem. I’m against non-consensual coercive treatment. When psychiatrists (and others) have been de-fanged, de-clawed, and basically demoted, and forced treatment (abduction, torture, and imprisonment by another name) has been outlawed, and is no more. What bother?
Frank, I get where you’re coming from and share your disdain for forced treatment and related human rights violations, and the role non-psychiatric “mental health” professions have played and continue to play in a system that allows such violations to occur.
A big problem with the whole system is paternalism. You’ve got people being locked up because it is said to be in their best interests, their best interests according to somebody else, to do so. When you can’t tell another person what you’re own interests are, and be taken seriously when you do so, you’ve got a real problem. Paternalism is still a big problem with many otherwise ‘progressive’ “mental health” workers. They say it’s okay to lock people up in order to save them from themselves. I don’t share this view. I think a person should have the right to take his or her life if he or she should so choose.
Deceptive, but you pass lie detector interviews.
Frank, I couldn’t agree more.
Szasz understood the problem better than anyone, and he understood the problem many decades ago. The problem is that so few people actually read and understand Szasz.
“Schizophrenia” is not “really” anything but a figment of the psychiatric imagination. So debating whether “it” is a brain disease, an idiosyncratic form of expression, or whatever misses the point. There is no “it”; it’s like debating the true nature of gremlins.
Beyond doubt, Gremlins don’t like bright lights. I know it’s true, because I saw it in a movie once long ago….
How am I a weapon of mass destruction, when I have taken communion with you? How, by taking on the flesh and blood of beings of material nature and expressing spiritual quallity, am i, any different than thou? How if with each breath, the same air, share in an ecology, work the same library, use the same dictionary and thesaurus, constantly invent ways to be accepted or approved or have some power over my existence — how am i any different than thou? Because I hear what you do not, nor see only what thou doth and prescribe, my tastes different flavors, my nose smells garbage and perfume and the things well known, things touch me when no flesh is present, I think thoughts that thou should consider mad? WHO are you that persecutes my people so repetitiously? What corner on the market do you share in the hood, I call home? At which point doth thy shadow come to light, like mine, not only express the wounds like mine, but the wrath I have stored for the day of thy appearance? You involve and prosecute like great apes on a pleasant throne of silence and with holding both wrath and salvation. How do you love my children? It seems better yet ask, how do you control my children, you interloper and neglectful anti-christ.
The problem with psychiatrists is that they are hack psychologists. Charlatans. They know little bit of psychology such as most intervention programs do not work — Head Start, Offender therapy to reduce recidivism, Cambridge and Sommerville study(from Freakonomics podcast recently but Freakonomics is supported by Goldman Sachs), Pedophilia(no amount of therapy was going to cure Michael Jackson). So they might be convinced that poor genetics and early childhood trauma are negative determinants of long term life outcome in the broad scheme of things. Even some psychologists are strong believers of IQ tests and they explain the reason why Head Start did not work had to do with heritability of intelligence thus whipping a huge political storm and rounding supports from the likes of Goldman Sachs.
I also noticed this pattern of resistance of human nature to any arbitrary intervention as I studied psychology as an undergraduate. I agree that some social/psychological interventions are ineffective because it goes against the nature but some social/psychological interventions diverge from this pattern because it actually flows with the nature. Maybe it is the nature’s way that extreme states stabilize on its own accord like an open wound heals on its own accord. The earliest example was what I read from Mad in America by Robert Whittaker about “Moral” therapy, where the meaning of moral is used in the similar vein as we refer a branch of philosophy on the topic of psychology “moral’. Moral therapy does not imply virtue signalling. Other examples were where the patients simply did not take antipsychotics which brought the recovery rate somewhere around 50-70+ %. In comparison, it is roughy 30% of depressed patients who show improvements after anti-depressants; similar effectiveness with psychotherapy ( CBT, Interpersonal, psychodynamic ). Maybe because it is nature’s way that more than half of the depressed people are supposed to feel this way in recognition of bad things happening. This also resonates with what Freud said that most hysteria can be reduced to common misery which implies that psychosis can be reduced to common misery.
it looks like we don’t understand the causes of schizophrenia…I think it is unwise to throw out biology and neuroscience…we must consider every possible bit of evidence…what is causing this very strange state of mind..
After a hundred years of looking at it primarily from a biological and/or neuroscientific viewpoint don’t you think it’s time to try a different approach?
truth793810—–good thought…do you mean a different approach to research or treatment or both…I think we need to have all kinds of approaches…I have no idea what this schizophrenia thing is…
Read my previous reply when it’s approved.
Schizophrenia is a brain disease. There are competing factions who wish to promote their idea of how mental health should be treated. I noticed many of the articles are written by non-MD’s. Their not medical doctors. My psychiatrist (who correctly diagnosed me) considered the field of psychology a waste of time, and I believe him. I comes down to, “both sides want your money” on this issue.
Please provide even one article showing solid, scientific evidence that “schizophrenia is a brain disease.” Even the psychiatric mainstream admits that this is not the case – those who are up with research have long said that “schizophrenia” is a collection of observations that may or may not even have the same or similar causes. Japan and other countries have stopped using this label altogether in favor of something more descriptive. Are the Japanese psychiatrists wrong? “Schizophrenia is a brain disease” is a propaganda piece published by Big Pharma with the support of the APA and “support groups” owned by Big Pharma like NAMI. There may be SOME people with the symptoms labeled as “schizophrenia” who DO have a brain disease of some kind, but we’ll never find it as long as we treat “schizophrenia” as if it were a disease rather than just a description of how some people behave. Heck, the DSM itself admits that people fitting the same diagnosis are not necessarily “the same in all important ways.” So they admit their categories are heterogeneous, and hence that 10 people with the same “diagnosis” can have 10 different things wrong with them (including nothing at all being wrong) and have 10 different possible solutions or pathways forward.
This website may well be biased toward finding issues with psychiatry, but in terms of understanding research, folks here are WAY ahead of mainstream psychiatry. So if you want to make bold pronouncements like “schizophrenia is a brain disease” here, you’d better be able to back it up with real data, cuz we know the true story.
How about an article simply showing evidence that “schizophrenia is” period?
With a computer that malfunctions you can examine the hardware. If you can’t find anything wrong with the hardware do you:
A. Examine the software for potential problems.
B. Say “It MUST be the hardware!” Then proceed to hit it with a hammer or open up the case to pour corrosive acid into the circuitry.
B. will undoubtedly alter the computer hardware. No denying that.
I would be dead if it weren’t for Triavil. Most of the posters here have never experienced mental health problems like I have. Yes, it is a brain disease that is treatable. The author of the article is not an MD, and I have no idea how he became an “assistant professor of psychiatry” without being an MD. Unless someone here who’s qualified can educate me.
I assume they did brain scans and blood work to figure out you had a brain disease? Thank goodness that new wonder drug kept your head from spontaneous combustion! (Mental illness kills.)
Btw, I have never known a psychiatrist who did pro bono work. They get paid a lot more than therapists. And by quickly prescribing drugs they can quadruple their income from $200 an hour to $800. I get by on less than $800 a month thanks to the magic of psychiatry.
Peter Breggin and Goetzhe are both MDs who have published articles here. Feel free to read some of those.
But if you’re determined to cling to the Broken Brain paradigm–if you enjoy considering yourself hopelessly insane and genetically inferior to the “normal” majority–there are other sites you might prefer. Seriously. Healthy Place, Bipolar Burble, NAMI forums to name a few.
Sorry, schizioRuss, but I don’t believe that for one minute. Oh, yes, I believe that YOU believe it, but that does NOT make it the TRUTH. It’s only *your* *truth*, and that’s only true for you.
I was on “Triavil 4/25’s”, and I experienced a near-fatal toxic reaction. Damn near killed me. The quack shrink who was dosing me lost her MD license the next year. Personally, I think you need more education than EVERYbody here can give you…. You may *think* you’re doing ok today, but you wait 5, 10, 15, 20+ years from now. You’ll probably think otherwise than you do now. I’ve been playing the psych game for 40+ years. How long did you say you’ve been on the drugs? But please understand, I’m glad you’re here, glad you’re posting, hope you stay, and hope you learn. Too many of my friends are DEAD because of the pseudoscience lies of the drug racket known as “psychiatry”…..
(c)2017, Tom Clancy, Jr., *NON-fiction
Remember that commercial for the stop smoking drug Chantix. What was one of the side effects? Suicidal thoughts. This is called substance induced depression. Yes the prescription drug can make you feel suicidal. But Phd’s want to promote the idea that suicidal thoughts can be psycho analyzed and be gone for good without meds. Psychologist are like any other profession, they want your money. And will denigrate those that compete with them.
Based on your comment, you’re saying that “suicidal thoughts are depression”. I’m calling you out, and saying that’s nonsense. And, wouldn’t what you’re calling “substance induced depression” be more fairly called a “drug side effect”? Because, based on what you’re saying, “Chantix can cause depression”. I’m personally glad you’re posting here, but I also think much of what you’re saying is at best only your opinion, and the rest is proveably wrong. You’re free to believe that you have some form of so-called “schizophrenia”, if that’s what floats your boat. So I assume you also believe that Santa Claus will be bringing you some presents in 2 weeks. So-called “mental illnesses”, including so-called “schizophrenia”, are exactly as real as presents from Santa Claus, but not more real. Thanks for your comments, and please keep coming back.
I’d rather get gifts from Santa Claus!
We should have no contact with the mental health system, with psychotherapy, or the recovery movement.
How do people get into these things? This is where we should look and where we should intercede.
A friend of mine, a 50 year old very sensitive and sweet-natured women, just came back from a check-up with her psychiatrist. She has been labeled ‘bipolar’ 15 years ago and it was described to her and her family as a brain disease from the very beginning.
With just ten years she lost her father to suicide. Her mother died four years later of cancer, as well as her older sister about six years after that. My friend nevertheless managed to become a teacher, got married and had children. She was favoured by her students and colleagues for her empathy and friendliness. But in her early thirties she got stressed out with her work that needed her to do more and more things with the computer which she had a hard time to get familiar with. Furthermore, there were some troubles with her husband and she finally went to see a doctor who prescribed an antidepressent.
Some time later she became manic and ended up in hospital. Nobody ever asked her about the reasons for her depressed feelings. Nobody told her that antidepressants could lead to mania. Instead she got diagnosed with the famous ‘chemical imbalance’.
Since then she has been in and out of hospital, has been prescribed many different drugs, lost her job, lost her husband and even her children don’t want any contact anymore because they feel ashamed of having an unstable mother with an eerie ‘brain disease’. For many years she tried desperatly to be a ‘good patient’, she believed the biological disease theory and took the various drugs accordingly. But in the last years she got more and more tired of beeing a guinea pig and becoming worse instead of better. She is now over-weighted, has beginning diabetes, and feels tired most of the time.
Today the psychiatrist first tried to persuade her to get ECT, then wanted to add Lithium and Seroquel to her prescription of Haldol, and finally, as she resisted his suggestions, made her feel a hopeless case who stubbornly rejects helpfull treatment. When she tried to explain that she doesn’t need more medication or other treatment but feels lonely and very sad because her children are still not talking to her, he responded, that ‘most psychotics have troubles with relationships’ and therefore its ‘normal’ that her children do not want to have contact with her.
I am left profoundly stunned by this amount of professional cold-heartedness and it hurts when I read about Open Dialogue and other approaches which could help my friend so much more than this senseless drugging (and now even shocking) can. This theory of a biological disease can ruin people’s life immensely. It is a very, very sad story.
I’ve known far, far TOO many people whose story is the same as your friend’s, pheonix. **PLEASE** have her go to >beyondmeds.com<. Monica Cassini has done a great job on that website. Good luck! And bring your friend HERE, too! ~B./
Phoenx, sadly your friend did have a chemical imbalance–created by the quacks themselves with those damn uppers they call “antidepressants.” That nearly ruined my life. Took over 25 years to get it back again. Makes me sick to think how often this happens.
A bunch of people diagnosed with “bipolar” caused by SSRI reactions should get together to file a class action lawsuit. We wouldn’t gain from it financially nor bankrupt Pharma-Psychiatry. But with enough publicity it could deal another blow to psychiatry’s credibility.
FeelinDiscouraged, I feel the same as you. Psychiatry makes me sick. It’s unbelievable what they do to people in crisis. They push them into chronic disablement. How strong and brave of you to have broken free from that indoctrination. My friend is feeling so powerless that for the most time she can’t even think of becoming any better. She is slowly learning to understand that there was no chemical imbalance to start with but that the antidepressant created one. That she was lied to. But it is very difficult for her to come to terms with that because it is just so unfair… FeelinDiscouraged, nice that you found so much courage to challenge the system!
Sadly going through withdrawal has damaged me physically. I have a really bad case of what feels like CFIDS though my thoughts and feelings are clearer. It’s not that uncommon in those who come off psych drugs after decades of “compliance.” Some symptoms had already started while I took the drugs. Going off Effexor–slow and gradual as the process was–exacerbated the physical exhaustion, etc. I believe I will be better off in the long run than if I stayed on the crap though. A friend of mine has been taking a cocktail and is tired and sick all the time. Those powerful drugs can wear you out. They do not occur naturally in the human body, so the “insulin for diabetes” analogy is hogwash.
Great article. Now how about joining me in my suggestion of re-introducing psychodynamic theories to the public in today’s MIA article: “Freud; the First Anti-Psychiatrist”. I could use some assistance.
I hope Mark and all the commenters here will read the brilliant work by Jeffrey Poland in his article about so-called schizophrenia (which is based on a THOROUGH review of the research literature and will give all of you a grounding to fortify your arguments) in the book called Bias in Psychiatric Diagnosis. What he wrote in that chapter would have given you a powerful way to support what you wrote, and in it, he covered vastly more and in stunning depth some years ago. It is something everyone interested in this topic should read. The publisher priced the book higher than we wanted, but ask your library to order it! https://www.amazon.com/Bias-Psychiatric-Diagnosis-Paula-Caplan/dp/0765700018/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515116354&sr=8-1&keywords=bias+in+psychiatric+diagnosis
Many of the early studies on brain changes in schizophrenia were flawed and incredibly overhyped—they did not control for the effects of long-term treatment with neuroleptic drugs, which have been shown themselves to cause brain shrinkage.
What evidence is there to suggest that what we call schizophrenia is a disease of the brain? Surprisingly, very little. In a 2013 paper titled “The Myth of Schizophrenia as a Progressive Brain Disease” published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin, psychiatrist Robert Zipursky and colleagues reveal that what is called schizophrenia is not associated with any known brain abnormalities.
Research Paper are Available here – https://straitsresearch.com/