Kicking Over a Straw Woman


Once upon a time there was a family with twelve children – ten sons, followed by two daughters. Six of the sons went on to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.

One tried to murder his wife by forcing her to inhale cyanide fumes. One shot his girlfriend dead, then turned the gun on himself and ended his own life. One molested his younger brother and sisters. One set fires and viciously attacked police officers, as well as patients and staff members in a mental hospital.

Are you curious to know what the Hell was going on behind the scenes while these boys were growing up? I am.

Well, don’t worry about it. The problems of this family obviously stemmed from a faulty genetic inheritance, and this has been proven by science, or at least will be proven, sometime really soon.

That is the message of Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker, which tells the story of the Galvin family of Colorado Springs.

The family patriarch, Don Galvin, was one of the founding fathers of the Air Force Academy and had a brilliant career, first as an Air Force Officer, then as an instructor at the Academy, and finally as Executive Director of the Federation of Rocky Mountain States. Unfortunately, it was his fate to watch helplessly as one son after another cracked up and was diagnosed with schizophrenia, the most dreaded of all those conditions known as “mental illnesses.” Kolker tells this sad story, interleaved with accounts of scientists searching for the genetic basis of this condition.

In my book Madness and Genetic Determinism: Is Mental Illness in Our Genes?, I reviewed the evidence and concluded there is no strong genetic component to schizophrenia or any other mental illness, so I was curious to see how Kolker came to the opposite position. As proof of the genetic basis of schizophrenia, he cites the Danish Adoption Study, which in fact found no correlation between a diagnosis of schizophrenia and having a schizophrenic birth mother. Zilch. Zero. The only correlation they found was with a diagnostic category they called “schizophreniform disorders,” an ill-defined grab-bag of complaints invented solely for the purposes of the study.

Moreover, the Danish Adoption Study had a large excess of mental problems in the adoptive families of index cases, and some of their “diagnostic interviews” consisted of a five-minute doorstep conversation, while others apparently never took place at all. Finally, the authors re-analyzed their own data and decided that the diagnoses of “schizophreniform disorders” which formed the very basis of the study were not reliable.

In the final analysis – literally – the study authors came up empty-handed. The results of the Danish Adoption Study were negative.

None of this is mentioned by Kolker.

Kolker also states “If one member of a pair of identical twins has schizophrenia, the chance that the twin also will have the condition is about 50 percent.” In fact, as clinical psychologist Jay Joseph has pointed out, no study performed after 1962 has reported a concordance rate for identical twins as high as even twenty-five percent. In plain English, if one member of a pair of identical twins is diagnosed with schizophrenia, the odds are better than three out of four that the other will not be. That is hardly evidence of a strong genetic basis for schizophrenia.

Now the new science of genome-wide association studies has enabled scientists to go over the human genome with a fine-toothed comb, and what have they found? The answer is: not much. To his credit, Kolker acknowledges that the claimed effect sizes of so-called “schizophrenia-associated alleles” are tiny, although he never says just how tiny.

In fact, the claimed effect sizes of these alleles is on the order of one in five hundred, or even less – one in a thousand, one in two thousand. If there are any more “schizophrenia-associated alleles” out there waiting to be discovered, their effects sizes must be even any tinier, or else the alleles themselves must be very rare. Can a gene correlated with a one in five hundred (or even less) chance of being diagnosed with schizophrenia properly be referred to as “causing” that condition? That is stretching the notion of cause and effect to utter meaninglessness.

So if faulty genes are not the cause of the complaints that fall under the diagnostic rubric of schizophrenia, what is? Since the 1980’s a mountain of evidence has accumulated showing that these complaints are caused (not “triggered”) by sexual abuse, physical abuse, and emotional abuse, along with a wide variety of other adverse childhood experiences. There is also a long and rich tradition, dating all the way back to the Eighteenth Century, of successfully treating these complaints with kindness, empathy, and compassion. Kolker seems to think that this mountain of evidence, and this long and rich tradition, can be dismissed with a single two-word phrase: the “schizophrenogenic mother.”

This is a matter that bears closer examination.

The phrase “schizophrenogenic mother” was coined by the psychiatrist Frieda Fromm-Reichmann of Chestnut Lodge as a passing aside, in a 1948 paper that was not even primarily about the etiology of schizophrenia, but which rather was devoted to the dynamics of the therapist-patient relationship. Dr. Fromm-Reichmann was a psychiatrist famed for her compassion and skill in reaching even the most seemingly intractable cases of schizophrenia, and who was immortalized by her most famous patient, Joanna Greenberg, in her semi-autobiographical novel I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. Fromm-Reichmann’s full story is told in Gail Hornstein’s masterful biography To Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the World.

Kolker bashes Dr. Fromm-Reichmann, citing the work of Thomas McGlashan, also of Chestnut Lodge, who concluded that “only” one-third of patients at the Lodge were recovered or moderately improved. He neglects Dr. Hornstein’s analysis, which showed that forty-one percent of patients exhibited a response to therapy which was rated “extremely positive” while that of an additional seventeen percent was rated “positive.”

Anyway, what of it? Many of these were patients who, given the usual standard of care of the day, likely would have spent the rest of their lives languishing in the back wards of a state hospital, abandoned and forgotten. Every single one who was restored to functioning was something little short of a miracle.

Kolker also takes a swipe at Greenberg, averring that she was misdiagnosed: “The delusional teenage girl did not have schizophrenia at all, a team of researchers declared in 1981… Schizophrenia’s star patient might not have been that sick to begin with.” But since, then as now, there are no objective biomarkers for schizophrenia, it is not clear on what basis Greenberg can be said to have been “misdiagnosed.”

And again, what of it? The fact remains that Greenberg was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and yet after three years of treatment at Chestnut Lodge went on to become a professor and a famous author. A young woman receiving such a diagnosis today might well be prescribed multiple neuroleptic drugs and end up obese and zombified, before going to an early grave. Outcomes for patients who today would be diagnosed with schizophrenia were better in the late nineteenth century, before any of the modern-day psychiatric drugs were introduced, than they are now.

All this is ignored by Kolker, who paints a one-dimensional portrait of Dr. Fromm-Reichmann as the ogre who unfairly pilloried generations of women as being solely and completely responsible for the genesis of schizophrenia in their children. Elsewhere I have argued that many of Dr. Fromm-Reichmann’s psychoanalytically-oriented contemporaries understood perfectly well that schizophrenia was the product of disturbed families, not just disturbed mothers, and that for too long the “schizophrenogenic mother” has served as a straw woman to shut down discussion of the environmental causes of schizophrenia and to promote biogenetic explanations and drug-centered treatments for that condition instead.

Kolker kicks over this straw woman again and again, as if the only alternative to drugs and electroshock is to blame the mother for everything that goes wrong in a person’s life. This is as pristine an example of a false dichotomy as one could hope to find. Kolker then goes on to preposterously undercut his own argument when he reveals that Donald Galvin, the oldest son in the family and the first to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, had been molested as a child by a priest and close family friend. Kolker doesn’t get around to dropping this bombshell until page 239 of his book, as if this were an unimportant detail.

Kolker states flatly “Sexual abuse does not cause schizophrenia.” No source is cited for this astonishing statement, but in fact study after study has shown sexual abuse is a major risk factor for schizophrenia and related complaints, with odds ratios far in excess of those of any of the so-called “schizophrenia-associated alleles” discovered through GWA studies. Can Kolker show us a single study that looked for a correlation between sexual abuse and psychotic symptoms and did not find it?

In fairness to Kolker, he does allow environmental factors a role in the genesis of schizophrenia, citing the “diathesis-stress” model of Gottesman and Shields. But the word “X” has value only if some things are not “X.” The word “diathesis” means “vulnerability to stress.” So are some people invulnerable to stress? Is there anyone out there who could never meet the criteria for a diagnosis of schizophrenia, no matter how much stress and trauma and abuse he was subjected to?

There is not an atom of evidence for this proposition, and if you think about it for a moment it should be obvious there couldn’t be. The definitive experiment in this case simply cannot be carried out (thank God).

So where does all this leave us? In the case of the Galvin family, we know the oldest son was sexually abused as a child, and that he proceeded to bully his younger brothers, who proceeded to bully and at least in some cases sexually abuse their younger siblings. We also know that at least some of the brothers experimented with LSD and an abundance of other illegal drugs as well – weed, cocaine, and God knows what else. Add to that a father’s infidelities, prolonged absences, and struggles with depression, a mother doubtless feeling overwhelmed by the task of raising twelve (!) children with almost no help from anyone else, and a mental health care system centered on drugs and electroshock rather than empathy and compassion, and that seems like plenty of fuel for this particular fire – at least to start with.

We will never know the full truth about this family. Too much time has passed, and the mother and father now are dead, as are three of the six afflicted sons – two of them as a direct result of the neuroleptic drugs they were given. Of the three remaining, two have memories impaired by decades of damaging and violent treatments. But given all we do know, is it any surprise this ended badly? Why bring genes into the argument at all?

Kolker has an answer: “By analyzing this family’s DNA and comparing it with genetic samples from the general population, researchers are on the cusp of making significant advances in treatment, prediction, and even prevention of schizophrenia.” But in fact, schizophrenia genetics researchers have been claiming to be on the “cusp” of making great discoveries for over eighty years now, and yet after all this time, they have not come up with any findings that have benefited a single patient in a clinic anywhere in the world.

The Decade of the Brain came and went two decades ago. After spending billions of dollars on brain research and gene research and generating untold petabytes of data, researchers have not come up with a single new treatment or even a diagnostic test for schizophrenia or any of the other functional disorders commonly treated by psychiatrists. At what point do we conclude the source of these patients’ problems is not in their brains, or in their genes? At what point do we consider whether we really want to continue pouring more billions into this kind of research? If not now, when?


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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  1. It sounds as if there were many possible reasons for the schizophrenia prevalent in the Galvin family without having to even suspect a genetic cause. I also am convinced there is no strong genetic component to mental illness (meaning no specific gene or genes). However, I do believe that some people are more fragile and more vulnerable to adverse life events than others. Of course, I could be wrong. I base this simply on my own observations, not on any scientific study. I observed, for example, one person become schizophrenic over a possible divorce, while most people don’t react that way. I know someone who was at the Twin Towers on 9/11 who had a schizophrenic breakdown. Most people, though extremely distressed, didn’t. So heredity, who we are, may play a role in the development of mental illness. It could be argued that there are environmental reasons for vulnerability and undoubtedly there are, but does experience trump heredity. We just don’t know. There are probably very complex interactions.

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    • Yes Marie, life is amazingly complex and thus we do not refer to complexities as “mental illness”. Behaviours and coping, reactions are not “illness”. The reason they refer to “it” as “illness” is simply to make the social control sound “medical”.
      If at least they would call it what it is, and continue on, but in todays society, bullying people for being “different” is not acceptable.

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  2. Sure, people vary in their susceptibility to trauma, and hereditary factors no doubt play a role in that. Anyone who has experience on life as it is lived knows this, and what of it?

    I was just re-reading Dr. Breggin’s book The War on Children. He points out that in the Nineteenth Century, when they found the cause of the cholera epidemic in London — tainted water — they didn’t sit around discussing “genetic susceptibilities” and “stress-diathesis” and so forth. They fixed the problem, and everyone was better off — whether they were genetically susceptible to cholera or not.

    Granted, fixing the problem of adverse childhood experiences is a lot more complex than fixing one city’s water supply infrastructure, but we may as well get on with it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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    • Patrick

      This was a very good blog contribution to MIA, on a very important topic of what I refer to as “genetic theories of original sin.” That is a phrase originated by the famous sociologist, Ashley Montagu.

      I have a few issues on which I would like to challenge you, if you you are open to critical feedback.

      You said: “The only correlation they found was with a diagnostic category they called “schizophreniform disorders,” an ill-defined grab-bag of complaints invented solely for the purposes of the study.”

      Why do you believe it is correct to put in quotations, “schizophreniform disorders,” but yet you use the terms “schizophrenia” and “mental illness” WITHOUT quotations. Wouldn’t your critical phrase “an ill-defined grab-bag of complaints invented solely for the purposes of the study.” apply to those equally as oppressive Medical Model kinds of terminology which ALSO have NO legitimate scientific basis?

      And in your above reply (in the comment section) you use the phrase in my emphasized caps “Sure, people vary in their SUSCEPTIBILITY TO TRAUMA, and hereditary factors no doubt play a role in that.”

      Isn’t it true that trauma is an “equal opportunity” experience, that is, no one invites it to happen because of some so-called genetic predisposition. This kind of concept could potentially take us down a rabbit hole of victims “attracting” and somehow being responsible for their own trauma.

      Are you not really speaking here about someone’s REACTION to trauma experiences and the possible genetic susceptibility to a more severe chain of negative outcomes? And even this type of so-called genetic predisposition is extremely difficult to examine in a valid scientific way, aside from the fact that it is a total waste of human resources and time.

      I often use the following analogy: what if someone were to kidnap and torture you and me for many hours, and you end up (in your mind) “splitting off” into some realm of “psychosis” after 22 hours of torture and I “split off” after 19 hours of torture. Why should society be spending billions of dollars trying to determine why there was a 3 hour difference between you and me “splitting off.” Wouldn’t it be more wise and economical to find out why torture was going on in the first place, and then find a way to end it?

      Clearly I’m raising a rhetorical question here to emphasize the point that “genetic theories of original sin” are being use by the “powers that be” to avoid ANY critical analysis of the inherently *sick* societies we live in. They would much rather have us focus on some set of so-called inherent genetic human flaws, rather than challenge (and dismantle) systemic oppression.


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      • I often use the car accident analogy – if people at a certain streetcorner are being hit by cars at a high rate, and only 35% of them break bones in the process, do we diagnose those people whose legs break with”brittle bone disorder” and try to find out why, or do we put in a stop sign or traffic controls to ensure fewer people get injured?

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        • Steve, I love that analogy. In that analogy, there are so many other possible variables related to why people could end up with broken bones — where was the person standing (or was the person moving also), which way was the person facing, what speed was the vehicle going, what type of vehicle was involved (which goes to the weight, size and perhaps shape of the vehicle.).

          To me, those variables are quite similar to the possible combinations of a person’s background, past traumas, their coping mechanisms, their support / social dynamics, etc, etc, etc. Does it show I’m a statistician? 🙂

          Thanks for the analogy.

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      • “Wouldn’t it be more wise and economical to find out why torture was going on in the first place, and then find a way to end it?”

        We know why the torture is going on (to ensure that people with low moral standards enforce their moral standards on people who they think have low moral standards. How much lower does one go than enabling acts of torture as ‘medicine’?), and we don’t want it to end, and in fact are legislating to massively expand the program. This expansion has the majority of public support, and that’s just democracy at work I guess.

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  3. “At what point do we conclude the source of these patients’ problems is not in their brains, or in their genes? At what point do we consider whether we really want to continue pouring more billions into this kind of research? If not now, when?”

    Good question, great blog, Patrick. I thought Thomas Insel had said NIMH would be defunding research into the “invalid” DSM disorders way back in 2013. When is this waste of taxpayer money going to actually end indeed?

    “So if faulty genes are not the cause of the complaints that fall under the diagnostic rubric of schizophrenia, what is?”

    Since the neuroleptic / antipsychotic drugs can create psychosis and hallucinations, positive symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via anticholinergic toxidrome. And the “schizophrenia treatments” can also create the negative symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome.

    I’m pretty certain the most common actual etiology of “schizophrenia” is the “gold standard treatments” themselves.

    As to why so many child abuse survivors have been misdiagnosed with “schizophrenia.” This is because NO “mental health” worker may EVER bill ANY insurance company for EVER helping ANY child abuse survivor EVER. Unless the “mental health” workers first misdiagnose child abuse survivors with the billable DSM disorders.

    And this systemic misdiagnosis of child abuse survivors doesn’t occur only in relation to the “schizophrenia” diagnosis. Today, “the prevalence of childhood trauma exposure within borderline personality disorder patients has been evidenced to be as high as 92% (Yen et al., 2002). Within individuals diagnosed with psychotic or affective disorders, it reaches 82% (Larsson et al., 2012).”

    The DSM “bible” is a child abuse covering up “bible,” by design. And both the psychologic and psychiatric industries are systemic child abuse covering up industries, and have been for likely over a century.

    An ethical pastor confessed to me that the psychological and psychiatric industries entered into a faustian, child abuse and rape covering up, deal with the mainstream religions long ago. He called this systemic, medical/religious “conspiracy” against child abuse and rape survivors to be “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.”

    But, as the mother of an abused child, who was able to keep an insane psychiatrist – who thought the “cure” for child abuse, that had occurred 4 years prior to my family’s medical record being handed over with medical evidence of the abuse in it – was to neurotoxic poison my child. And I also kept an insane school social worker, who wanted to get her grubby little hands on my well behaved child – because he had gone from remedial reading in first grade, after the abuse, to getting 100% on his state standardized tests in 8th grade – away from my child.

    My son went on to graduate from university Phi Beta Kappa, as well as being awarded a psychology award. You should have heard those psychology professors gush over how well adjusted and intelligent my child was at his graduation. I can tell you that it is true, child abuse does not cause “schizophrenia,” or any other “mental disorder.”

    Child abuse survivors can heal and thrive, if you get the child away from the molesters quickly, if you keep them away from the child abuse covering up “mental health” workers, and with love, compassion, and other good parenting skills.

    Child abuse does NOT cause “schizophrenia,” or any of the other DSM disorders. But the DSM “bible” thumpers are all members of a systemic child abuse covering up religion, by DSM design.

    I do think our society should have an intelligent debate about whether or not our society should even have a systemic, child abuse covering up, group of “mental health” industries. Because, of course, when the “mental health” workers cover up child abuse, they are also aiding, abetting, and empowering the child molesters.

    So we all now live in a “pedophile empire,” with child sex trafficking running amok, largely thanks to the systemic child rape covering up crimes – and pedophile aiding, abetting, and empowering crimes – of the “mental health” industry.

    And, of course, their systemic child rape covering up, partners in crimes, the religious leaders.

    One cannot speak out against 9/11/2001 or child abuse – in general – in an ELCA Lutheran church today, without being attacked by a Lutheran psychologist. Either wanting to murder you with the psychiatric neurotoxins, or wanting to steal all your work and money. It’s pretty pathetic.

    But just think of how many billions of dollars the religious hospitals, and their child rape covering up “mental health” partners in crime, make off of turning millions of child abuse survivors, into the “mentally ill” with the psychiatric drugs. Our current “mental health” system is a multibillion dollar, primarily child abuse covering up, industry today.

    I’m quite certain our society would be a much better place, however, if we started arresting the pedophiles, child sex traffickers, and those who profiteer off of systemically covering up child abuse. And the “mental health” workers got out of the pedophile aiding, abetting, and empowering business.

    It’s time to end “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.”

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    • I’m glad you could wring a bit of humor from that. When I read it, I could only gasp in horror. It should be hard to believe that an author could be such a callous and brazen liar. But, indeed, Kolker is. Thank goodness he’s being called out now.

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  4. “So are some people invulnerable to stress? Is there anyone out there who could never meet the criteria for a diagnosis of schizophrenia, no matter how much stress and trauma and abuse he was subjected to?

    There is not an atom of evidence for this proposition, and if you think about it for a moment it should be obvious there couldn’t be. The definitive experiment in this case simply cannot be carried out (thank God).”

    You might want to have a chat to the operations manager who threatened to “fuking destroy” me for complaining about being tortured and kidnapped. She is doing a few ‘unauthorised’ experiments on “patients’ who are being subjected to ‘stress’ via vicious gaslighting, and the total destruction of their lives via the use of the State mechanisms.

    The other place I would look is in places where ‘coercive’ methods are being authorised such as Guantanamo Bay, where “God sends upon them a Great delusion” (though access to our local mental institutions is much easier to obtain, and the ‘right under their noses’ attitude leaves them more open to study).

    The use of a mock execution on an 8 year old indigenous boy by police here (that I personally witnessed) no doubt resulting in some difficulties for an already struggling child. Nothing to do with his racial genetic make up, though I am sure that this hypothesis could be used to fund further research into why ‘schizophrenia’ seems to have a ‘racial’ component.

    Personally I consider the massive abuses being perpetrated against these people by those who are charged with their protection a major contributing factor in the ‘outcomes’. But as long as we are prepared to find ways of looking the other direction ….. the funds will end up being used for those massive mansions along our river, and not used to help the people living under the bridges along that same river.

    Good resource for anyone who keeps spouting this genetic basis of mental illness rubbish. Thanks Doc.

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    • Speaking of this definitive experiment.

      If the National Socialists disposed of all the ‘schizophrenics’ during their initial purge of the useless eaters, how come there were MORE ‘schizophrenics’ at the end of the war? Surely eliminating them from the gene pool would have resulted in less?

      In the State where I live though, the problem is that evidence and proof which does not suit the narrative preferred by the State authorities is ignored (or retrieved by police) and substituted with evidence that supports the story they want to tell. Take a look at the two sets of documents I have, one showing torture and kidnapping, the other nothing to see here, My State does not wish to be known as sanctioning torture and arbitrary detentions (though the Chief Psychiatrist has put it in writing that it is being enabled by his failure to understand the protections provided to the public in the Mental Health Act of “suspect on reasonable grounds”) so they deal with any complaints (which of course must be made to authorities minus any assistance from a legal representative) via an unintended negative outcome in an Emergency Dept. The sad thing is that after being subjected to 9 years of vicious abuse by State authorities, I am beginning to see why they are slaughtering anyone who they have tortured, and who refuses to submit themselves to what they call ‘treatment’ (aka the original acts that met the standard of torture set out in the Convention).

      Consider, they torture citizens, and then call the result of these acts of torture an illness, and then slander you until you attend a doctor who changes your status to “patient” and thus your mental AND legal capacity to make complaint is now denied and the State sanctioned torture is concealed. Well, that is unless they fail to retrieve the documents showing the original act of torture, then they need to do a further cover up, and ignore the victim despite the agreement they made when they ratified the Convention. They take their oaths as a cover.

      The State sanctioned torture program identified by the United Nations has been expanded as a result of the new Mental Health Acts passed to invalidate the statement confirming that our Mental Health Laws are a violation of human rights, and that the treatments may constitute torture (can’t prove intent if doctor keeps his mouth shut ergo MAY). Spikings with stupefying/intoxicating drugs before interrogations, and the inducing of ‘acute stress reactions’ via police coercive methods? And we’re pointing the finger at China? lol

      So many people wish to come here I guess they can afford to waste a few, and with a Minister for Health who considers complaints regarding acts of torture by public officers to be an illness requiring treatment……. drug addicts and homeless first on our list for a ride on the grey bus.

      (Don’t call it a Euthanasia Act, call it Assisted Dying legislation because otherwise we sound too much like National Socialists. Keep talking about the “protections” contained within it, despite the fact they are nothing more than words that will be ingnored by those with a duty to enforce them. These were the instructions given to our media during the ‘debate’, if one could call the propaganda distributed a debate. Our Chief Psychiatrist charged with a duty under the MHA to protect consumers, carers and the community, but he doesn’t know what protections are contained within the Act. It is not possible to protect, when you do not know what the protections are. This is not even plausible deniability when he has put it in writing.)

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  5. My impression is that the resilience we have in the face of traumatic events is a function of the support of others, like them knowing our thoughts and feelings, caring about us, and giving us a sense of belonging.

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  6. Thank you Patrick,
    The question “is there any “mental illness” in your family?” will always be answered by psychiatry, not their clients.
    answers by the client, such as “well my parents were not the happiest of people” tells him (because he is very perceptive) that indeed, his client has a genetic probability.
    He never asks, “were your parents immigrants?” “were your grandparents displaced?” “were they shamed?” “were they a minority?” “did they struggle to make a living?” “Where did your ancestors come from?” “were there ailments in the family?”

    The only shrinks believing in genetics are the fresh guys. Although one can’t even call it a true belief. They simply never challenged the dogma, didn’t consider that they verbalize stuff that was told to them without really thinking. Psychiatry gave up on thought long ago. At least in the beginning it was obsessive interest and curiosity. Now it’s verbal diarrhea.

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  7. Hidden Valley Road is, certainly, the most overhyped, intellectually lazy, and outlandishly abusive book of the century. Kolker, apparently, hoped for his book to transcend the “misery memoir” genre, but that’s exactly where he landed. And, how could he not? All of his “facts” about “schizophrenia”, Mad life, and the Galvin family HAD to come from Lindsay and Margaret Galvin, as they were the *only* members of their family to decide who could write the “family story“, to borrow their disingenuous shorthand for Hidden Valley Road, their magnum opus of absolution for Mimi, their menace of a mother.

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  8. False dilemma. Reminds me of the story of how the disciples asked Jesus, “Did this man sin or did his parents so that he was born blind”?

    Neither Mom nor I behaved perfectly through my existential journey into madness. Exacerbated and greatly prolonged courtesy of Big Pharma Psychiatry.

    I gladly brought her to NAMI because she kept blaming herself for my weird behaviors under the influence of mind altering drugs and my new diagnostic identity.

    Looking back, I’m more upset at how my crazy behaviors impacted my friends and family who stayed with me through the quarter century ordeal. I was a drug addict and none of us even knew.

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      • Yeah. Fine line between whacking myself over the head for everything that goes wrong and blaming others.

        I dated a man also labeled “bipolar” though we had little else in common. One day I realized how we kept apologizing to each other in an excessive, compulsive manner.

        “Nobody’s fault, it’s a brain disease” translates to “everything that goes wrong is the fault of the person with the presupposed brain disease.” One of Psychiatry’s paradoxes.

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  9. THANKYOUthankyouthankyou Patrick Hahn. So much better tackled by you than me. I was going to begin by musing about what “Hidden Valley” would have looked like had he been introduced to any number of the people I know who have recovered from a diagnosis of “schizophrenia”. I appreciate that you nailed the line about sexual abuse that left me with my jaw hanging when I read it. My husband was doing an interview with Dr. Breggin a few days back, and Breggin talked about Chestnut Lodge as well, and its’ earlier success followed by a complete sell out. I would only have discussed one thing you let go; falcon training. Teaching a child to torture an animal, what could go wrong?

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  10. The book does mention that several of the brothers remember their mother as a “harsh disciplinarian.” Did the “harsh discipline” ever cross over the line to abuse? Kolker doesn’t seem interested in finding out.

    And let’s try to have some compassion for the lady. This was a woman who continued squeezing out babies for her husband long after almost any other woman in the developed world would have stopped – and then was stuck with the task of raising ten (!) rowdy boys with almost no help from her husband or anyone else. That bespeaks a husband who was a narcissistic manipulator, or worse. Who among us can guarantee we never would have lashed out in anger under these circumstances? Not I.

    In fairness to the parents, they did give therapy a try – but they don’t seem to have tried very hard. The first time one of their sons had a bad reaction to drugs, did they swear off all drugs? Certainly not. The first time one of their sons had a bad reaction to electroshock, did they swear off all electroshock? Certainly not. But a few negative interactions with therapists apparently were enough to induce these parents to swear off all therapy.

    Kolker is maddeningly vague about the details here, as if this were a matter of little import. The only specific complaints about therapy he mentions are 1) The son was resting his head on his mother’s chest during therapy, and the therapist called her out on it, and 2) The mother repeatedly interrupted her son when he tried to talk about his hallucinations during therapy, and the therapist called her out on it.

    In regard to complaint number one: this is clearly not appropriate behavior for a grown man, and the therapist was absolutely right to call her out on this. In regard to complaint number two, this clearly bespeaks serious communication problems within the family, and again the therapist was absolutely right to call her out on it.

    It seems likely this woman was carrying a huge burden of anger and resentment, and may have interpreted any effort to find out what had gone wrong in this family as a personal attack. Perhaps this particular therapist was not skilled enough to find a way to reach past this burden of anger. There may have been all kinds of dynamics at work here that we will never know about. But all these complexities are lost on Kolker, who instead presents us with a false dichotomy: “blaming the mother” or drugs and electroshock – even though, in his own words, “the cure becomes as damaging as the disease.”

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    • Patrick, thanks for this article.

      With regard to “harsh discipline”, I would say that is euphemistic, and especially at that time, physical discipline was fairly normal, i.e. spankings. At what point are those abuse? And of course, just where is that threshold?

      Even if the “harsh discipline” didn’t cross that threshold, it seems that it could / would certainly create an environment of fear, of tiptoeing around their mother, trying not to trigger the next round of discipline.

      I pulled up the book on Amazon and read the first several pages. It mentioned that she was prone to morning sickness with all of the pregnancies. So on top of everything else, not only was she pregnant much of the time, overwhelmed by the chaos of the family, but also not even feeling well much of the time. It certainly seems that those kids grew up in a certain amount of chaos with “harsh discipline” to have to tiptoe around or at least try to.

      Having read the preview material available on Amazon, I wondered how differently the story would have been told had you been the author — and I wonder how the siblings would have reacted to your approach.

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  11. In the end, this book shows how ridiculous the “it’s in the genes” argument is. Whatever else you can say about these parents, they clearly were not from the shallow end of the gene pool. Especially the father. He was an extraordinarily capable man. He just doesn’t seem to have had much interest in being a dad to the twelve children he sired.

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  12. If mom was a harsh person, why was she so? Perhaps this has followed for generations, not at all due to faulty genes. Was mom raised with distress? Was her ancestry distressed because of forms of stress and oppression? So did she inadvertently pick the same husband material? One who followed career and made babies? Sure there are patterns in nurture. It is absolutely not genetic, all one has to do is follow the trail of hardships. Even the chatter about susceptibility is completely not provable. Just because son number one might be less harmed, is almost certain that he simply was not as exposed, or had more positives to ward of the negatives…The genetic talk is a smoke screen. After that peters out, they will come up with new language.

    There is no effort to “help” people. And the “gene” talk is the one that strays farthest, is the most ludicrous yet. The suicides might never have occurred if it was not for the “help”. When people come from disfunctional families, which of course has it’s roots in disfunction that occurred within a greater system and interaction, generations before, you don’t look at the recipient of that disfunction.
    The disfunction or malfunction is all around us. The scapegoats are a convenient diversion. In fact crazy mom and suffering son were the perfect scapegoats to hide the shrinks own disfunction.

    We all play our roles. But I won’t be helping any shrink with his obsessions.

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  13. Why can’t it be that it is both genetic and trauma? I never understand this about the hard sciences. Multivariate analysis seems to be lost in the shuffle somewhere when everything becomes so reduced down. Say we are prone to breaking at our weakest point, then in the family, you’d find schizophrenoform symptoms in those who never had an overt break but were under significant trauma. And you could perhaps catalogue thought tendencies and thinking patterns even before looking at classic schizophrenoform symptoms. Is there a qualitative difference in thinking in asymptomatic patients prior to morbidity? Or, does it exist in their relatives? Is it brought on by styles and frequency of neural activity over time? And how would you separate that entirely with an adoption study? Adoption is inherently traumatic. So you would be comparing one traumatized family to another. I don’t mean this to be antagonistic. I’m just trained in another area of science and don’t quite understand this area well. Would like to understand more. My family would fall under the at-risk, and I am eager for good research in this area.

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    • The true question is. If anything has genetic “proof”, how would that then make abusive and prejudiced “care” okay? How would it make forced drugging okay? Or incarceration? Having no validity as a human being?

      Why is research not going into WHY anyone with “trauma” or “bad genes” is treated like a monster or alien that has no earthly place anymore?

      Should we not be researching that gene that is nasty and cruel and holds the power to further smash the vulnerable? their credibility?

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      • Absolutely. It seems like you’re getting at something there around if it’s genetic, people think it’s justified to be complacent or apathetic. Almost like now it’s up to fate and we can treat you like we treat terminal patients with esophageal cancer. It’s completely reprehensible. The same dynamic applies to addicts. There has been some success seemingly on humanizing the face of addiction through the awareness you’re talking about. And someone wrote a nice piece on here about the tiers of the mental health system practicioners themselves. I find this instructive because I was once in the confidence of someone who trains and supervises therapists and providers and she told me some horror stories even on regards to relatively humane acts. These things are basically enacted because they are codified..

        There is this wonderful book called the Center Cannot Hold. I wish everyone would read it. My best friend has two schizophrenic parents and told me of it. The state of this is awful and legitimized because of the insurance institution. There is something about perceived authority here. And something about limited thinking brought on by the education system and subsequent pride in credentials.

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        • To jdhak, I would say that it is more than “perceived authority”. It is about “assumed authority” and the psychiatric industry breeding the role of authoritarians. And too often, authoritarians are abusive. It also leads to exceptional condescension, which I would agree is related to the “pride in credentials” you mentioned.

          By “assumed” authority, I mean that the professional places themselves in that authoritative role of telling and even manipulating or worse of what the client “needs” to do.

          I was traumatized worse by the mental health industry than by the stress breakthrough / spiritual awakening that I went through.

          My experience, like those of many others, was a lot like what Joseph Campbell described in the Hero’s Journey where the hero goes from their “known” world into an “unknown” world, the hero experiences various trials and tribulations, and then returns to the “known” world.

          I find it interesting because in that scenario, most of the professionals have never experienced that “unknown” world, and yet too often they like to believe they are the experts at navigating the unknown. Then the approach is to figure out how to coerce, shove, manipulate, and threaten a person back into that so-called “known” realm. Which of course is ridiculous. At least in my opinion — and from my experience.

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          • “Then the approach is to figure out how to coerce, shove, manipulate, and threaten a person back into that so-called “known” realm. Which of course is ridiculous. At least in my opinion — and from my experience.”

            And to many of the people who have died as a result of their methods of making what would otherwise be considered serious criminal offences appear to be part of some ‘medical procedure’. Not unlike the Operations Manager who, when I pointed out that what they had been doing was criminal and that she, as a public officer had a duty to report the matters to the Corruption and Crime Commission (even gave her the Section) stated “we’ll fuking destroy you” (and then threatened my family members to assist her in engaging in a vicious ‘gaslighting’ program. The things one can do to a person labelled “patient” [even falsely and knowing what you are doing is criminal] positively vile in my opinion). Note the “we”, referring to the State? I guess when you have so much wealth as a result of coirruption you can afford to waste a few ‘citizens’ should they complain about public sector corruption, and the police will assist by ‘flagging’ any individual with proof of said corruptiom.

            Incidentally, the Corruption and Crime Commission wasn’t even interested in the torture and kidnapping, and the attempt to unintentionally negatively outcome me despite me providing them with the documented proof. It was the (dare I say it) paranoia of the staff of the hospital in believing they needed to conceal their acts of torturing/kidnapping citizens and NOT the fact that the State actually gives a damn what they are doing to citizens that was the motivator. They were quite happy with the flase flagging of a citizen and the use of police resources to murder the complainant, it was a silly doctor who “doesn’t have the stomach” for the use of the hospital as a slaughterhouse that actually resulted in these organised criminals being ‘interrupted’. The State of course once they found out they had failed to retrieve the documents OI had needed to act like they cared, and maintain the threat to ‘fuking destroy’ me to this day but ……. that’s just how our politicians work, they need to appear to be on the winning side no matter what. And if that means uttering with someone else fraud, so be it. So they maintain the ‘false flag’ placed on me by these criminals with police, and use the trauma of me being tortured and kidnapped as proof that the false flag is true. How clever.

            Imagine the State enabling acts of torture against citizens, and then having the ability to flag the individual they have tortured as not having legal or mental capacity, and appointing a legal representative who will throw them under a bus (for a price of course). I can see no ‘good’ coming from such acts of State sancrtioned torture, but our elected representatives obviously can, given the way they have made what is a legal matter, a matter of ‘medicine’. As if those wise individuals who wrote the Convention didn’t recognise the possibility of this being used as a means to subvert the human rights of citizens. The ‘protections’ simply being ignored by the likes of our Chief Psychiatrist who has enabled ‘suss laws’ in regards to arbitrary detentions and “chemical restraints”. I will of course make available the letter he provided to the Mental Health Law Centre should anyone doubt what I am saying. “suspect on reasonable grounds” becomes “suspect on grounds we believe to be reasonable” thus removing the protections of “Criteria [s. 26]” and ensuring that Authorised Mental Health Practitioners can arrange for police to snatch anyone they wish from their beds because they “suspect” rather than “suspect on reasonable grounds”. Still, who spoke up when it was being done to the Jews? So why would those same people speak up now?

            But don’t look lest your family be threatened by our police, as was discovered by a number of people who have recognised the truth in what I have been saying.

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      • I’m better now.
        Made real progress emotionally, cognitively, and finally physically.

        I get along with people now. Smiling easily. I shower every day and keep up on household chores. And I am finishing writing projects since the first time in my teens.

        I attribute these changes to going off drugs and rejecting the role society assigned me of madwoman.

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    • The evidence purporting to show the schizophrenia is a genetically-based condition comes from family studies, twin studies, and adoption studies. In my book I argue that all of these studies are fatally flawed in ways that cannot be fixed, and tell us nothing.

      But now the new new science of genome-wide association studies has enabled scientists to go over the human genome with a fine-toothed comb, and that have not found any gene that causes schizophrenia or any of the other functional disorders listed in the DSM. As I stated in my article, the effect sizes of the so-called schizophrenia-associated alleles are on the order of one in five hundred, or even less. All of them put together are said to account for something like two or three percent of the population susceptibility.

      The fact that schizophrenia is not a genetically-based condition should have been greeted as great news, because that means that the deciding factor is in the environment, and that is something we can change.

      I acknowledged that people vary in their susceptibility to trauma, and genes many have something to do with that, and so what? As I asked in my book, if a child is being abused, do we stop the abuse, or do we give her a blood test? And if the test reveals she has a low genetic risk score for schizophrenia, do we leave her in the abusive situation?

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      • Bingo Patrick.
        There is no “evidence”. They are simply working backwards, trying desperately to hold together a crumbling paradigm.
        I go as far to say that we don’t even know about “susceptibility”. We have no knowledge of what transpired in someone’s life generations ago.

        Psychiatry is busy trying to hide the fact that people who come to them are traumatized, and lose all credibility. The worst thing that could be done to people who came to them in trust.
        But they have no clue how to get out of their effed up hoax, so will try anything to maintain it, mostly relying on people’s inability to think, reason or even be interested in the Biz of psychiatry.

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        • “And what does it say about the psychiatric industry that they were NOT excited to hear that genetics is not a significant contributor to “schizophrenia?” Can you say, “Conflict of Interest?””

          I get the feeling that the “just around the corner” claim they have been making for some time just became ……. “woops, wrong corner. back out now” lol.

          Not unlike the people who were viciously assaulting me and then realised they were actively assisting criminals to conceal their crimes. Their acts of altruistic evil does not extend to assisting the person they have harmed significantly with their “error” unfortunately. Admit nothing, deny everything , make counter allegations (slander and ‘medicate’ where necessary).

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      • The evidence purporting to show the schizophrenia is a genetically-based condition comes from family studies, twin studies, and adoption studies. In my book I argue that all of these studies are fatally flawed in ways that cannot be fixed, and tell us nothing.

        No need, “schizophrenia” has been discredited for so long that such redundancy is bad for the environment.

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  14. You know Patrick, I think of the transgender community. No one researches those genes, nor should they.. and you know why? It was taken off the psych radar. In fact, the surgeries are covered by medicare. In fact there are doctors that are active within the activism of the community.

    There was a time not long ago, that being different from what you were expected to be was reason for death, or at minimum, hiding. I wish the transgender community, the black lives matter, all the marginalized would be interested in equality of expression for everyone.
    I know quite a few people who think that the transgender folks are bananas and I know quite a few transgender that believe in “MI”.
    And I live within a very rich community where every second person is either leaving women for men, or men for women, transitioning from their physically visible sexuality, or on psych meds.

    One of my massage therapists has become a friend to one of her clients, a shrink who is homosexual and seeks her counsel and reassurance about “stuff”, yet his job entails him to deem others as “damaged”
    We know that jobs require people to live secret lives, we know that every shrink has one.

    NO ONE should have the right to affect another person’s life, when NO CRIME was committed.

    DEFUND PSYCHIATRY! A complete and utter waste of service and money spent.

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  15. I’ve heard of kids “inheriting” trauma.
    It’s not to be confused with abuse. If anything the mother may strive to protect her children from the horrors she went through. Unfortunately this can backfire however kind and noble the intentions.

    For example the children of Holocaust survivors and those who were molested as children.

    You can’t fault the parent anymore than you can of unwittingly giving the child a cold. It just happens. The right kind of family therapy might help the parent. Such as Choice Theory by William Glasser. He only counseled adults. If the children acted out he would advise the parents on how to show love while preparing the child for life.

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  16. Some jaded observations in passing:

    “Studying” psychiatric verbiage and propaganda only serves to validate its undeserved legitimacy.

    Another in an endless parade of shocking “true life examples” when no one has the right to be shocked at this point.

    Wondering how many careers are built on “exposing” and analyzing this stuff rather than taking decisive and effective action to put an end to it.

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    • Agreed. There is nothing more to expose, and they are not interested in “facts.” They want to keep their power and their money, and no number of studies will change that. If they cared about science, they’d have stopped doing it long, long ago.

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      • Any “they” I would refer to would include those who build careers around “exposing the oppressors,” and thus have an interest in there always being oppressors around to expose.

        I recall Mutabaruka’s brilliant poem/song about “Revolutionary Words”:

        Revolutionary words ‘ave become entertainment
        Oppressors talkin’ about oppressors,
        Oppressin’ de oppressors
        Where are the oppressed revolutionaries
        Sippin’ coffee and tea, explainin what its like to be
        Down town aroun town, dancin’ to the disco
        Gettin’ low, not knowin’ which way to go
        While the Salvation Army is still leadin’ the revolution

        ‘Ave all gone to the art centers to watch
        The sufferin’ of the people
        Bein’ dramatized by the oppressors
        In their revolutionary words…

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        • Always good to be able to afford to build your own ‘straw man’ and then publicly knock it down, whilst simultaneously ensuring that any real critique of your product is silenced is more than effective.

          They did it with cigarettes for years. And I believe it is being done with other ‘blockbuster’ medications as we type. I think I’ll name my next yacht Statin Free lol

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  17. Patrick,
    Somehow I missed this and just discovered it thanks to reading the comments on Jay Joseph’s current dazzling MIA article about the genetics of depression. I read HVR last year and was horrified. Kolker is an adroit hack journalist just looking for a story to tell and a book to sell. Kolker was totally out of his depth; totally incompetent to formulate and disseminate a “scientific” opinion about the Galvins. He was spoon fed the charlatanic biogenetic Koolaid of Lynn DeLisi and Robert Freedman who were convinced that the only explanation for the staggering dysfunction and unhappiness of this family had to be a rare but highly penetrant genetic variant, or some unique combination of variants, affecting neurodevelopment, the discovery of which would lead to a Lasker Prize and maybe a Nobel, and other rewards, like permanent private parking spaces at laboratories named after them, and popping champagne (see page 246). Of course they have failed but their merry genetic snark hunts are still being heavily funded, so they will continue. IOW, Kolker was a useful idiot for the behavioral genetics/biopsychiatry industry, which is heavily populated unfortunately by totally sincere, earnest and brilliant true believers. His book has done great harm, adding to the already prolific lie factory. DeLisi herself is a dangerous charlatan like David Rosenthal, who spearheaded the massive NIMH study of the Genain quads. Rosenthal considered the quads a “tragic gift of nature” and his team somehow brushed aside the horrific and inescapable environmental conditions that the quads suffered, and then added to it, subjecting them to years of demeaning scrutiny, needles, EEGs, etc like crash test dummies. DeLisi thought she could make a career out of the Galvins, just like Rosenthal and the Genains. Kolker himself, if he has any integrity, should write a second book exposing how he was both misguided to begin with and so easily deceived by the seductive genochemobabble of the industry. There’s a real story there. He would be doing the public a great service, but there of course is next to no chance of such a miracle. Instead he will continue to defend his trash and collect money, just like a biopsychiatrist telling patients they have “chemical imbalances” or “bad genes”. Kolker is profiting in his own way from the industry just like the charlatans who collect the fees for service. By the way, it is quite telling that Kolker did not hesitate to question Goodman’s diagnosis based totally on second or third hand information, yet didn’t question the diagnoses of the Galvins, who were right in front of him. HVR is not just wrong, it is toxic and disgraceful. You did a superb job cutting it down. But it’s still out there, just one nugget of plutonium in a much vaster toxic landscape. The clean up will take a long time and the resistance of this Medieval industry is tremendous.

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  18. I hypothesize that neuroendocrine tumors such as pheochromocytomas on the adrenal glands could cause schizophrenia, anxiety/panic, and perhaps other disorders. Such adrenal tumors could increase secretion of adrenal hormones, such as dopamine. Excess dopamine is commonly found in schizophrenics. Such tumors were found in 1% of a large # of autopsies. A reported 1% of the population has schizophrenia (which I think is too high a %). Wish medical scientists would explore this obvious possible link.

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