The Pill Shaming Phenomenon: What’s It Really About?


“It’s not about pills. It’s about power.”  — Caroline Mazel-Carlton

Pill shaming. It’s the next big thing. Media outlets we at least intermittently respect (e.g., Upworthy, BBC) are running right alongside those with which we generally struggle much more (e.g., The Mighty), all calling for its end. But, what is this “pill shaming” thing really about?

Pill shaming seems to be spoken of in two distinct forms:

  1. The ignorant family and friends who “pill shame” by suggesting someone should just be able to “get over” their distress with improved diet, exercise, or sheer willpower alone.
  2. The well informed activist who — by virtue of sharing their own drug-free story and/or truths about psychiatry — is said to somehow be tacitly shaming the person who still uses psychiatric drugs as a part of making their way through the world.

These two definitions of “pill shaming” are substantively different from one another, yet similarly misguided.

We say that the first definition of ‘pill shaming’ is misguided because the issue often seems much less about discouraging someone from taking pills, and more about the routine dismissal of their distress overall. In this case, the focus on ‘to pill or not to pill’ is typically symbolic at best. Unfortunately, this view of human suffering as inconvenient above all else is a pervasive one. And, it happens not only among family and friends who want their loved one to “just be okay” so everyone can carry on with business as usual (or ignore some deeper familial issue), but also within the provider system itself. Of course, while in family systems, this may look like a denial of the value of pills because the pills themselves represent an uncomfortable reminder that something’s amiss, it looks quite different on the inside of the system’s figurative walls. Because therein, the best way to deny the validity of someone’s feelings is to actually push the pills to try and wash all those pesky emotions away.

On the other hand, the second version of “pill shaming” is driven by a weird sort of counter-counter-narrative which basically means it’s the same old story packaged up as if it were something new and ultra woke. It’s an at least three-quarters straw man argument that seems to suggest that just by speaking truth about how the system has actively lied to us about psychiatric drugs (and more), that we are somehow now “anti-medication,” and shaming those for whom pills are a tool that seems to work. But, of course, challenging the mythology that human distress is caused by “chemical imbalance” rather than external factors such as poverty in so many instances is not the same as denying that a chemical might make tough conditions more bearable. (For more on the Chemical Imbalance Myth, see: Dear Mental Health Professionals, “Please Stop Defending Yourselves and Listen” by Noel Hunter and “Psychiatry’s Grand Confession” by Jonathan Leo and Jeffrey Lcacasse.)

“We’re not pill shaming you. We’re just sick of watching people fucking die.” — Sera Davidow

Now, to be clear, there are some for-reals pill shaming folk out there. The short-term pill shamers are often the ones so damn excited about their own new found success that they can’t help but preach it to everyone around them. Finding the key to their own success by coming off psychiatric drugs has felt so miraculous that it’s near impossible to believe it wouldn’t bring the same results for pretty much everyone else. This is usually a passing phase (and not much different from those who get super excited about the results they’ve achieved on a fad diet, a cleanse, or a 12-step program) as they either relax into their own process enough to once again become aware of the many other paths that people can legitimately take… or their own process becomes messier as time passes, and their choice — even if still the right one for them — stops seeming like quite the panacea it originally appeared to be. So, they grow quiet, or at least a bit more humble, at that point.

On the other hand, the long-term, super committed pill shamers (a very small group, to be sure) have often been so hurt by their own experience (or that of a loved one) in the system that they’ve become rigid in response. Sometimes, in their heart of hearts, they’re able to recognize that pills are not actually the route to all evil, but they nonetheless see them as problematic enough that they don’t care, and don’t want to risk any nuance detracting from their overall message.

They are the ones yelling that pills are to blame for every last problem that they and others have experienced. If only psychiatric drugs weren’t a thing, we’d all be fine. Of course, it’s not possible for that to be true in any global sort of way. Humans have been using drugs of one sort or another since the beginning of time with varying levels of success and demise. Trying to dictate to others what their experience has been or should be isn’t especially useful in any context. But once again, in truth, this group is so small as to have a nearly negligible effect, although they’re talked about enough these days to suggest they may be lurking with their pill shaming ways in every shadow.

Yes, it would seem that there must be some investment in creating this illusory affect that serves to engorge the reality, and justify all the pressured press. Our best guess is that at least one of the two following factors is typically at play:

  1. Internalized oppression
  2. The same old oppressive power structures as before

Internalized oppression is not a new topic. (See, for example: “The Language of Internalized Oppression.”) How it plays out here is this: If you were expecting to inform someone that all they’ve been told about psychiatry, and perhaps even about their own human potential, may not be so true, and have them cheer and thank you, you may be disappointed. Often, they’re going to be angry. You have, after all, just challenged the framework around which they may have been organizing their life for quite some time. Suggesting that all that might be based on lies and half-truths will not uncommonly be met with defensiveness, and at least a temporary increase in their desire to hang onto what they’ve believed to be true. This not infrequently includes some solid ‘pill shaming’ accusations.

Meanwhile, if you’ve taken the recent uptick in ‘pill shaming’ media coverage at face value… Well, think again. Though any real paradigm shift is still a ways off, some progress has been made. Progress — particularly when it comes to undoing systemic power imbalances — tends to illicit a response. This is, at least in part, the system’s efforts to silence its detractors. Calling “pill shaming” quite successfully and immediately shifts the dynamic from that of ‘information sharing’ to ‘victim versus bully’. There’s little that is more silencing than calling someone out for taking advantage of another’s vulnerabilities no matter how untrue. How convenient that some of our own should be willing to take on a piece of that work, too. (But, that’s nothing new.)

Meanwhile, in the effort to lend a hand to our oppressors, there’s an even more troubling phenomenon emerging, especially on the part of accusers of Pill Shaming Type II. That phenomenon takes shape when people speak as if the pill shaming deal is somehow equal to the conventional clinical system’s push to take drugs in the first place. Just a mere incidence of “tit for tat.” Yes. Okay. Sure. Pushing someone in any direction is an issue. As was said in “Mind the Gap: The Space Between Alternatives and Force”: “Force is force, of course, of course.” Yet, force without power doesn’t have much… well, force.

Bear with us as we momentarily digress into the lush land of analogies: We believe that women can treat men badly. Some women have quite prejudicial ideas toward the male species in its entirety, and refuse to give even the “best guys” a chance. Yet, we reject wholeheartedly the idea of misandry. Why? Because “reverse sexism” can’t exist in a society where women simply don’t have the power to systemically oppress men. Yes, it’s been many years since women gained the right to vote (for example), but they didn’t have the power to grant that to themselves. As others have pointed out before us, they could fight, boycott, yell, scream, protest, and use every tactic in their “good activist” books, but it was still the men who had the power to actually change the law. Similarly, it remains men (white men, to be precise) who continue to have the power to rule over women’s freedoms as demonstrated by the recent abortion decision in Alabama and several other states.

There’s also still rape culture, pay gaps, and a host of other inequities with which we continue to contend.

Now, most will be able to recognize that a woman’s ability to be mean to (or even withhold certain opportunities from) an individual man or group of men is simply not the same as men’s power to change the very laws which govern all women’s freedoms. The situation is similar in psychiatry. People who engage in pill shaming (of any kind) can be just as mean, dismissive, and damaging as the next person at the individual level, but they lack any real systemic power. Meanwhile, those who wish to push pills have the media, the doctors, corporate power, and (most importantly) the law on their side. When a family member attempts to shame someone out of acknowledging a problem or taking a particular approach to solve it, it can be very painful, but they are limited in what they can do. There are no court orders that legitimately force people who want to take psychiatric drugs not to take them, or who incarcerate people to keep the psychotropics away. Yet, freedom and bodily integrity are at real risk in the reverse.

Moreover, while one may come across a true-blue ‘pill shaming’ person here and there (they’re definitely easier to find than, say, Big Foot), the “non-compliance” police are pretty much everywhere. They’re in all the media stories (fictional and not) ranting about the dangerousness of “untreated mental illness,” and in the court systems with their commitment orders (both inpatient and out). They’re in the violence of restraints and needles forcibly penetrating our skin. And, to top that off, we’re not allowed to actually call that violence because we lack even the power to define the word from our own perspective. There simply is no comparison.

And, yes. For goodness sake, yes. Some small groups and organizations focused on pushing back against all the power absolutely do center (almost exclusively) stories that support the counter-narrative. This is not a bad thing, provided they don’t simultaneously seek to denigrate other stories in the process. It is not an example of “reverse psychiatric oppression” or anything else nefarious. It is based in the tangible reality that those stories — and the truths they represent — are largely ignored or unheard anywhere else. They don’t owe “equal representation” in a world where those in power offer none. On what planet is it fair for the group with 11 pieces of cake to ask the group with one piece of cake to be the only one to share? And when the latter refuses, how does it make any sense at all to then accuse them of abuse? Let’s remember that the pharmaceutical lobby represents one of the most well-funded and powerful corporate aggregates in the world. Pharmaceutical and health product lobbyists operate on a larger budget than any other lobby in the country, including oil, electric, and guns. And it is certainly unlikely that any board-room discussions at Eli Lilly world headquarters involve deep reflection on how to make space for those whose narrative challenges their bottom line.

“Speaking truth about bad science and psychiatric oppression does not equal ‘pill shaming.’” — Sera Davidow

So, what do we do now? Here’s a few suggestions:

1. Check your own ‘pill shaming’ narrative contributions: Stop writing “pill shaming” pushback posts. Stop ‘liking’ them. Stop sharing them on social media. Stop creating, buying, or wearing anti-pill shaming swag. Stop using the phrase entirely. Even if there’s some piece of the message you like, you’re contributing to a larger problem, so find a different way to address that piece and leave the rest behind. At best, the underpinnings of the ‘pill shaming’ accusation are misguided. At worst, they represent a concerted effort on the part of the current power structure to use us against ourselves, and they don’t need any more help. Seriously.

2. Check your roots: Yes, you can write a critique. And I can write a critique of your critique. And then you can critique my critique of your critique whilst I prepare to critique you back, all culminating in a war of words on some overly academic closed Facebook group. But, at some point, we’ll all have lost sight of what in hell we were even trying to accomplish in the first place. Critical thinking is important, especially when up against a system that has tried to numb and force that out of so many of us. Yet, when we get so invested in making arguments and picking apart ideas, we start to miss out on the reality of people’s lives. These issues aren’t actually playing out in books, or journal articles, or even on social media (no matter how it may appear). This is real life, and we need to remember that one prominent tactic in these sorts of battles is for those currently in power to somehow convince those without much power to fight amongst ourselves. The enemy is not us, but it sure is our lives at stake.

3. Check your agenda: While we truly believe that this ‘pill shaming’ focus is off track and far overblown, too many of us nonetheless do have overly specific ideas about how life should look for other people. The only true path to liberation is to focus on how to support people to get their power back (or get it in the first place), never mind how they then choose to use it. That power may come with or without drugs, and those drugs may be prescribed or not. Our job is to illuminate the many paths, not to push anyone down a particular one.

4. Check your privilege: Sometimes the path someone chooses is because they have access to all the paths, and really want to be on that one. But it’s important to be clear that some people choose psychiatric drugs because they lack the support to get off of them, or the resources they would need in order to take as much time off of work as it would require to taper successfully. Lots of people would love for alternatives like exercise to be the answer, but they lack the time, energy or physical capacity to test it out. And, some people are clear that they’re choosing psychiatric drugs as the best option “for now” because that’s what it takes for them to survive in the rapid-fire city where they currently live, or to get through school, or what have you, and any risks involved are worth taking. These are all valid choices, provided people have real information with which to make them.

On the other hand, effective social justice movements make space for (and center) the experiences of those most marginalized. In whatever sphere we do this work, we cannot forget those struggling on locked units under the weight of forced drugging orders. It is often poor people, people of color, and/or foster children who are most impacted by the narrative that anti-dopaminergic drugs “treat” so-called “mental illnesses.” In reality, the people who most need our movement are often dying of organ failure before they even become aware of its existence, let alone counter-counter-narrative critiques. Somehow we must find a way to navigate this tension and hold all these truths.

5. Check your ableism: And finally, it’s important to remember that people get to decide what “working” or “success” looks like for them. The oft unquestioned definition of success tends to come with a full-time job, no hospitalizations, and a series of relational markers (like marriage, children, and so on). But, we need not be so limited in our vision. People’s lives don’t have to necessarily check all the boxes of a capitalist system in order to be of value. It’s okay for us to be in the world as we are, to self-define what makes our lives worth living, to have our stories be anything but “neat and tidy,” and to forget about all the external expectations that try to tell us whether or not we’re “okay.” It’s even alright to not be consumed with trying to “recover,” especially if that comes at the cost of just getting to live.

And, one last point: Please also remember that those of us who are fighting for change and full recognition of the counter-narrative (the one that says the answer does not always lie in a pill bottle, that the drugs are often causing harm, that psychiatric diagnoses lack scientific validity no matter how much someone’s distress is real, and that loss of power is one of the most important issues of all) haven’t gained enough of a foothold yet to merit the counter-counter-narrative response. Sure, when you see someone being pushy, name it and push back, but the concerted backlash is undeserved and harmful. At least give us a bit more of a head start before you allow yourself to be used as a tool of the system to put us back in our place. Give us a fighting chance.

There are things that are deserving of our collective “shame.” Phenomena like rape culture and the growing inequality of our country are deserving of being called out aggressively and often. And we definitely should not seek to shame people for the strategies that they use to survive this world, whether or not those efforts include a prescription pill, a drug purchased on the street, or engaging in self-injury like cutting or burning. But neither can we afford the distraction of conflating pushbacks on Western medicine’s power to define the narrative with shaming attacks on individual liberty.

Remember, “It’s not about pills. It’s about power.” And we sure don’t have much of that (yet).


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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Sera Davidow
Tangible Intangibilities: Sera writes here to share her thoughts on how the language we choose and our apparent need to concretize the inherently complex is leading to violations of rights and humanity on a daily basis.
Caroline Mazel-Carlton
Caroline Mazel-Carlton has laid her head in a number of places, from Indiana jail cells to Texas psychiatric units, but now enjoys a freer existence as Director of Training for the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community and the national Hearing Voices Research and Development Project. Her work with “Alternatives to Suicide” and the Hearing Voices Network has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Foreign Policy and O magazine.


  1. “Pill shaming” is as absurd an etiological construct as “mental illness.” Pills feel no shame.

    People who have been tricked or forced into taking them do. They have already been hurt, and the truth can be very traumatic, causing them to “kill the messenger.”

    Those who squeal loudest about “pill shaming” are usually the Patient Shamers. Psychiatric bigwigs blame everything on their victims in order to exonerate their precious pills. Shame on them!

  2. Upworthy, “to change what the world pays attention to”. A lofty goal, sounds a lot more like just propaganda to me. The BBC has been discredited decades ago.

    Google has been altering it’s search results too, so you just get the information they want you to get.

  3. Sera, Caroline—-

    This is such a beautiful post: philosophically rigorous, and comprehensive. I wish everyone involved in the mental health system could read this. Heck, I wish everyone in the country could read it. It dances through the false dichotomies and distortions as if they were paper-thin.

    I don’t know how you do it. Struggling through this conceptual territory feels to me like drowning in molasses. I know it is populated by straw men, but those straw men are backed by immense sums of money and mass prejudice. I am never able to forget for a moment that anyone who wishes to can call the authorities and attempt to have me committed. They can speak five minutes of boilerplate, and put me in a trap that my best eloquence cannot get me out of: all I can do is shut my mouth and rely on the kindness of strangers with guns. Indeed, momentary eloquence is part of the diagnosis! My only recourse for preventing this seems to be clipping my own wings, pretending to be stupid, and flying below the radar. And keeping an eye on all the tinpot bullies in my life, because I know it only takes a few words for them to have the full power of the state on their side.

    We realize we have grown in wisdom when we obtain a balanced perspective. It is so hard to find a balanced perspective when you live in fear of power. I feel like I’ve grown personally through reading this. It also gives me a little more hope that we can turn things around and become free human beings, some day.

    God, I am so sick of not being a free human being. I may have begged a judge for my physical freedom, and gotten it, but the virtual asylum seems indestructable. Too much of my waking time, and too much of my dreamtime, is ensnared in figuring out how to protect myself. When I read something like what you both have written, I know it is possible to free your mind even when you lack civil rights. I just don’t know how.

  4. Pill Shaming is just a common sense, if a person believes that the pills used in psychiatry are real medicine – then he is a doctor or just not so smart. Or it’s a person who has never tried to take them, because anyone who has ever tried antipsychotics is well aware of what kind of “medicine” it is. Chemical lobotomy is a very precise definition, and how can someone be considered normal if he voluntarily takes such medicines? The correct term for this is Stockholm Syndrome. Maybe I did not understand the meaning of the article? The “Pill Shaming” phenomenon is when a doctor is ashamed to prescribe such drugs? Especially when it comes to types of psychosis when antipsychotics are contraindicated. And none of the doctors even know that there are such contraindications. But still, large doses are prescribed, causing hallucinations and toxic hepatitis. I think it’s quite natural that there will be people who will not like the fact that somebody take such medicines voluntarily and praise their effectiveness. This is called collaborationism.

    • Not Stockholm Syndrome for all of us.

      I honestly believed the lies NAMI pushes. That my “mental illness” was caused by a proven chemical imbalance.

      When I found out the truth I was devastated. But instead of “killing the messenger” I planned a suicide. The plan was really an effective one. If a dear friend hadn’t stopped me I almost surely would be dead.

      • Dr. Breggin uses the phrase: spellbinding.

        Drug Spellbinding.

        Psychiatric Spellbinding.

        Stockholm Syndrome is similar – you come to be fond of the people who “took such good care of you” while you were kidnapped and held against your will.

        Sometimes this is dramatic incarceration and forced drugging like Nchurch describes. Sometimes it is subtle like Mother’s Little Helper. “I just need it to get through the day.”

        Sometimes, it’s true – that in order to “adjust” to our toxic society, the Soma is required. Not all of us can leave. Not all of us can afford to live without disability.

        But like Sera said, I’m “just sick of watching people fucking die.” And sick of watching cognitive loss, loss of will, loss of personality, the dehumanising of humans as they take these drugs. I’m sick of watching drugged people shit on their families because they can no longer empathise. They are “surviving” with their drugs, but at what cost?

        Have you ever tried to take junk away from a junkie? That is what I feel like when I discuss the neurotoxic effects of these drugs. I have tried to take junk away from a junkie. And it’s not possible. Only the junkie can choose to leave the junk behind.

        The junkie (and I don’t use this term lightly -though it can also be someone who is addicted to alcohol, or even tobacco – but the addiction is there) will lie, cheat, steal, do whatever it takes to get their junk back. It’s impossible to believe, and it’s hard to trust a junkie, no matter how much you love them.

        How hard is, therefore, it to believe that someone Spellbound by psychiatry, Spellbound by the drugs – will be participating in some self-delusion, therefore?

  5. there’s two communities, a helped and a harmed community- the helped talks their helped lingo, the harmed talks their harmed lingo, reals real, fairs fair, its the same with alcohol, tobacco, yet we talk drugs, that help and harm, in the same way alcohol or tobacco does, and the rules are different, but either way, people need to just believe or focus on, in, whats right for them, and accept for others, in the same way some substances aren’t right for them, or wrong for them, & that other people are the same, and are going to want to share harms, what that, those are, to them, as well as what isn’t, in the same normal way others do, -so they can be forewarned, like most parents want to do with their children regards, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, forewarn them, isn’t that the same thing? yet none of them are saying their being shamed, maybe tobacco smokers a bit, its like a big chunk of society knows that and that that’s how its always been, and accepted, i mean they even have AA- and NA clubs, groups of people attacking drugs and alcohol, believing in their hearts that’s the right thing to do, for themselves and others, and no ones telling them their making them feel horrible or awkward for them saying it, or acting it out in a club, yet its different for this group, just seems a bit special or hypocritical, odd, to me,i know its all understandable, just feels spoilt, brattish, no one cares what drugs people have, if their ok, its only if and when, their not OK, that really matters, but if others feel it matters, then fair enough, no one wants to hurt anyone, well usually, most people speak the truth of whats real for them, out of their passion, and their hearts, especially when their talking about their feelings, everyone matters, about their fears, equally, cause their real to them, they matter, their real matters, whatever it is, and everyone should care for everyone, regardless of what they believe or not. with compassion, empathy, and care, before they go into themselves, outside of themselves, cause that usually fixes, whats usually, keeping them inside anyway, insecurities, cause if your true blue about you, what you do, where your at, what your beliefs are, the rest is pretty much, water off a ducks back, just like it should be, over your beliefs, truth, real, etc. accepting were all different, with differing likes and dislikes, personalities, preferences, bodies, constitutions, beliefs, drug effects, etc. etc. that are never going to match up to anyone else, not really. It’s what makes each of us different.

    • Hey Johnnyb – this is interesting.

      It’s OK for NA to “narcotics shame”
      And It’s okay for AA to “alcohol shame”
      and it’s okay for SA to “sex and porn shame”

      But is this because – people go to these 12-step organisations and surrender to them for “help”?

      And in that surrender, they have to accept that their “unacceptable behaviour” will be shamed?

      What is the role of shame in psychiatric diagnonsense? We go to the p-doc, and he shames us for not being able to hold our emotions together well enough to work, or not having enough oomph to get through the day, or for being argumentative with our spouse, children, etc…and then offers us pills to “fix” these behavioural strategies?

      I may be stepping out of line on this one – I’m trying to expand my connectome and the way I think about this – so this is not necessarily something I believe – just something I’m trying on.

      • I have been shamed numerous times for not taking my “medicine.” Ironically this was when I took them religiously. They were like food or oxygen to me….I thought.

        Then I would be consumed with self loathing and suicidal longings. The pills were magic. So it must be my fault I couldn’t think straight, gained 60 pounds in 3 months, couldn’t study or understand social cues anymore.

        Tapered off them. Lo and behold my head didn’t spontaneously combust from all those imbalanced chemicals reacting. And gravity still exists. My folks didn’t know about it for over 32 months. And I was living with them too. They were kind of surprised.

        Yep. Psychiatrists were wrong after all.

    • Thank you, Oldhead. Proud pill shamer here too. I might have gotten off the drugs sooner if this crowd had been a little louder and stood up to the psych propaganda more visibly. This article is over the top.

      The NNH for most of these drugs is smaller than the NNT with more long term data being reported every year. And now the new study that was just published (a larger replication of a previous study) showing that anticholinergics increase odds of developing dementia by 50%… Its hard to believe that people are so focused on not hurting someone else’s feelings that the true dangers of these drugs gets suppressed.

      This article shames survivors who’ve been harmed and who now speak the truth about these drugs. I won’t be shamed out of speaking the truth about these harms just because some people experience a placebo effect and don’t have too many bad side effects. That is not proof the drugs work, just proof some people aren’t harmed by them.

      Lastly, most of the time when you read people talking about pill-shamers, they’re also spreading disinformation about their “mental illnesses” and claiming these drugs treat those “illnesses”. We got to this level of propagandization because people who’ve been harmed are silenced and called pill and treatment “shamers”. It’s an effective, if ruthless tactic.

      It’s unfortunate that this tactic is used because many drugs, not just the psychiatric drugs, are largely harmful and cause other illnesses in the process of treating the target illness. When I tell people I avoided a Lipitor prescription by changing my diet, I largely get praise for the effort. But telling people you got off psych drugs draws blank stares from anyone who hasn’t done it themselves or supported someone who has. So you get support in the strangest places – like a nurse at the dog park who once took zyprexa and was thrilled to hear I wasn’t on the drugs anymore. Foreigners are also more likely to be supportive without putting their SJW pants on and counseling you on not pill shaming.

      My best friend got off her drugs after seeing me do it. After stabilizing, she went back to college to advance her (already impressive) career. I’m so thrilled. What if I hadn’t been so forthright about the knowledge I’d gained about these drugs in order to spare her feelings?

      Yes, Oldhead, pill shamers unite and spread the word. Eventually we’ll be louder than those who want us all to step it back a notch so they don’t get too overwhelmed with the feels to participate in the reality of the harmed masses. We can’t all be rich white ladies dictating to oppressed people what is acceptable discourse when discussing oppressive regimes like psychiatry and its drugs. I just don’t have any pearls to clutch when my dignity is offended by someone else speaking out about how they’ve been harmed.

      • I agree KS.

        Many of us who have been damaged by these poisons–and know it–are shamed ALL the freaking time. I was shamed for a bad reaction to Anafranil and given the label “bipolar” for life. Psychiatrists love to punish their test subjects for suffering too visibly.

        No offense toward Sera Davidow, but I wish our feelings (and ruined reputations and blighted lives) were taken into account more often. I don’t perceive this article itself as guilty in that respect though.

      • Hey Kindred Spirit,

        I find it a little puzzling that you would say that the article shames people who have spoken out about the harms that psychiatric drugs have had on their lives. I am one of those people, and Sera Davidow invited me to take part of a project called “The Virtues of Non-compliance”, where I was able to speak some to the ways that SSRI drugs really wrecked my life and how I got “better” only by going off all of my medications. That project was made into a movie, “The Virtues Of Non-Compliance.” Sera was involved in another movie project called “Beyond the Medical Model.” I’d encourage you to check them both out.

        I appreciate your passion, and want to acknowledge the harm that has been done to you. I do not believe that the spirit of this article is to take away from that. Both Sera and Caroline have written countless articles about the harms of psychiatric drugs and the lies that the pharmaceutical industry has perpetuated in order to defend them. They are both tireless advocates who have lifted up the voices of folks like myself, who have been irreparably harmed by the pharmaceutical industry. I have no doubt that if the causes and conditions came together in the right situation, they would lift your voice up as well. I have seen them work together to do this for countless people.


  6. Thanks so much for this– and yes, really, really well written.

    All I could add is that pill shaming is really insidious and tacitly seductive. My personal belief is that most of the “acceptable” ideas about psychiatric medication are pretty much backwards– benzos and even opiates are generally less harmful than newer drugs, like SSRIs and ‘atypical’ antipsychotics, which are supposed to be safer.

    But when I talk about this to friends and colleagues, I do get pretty worked up about it– and I have had friends and paraprofessionals who take SSRIs, and have found them helpful, warn me that the way I’m making my point sounds the hell of a lot like pill shaming, even though that’s not what I intend. This usually results in a fair amount of back-pedaling by yours truly… “I’m really sorry if I misspoke; I think I’ve said previously that I don’t see as many side effects with Lexapro and that you’re taking a very low dosage, and that I don’t have all the answers.”

    Shaming didn’t get me to stop smoking cigarettes and weed and drinking alcohol. Even if I did want to get my friends to stop taking SSRIs– and I generally don’t, because the few friends I have who have stayed on them do seem to take the ones that generally seem have fewer harms and take them in lower doses– shaming would be the WORST way to do that.

    Thanks again. Great stuff!

    • It’s harder than quitting booze or cigarettes. Harder than quitting heroine even. Because your “dealer” has the legal ability to hunt you down, lock you up, and torture you for “just saying no.”

      The courts defer to the dealers and their mobster cronies (Pfizer, Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, etc.) buy all our politicians. Sickening!

  7. I have to say that this was one of the most shocking things to encounter, once I ventured forth into what goes on in places that seem to at an institutional level be there to support someone who is marginalized.

    My mind reels just thinking where to start.

    Having to deal with people in charge that are on medications, and thus apologetic to not only the system that put them on it, but keep their inability to be articulate maintained by the pills, which modulates into their administrative powers, and having to deal with them for the most basic things such as that money goes to mundane situations already there that will help rather than grandiose schemes towards something that hasn’t even been really started yet but has this glorious sheen to it.

    Can you feel my mind reeling with that loooooooooooooooong sentence I just wrote, trying to say something?

    And that I, thanks to mindfreedom, actually knew the truth about psychiatric drugs, and could state that as fact; the same as you might say that alcohol makes you drunk, that adapting to the fashion around you won’t magically make you a good human being nor that that’s pride, and all the rest of it, and wanted to share that to find out I can’t say the truth about psychiatric drugs in any positive vital way, which I was doing in order to help people, but that it’s then pill shaming.

    I was totally shocked. I heard then that the head of the organization – a different one from the one that needed a gleaming glory before money was considered to help – had children on antidepressants, and she was on them, and this was because her husband had committed suicide; and all of a sudden the truth about anti-depressants had become something that insults a family with grief when their father/husband had committed suicide. I didn’t say anything about perhaps being able to deal with sadness or hopelessness rather than dousing it with ant-depressants might have prevented suicide. Real statistics again have another story about anti-depressants. And then she said someone at the drop in center was just crying all the time when she was off of her anti-depressants so she had seen bad results, I was so horribly naive as to suggest they have a get together to help people get off of their psychiatric medications, No she couldn’t approve that. Later I found out who this other person was, someone that was really nice (energetic, positive), but more like the celebrities in Hollywood that can’t tell the difference between playing social games and real issues, and so go bouncing around in the spotlight. I can imagine she would start crying would her bubble burst, not that I really know what was going on with her.

    It’s still shocking and overwhelming to remember the kind of response I got, just to report the truth about psychiatric drugs. And the extreme resentments. Simply stating the truth or wanting there to be a facility to help people would they want to come off their medications (I had suggested a get together to help people get off of their medications, I hadn’t said forced, or coerced); that was turned into sarcastic statements like:
    “I’m not going around saying no one should take psychiatric medications.”

    And that’s what gets me:

    Psychiatric drugs correlate with an extreme spike in what they say they are healing.
    There’s no conclusive proof they are treating a chemical imbalance but there is that they are creating one.
    They are consistently forced on people without real informed consent, while being made out to be treating a chemical imbalance rather than honestly reported to be causing one.
    They correlate with suicides, violence, causing car accidents (that’s hardly reported), homicide, loss of life expectancy, an enormous list of side effect, etc. etc.

    But when in total they according to statistics based on whether someone has adapted to a society which doesn’t care to honestly report all of that above: when they “help” even then really only a minority of the people on such drugs; one has to start there, or you’re “pill shaming.”

    And it continued when I got involved with the anti-psychiatry stuff. I had never had facebook, but mindfreedom had a shield action, so I signed up for facebook, to get more involved. Right away someone else from that action started private messaging me, then she wanted to talk on the phone, and I thought I could help someone struggling against the mental health barriers. She’s call me all the time, and wanted to get me involved with other stuff she was busy with. Again I couldn’t express the truth, which again becomes almost too much to get into dealing with someone who seems to be a victim of the fact that she could heal, because of what she’d have to give up that’s lacking when she’s not a victim anymore. And they have it all regulated, they need their pills as maintenance because they were a victim to ever being put on them, and if you actually step into the amazing labyrinth of possibility beyond all of that, would they give their mind the freedom to do what it does without such disabling….

  8. If someone is taking psychiatric drugs, then it is just like it is with alcohol and street drugs. They have decided that they don’t want to feel their feelings. White Coats have conned them, or whatever. So then, one cannot deal with such people at any social level.

    They guy I helped put into the state prison for molesting his daugthers was one such, using first cocaine and alcohol, then advancing in his addictions to salvation religion and psychiatric drugs. And his trial defense was almost entire centered on mental health arguments. If he had not been using psychiatric drugs, the problems would likely not have happened.

    Feeling one’s feelings, learning to live inside of your own skin is a life’s work. Any kind of chemical mood alterants will interfere with this essential project.

    And if you’re going to defend the use of psychiatric neuro toxins, then you will never be able to argue effectively against things like the Murphy Bill and forced treatments, because the public will believe that these lethal drugs must be a necessity for some people, and so they have to be administered FYOG.

    Justina Pelletier, 3 posts

  9. ^^^^ But Sera, unless people renounce all of these numb outs, then they aren’t going to be able to do the very hard work which takes them back to feeling their feelings. And we need this to be able to stand up and reclaim all that has been taken from us.

    So no, I don’t feel that a tendency to want to numb out is a serious moral failing. But I do see the quest to undermine the premises of the mental health system and to take back what has been taken from us to be a special calling.

    I first learned the importance of a rigorous commitment to non-escapism and to feeling your feelings, from studies in mysticism. But then later it was what I took away from Alice Miller.

    I see the tendency to tune out as just how Capitalism keeps people from thinking too critically.

    Now, for those who use psychmeds, these people are really strange, in my observation. And so you cannot deal with them, not socially, not any other way. This has been my experience.

    I see such people as victims, not perpetrators. But there are still huge consequences to their choices.

    So no, I do not at all agree with your article.

    And I take especial offense when there are articles, or when I meet people, who say that prescription psych drugs, or street drugs are good for you, opening some doors of understanding or such. And we have this now, someone advocating MDMA, where they had been advocating LSD.

    All of this denigrates survivors, makes it sound like our concerns are just the result of refusing to take our meds. So I am honor bound to oppose it, as I am the sorts of things you say in your article. I took great offense at the things you were writing to the Boston Globe about the Murphy Bill.

  10. I suspect Pill shaming is about fear.
    I was on benzos for 32 years, in that time I was also a well loved and reasonably successful Teacher. But in 32 years I lived in terror at my employers finding out I was dependent on benzos. Michael Gove, Education Minister had actually encouraged whistle blowing on Teachers who were on drugs. I can only imagine the parents and Students reactions if they had known. Also in application forms I was asked if I suffered from depression, anxiety etc. I ignored all that same as I ignored all that on Holiday Insurance forms. The shame of keeping this a secret was HUGE. I had a few Drs who called me an addict…and I used to say I would like to come off benzos BUT how? and who will help me?
    Can anyone honesty tell me I did not do the right thing for me. Guilt as I got into my car kinda ‘ Stoned’ Guilt as I accidently dropped a 10mg diazepam pill in the classroom worried that a child might pick it up. If it had been a paracetamol tablet I could have asked the class to look for it and then hand it too me.
    This shame only left me in 2015 when I discovered the online community. I began the tortuous Journey to come off benzos in 2015 and finally realised via The Ashton Manual the Shame lay with the prescribers not me. People are desperate usually when they go to a Dr/GP Psychiatrist. It is at THIS point there should be informed consent. But as long as The medical profession is trusted, desperate people are going to take what is offered. Where else can they go? I don’t think it takes that long to get dependent on a psychoactive drug. The prescribers tell those on depression pills, to be well for at least six months until you consider coming off. I believe the only thing we can do is educate people BEFORE they take these pills especially children and young people. As a Counsellor I see many people contemplating taking psychiatric drugs and I do warn them RE The dangers, I also work with people on drugs who express how shit these drugs sometimes make them feel, but they are too SCARED to come off especially as there is no withdrawal guidelines, no support and no recognition of withdrawal effects, I think we have to put ourselves in others shoes….Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself…….If you are an alcoholic there is state funded help and recognition, if you are ‘addicted’ dependent on benzos, ADs, Quetiapine etc there is no help. I have had to watch a family member being totally abused by Psychiatry, 25 years later, she is on a huge cocktail of damaging drugs, she knows the Score and is very angry and fearful…especially of dementia, as am I after my benzo use, but still she cannot get off them…pill shaming her is pointless.

  11. There’s a thing called the Sunken Cost Fallacy. After a heavy investment–be it money, time, effort–people prefer to keep investing in it though common sense would be to cut their losses and bail out.

    I think that’s at work among the “consumers” who get angry at the messenger. Perfectly normal human reaction.

  12. Hello Sera Davidow and Caroline Mazel-Carlton.

    You’ve both done a good job here of dissescting the “pill-shaming!” exclamation and raised some interesting issues. There is a lot more that can be said on this subject and I hope either or both of you return to it at some future point.

    Like many aggressive exclamations, the “pill-shaming!” exclamation is an attempt to both hold or retain personal power against a percieved attack, as well as a quite violent way to shut down discussion. But it also acts, as I think you’ve acknowledged, to push back against overly zealous antipsychiatry activists/trolls who refuse to allow psychiatric pills to play any meaningful or helpful role in an individual’s life.

    Like you and many people I have close and longlasting relationships with people who choose to take the pills. And when younger I would find their decisions an irritant, a distraction from my antipsychiatry antiselfdrugging zeal. Most commonly as people age, they temper down. I’m glad to say that, putting aside the occasional outbreak of antichoice pox, I’ve tempered down.

    One issue you haven’t touched on but worth considering is the power people attain once they are on the pills for some time. For instance, I know and have known a number of people who, well-aware of the withdrawal syndrome of cold turkeying antipsychotics, choose from time to time to coldturkey withdrawal because of the power they feel it gives them, ie a swift re-entry into the psychiatric system, or a way to take control of tricky social situations that have been burgeoning for some time, and which are maybe loking like the social tide is turning against them, if they’ve been up to no good and troubling the hornets nest, a tactically chosen coldturkey withdrawal can have the magnificent effect of them gaining significant power over others, and they can rapidly retreat or leave behind any scrutiny or critiscism of their prior behavior because like you know now they are in relapse, and nothing else matters.

    I’ve seen that play out so often, I’m sure it must happen all over.

    Not that I condemn those who do it. Desperate situations call for desperate actions, and in the UK at least, a tactical coldturkey withdrawal is perhaps the only way someone can access the help they feel they need.

    Thanks both.

    (apologies for the numerous typos. I banged that out and must depart the keyboard, sharpish)

  13. Thanks for explaining this recent phenomenon of accusing people with uncomfortable/unwanted information about pharma of pill shaming. In my experience this “pill shaming” label enters most quickly into discussions with still healthy people who’ve had some privilege. Privilege of using the system and not feeling the system has used them. For example, a white male grad student and a hipster band performer who enhance their performance and maintaining equilibrium with prescribed drugs and who have not been exposed to the stories of people who have been victims of the sustained health-destroying violence and oppression of forced psy treatment over years. Some people have not experienced the drug cocktails meant to insure the comfort of one class by controlling the behaviour, or merely feared or imagined behaviour, of another. Some people are allowed to take a drug of choice at the dosage they desire and it is natural for them to defend the drugs and the system that is serving them. Some of us can not even imagine such status.

  14. Sera wrote:

    “I personally would and do feel quite denigrated by the idea that I don’t know myself well enough to know that the drugs I *do* use to numb out some time (not psych drugs, but alcohol for one), and that I’m somehow a ‘victim’ as a result of seeing the value in that for myself… It also feels hard to hear that I’m somehow also not able to do the work that I apparently need to do to process my feelings, etc, if I’m using such substances and am somehow – if I’m reading you right – lesser than for that.”

    Feeling ones feelings, and staying mindful, is extremely hard work. It can feel like your bones are being eaten in acid.

    This book here puts it the best that I have seen, Psychiatry and Psychotherapy turn your experience of injustice into a medical problem and a self improvement project.

    So who is going to challenge this? Who is going to stop the survivors of familial abuses from ending up in mental health, psychotherapy, and recovery movement.

    You say that you process your feelings. I’m not talking about anything like that. Processing feelings, usually what it means is just getting to where you can comply with social standards again. And so some people get their doctor to write them a prescription. You have learned how to prescribe for yourself to get the same result.

    When I talk about feeling your feelings, I mean a long term commitment to regressions, starting with present feelings and working back. I am talking about re-constructing oneself. I mean collecting up the pieces which have been torn off and then re-membering yourself.

    Unless we have people doing this, then nothing will change. People will still be able to have children so that they don’t have to deal with their own issues, and then break the wills and esteems of those children, knowing that they will end up in mental health and recovery.

    I know that there have been numb out drugs from the beginning of time. But I also know that they are a problem for those of use who want to reclaim what has been taken from us. The numb out drugs help mental health, and the recovery movement, because they bring people down to their level.

    People who just want to numb out are never going to offer effective opposition.

    And in calling for the arbitrary individual decision to take what you want and to not take what you don’t want, you are simply arguing for Libertarianism, and this is a fallacy. Right now people are driving their children to the doctor, and they are being put on drugs. And people who have grown up in very oppressive environments and been made to feel that it is there fault, they are being conned by psychotherapists. And this being done via government licensing.

    So while you ingest what you want, a horrible state of affairs persists. The only way you would be able to see this though, would be if you were committed to the very hard work of feeling your feelings.

    The people who then come along and tell me that they also thing I’m bad or wrong for choosing what I do take even in the most well informed way don’t have the same power or cause the same harm in any way, but they surely don’t help.

    But you aren’t helping either, you aren’t opposing psych drugs, psychotherapy, the recovery movement, or the FixMyKid industry.

    Where people seem to be getting lost – as best I can tell – is in our recognition that there *are* sometimes people who claim that no one should ever be on any kind of drug or that they know that anyone who says drugs help them is somehow misguided or “deluded”.

    Talk about drugs is a direct attack on survivors. It creates the impression that they are the problem, and that drugs which attack the functioning of their central nervous system are the remedy.

    It’s just like how rape has always been handled, trying to blame it on the victim, and making the pacification of the victim the intended outcome.

    People who push in this way are *NOT* equal to the system that pushes drugs because (as we say several times in the article) those people have no systemic power.

    Where there is power is in holding parents accountable, in holding the mental health system accountable, and in getting our government out of the recovery and salvation businesses.

    But when there is conflict out at the barricades, it is those who want chemical tune out who are most likely to be AWOL.

    Our society is sick, in that people work meaningless jobs and then use chemicals to tune out. And this is what the middle-class family and the mental health system prepare people to accept. So chemical tune outs is submission. Where as the one who always seems to have their tail on fire is the one who is resisting.

    However, my personal wish is that this movement will eventually get to the point where the focus *is* on power. Not on ‘recovery’… Not on what people should or shouldn’t be doing… but simply on their right to have real information, make real choices, be treated equally where their rights are concerned, and be the holder of power where their own lives are concerned.

    But it can never get like this until some deeply embedded forms of abuse, in the middle-class family, and in its white coat enforcers, are exposed and eradicated. And the only way to do this is public punishment of the perpetrators. Its no different than it was with the de-Nazification of Germany, there have to be public consequences for the perpetrators, or it will just continue.

    Sera, I do not agree with your article or with the message you are putting out. You are not supporting mindful resistance, you are pleading that people like me will go along with you on pills and alcohol.

    Its just like when you were trying to oppose the Murphy Bill, you were not calling for resistance to the mental health system. You were pleading with Murphy and his supporters for tolerance for those who are in some way going along with the mental health idea. You were not telling Murphy how every aspect of his proposed legislation would be resisted, and by any means necessary. You were not telling Murphy and his supporters that they were torturing their own children.

    We do have to resist the mental health system, and we have to resist tune out. No this is not a legal requirement, there would be no way to enforce such a thing. But I for one promise unceasing resistance to any articles or posts which encourage tune out, or cooperation with the mental health system or the recovery movement, or which encourage support for psychotherapists playing god in what should be seen as child abuse cases.

    1459 Days of Resistance, how a political activist talks. It is not pleading for tolerance.

    • PD: thank you for your well articulated position here. I have always said that one has to face one’s traumas and feel the feelings related to them in order to recover. The only way I was able to achieve any recovery from the repeated traumatic events of childhood and my consequent alcoholism and drugs addiction was to get sober and become completely abstinent of all artificial chemicals, so I could begin recalling what had happened to me and to feel my feelings all the way through. I had been dissociated from myself and my feelings related to the traumas so I had to face all of it directly and feel them. Through my recovery from alcoholism and drugs addiction I also learned how many people simply don’t want to feel reality at all and would rather be numb. I understand that because that’s what I did for several decades but I also know that one cannot fully recover from any addiction or anything else without facing and accepting reality as it is and to feel the feelings all the way through. I’ve discovered that many people would rather be given validation for not feeling and for numbing out so they seek that validation by claiming there is no harm in numbing out because people have been doing that since time immemorial. Nothing is more dangerous to the chance of recovery than claiming numbing out is ok because “people have always done that.” People have always killed other people, too, but that doesn’t make killing acceptable.

  15. “They’re in the violence of restraints and needles forcibly penetrating our skin. And, to top that off, we’re not allowed to actually call that violence because we lack even the power to define the word from our own perspective.”
    That sentence really resonated with me. The fact that we are also deprived a language to describe the the horrors that goes under the inocuos euphemism ‘treatment’
    Thanks for the article

  16. I’m late for the party here but wanted to be somewhat organized and prepared rather than make assumptions about what Sera’s saying. But I’m still not that organized so will respond to quotes that seem to stand out to me. I haven’t read the other comments yet. I will pre-state my suspicion that these issues would seem less ambiguous and debatable if psychiatry were understood to be a parallel police force, rather than a flawed branch of medicine.

    It’s an at least three-quarters straw man argument that seems to suggest that just by speaking truth about how the system has actively lied to us about psychiatric drugs (and more), that we are somehow now “anti-medication,”

    If the suggestion here is that psychiatric survivors and other opponents of psychiatry should not be anti-drug I’m afraid there’s a problem with who this “we” is. It’s one thing to assert that people have the right to fuck themselves up with any chemical known to humankind. But to continually euphemize these toxic tools of repression as “medications” (in quotes or not) as anything but what they are, or to imply that calling out this practice of self-toxification is in any way oppressive, is not an anti-psychiatry position. We should not be defensive about being anti-toxin, especially when this is done in the name of healing. And we should never be defensive about being anti-psychiatry.

    Actually I’ll have to change my approach here in mid-stream, as the more I read the more convoluted and intertwined all these arguments Sera is making become. And any time I see words such as “woke” and rhetoric about “checking your privilege”appearing the less seriously I tend to take the arguments at hand, as these are bits of jargon I have come to associate with upper-middle class privileged liberals with no systemic analysis of the inherent alienation that characterizes this society. Anyway I do intend to delve into some of these convolutions while this blog remains current. But for now This is what I think is most important:

    Brain-damaging, mind-ravaging neurotoxic psych drugs are NOT “medications,” no matter how much anyone is upset by this reality or prefers to remain in denial. The scourge of psychiatric drugs is a major institutional tool used to hold this system in place by redefining the inherent misery it generates as individual “failings” rather than the logical and eternal consequence of its own putrid essence. People should not be forced NOT to take these poisons. But they should not be enabled in doing so by implying that it’s ok, just another “personal choice.” It’s not ok if your friend is self-destructing due to being fraudulently misled into believing they have a “disease,” “disorder” or whatever phony-ass construct they adhere to. That doesn’t mean you must stop being their friend or must constantly browbeat them.

    But if a friend comes to you professing belief in all these lies and announcing that he or she is about to start ingesting prescribed neurotoxins for some metaphorical illness, what else is there to say but “That’s a Damn Shame”???

  17. Sera and Caroline, Your blog is thorough in presenting all the variables, arguments and the different sides of the coin so to speak. My take away was in keeping with your last sentence “It’s not about pills. It’s about power.” and about taking back your power from the oppression of psychiatry. I think most psych survivors know psych drugs are harmful but to criticize or blame them or anyone who is still taking psych drugs would be ‘blaming the victim’.

  18. “The only true path to liberation is to focus on how to support people to get their power back (or get it in the first place), never mind how they then choose to use it. That power may come with or without drugs, and those drugs may be prescribed or not. Our job is to illuminate the many paths, not to push anyone down a particular one.”

    For me, this was the core of your article.

    Fully informed consent would go a long way for me.

    I’ve had eight years of college, and another eight years in and out of mental hospitals. Is something wrong with me in that I fail to understand a lot of this wordy article?

    I do see that I need to take great care in talking to those who suffer from but are still are ingrained in the medical model. And I see others who need to blast mainstream psychiatry at all costs, which I think wrong.
    Any ideas on how to deal with either of these?

    I think Akiko Hart’s article, “Choice Not Truth” says what you two do in a way that’s more immediate, at least for me.
    “Pursuing choice, not truth: debates around diagnosis in mental health,” by Akiko Hart

  19. “if psychiatry were understood to be a parallel police force”

    It’s psychiatry, psychotherapy, and the recovery and salvation industries which are a parallel police force. They are just presented in such a way that people do not see this. It’s all what Deleuze and Guattari called “Oedipalizing”, making people believe in and accept The Family, making them neurotic. And it seems to also be what Foucault is calling Biopower or Biopolitics.

    And Sera, presenting the idea that chemical mood alterants could somehow be good for people makes it just about impossible to stop the dispensing of psychiatric drugs. Most of these drugs are ingested voluntarily.

    While an absolute prohibition approach has never worked, that does not mean that an anti-psychiatry anti-mental health movement could ever tolerate people who say that drugs might be good for you.

    How would you feel about someone who says that alcohol is good for rape victims, because that helps them to “just get over it”?

    • PD: “Most of these drugs are ingested voluntarily.”

      No. They are not. When they give the drug to you with the lie that “you will need this for the rest of your life” and “the side effects will be worth the benefits” and “it won’t harm you in the long term”

      Then they are forcing something. Would someone really take that pill if they knew that they may never get off of it again? Or that they might be going down the rapids of prescription and diagnostic cascades? Or that the drug will, in the long run, make them worse?

      Until this is the knowledge of the people (and it is not), then these pills are being forced.

      • Some are administered by force. But as I know, most are ingested by someone who is being fed lies. They are being told that there could be no legitimate reason to refuse. And that is what puts someone into the hands of the doctor in the first place, that their social legitimacy has been voided. So it is preying on a vulnerable population.

        1. Remove those drugs from the market.
        2. Stop our government from licensing Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists.
        3. For those who have been giving such lethal drugs to children, prosecution for Crimes Against Humanity.

        • IMO the lies mean it’s not truly voluntary.

          Were Dr. Farid Fata’s patients voluntary victims when he subjected them to numerous rounds of chemo under the pretext that they had leukemia? If a doctor sells heroine to his patients by telling them they have diabetes and it’s insulin are they voluntary?

          The only excuse I can give for psychiatrists is that SOME–not sure how many–actually believe the lies they promote about the “chemical imbalance.” According to Dr. Pies they are uninformed. Tsk tsk. So bad to accuse his profession of ignorance. He’s proud of what a well-informed, professionally competent charlatan he is. 😀

  20. Chronic depression and anxiety are not “distress” (your definition 1). They are serious psychological conditions. I would love to see some quotes included in this piece from people who have been able to live normal lives because of daily medication (not “drugs”). Do *they* think pill shaming is a real thing? And wouldn’t it be the responsible thing to include these kinds of people in the conversation about their lives and the future of their access to medication?

    • As Peter Breggin wrote in Toxic Psychiatry 1991, people are depressed because they are living depressing lives. Its bad careers, bad marriages, and other unredressed stuff.

      In my opinion, if one is not able to feel their feelings, they are at an increasing risk of a nervous break down. But that is still not ~Mental Illness~.

      Feeling feelings is very hard work, it can feel like your bones are being eaten in acid.

      But no one can lead a fulfilling life unless they feel their feelings and do everything in their power to work with comrades and to hold the abusers accountable and to seize reparations.

      The idea that just “feeling better” makes things fine is one of the lies of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, Recovery, and Religion. It is one of the ways they further abuse survivors and promote drugs.

      Sure lots of people believe that their lives are made better by cocaine and heroin too.

      Rachel777, my objection to BipolarHope, NAMI, WellnessPlace is simply that these at least support the idea of ~Recovery~ if not the idea of ~Mental Illness~ too. Fine to have safe places for people. But ~Recovery~ still implies that they have something wrong with them, that innate moral defect, Original Sin.

      As I am constantly telling the Born Again Ministries, someone who has been treated with dignity and respect and been allowed to develop and apply their abilities, is very unlikely to ever have a serious problem with drugs or alcohol. And the same goes for the Sham of ~Mental Illness~.

      • You’ve said this stuff before, and I’ve finally realized why some of it bothers me. You claim that all therapy is about making someone “feel OK” without dealing with emotions. But I had a fine therapist back in the 80s (before the DSM III and the “chemical imbalance” theory had taken hold), and it was ALL about me learning to feel the feelings I was avoiding. That was the whole point of it. So while I agree that much if not most therapy today avoids dealing with these awkward realities (and that the DSM III and later editions were, in fact, carefully constructed to allow for this shift in emphasis), there have always been therapists who viewed their jobs as doing exactly what you are saying needs to be done. So I think you are overgeneralizing in these statements – there are a lot of different therapists doing a lot of different things, and with a lot of different competence levels, but the idea that ALL of them are aiming to help people repress their emotional experience and side with their parents against abused kids is just not true in my experience.

        • And I would add that she was ANYTHING but protective of my parents. In fact, my mom said to others (naturally, I never heard about this for YEARS later and from a third party) that my therapist was “driving a wedge between us.” We spent most of the time talking about my historical relationship with my mother and her denial of any kind of emotional reality except that “everything is just fine.” And it was VERY helpful to me, and I doubt that selecting an average person off the street to share my issues with would have been remotely as helpful. She had a very useful skill, and I was happy to pay her for the excellent service she provided.

      • PD, I don’t subscribe or write to NAMI, BipolarHope, Wellness Place, etc. Just pointing out to those who want to sing the praises of their psych remedies that there are dozens if not hundreds of other sites on the internet that allow them to do so.

    • Well, feelings of anxiety and extreme distress are evolutionarily developed self-protective responses.

      When our social and civil standing are being nullified, then that means that we are being ostracized and so our survival is being threatened. So we will likely feel extreme emotional and bodily pains, and we may act to limit our public exposure. There is nothing wrong with these responses.

      This happens to survivors because our life histories are not validated. We are considered to be at fault, and not the abusers. The abusers are legitimated by our society, where as we are considered culpable and a social hygiene menace.

      The reason this is so bad is that survivors have not learned the importance of public redress. Abusers must be punished, and survivors must obtain reparations.

      As it is now, the survivors are led to believe in therapy and recovery, which are just more abuse. And then the abusers get to recite all the things which are wrong with their scapegoat survivors.

      We survivors must organize and use what ever means are necessary to make sure that this changes.

      As a start, I helped 3 girls get their father a lengthy term in the state penitentiary for molesting them.

      As it had been, he had the 100% backing of their Pentecostal Church, because in that church most everyone has at least one scapegoat child and one scapegoat sibling.

      The mother however is still running around telling people that the allegations are unwarranted and that the girls are liars. I told the DA that if it were up to me, she would be in prison too.

    • Should we also discuss both sides of the Holocaust?

      MIA is whatever RW decides it is. But the end result of “critical” psychiatry should be antipsychiatry.

      I also doubt that before the dawn of psych drugs physically health people simply stayed in bed until they died.

    • Rachel777, should rape victims be sent to Critical Psychiatrists?

      I have never seen anything in RW’s books which endorses any kind of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, or Recovery. If I am missing it, please give me the page number and the quote.

      All his books do, is demonstrate the extremely important proposition that the drugs have caused an epidemic of ~mental illness~ cases, and that these drugs destroy consciousness.

      On everything else, as I can see, he is silent. And this makes sense, he has a point to prove, and he does so completely.

      Where a problem ensues though is on a board like this. Most of its tone is just from what people post. I say that Psychiatrists, Psychotherapists, Parents, and Recovery Program Leaders are abusing this board.

      It becomes impossible for people to act, when they are constantly having to deal with claims of needing drugs, therapy, and recovery, and when people can continue to abuse their scapegoat children.

      So RW’s books are great. What is happening on this board though is another story.

      Place to organize and then take actions:

      • Never heard of a school of psychiatry called “critical.” It refers to a way of perceiving psychiatry versus “anti” or “pro/mainstream.”

        Yes “therapists” who exist solely for the purpose of forcing kids to repress abuse memories are pretty evil, though I have not actually met any.

        My mom’s counselor did the exact opposite and helped her remember stuff she had buried and deal with it. Encouraged her to get her 4 year degree in education and pursue a career as a teacher. A great “treatment” for depression before the bio-model took over.

        Now all they do is throw pills at everything. Counselors provide no advice to those branded SMI beyond “take your meds and accept how hopeless your life will always be.” Because of this wide-spread sell out I avoid counseling and urge others to do likewise. Especially at those “Mental Health” Indoctrination Centers. 😛

    • Rachel777, I think the issue is just that survivors need to go hardline and make it clear that we are not going to let people abuse and denigrate us.

      Its just like it was with Rape Victims in the 1970’s.

      Got lost in the 80’s, got turned into “Recovery”.

      We have to get really militant and score some definitive victories, like putting some Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists out of business, and in holding some parents accountable.

      Tangible Results, not Therapeutic Release.

  21. I have indeed experienced pill shaming. I’m not sure if I should put quotation marks around that or not. When I was about 28 I visited a friend. I was on drugs, a cocktail of them. She looked at my bottles, which I was then opening, and she said to me, “Ugh, well, okay, so it’s time for your DRUGS.” It was the look on her face of utter disgust that said everything.

    The other pill-shaming I have received was from the withdrawal community. I found that I was too embarrassed to tell anyone that I still needed drugs to get to sleep. I had tried for five years and I had barely slept. I made the decision to reinstate and get my life back. I reinstated for three years. I think it was about a month ago that I stopped successfully. I wish, in retrospect, that people wouldn’t put such a huge value judgement on “drug-free.” Like there’s an either/or. We have chemicals in our food, in our air and water, no one in fact is “drug-free” so please get off your high horses. I understand the exuberance but just don’t shove it in others’ faces.

    And mind the ageism also. Older people have complex medical needs. Some of us have organ damage from the drugs. Much of this is life-shortening. I have kidney disease and yes, it causes inability to sleep. Using the drugs to get to sleep was the only thing I could do until I figured out another way. I ended up staying away from the withdrawal community.

    It gets to the point where you have to decide about quality of life. Who decides? YOU. Not your friends, not your doctor, not even your family. You.

    • she said to me, “Ugh, well, okay, so it’s time for your DRUGS.” It was the look on her face of utter disgust that said everything.

      That’s how she felt though, I don’t think being horrified at what someone is doing counts as “shaming.”
      I’m not saying no one engages in this, but again we also need to separate the personal aspects of this from the political.

      Auntie Psychiatry has clearly exposed once and for all how this term came about, and her revelations should change the entire nature of this “debate” before it even gets started. Survivors are very good at defining what oppresses them; “pill shaming” has never been one of them and was artificially introduced by the other side.

  22. I usually tell people who are upset about their past decision to take psych pills that it isn’t their fault. We were coerced or forced. If you first took drugs behind locked doors, even if you think it was willingly, it was force because you were incarcerated. We were lied to, told half-truths, told overblown stories of how effective they are. Likely, at the time, we made the best decision, or thought we were. They were doctors. Not very clever or insightful, but they wore lab coats (often) and actually in my case, they towered over me, too.

    • Sounds like you’re talking more here about people who are shaming themselves.

      It is nonetheless important that those of us who have taken an AP stand but somehow find themselves back in the throes of drug dependency don’t feel that they have “betrayed” the movement, or anyone, by not being the perfect heroic storybook role model for resisting psychiatry. We are all human. I’m thinking particularly of Matt here.

  23. This is ridiculous. I’m unsubscribing to this post in utter disgust. Yes, pill-shaming exists and just because some readers here have never experienced it doesn’t mean it isn’t real. If there’s a human trait (choosing to take pills, choosing not to, being forced onto them) then there’s going to be someone out there that shames you. There are tactful and not-so-tactful humans in the world. I’m not sure that those that shame people for taking drugs are doing them a favor since often pill-takers become more staunch in their belief that this is “medicine.” Shaming is cruel, and it often backfires.

    • If this is such a widespread problem why did it take a corporate psychiatric propagandist to identify it?

      Anyway, “shaming” is only effective if you’re open to it. Or if you’re guilty of something. Otherwise the feelings of self-deprecation are already there, waiting to be “triggered” or exploited.

      • It is certain that feelings of self-deprecation are present in most of us who grew up in this highly shaming society. They are exploited by the system in order to create more compliant “patients,” and this can be very effective. It’s easy to say “not to be open” to shaming, but that has been a journey of decades for me, and I don’t think we can expect most people to be free from it. The real shaming that goes on is the labeling of someone as inadequate or insufficient in the first place, and the responsibility for that shaming lies squarely on the shoulders of the “professionals” who engage in it.

        • It’s also easy to defensively react to people’s genuine concern as “shaming” when making someone feel “ashamed” is not at all the person’s intent.

          There IS a moral component in my view in blotting out or distorting one’s consciousness to avoid the truth, or “reality,” but this is a matter between oneself and one’s own conscience and absolutely not subject to others’ judgemental pontificating.

          Also the concerns expressed here have nothing to do with the real motivation behind the “pill-shaming” meme as presented by those who originated it, which is simply to sell more product.

  24. Maybe what is needed is a piece on how to talk to folks or dialogue with them in regards to getting help or if they have pondered medication.
    Because of the vast amount of Pharma ads and the way they are designed and implemented one would think of them as a solution. The madmen and madwomen know humans and are good at manipulation and propaganda.
    There actually is a medical advertising hall of fame or should I say Shame?
    So we all are immersed in this level of subtle manipulation on an ongoing basis.
    So this is what I have done in my best self way- not every day is my best self and the rage comes and goes but when things are calm.
    Okay so you want to work in some things- nite here- try to wait until I think I need help with this ————- full in the blank issue. To intervene as in an intervention do not do this unless you are prepared to accept responsibility from any negative fallout and do not cherry pick asking others about concerned person I would say don’t go there at all. Wait, be patient trust folks to know they may be in crisis.
    I had an intervention done to me and as someone I lived once said to me the path to hell is paved with good intentions.
    That being said if someone does identify a need of their own give them multiple options and information. If for sin reason in too much crisis do reflective listening and give simple options.
    Most of the time the problem is the LACK of GOOD OPTIONS.
    Ask for help from someone else or with lived experience.
    I refer folks here and say I can tell you my story and thoughts.
    U suggest all the alternative therapies saying – this is a journey, some may work , some may not.
    Try to give low cost options or creative ways to get low cost options for alternatives ie massage schools, yoga teacher training – FREEBIES!
    For talk therapy say try at least three folks – hit or miss- research each therapist
    What do you want help with? What do you want to do yourself?
    Sometimes some people have found help with medication but no one really knows why and then issues with taking are threefold and tell them.
    Offer to go with them and be an ear and eye. One can ask to record interview or session.
    And again I would repeat over and over this is your journey yeah it s—— that you are here but use it as a tool and sometimes better actually comes. And if they don’t believe okay but if I am right you buy me lunch? Humor is essential. And listen and shut up until specifically asked.
    And the best thing is not to go away even if asked. Wait, sometimes the tuner stumbles and really does need a help or and or the finish line is reached and they want to process the journey.
    And be truthful.If you don’t know you really don’t know.
    So these are my thoughts/ do whatever with them as you all see fit.

    • What we need is political activism, as militant as possible. Survivors should only confess to comrades on the barricades, never to any kind of therapist, recoveryist, or religionist.

      And Julie and Rachel, in the 1970’s Feminists uncovered the prevalence of incest and rape. And they did not let people turn it back on them. They defended themselves and each other.

      But then in the 1980’s, this got turned into a need for therapy and recovery groups, completely neutralizing the political dimension.

      Excellent book, no therapy or recovery at all.

      Survivors of the Mental Health and Recovery Movement and of the Middle-Class Family need to start defending themselves. The assaults against us are all day everyday. But things start to change when you become a Resistance Fighter and so you stop talking, stop taking questions, stop looking for approval.

      To go the next step though we need organized actions, and some victories to show.

  25. I think though that people are going to do what they are going to do, if there is to be effective collective action, then there has to be an agreement that there should never be any need for mood altering chemicals.

    “bans alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and recreational drugs”

    If it is not handled this way, then some people will still argue that the NEED this or NEED that, and then it will be some who also NEED Electroshock and NEED Transcranial Magnet Zaps.

    The 18th Amendment did not work. So we cannot impose this on the general population. I’m just talking about an Anti-Psychiatry guerrilla army.

  26. I read the article. It doesn’t resonate with me as an unashamed pill-shamer.
    Psych drugs differ little from street drugs.
    Reminding people that they may die, become disabled, are making bad choices, can choose differently, are self-harming and causing long term damage can be vitally important to their awareness and recovery and is never frowned on when dealing with other drugs. Suggesting that the same tools are not transferable to psych drugs, smacks of continuing to hide the hidden.

    Putting psych drug users (who absolutely fuel the problem) in a different category than street drug user is disingenuous. It ignores that Allopathic medicine is inherently garbage and the misnomer ‘medicine” is a sorry euphemism that obscures how pervasive misdirection and ignorance is, in perpetuate the problem.

    I’ve never met a drug addict I’d want anywhere near my life. Drugs are drugs and drug addicts are drug addicts.

    Maybe if we ever get clear about the facts and are allowed the freedom to speak to those truths, drug users would be able to examine the reasoning for their choices more fully and honestly.

    Any conversation about drug use that omits the fraud of “MI”, chemical imbalances and the host of other lies upholding the drug lies, is just another lie.

    • I’ve never heard of pill shaming before reading the above. I’m familiar with propaganda though and while I’m not a medical professional I’d recommend lowering the dosage of Mad In America. Side effects from exposure may include permanent emotional, social and political blunting.

  27. Pills don’t feel shame. People do.

    When a shrink–or at least as often a Big Pharma marketing huckster–points a finger at someone putting down someone being harmed by their quackery they have four fingers pointing back at themselves!

    Psychiatry is nothing but SHAME if you take away the trappings of drugs and psycho-surgery.

  28. What a great collection of truths! And lovely concise suggestions to minimize the potential for oppression! My favorite part is this…
    “We’re not pill shaming you. We’re just sick of watching people fucking die.” — Sera Davidow
    Similar to diet pills, or patches medications can provide some relief of what ails us, but do they really in the long run is always good to assess. Marius Romme stated that psychiatric medications are similar to smoking cigarettes and there is research to support this! This truth needs to be spoken strongly and loudly to power to stop the oppression surrounding human choice, and the tendency for those trying to help from collaborating without me and then trying to dictate what they think is best!
    Thanks for writing this truth to power Sera and Caroline!

  29. Sera, above you wrote, “The main point of the article was that “pill shaming” isn’t really a thing, for the most part… that it’s often about something else in the little ways it does happen, and that mostly the term is a misunderstanding of or misuse of power because the very few people who actually criticize people for taking psych drugs still don’t actually hold any power over them, and the argument that “pill shaming” is this real and frightening thing that is somehow equal to the force and coercion out there that makes people think they have to *take* drugs is just off base.”

    Throughout your article and replies, you’ve talked about power. I agree with you that we should be looking first and foremost at how power is being used.

    My thinking about this is in part based on the work of David Smail ( website down now ). He explained that we have to look at how power is being used, and that the experience of distress is something evolutionarily developed, to draw our attention to conditions which are making us socially marginalized.

    And then in part my views have been influenced by Alice Miller, especially her book number 3, “Thou Shalt Not Be Aware”. When she wrote this she was at her very best, denouncing any and all forms of Psychtherapy, showing how they are simply interpretive schema’s for promoting denial.

    Now unfortunately she was not able to hold to this. Not unlike R. D. Laing before her, she got wound into regression therapies and was never the same after. She often had opened doors, but was then unable to walk through them herself.

    Psychotherapy is based on getting people to believe the lie that their pain is caused primarily by things which happened long long ago, and that they should ignore the things which socially marginalize them today. [Sentence removed for moderation.]

    So in light of this, how could it make much difference if people take pills or drink alcohol? It doesn’t really, they are just getting by as best they can.

    Well, part of the problem is that many still argue, even on this forum, that drugs and alcohol are good for people, that they help with this “healing”, and that they “expand consciousness”.

    If we are going to fight back, we need people who are straight, I would say straight like Air Traffic Controllers. I would say that, but it goes even further. Even if someone has no mood alterants in their blood stream, but they still occasionally take them, then they are not really committed to feeling their pain. They believe in escape, and so their abilities will be limited.

    Let me tell you this, I helped to get a man a long term in our state prison for molesting his daughters. And his entire Pentecostal Church was standing behind him and making it into an anti-government case. And his defense was based on ~mental health~ ~anti-feminism~ and ~anti-government~ arguments and sentiments in the jury pool.

    When he was finally convicted and remanded, and then moved from the county jail to the state pen, the elation I felt was extreme.

    I would never want to replace even one instance of that with a lifetime of something done by chemicals. Chemicals do not change anything in your objective life, just like psychotherapy does not change anything in our objective lives.

    What we need are anti-mental health guerrillas, people committed to feeling their feelings and to getting results. So it’s not just being drug and alcohol free while carrying out duties, it’s a life style based on total commitment to staying drug and alcohol free, which will give us the kind of determined people we need.

    To Live With Honor and to Die With Honor

  30. Something you never hear about is “non compliance shaming.”
    There are dozens–no hundreds of websites and mags where people can praise their pills, shots, shocks. NOWHERE but MIA and a couple private sites are available for those of us who know we have been damaged.

    Weird how happy consumers keep logging in here to yell at us instead of going to one of the countless other sites to tell how happy and productive their “meds” have made them and how they found salvation in psychiatry alone.