Eyewitness to Psychiatry Functioning as a Conspiracy Theory-Based Cult


In my 2013 Mad in America article “Does the psychiatric diagnosis process qualify as a degradation ceremony?” I laid the groundwork for this current article charging that psychiatry functions as a conspiracy theory-based cult.

Psychiatry has been tasked by our culture to provide a cadre of ritual specialists to serve as deviance enforcers via a degradation ritual in the name of medicalizing and labeling the occurrence and expression of human emotional suffering, which society dictates must fall between proscribed limits of acceptability.

To do that, a conspiracy theory masquerading as scientific medical dogma proclaims that the cause of emotional suffering is to be found within the bounds of the patient’s physical body, brain, and genetic inheritance. The cause of human emotional suffering according to this conspiracy theory does NOT exist outside the patient, or in the patient’s injurious exposure to traumatic societal injury from violence, war, famine, disease, racism, sexism, misogyny, economic, criminal, or environmental injustice, class stratification and discrimination, poverty, bigotry, and more.

The psychiatric cult uses its conspiracy theory of the cause of human suffering to let society off the hook while it enforces society’s oppression.

That’s the big lie that is found at the heart of any well-formed conspiracy theory—that the harm that is being inflicted by the cult leaders (the APA) and their followers (25,000 psychiatrists) is to be found elsewhere—in each patient’s defective brain.

As such, conspiracy theory-based cults always blame the victims of their abuse and never take responsibility for the harm they inflict.

Now I’d like to lay out how I have been an eyewitness to this happening for the past 55 years, starting when I first qualified to be held legally insane in the eyes of psychiatry, but gratefully avoided their net and did fly free.

I became a therapist in 1980 and in 2012, I began writing for Mad in America.

I wrote based on my own lived experience of extreme states, my doctoral research on John Weir Perry’s Jungian Diabasis House, and my years of working in a similar public sector medication-free, first episode, extreme states sanctuary called I-Ward.

I also wrote based on my decades working in the real world of a mental health system with adults and children.

The 20 bed I-Ward was part of a large SF Bay Area County public sector mental system, where I worked as a full-time licensed therapist for 27 years in the County hospital, on a mobile crisis team and in adult and children clinics.

Every day of those many years I worked on treatment teams alongside psychiatrists.

But because of my own un-treated and un-medicated lived experience of a year of harrowing extreme states when I was in my 20’s, plus my Jungian/Laingian orientation, I never believed what the MD psychiatrists believed about the causation of human emotional suffering, nor in the harmful ways that they practiced to go about relieving suffering based on those untrue beliefs in psychiatric disease/disorders.

Those beliefs are codified in the psychiatric “Bible,” the DSM, that over 25,000 psychiatrists in the US turn to daily to label their patients.

I always believed the psychiatrists I worked with held a warped and untrue set of unproven assumptions that served as a shield against the truth. The truth, as I believed—that a complex psychosocial trauma-informed paradigm was able to explain the cause of emotional suffering.

From that causation framework, proven humanistic understandings and approaches of responding to the wide array of human emotional suffering were possible. From that framework, the conspiracy theory of psychiatry, which says something is wrong with a person’s brain, biology, and genetics, is refuted by countering that something traumatic has happened to cause the person’s emotional suffering. I address this crucial distinction between truth and conspiracy theory in my MIA article “What’s wrong with you? Nothing. What’s happened to you? Something.”

In the real world of how the psychiatric conspiracy theory of inherent disease causation impacts lives, my eyewitness evidence can be valuable in countering the falsehood and its harmful impacts on real people, as in this example.

A mother brought her six-year-old son to see me for therapy because she was concerned and wanted to try family and individual therapy after a child psychiatrist had diagnosed him with ADHD in 20 minutes and prescribed Ritalin. As the boy sat on the floor, the doctor reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a plastic replica of a human brain, leaned over and pointed to a spot on the brain and told the boy, “Right here is where your brain is not working properly. But the medicine I’m going to give your mother to give you every day will fix your brain, ok?”

That MD was a true believer. He had internalized the theoretical lie that he then used to justify giving a six-year-old child powerful methamphetamine salts to fix his “broken brain“ chemistry, and which stigmatized the boy’s self-identity as having a sick and defective brain via the ghoulish plastic brain demonstration.

So, hearing my psychiatric co-workers’ beliefs in bio-genetic, chemical imbalance causation proclaimed every day about people of all ages, like that little boy I served in therapy, always felt to me like I was being exposed to an irrational and intricate, self-serving set of conspiracy theories. Those bogus dogmas, wrapped in unvalidated scientific authority, were used to justify and legitimize the wholesale medicating of countless unwitting victims

It was obviously true that psychiatrists did not have medical tests to validate a diagnosis as other medical specialties did. When you got a DSM diagnosis in any of the county treatment settings it wasn’t ever based on a genetic test, a blood test, an MRI or imaging test. No, it was based on the accumulated number of so-called overt behavioral symptoms being guessed at and matched from the array of DSM diagnoses.

It wasn’t the exception, but the rule that almost anyone who had been in the system for over a few months was likely to have received two or three competing diagnoses from the various staff who had evaluated them!

Those same proclaimed-to-be-proven theories and diagnostic categories were both falsely created and then blindly internalized as true by the members of the cultic psychiatric profession, from within the closed-system echo chamber of their professional guild and academic apparatus.

The injurious “best-practice treatments,” such as medication for all, even for small children, and the use of ECT all grew out of the poisonous soil of the psychiatric, reality-denying conspiracy theories of there being medical disease disorders called schizophrenia, bipolar, ADHD, etc., where none actually existed.

The head of the APA, Dr. Lieberman, in defending the psychiatric cult and its unfounded conspiracy etiology/causation theories, publicly castigated MIA and other realists as being fanatical heretics who dared to challenge the APA flat-earther canon of debunked theories. He wrote that critics of the psychiatric disease model are guilty of “Spreading scientific anarchy!” when we hold up the cultic fraternal practices and beliefs of psychiatrists to the light of day.

I’m glad that one of the first articles I wrote for MIA was titled “I Don’t Believe in Mental Illness, Do You?”

There, as in this article, I tried to boil it down to the power struggle between competing belief systems that absolutely have gigantic consequences when they get operationalized as public policy. There is no other medical specialty like psychiatry where its theoretical underpinnings result in patients dying over 20 years earlier than the national average, for “disorders” like schizophrenia, bipolar, and ADHD that themselves present no fatal biological disease! For me, that is damning proof that psychiatry functions like a cult, fed by deadly conspiracy-style theories that are still defended with the fanatical zeal of those like Dr. Lieberman.

Surely the dramatic public events of recent days at the Capitol bring us all closer, through our sorrow and outrage, to seeing the catastrophic results of conspiracy theory-based cultic, destructive power.

Thankfully those tragic, bitter fruits do not fall from the trees of knowledge laden with genuine, common-sense perceivable truth.

Ascertaining such truth is possible.

But the incredibly powerful psychological and social forces that can work to establish false narratives about what is real, can coalesce to form a cultic environment where those zealously embraced theories end up creating a powerful cultic mass following that never ends well, despite the cult follower’s vaunted claims of authenticity.

I see now that psychiatry functions with the aura of unfounded and deadly conspiracy-laden theories, which form the basis for a cult-like social institution with incredible power to negatively impact those it was tragically tasked to serve.

I’d like to conclude this article by also saying, based on my decades of personal eyewitness exposure to the psychiatric world, that I believe it’s possible for a transformative way forward. That way must require psychiatry to take responsibility for its history and actions, and to chart a new course that drops the unverified bio-genetic foundational conspiracy theory and the injurious treatments that are based on it.

It is true that many powerful social, national, political and religious entities have changed course from their conspiracy-laden unforgivable legacies in the past—because, looking back, we see that although human history is a ghastly parade of mostly war, genocide, violence, incredible cruelty, and mayhem, there are intervals where the light of human-hearted love and the reckonings of inescapable accountability of imposed justice did break through.

Psychiatry did stop doing mass eugenic sterilizations and lobotomies, the Catholic Church did stop torturing women and perceived heretics during the Inquisition, the forces of the Union did fight to end slavery here, women finally did succeed in winning the right to vote, the war was won to defeat Nazi Germany and stop the Holocaust, the civil rights and LGBT rights movements have achieved tenuous movement forward, and the worldwide collective human rights movement that includes rights for people impacted and harmed by the psychiatric system hegemony is displayed here on MIA and throughout the world.

The stakes for us all are very high.

If we continue to view each other through the conspiracy theory lens as demonic enemies, we may not survive.

The most glaring example of this risk is in knowing that tens of thousands of nuclear weapons are poised to be launched at a moment’s notice upon the whim and distorted conspiracy theory perceptions of men such as Putin, Kim Jong-un and Trump.

We can only work to replace them with leaders who aren’t blinded by conspiracy theories and can hopefully see some of the necessary, fundamental wisdom expressed in this seemingly too simple basic plea:

The world is violent and mercurial — it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love — love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love. - Tennessee Williams


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. I do agree, love is the answer. My childhood church’s mission statement is something to the effect of “Go out and get everyone else, with love and the word of God.” And that is, according to an awakening to my dreams, supposedly what I did, albeit only within the collective unconscious.

    But unfortunately, my childhood religion – apparently long ago – decided to “conspire” with psychiatrists and psychologists, since the involved “mental health” workers agreed to cover up child abuse for my childhood religion. And now even the decent within the synod offices of my childhood religion, a pastor/author who likely read my chronologically typed up medical records (including the medical evidence of the abuse of my child, in his medical records), with my medical research listed along side, are appalled at the systemic, child abuse covering up bishops of my former religion.


    But, alas, the “delusional religious conspiracy,” that I knew nothing about, but my Lutheran psychologist fraudulently claimed I believed in, in late 2001, did come to fruition. And it is, in fact, a systemic medical / religious “conspiracy,” against millions of child abuse survivors, and their legitimately concerned mothers. An ethical pastor of a different religion did confess this to me, to be “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.”

    In fact, over 80% of those stigmatized with the DSM disorders today – by both the psychiatric and psychological professions – are child abuse survivors.


    And all this child abuse covering up is by DSM design. Since no “mental health” worker may ever bill any insurance company for ever helping any child abuse survivor, without first misdiagnosing them with one, or many, of the billable DSM disorders.


    I wonder, are the DSM “bible” thumpers proud of their systemic child abuse covering up / pedophile empowerment crimes? Now that we all live in a “pedophile empire.”


    But what’s good is that the psych drugs don’t make a person not believe in God. I do believe God knows all about everyone’s crimes, and I do believe God will judge all fairly. But I do agree with Jesus’ theology that repentance, and turning away from one’s evil ways, is required for forgiveness.

    Thus I agree, psychiatry and psychology must “take responsibility for [their] history and actions, and” they need “to chart a new course that drops the unverified bio-genetic foundational conspiracy theory and the injurious treatments that are based on it.” Plus they must confess and repent for the “8 million” innocent people, who they have been murdering every year, for decades.


    And the systemic, child abusing and child abuse covering up, religious leaders also need to repent. And we really do need to see an end of “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.” Plus, America needs to actually start to arrest the pedophiles, child sex traffickers, etc.


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  2. Clearly the author misuses the term “conspiracy theory.” Perhaps he does not understand what it means? Or does he use that term to make the article seem more timely and sensational?

    The author asserts that the processes of psychiatric diagnosis and treatment are faulty, which is a point worthy of argument. But then he states that “psychiatry functions as a conspiracy theory-based cult.” That would mean that psychiatrists base what they do on an idea that _others_ are conspiring. He offers no support for such an assertion.

    Or does he mean that the psychiatric profession is itself a conspiracy? (Which would be completely different from being based on conspiracy theory.) That would imply that there is some secret, nefarious agenda. He offers no support for that notion either.

    Or does he just mean that psychiatry is based on theory that is sometimes the product of cultish thinking? And that such theory is flawed? And that applications of such theory are sometimes inappropriate? Well, yeah. A lot of psychiatrists would agree. But that has nothing to do with conspiracy, or with conspiracy theory.

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    • “That would mean that psychiatrists base what they do on an idea that _others_ are conspiring. He offers no support for such an assertion.” I pointed out above, that the psychiatrists and psychologists do “conspire,” to systemically cover up child abuse, for the mainstream religions. I have medical proof this happened to my family, in my family’s medical records.

      Systemically covering up child abuse, for the religions’ and our society’s wealthiest, is the “secret, nefarious agenda.” And for God’s sake, we’re all now living in a “pedophile empire,” as I pointed out above.

      Do you actually believe this happened for no reason? It did not. It is the result of the psychological and psychiatric industry’s systemic child abuse covering up, scientific fraud based, BS, DSM deluded, system.

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    • Funny you should bring this up since just today I used the word “conspiracy theorists” in reference to psych.
      Now the way I mean it, (and I think it makes perfect sense lol,) is that psychiatry is suspicious of every human they ever meet or speak to.
      They also invent all kinds of language to describe these “others” that they see.
      Seriously, if we want to talk pathology, their(psych) behaviour, thinking, reasoning would suggest something akin to that. Because what they do with that thinking is indeed harmful on a mass scale.
      Yes they are definitely conspiracy theorists and within that, they conspire to keep it alive.

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  3. Wow, what a lot of mixed messages from my point of view!

    I have never seen the expression “conspiracy theory” used so many times in one piece of writing.

    And I thought the idea that psychiatry was being insincere about its intentions and is being subsumed by Big Pharma was a conspiracy theory!

    I must admit that I am partial to many “theories” finding that various events that turned out bad probably had conspirators behind them. Seems like the more rational and realistic attitude to me.

    Yes, you can get gain on most cases by treating them as victims. Most people benefit from a little understanding and TLC. But that doesn’t exactly solve the problem of the human condition. For the fact is that each being does play a part in his own victimization. It’s not something you go in and beat people over the head about, but sooner or later the causative side of a person’s life needs to be addressed.

    I’m glad this guy knows that the psychiatric story is BS. But that’s just the first step to doing something about it. Let’s continue to understand without the conceptual burden of worrying about conspiracies. They exist! Let’s move on.

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  4. I do not think I would designate psychiatry as a conspiracy theory as that brings it to a political point that it might not quite belong. Additionally, many conspiracy theories when we dare look backwards into history do have hints of truth in them. However, psychiatry is a cult, if not a religion. And you are right, the DSM is their Bible. Many psychiatrists do consider the DSM as the “Gospel Truth” about anything. So, in a way, this makes psychiatry far more dangerous than any alleged conspiracy theory on any subject. Conspiracy Theories rarely affect as many people as do religions. But, psychiatry is a false religion that will spread its fanatically false gospel to the ends of the earth, if it hasn’t already, unless we seriously put the brakes on it. Labeling it as a conspiracy theory only makes it laughable and trivial in the eyes of many. When we label it as the false religion it really is, then maybe we can really reach the vulnerable and stop the hurt and damage it does to people. For, when one person is hurt or damaged, all are. Thank you.

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  5. I do stand by the idea that psychiatry is not a conspiracy theory, but a false religion. I would say it began, in many respects, as a cult; however, I contend it to be a false religion because unlike either a cult or conspiracy theory, it is way too far-reaching. Psychiatry has too many followers and too many preachers and missionaries. In media and otherwise, it is seen as the answer to so many of the world’s problems. I consider it a false religion not because it seems to be without God, but, it attempts to make man into God. Psychiatry propagates the lie that if you take this drug or these drugs, engage in these therapies, get ECT or TMS or whatever new treatment they want to sell, everything will be alright; your life will be so much better. Now, the question is how can this be different from any traditional religions message. That is a valid question. I would say it is because you are achieving because the implicit and explicit message is that the psychiatrist, the drugs, the therapies, etc. are the Gods, i.e. the transformative agents. So and this can be disputed, I am sure, how does this make man into God? A decent psychiatrist or pharmacist will tell you that the drugs, especially, become a part of the body’s system. The body and the brain begin to expect them, rely on them for survival. When they are taken away, the brain and body go through a horrendous withdrawal. Many do go back, because the withdrawal can be so intense. So, in order to maintain oneself in this God-State, one must continue these drugs. But, it is all false. It is nothing less than a Faustian Bargain. And, thus, Psychiatry is a False Religion that propagates danger and harm to trillions and trillions of vulnerable people. Thank you.

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    • I personally think “religious cult” is a much better descriptor than “conspiracy theory.” They are not operating ON a conspiracy theory, THEY are conspiring themselves to make money off of misrepresentation of truth and off of their status as “doctors.”

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    • Those chemicals are not “addictive”. They are disruptive and basically act like throwing a bomb at energy. By the time your brain becomes discombubulated enough, trying to come off, now furthers the disruption, creating new disruptions. It is the crudest, most insane thing to have ever been tried and the only reason it continues is because the public believes in drugs and they believe that they are normal but the next guy is suspect as being abnormal.
      In some ways I think this might be advantageous in the long run, although not without much pain and disruption. Create enough disability and unrest and one day, they will face the music. Psych and other powers have no favorites and everyone becomes suspect. Cults work like this, think like this. Cults are power based, suspicious of everyone, and manipulative. Even within their own sects. Psychiatry is just as suspicious of their own members. If I’m lying, I really need you to lie with me. The more powerful lier controls the weaker lier. One runs the joint and the other adheres.

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  6. Actually, the new definition of “conspiracy theory” is “any idea that must be wrong because it violates my sense of security too much.”

    In modern usage, there is the thinly veiled implication that the holder of any such theory is a tad paranoid.

    I believe this writer is using it in that way.

    Literally, of course, a conspiracy theory is any theory about the existence of a conspiracy (secret criminal group) that accounts for certain (usually criminal) events. The “original conspiracy theory” is that the JFK assassination was an inside job, which is more or less a proven fact at this point.

    Today it is a term used to gaslight people and for ad hominem attacks. Many “conspiracy theories” are in fact quite accurate and well-documented. Others, of course, are not.

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    • Shocking. And not a word in the article about the drugs this person has been on – likely for decades – that may have *caused* the severe syndrome to begin with. (I have no proof, but if dystonia is an issue with these drugs – and it is – then other nerve and muscular syndromes may be, too).

      They said chief cause of early deaths in “mental ill” population is due to stigma. Harumph. Again, not a peep about the debilitating drugs.

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      • The very first place anyone experiences “Stigma” (which of course is really discrimination) is in the shrinks office. THEY are the ones to hand out the non medical labels and non medical drugs. It is a shrink who is your final judge, the rest of the public services follow suit.
        Of course psychiatry wants no one to find out that they are responsible for the whole mess.

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  7. Michael, thanks for the article.
    “If we continue to view each other through the conspiracy theory lens as demonic enemies, we may not survive.”

    I’m not sure if “we” will survive, not that it concerns me. I do know that oppressive systems end up hurting those that thought the harsh stuff was only for certain people. At some point of one’s privileged lineage, someone will experience that harshness which their ancestors instigated, or agreed with. It’s simply not a gravytrain unending.

    Some 10 years ago I drove home from a therapists office and I saw the world much differently. I walked out of my car confidently that we are really not crazy, or we all are. Like in this video

    We can see who the crazy is. The people watching, the doctors who are using a female nurse to kick him out the door. The shrink who is pretending that “this should not be happening to those “poor mentally ill”. Every single person involved in that guys life is nuts and pretentious and taking it out on him. They convinced him that his issues are “bi-polar”. Milking him for every government dollar and then kicking him to the curb.
    Now even when they physically do not do this, the crazy out there heap their crazy pathological crap on others. I’ve been at the ER with real physical issues and numerous times even without a label, doctors reach for the psych labels. EVERYONE loves them to use over others.

    It’s simply a measure of power, not of illness. I have come to see personalities for what they are and it’s a total mess. To read comments that are posted after videos such as the above really give a view as to what types of personalities are out there.

    It used to be that we warned kids about dangers of crime and “keep your nose clean”. Now we have to debrief them. And tell them to try and keep themselves healthy so they never need services. It’s the blasted church all over again. And no matter what we do, it’s not good enough to get to heaven.
    I can tell you if that shrink in the news article really wanted to help the guy, she would “pardon” him by removing his label. Of course the med community still treats people like shit, and when you get old, the care aids might, unless you are no bother and without ailments or pain.

    It’s pretty easy to create a hell for people on earth.

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  8. I don’t believe in Mental Illness.

    “…There is no other medical specialty like psychiatry where its theoretical underpinnings result in patients dying over 20 years earlier than the national average, for “disorders” like schizophrenia, bipolar, and ADHD that themselves present no fatal biological disease! ….”

    “…..A good case can be made that many of the difficulties he had in the 1980s stemmed from the medication he was put on for a possible schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. ..”

    From one of the last Doctors to see me in the 1980s.

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  9. interesting article. it reminds me of some Szasz, in which he compares psychiatry to both religions (a false religion that infiltrates and undermines real, established religions, if I recall correctly) and to the Inquisition.

    I don’t know that “cult” is the best term…perhaps dangerous form of slavery and social control, masquerading as medicine while using pseudo-spiritual terminology (“healing” — how often do we hear -that one- , in today’s society?) to entrap and destroy…well, these days, it would seem pretty much anyone the industry can grab a hold of, at all. 🙁 but what to call it? false religion is good. cult sort of implies that there’s a charismatic leader at the center of all this, and I don’t see one. And yet…

    psychiatry is more dangerous than any cult I can think of, just off the top of my head. Don’t want to “drink the Kool-Aid” ? too bad. they’ll get a judge to sign an order permitting a nurse to inject you with the Kool Aid. 🙁

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  10. Great article in the main. I wouldn’t however call the “cadre of ritual specials” you mention “deviance enforcers”, instead I think of them as “conformity enforcers”. Non-conformity scares some people a great deal, people who equate non-conformity with social deviance. Anyway, that’s my take on the matter.

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  11. Dr. Cornwall, Thanks for a great blog. I think psychiatry does operate like a cult and somehow managed to brainwash the general public into believing they have superior knowledge in how to ‘help’ people in distress or who are experiencing difficult circumstances, when they do far more harm than anything else. They do conspire and engage in conspiracy theories in a variety of ways, i.e. this recent twitter exchange between a psychiatrist and another who says they are a neuropsychologist….

    Psychiatrist -”Anti-psychiatrists really know how to do hate don’t they. It drips from them, even the more polite ones”

    Neuropsychologist – “Their beliefs appear to be driven by ideology, envy and resentment and not by a desire to improve patient care. IMHO. Bizarre.”

    Seems bizarre is to believe anyone would be envious of psychiatrists who have no conscience.
    I enjoy your blogs. I hope you keep writing.

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  12. Not surprising. But interesting that a shrink would twitter about hate lol. It’s not as if the shrink got “treated” and hurt by the client. It’s quite interesting on a psychological level. The word “drips” is kind of “provocative” don’t you think? It sounds like a haters dialogue. Ignore these yahoos, they speak of themselves, because they can’t defend psychiatry. I see the neuropsychologist thinks we should be working to improve things? So is he saying that psychiatry needs improvement? Ohh gosh, yes he is. 🙂

    Here, I fixed the dialogue for you. We wouldn’t want psychiatry to know how their staff talks on twitter 🙂

    “psychiatrists really know how to do hate don’t they. It drips from them, even the more polite ones”

    “Their beliefs appear to be driven by ideology, envy and resentment and not by a desire to improve patient care. IMHO. Bizarre.”

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  13. It’s disheartening to see the resistance towards trauma-informed and holistic approaches in mental health. Some people cling to the belief that the rigid DSM diagnoses are infallible and medication is the only solution. This resistance hampers progress and prevents people from exploring alternative paths to healing. It’s sad and damaging to those who could benefit from a more comprehensive and personalized approach.

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