Our guest today is Jessica Taylor, author of Sexy But Psycho: How the Patriarchy Uses Women’s Trauma Against Them, which was published in March by Little, Brown and quickly hit the London Times bestseller list. Based in England, she is a chartered psychologist with a PhD in forensic psychology and more than a dozen years of experience working with women and girls subjected to abuse and other trauma.
She’s the founder and CEO of VictimFocus, a trauma-informed UK organization that challenges the blaming and gaslighting of victims—and advocates for change in how they’re treated. She’s also the author of the 2020 book Why Women Are Blamed for Everything: Exploring Victim Blaming of Women Subjected to Abuse and Trauma.
The transcript below has been edited for length and clarity. Listen to the audio of the interview here.
Amy Biancolli: Jessica Taylor, so grateful to have you here today.
Jessica Taylor: Thank you so much for having me.
Biancolli: At one point you say the book “has been burning away in my brain for years.” Why this book? Why was it necessary, why now?
Taylor: Ever since I figured out that mental health and psychiatry wasn’t what it looked like on the surface—which was many years ago, but it was quite a slow realization—I just had this urge to talk about it and to write about it. But at the time I was a little bit concerned that I was barking at the wrong tree, that I was some sort of conspiracy theorist. Then in my own practice, I saw mental health and psychiatry being used against women and girls on a daily basis. For me, it was this belief in the professionals, belief in services and authorities, that the best thing for them was to be diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.
I just didn’t agree. That feeling got stronger and stronger and stronger as my career went on to the point where I just couldn’t ignore it anymore. I thought, isn’t this common sense? The things that I’m saying, they’re not that wild. I’m saying that if humans are traumatized, why would that constitute an illness and therefore, why would they require some sort of medication for distress? But actually, I realized that most people, when you make those arguments, don’t understand it. They’ve been really effectively groomed. They’ve been effectively persuaded that these people have illnesses inside their brains that are the equivalent to physical illnesses.
So when I started writing books, I had this thing in the back of my head that was, “Write it, write it, do it, put it out there, let people read it and lay the evidence out to everybody that women are being pathologized and oppressed via mental health and psychiatry.” When I got the multi-book deal with Why Women Are Blamed for Everything, the first thing that I said to my publisher when I first met him was, “I want to write a book on this topic—are you going to let me do that?” He said, “Absolutely do it.”
Biancolli: I want to address this quote—talking about why you titled it Sexy but Psycho. “Sometimes it strikes me that we are saying to women and girls: Look sexy. Be pretty. Act feminine. Be desirable. Be sexually available. Be fun. Be flirty. Be nice. But do not speak.” Then in a little bit you go on: “Do not talk about your traumas.” That’s such an universal experience in any context, but particularly after experiencing some form of trauma, some sexual violence. Could you speak to that?
Taylor: Women are so effectively objectified and sexualized in society that your only role, really, is to look pretty and sharp. There are slight deviations to that every now and then. But it won’t last very long. Like for example, if you’re a female politician you’re only really accepted if you’re also sexually attractive. If you’re a female politician that’s, for example, masculine presenting, or butch lesbian, or you don’t dress or look a certain way, then you’re very likely to be ignored or mocked relentlessly. The only role that you have in society as a woman is a sex object. If you step outside of that and have opinions—be assertive, or be challenging, or don’t want to conform to femininity at all, or you’re lesbian—then you are very quickly demonized in one way or another.
Biancolli: The absolute worst-case scenario is when a woman is a victim of violence—when she’s raped and she tries to talk about it. Obviously this is a big part of your book, and you tell the stories of different women. What happens to that woman who says, “Hey, this happened to me,” and wants to be heard?
Taylor: The most common response, which was found in research from the ‘80s onwards, is that the vast majority—and I think this is very important that women and girls know this—the vast majority of women and girls who disclose that they’ve been raped or abused will do so, first of all, to a family member or a friend. It’s never an authority first, generally speaking. But the findings from the ‘80s onwards found that about 80% of all of those women who speak to their family members or friends will be blamed, or disbelieved, or accused of lying by their family and friends. That’s actually the most common response from your family and friends—to be outcast, disbelieved, reframed as lying, attention-seeking or malicious. So that’s very common.
We all know that self-blame is extremely common. Even girls of the age of 11 years old will usually blame themselves and they will believe rape myths and stereotypes about what a real victim is, and they’ll measure themselves against that even from that young age.
Adult women do that as well. Something will happen to them in their relationship, by a stranger, or a friend or whoever it is that abused or raped them. The first thing a woman will start doing is measuring herself against this hierarchical stereotype of, “Am I a good enough victim? Was I drinking? Are there any witnesses? Who did I tell? What was I wearing? Did I bring it upon myself? Is there anything I could have done? Why didn’t I say something? Why didn’t I stop them? Why didn’t I shout? Why didn’t I fight back?”
Then also, “Is anyone going to believe me? They’re going to think I’m crazy. Are they going to think this is attention-seeking? Are they going to think this is some sort of mental health issue or a personality disorder?” We live in a society that is doing this, in my opinion—this really strange movement towards pretending that there’s no stigma in mental health and psychiatry, and that it’s completely neutral. But women at a deep level they know it’s not neutral, they know that there’s a chance that if they come forward and say, “I’ve been raped,” they’re going to get recast as hysterical, or mentally ill, or disordered in some way.
Biancolli: Repeatedly you make that point in the book—how women are instantly discredited as somehow psychopathic or mentally ill, which is a term that you completely reject. But I was also struck by that chart you have of two lists: ideal woman versus crazy woman, beautiful versus ugly, young versus old, disobedient versus obedient, dependent versus independent. You look at all this in the context of history. You talk about Eve—that women have been pathologized since Eve.
Taylor: Yes, that’s right. Because when I wanted to write Sexy but Psycho, I felt very strongly that it needed to be situated in the historical context of these things that we’re seeing—of women being positioned, as you say, as problematic and difficult and ill and disordered. This is thousands of years’ worth of narrative here. I spoke about ancient Greek philosophers who argued that women are defective versions of males.
Feminism is so in its infancy compared to the misogyny. The misogyny is thousands of years old, but feminism is a hundred years old. We are trying to undo, and we’re trying to unpick, embedded structures in society of women being inferior and seen as crazy that have been dominant for millennia. I wanted to make that clear in the book so that people could almost link the dots because, there’s so many of our systems today that are actually still based on things that are over a thousand years old, or 500 years old, or 300 years old. I think people have lulled themselves into a false sense of security that we’re a lot more progressive and intelligent than we think we are.
Biancolli: I think that happens with every generation, too: “We’re finally aware, we finally realize all our errors in the past, and now we’re a much shinier model than we used to be.” Is that a hurdle to overcome? Saying to people, “Hey, wait, wake up. No, things aren’t as great as you think they are”?
Taylor: Yes, I actually do think that, and that’s one of the things that people struggle with me the most—that I am often the voice of doom that goes, “We’re not as good as we say we are,” or “Actually, we don’t do that that well.” We are still kidding ourselves, all the time, that we’ve got this stuff figured out, that we know more about the brain than we do, that we know more about psychology than we do—and human behavior and human development. We have entire disciplines essentially built on this set of beliefs that we know much more than we actually do.
We need to take a massive step back and accept that a lot of what the public thinks about mental health and psychiatry is myth and assumption and stereotype and bias. That’s where people start to get very uncomfortable, because they don’t want to take a step back today.
Biancolli: As you pointed out, the system is designed to make us accept how things are: the patriarchy, the history of psychiatry, the DSM. You widen the lens to class, to race—the history of black people being pathologized. For instance, “drapetomania” as a diagnosis for enslaved people who were trying to be free. It’s the upper echelons of the patriarchy saying, “You’re innately wrong.” Women being told, “Your menses, you’re bleeding every month: you’re wrong. You’re going through menopause: you’re wrong. You have hysteria: we have to yank that uterus out of you.” Is that it? People in power saying to those without: “The fact that you have no power means you’re crazy. Basically, you’re disordered.”
Taylor: That’s essentially the conclusion that I’ve come to: that if you’re in power, you can define what’s abnormal and normal, and then you can place that on other populations. Which is what we already do anyway. Look at colonialism in history, when white people have gone over to another community, another religion, another country, and gone, “That’s all wrong. We’re getting rid of all that, we’re in control now.” People in power have been doing that forever. I don’t think psychiatry and psychology is any different.
It always makes me think about something my wife said to me a couple of years ago. We were talking about politics and psychology and ancient philosophy, and she said that a lot of these philosophers only had the reputation they do now because they were some of the only people in society that could read or write—so they basically just said whatever they wanted. They were rich, they were in power. They were the only people that could write down their thoughts and then communicate them to other people, and so they were seen as the most important thing—despite the fact that there were probably many other very intelligent thinkers that couldn’t read or write at the time. Therefore they were ignored because they were poor, or they were less educated.
So, basically, a bunch of men who were at the top of society at the time wrote some stuff down and everyone said, “That’s the way it works.” She just made me laugh. I think that’s what happened in psychology as well.
Amy Biancolli: Could you speak to that a little bit, and how it relates to the biomedical paradigm? The idea of everything being tied to something that’s wrong with us?
Taylor: That fascinates me, because one of the things that psychology is still not yet ready to do is accept that. Getting on to 60 or 70 years now, there’s been a crisis in psychology, whereby it tries to assert itself as a physical science. I really do believe that psychology’s obsession with trying to theorize human distress, human emotion, as these physical entities that can be measured and treated like illnesses is because psychology is trying to keep up with medicine, physics, biology and chemistry. Psychiatry has been trying to do the same thing. Psychiatry eventually, after a period of time, almost got seen as a version of, a branch, of medicine. However, it can never keep up with medicine. It doesn’t have the evidence base, it doesn’t have the measurability, it doesn’t have reliability or validity.
We’ve made zero useful discoveries in psychiatry and psychology in the last 100 years compared to medicine, and that’s the way it is. We need to accept that these disciplines are not as robust as they wish themselves to be. In one of my books, I said that psychology has moved more and more towards neuroscience and neuropsychology in the hope that the MRI machines will give us some insight into the brain and it will give us scientific data that looks like a physical science. It means that universities have cut their departments in order to afford MRI machines so that they can run studies with a sample of eight people. That is a ridiculous waste of money, because you can’t generalize. It’s not the same as the physical sciences.
I really love the fact that the brain doesn’t give away secrets. I really love the fact that you can’t dissect a brain and say, “There’s the thoughts, and there’s the memory, and there’s the consciousness.” The fact that we can’t figure out exactly how it works, and we can’t define consciousness, and we can’t define a thought, and we don’t know what dreams are for, and there are all of these things that we still don’t understand, I embrace that. But I know lots of scientists are looking for answers. They’re looking for resolution, they’re looking for a conclusion. Whereas I would rather remain open-minded and sometimes, cynically, I think maybe we’re not supposed to know, because we’re a horrible species.
Biancolli: It’s better if we don’t know.
Biancolli: That strikes me as parallel with what you were saying before. Professionals and people in psychology are saying, “We know what’s going on. Past generations didn’t know.” It’s like every generation has to be convinced that they’re at the cutting edge.
Taylor: Oh, yes, for sure. That really does come at the detriment of humility—that we can’t really explain it, that we are clutching a little bit at straws. If we look at it from that white-supremacist approach as well, we have ignored so much cultural wisdom around the world about the mind, and about what emotions mean and how humans behave.
That’s something that has really annoyed me in the last few years, that the sweeping control and influence of the DSM, psychiatry, and psychology as a white and very powerful and racist institution is then being pushed across the world—as a norm—that these disorders are all the disorders of humans. And now everybody has to fit into them, despite the fact that human behavior differs massively across religion, culture, language, society, community, tribes, everything. I find it so arrogant, I really do.
Biancolli: As you point out, women are seven times more likely to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which has a reputation as being basically a garbage diagnosis. You call it the modern-day hysteria. Once somebody’s diagnosed with borderline, then anything they say is definitely not going to be taken seriously. My late sister really struggled with a stream of diagnoses, and she was on every conceivable medication. Was hospitalized 13 or 14 times. Ultimately died by suicide in ‘92. I will never forget her description of what happened when she got the borderline diagnosis, which was everybody stopped listening.
This is what women go through. Why is it not heard more often? What is it going to take until stories like that are heard?
Taylor: That is the power of the diagnosis, isn’t it? Those stories won’t be heard, because they’re not seen as legitimate stories, because the diagnosis overrides the legitimacy of the story. If you’ve been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, especially as a woman, and then you try and speak out about it?
That diagnosis really just positions you as an attention seeker, a liar, unreliable, disconnected from reality, and also manipulative. That one annoys me the most, because there are so many professionals out there that I’ve spoken to and I interviewed for the book that were directly trained and told, “Do not listen to borderline patients. They will manipulate you, they will lie to you, they will control you, they will wrap you around their little finger, they’ll get you doing everything that they want you to do.”
Professionals will speak to me and they’ll say something like, “We don’t talk to the borderline patients, because they take information about you and then they’ll use it against you.” Whoa—how have you been trained? Even if, let’s say, for example, that borderline personality disorder is real, which I don’t think it is, but say it was. Let’s say that—let’s also accept that mental health is the same as physical health. These are just illnesses, they’re just the names of illnesses. How would you get away with training professionals not to listen to that particular set of patients?
Nobody in med school is told, “Don’t listen to the diabetics. They will lie to you, and they will control you and manipulate you.” Why is it allowed?
I’ve worked in violence against women and girls, now, for 12 years, and it is the most common diagnosis. I can usually predict it before it even happens—weeks or months before it’s come in. I know what’s going to happen, and then I know what medication. I know what the risk assessments are going to say. I know what the rest of their life is going to look like. It shouldn’t be like that. And the fact that it’s used as a slur by professionals as well, professionals in my own field—“She’s a bit borderline.”
Biancolli: Does that tell you that the DSM itself is innately misogynistic? Is there something in its essence, in the way that it’s compiled and the way that it’s spread almost like the gospel?
Taylor: The evidence base suggests already from previous pieces of research that the DSM is innately misogynistic, because being female positively correlates with every single diagnosis in the DSM. We also know from previous pieces of research that women are much more likely to receive multiple psychiatric diagnoses, whereas men are more likely to just get one diagnosis. As we know, with borderline personality disorder, you’re seven times more likely if you’re female to be given that. You’re also much more likely than that to receive a borderline personality disorder diagnosis if you’re bisexual.
Now, I find that fascinating, because bisexuality in women is seen as almost the ultimate deviance—that she sleeps with women and men, and that she’s sexually attracted to both. The DSM has always positioned that as an identity crisis: that if a woman is bisexual, it’s because she has problems formulating her identity. That, for me, is a red flag.
There’s a piece of research—a couple of years ago in the UK—that found that there is a higher proportion per ward of women with borderline personality disorder that are bisexual than straight or lesbian. Lesbians are definitely discriminated against. But I just find it fascinating that it’s bisexual women that are much more likely to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
Biancolli: They’re demonized in a particular way, or in an additional way.
Taylor: Yes. Definitely, yes.
Biancolli: Your work with VictimFocus.org, and calling out victim blaming—that’s been the focus of your career. You talked about all the different ways, in your book, how women are blamed via diagnosis. You say, “It’s amazing to think that there is no such thing as ‘men who batter women syndrome,’ but there is ‘battered woman syndrome.’”
Taylor: You want to just give up on everything, because it’s so obvious. It’s staring us in the face—the misogyny and the positioning of women who have been abused.
It is right there. For years, the argument was that women who say that they are being abused by their husbands or their fathers or boyfriends were the problematic ones—and so there never has been a formulation of some disorder for violent men who raped and abused women. But there are lots of psychiatric diagnoses for women who’ve been raped and abused by men. It’s not an illness to be distressed because you’ve been subjected to serious abuse, and violence, and oppression, and discrimination, and all the rest of it. That’s not a disorder.
But I also don’t think that committing those crimes is a disorder. Men live in a society that’s misogynistic and supportive of violence of all kinds, literally glorifying and sensationalizing violence of every kind, constantly.
These men that commit crimes like this, they’re not mentally ill. It’s not some sort of disorder, they don’t require therapy, they don’t require medication. They live in a society that congratulates them and sensationalizes what they do and actually supports what they do at every level. Actually, they’re behaving in a socially prescribed way. It’s not an illness.
Biancolli: Your work is focused on the idea that no, nobody’s really mentally ill, just everybody has gone through something. I know that’s a vastly simplistic way of explaining it. But how much of a shift does that require in thinking—rather than saying there’s something innately wrong with you, instead, let’s actually listen when you talk about your childhood abuse, or whatever it is that traumatized you?
Taylor: It does require massive systemic overhaul, and I get that scares people—and then it’s a lot of work. But it’s the only way to make the progress that we need to make in humanity. Because what we’ve done instead is we’ve set up very sophisticated and intelligent, progressive-looking systems that mean, for example, that you can only access welfare if you’ll take a psychiatric diagnosis and take the medication. You can only access certain forms of support if you’ll accept you’re mentally ill and take the medication. You can only get on therapeutic waiting lists if you’ll accept a psychiatric diagnosis and take the medication. Everything has become connected to these labels.
Biancolli: You were talking earlier about the effort throughout the history of psychology and psychiatry to rationalize, to justify themselves, as medical professions and as hard science. At one point in your book you say mental health is not the same as physical health. It’s not the same as a broken leg or painkillers. The flip side hit me: When you break a leg after a fall and you go to the emergency room, we aren’t told there was a problem deep within our bones. We’re not told it’s in our genes. We’re not all told that it’s osteoporosis, unless we’re of a certain age. But they wouldn’t even say that without a test. The women you described in your book—and countless women—are told that they’re broken, that they are the problem. And in an almost existential way, right?
Taylor: Yes. There are many differences between mental health and physical health, but that is one of them—there is no test, and that it’s all just assumption and observation. There are no validated tests for any mental health issue—there’s no blood test, there’s no genetic tests, there’s no brain scans. There is nothing. We’ve created nothing in a hundred years.
The only thing that psychiatry and psychology relies upon is observational self-report measures, psychometric measures, and they are not a diagnostic test. They could change from one day to the next. They would change depending on how somebody understood the item, or whether they even spoke English as a first language. They are hugely biased.
People were extremely angry with me for saying that. I often wonder how much of that anger is that they want to believe that it’s a science, they want to believe that it’s scientific and that there’s proof that it’s genetic. Or that it’s some sort of neurotransmitter imbalance. Or maybe hereditary in some way. They want that because it sounds real and legitimate, and it almost validates how they’re feeling as a real illness. I think that people are scared that distress and trauma is just not good enough, like it’s not seen as a valid enough cause. Does that make sense or not?
Biancolli: I’ve been lucky to not get sucked into the psychiatric system myself, but I think back to after one of my kids was born. I had a regular checkup—and it was a young doctor I hadn’t seen before. He’s sitting there with a checklist, and he’s asking me various questions. He knew that I just had a baby. I’d mentioned that I wasn’t sleeping very well, and I confessed that I was down.
He whips out his prescription pad, and he writes out a prescription for Prozac. I say, “I’m not going to take that. I don’t want it.” He goes, “Well, here, just take it. You might change your mind.” “No, I’m not going to take it.” He says, “Take it.” He hands it to me. I went home and threw it out. I know I’m not the only woman who has given birth and been exhausted afterward, and then gone to the doctor and the doctor says, “Well, that’s abnormal.” What about this is abnormal?
Taylor: Yes, this is so important. I’m so glad you brought this up, because I wrote about this in the book—about pregnancy, birth, and periods and menopause. And also the postnatal period: I genuinely despise how likely you are to get pathologized in that period. And I’m sorry to anybody listening that has not yet had children—this is going to terrify you. But having children is really, really hard, okay? You get pregnant, your body changes in ways that you never imagined. You have a load of health issues that have come out of nowhere. Your birth could be traumatic or it could be fine, but either way, it hurts, and then you have to recover from that.
Then, all of a sudden, you’ve gone from being this individual with just your own choices in your own life to being the thing that keeps alive a small baby that you’ve never looked after before.
Loads of moms start off by having their baby sleep next to them, and they have this thing—“oh my God, is it still breathing?” Watching the chest go up and down. It’s terrifying.
Then on top of that, you don’t have any freedom anymore. Your life revolves around the child and the sleep and the eating, and getting them changed and getting them ready, right? That is a normal, massive change. You would expect there to be some psychological impact—on top of the fact that you don’t sleep properly. Sleep deprivation kicks in after only two or three days. You are going to start feeling very ill very quickly, and that is normal.
Then if you’ve got no support, or if your partner is abusive, or if you’re a single mom, you’re going to get it even worse.
Biancolli: Did writing this book help in some way? Did it give you any insight or direction or understanding? Are there any positives that have come out of it?
Taylor: I found writing the book quite difficult. There was the chapter on euthanasia that really upset me. I had to take several breaks whilst I was researching the use of euthanasia in psychiatry (in the Netherlands and Belgium) because that was when I started to get really angry. And there were a couple of the interviews with the women where I came out and just thought, “There’s no justice, there’s no appeal process, there’s no way of taking action or suing these wards for what they’ve done to these women.” At the end of the book, I talk about things that I want to create—the 10 or 11 things that we could do to actually change the system.
In terms of positivity, I know that there are quite a lot of large and very influential authorities that have read the book and are engaging with the arguments. I’m interested to see the meetings I’m having with them, and trying to convince them to look at an alternative away from the DSM, away from medicalization. There are a lot more people than we probably think reading the book and being, “Oh, hang on a minute, this does make quite a lot of sense, actually.” And so that keeps me going.
And I really want to build an advocacy scheme—that means that you can go and get an advocate that can sit in with you in these meetings, and challenge diagnosis and the use of medication. I really want to create that, and roll it out, and test it, and see if it works. Because a lot of women are in these appointments with a psychiatrist or a nurse or some other doctor, and they’re being told: “You’re mentally ill. Here, take this.” I just wonder, sometimes, if people could get an appeal or a second opinion, or they had somebody there. If a professional sat next to them and said, “Sorry, what is it that you’re prescribing, and why is it that you’re prescribing that?” Because if you’re in distress, you’re not necessarily going to be able to do that—but somebody else could.
I also want us to create an appeal process. There are a lot of women out there with psychiatric diagnoses on their file that is still harming them 20, 30, 40 years down the line—and they’re not even taking any medication anymore. They’re not even in any services, but the actual diagnosis is still on the file. I really want to see that taken off. You should have the right to have things removed. I want to build something around that, too.
The other thing from writing the book: The way I felt afterwards was almost, “Oh, thank God, I’ve got it all out. It’s all out. It’s in one book. It’s somewhere. It’s accessible. Anybody can pick it up and read it, and they’ll understand what I’m talking about.” I’m glad that I’ve done that. I don’t know where my life or my career has taken me. But I do know that that’s by far one of the most important things I’ve ever done, and I think that that book will outlive me.
Biancolli: Well, it was truly great to have you here today. Thank you for writing the book. Thank you for taking the time to share your insights with us.
Taylor: Thank you so much for having me.
(Mainstream) psychiatry always struck me as conveniently misogynistic especially for those who practiced it, which, at one time, was mostly men. My suspicions were confirmed when I learned that Freud disingenuously called women delusional for claiming their fathers molested them. This and his narcissistic “penis envy” showed me where his head was at. But things haven’t changed much, and in some ways they’ve gotten worse, because along came the DSM, which, btw, just happens to be an updated version of the same misogynistic garbage. They just dressed it up in medicalized language.
It’s good to know someone finally wrote a comprehensive book on something that’s practically invisible, but nevertheless prevails.
It’s good knowing someone finally wrote a comprehensive book on something so pervasive – yet invisible –
They just dressed it up in medicalized language AND added drugs to keep people silent.
A “personality disorder” isn’t a “disorder”. It’s a pejorative term used by “mental health professionals” to “diagnose”/discredit people who exhibit behaviors that aren’t to their liking. And misogyny often plays a part. But what’s behind that?
EGOS AND POWER –
Psychiatric labeling is a well-funded social ill that conveniently victimizes those least able to defend themselves.
As a woman who was diagnosed with borderline 15 years ago after ECT, I can attest that this is how the system treats us. It starts with the “experts” and then is amplified by society. Society understands innately that this by giving this diagnosis, psychiatry has given license to everyone to treat this person like they are non-person. I believe that the borderline diagnosis is the equivalent of a hate crime.
DBT plays into this, blowing their own horn about being the “gold standard treatment for borderline” while working strenuously to diminish, dismiss and ignore trauma, including the trauma inflicted by the mental health system, which often mirrors and reinforces childhood trauma.
Psychiatry “….often mirrors and reinforces childhood trauma”.
This is EXACTLY what (mainstream) psychiatry does!!!
KateL says, “I believe that the borderline diagnoses is the equivalent of a hate crime”.
A hate crime. That’s what it is.
And not considering the possibility of treatment induced trauma, from either psychotherapy or psych drugs, is a crime of neglect. And things like akathisia and tardive dyskinesia amount to criminal torture –
Borderline personality disorder is a sanitized slur – as are ALL psychiatric labels, as psychiatric labeling is VERBAL ABUSE –
Poet Rebecca Donaldson calls BPD for what it really is, and that’s developmental trauma –
Thank you, Rebecca
What causes BPD?
The same thing that causes all “mental illness” –
Not being shown enough love/respect in the proper way, at the proper time.
“And I really want to build an advocacy scheme—that means that you can go and get an advocate that can sit in with you in these meetings, and challenge diagnosis and the use of medication…Because if you’re in distress, you’re not necessarily going to be able to do that—but somebody else could.”
I think this is a great idea. I’ve often thought that if I had had an advocate with me during certain critical meetings where decisions were being made about what my labels should be, what I should be drugged with, whether I should be hospitalized again, etc … having an advocate (who was not beholden in any way to the system), could have allowed me to feel safer and less alone, and could have protected me from some very awful and damaging treatment experiences.
I think that in these situations, even when the patient is fully able to advocate for herself, as I often was, she still often won’t be heard. The focus will be on the patient’s pathology (is she using her interpersonal effectiveness skills? Is she trying to manipulate? Is she lying? Exaggerating? Drug seeking? Delusional?). There are almost always other interests, other agendas that come into play that have little to do with patient welfare.
An advocate could also potentially play the role of witness.. in the event that there is ever a difference of opinion regarding what was done and said in a session, appointment, etc.
Awesome plan! The Long Term Care Ombudsman program in long term care facilities provides an excellent and replicable model. It is LONG overdue!
Sounds kind of like a hospitalist, but instead of working for the hospital, it would work for the patients.
I agree that is a good idea, especially given the fact that the “patient advocates” in the hospitals work for the hospitals, not the patients. At least the one I spoke to – after dealing with the now FBI convicted Dr. V. R. Kuchipudi – did.
What is a “personality disorder”?
THE BIGGEST bullshit term out there.
It describes behavior patterns, NOT “disorders”.
“Dysregulation” is a far better way to describe problematic behaviors, and it’s a far less demeaning term.
I agree, Birdsong. It means nothing and is a not-subtle way of communicating that treatment providers feel no obligation to this particular patient’s welfare or their equitable treatment.
Dysregulation is a better term, I agree, but the system needs to acknowledge the likelihood that the cause of the patient’s dysregulation may very well be a) treatment induced trauma and/or b) prescribed psych drugs. If a patient seems agitated, restless or irritable, it’s not okay to simply direct them to crisis skills like sticking their face in ice water. Treatment providers should be asking themselves whether the patient is suffering from medication-induced akathisia.
I’ve seen a couple of articles here and elsewhere that advocate for not giving the borderline personality diagnosis to immigrants, ethnic minorities, and other marginalized groups. I believe this way of thinking completely misses the mark and further enables psychiatric abuse (the notion being that these are people who have already experienced trauma, so they should be protected from the further trauma that comes with having a personality disorder diagnosis). The problem with the borderline diagnosis and all mental health diagnosis is that they have no scientific or medical or moral legitimacy. No one “deserves” a borderliine diagnosis.
(Ideally, the mental health system and psychiatry would be dismantled, but in the interim, appointing a patient advocate who is not on the same payroll as treatment providers and giving patients an opportunity to appeal illegitimate diagnosis might prevent some of the more egregious harms experienced by patients.)
Thank you, KateL.
I wholeheartedly agree with you.
A “borderline personality” label is uniquely demeaning to women, and is often used – some would say purposefully – to their disadvantage. It’s an absolute disgrace.
Psychiatric labeling stands alone as an unmitigatedly immoral act that often begins a lifelong cascade of needless, and sometimes brutal, psychiatric violence, a violence perpetrated more often on women. And patient advocates are sorely needed to stem this violence.
Labeling people, and women in particular, as “personality disordered” is nothing more than a sanitized way for “professionals” to trash those they don’t like, don’t understand, and would rather not deal with. It’s total disrespect. And it’s definitely retraumatizing for those already marginalized, and I consider anyone psychiatrically labeled as marginalized.
And just one look at the way the wide variety of “personality disorders” are written makes it easy to see that these labels were written – for the most part – BY men FOR women – women they didn’t find attractive, or found threatening, and as a result, didn’t know what to do with. But they knew one thing – writing b*tch on a woman’s medical chart wouldn’t be the thing to do.
And it’s not just a “borderline personality” label. It’s ALL psychiatric labels, as all have the capacity to retraumatize and marginalize ANYONE. This qualifies as outright abuse, an abuse that often starts the vicious cycle of discrediting “psychiatric” labels and dangerous “psychiatric” drugs.
And why are psychiatric labels allowed to be used interchangeably with “diagnoses” when there’s no scientific evidence to qualify them as “diagnoses”? There’s only one answer: a medicalized “psychiatric” label indicates defect, both moral and physical, and thereby acts as an ironclad way to discredit any individual. And this makes ALL psychiatric labels/“diagnoses” illegitimate –
Psychiatric “treatments” are a damaging process of stigmatizing labels and dangerous drugs.
So well said, Birdsong! I plan to continue to speak out on this travesty. They have taken so much from me.
Thank you, KateL.
Sadly, they’ve taken so much – but they haven’t taken your voice –
Thank you KateL.
Yes, they’ve taken so much – but they haven’t taken your voice. –
Thank you, Amy and Jessica, for pointing out the misogynistic nature of the psychiatric system. A system that assumes stay at home moms, active volunteers, and self employed artists working on our portfolios are “unemployed” and “w/o work, content, and talent,” prior to even looking at my work – at least according to my medical records. That system, of course, also hates children, rebels, and basically anyone who doesn’t want to “maintain the status quo” of the “pedophile empire,” that we all find ourselves living in.
And, of course, we find ourselves living in that evil empire, in part thanks to all the historic and continuing, systemic child abuse and rape covering up crimes of the DSM “bible” thumpers.
And it’s all by DSM design.
The psychiatric system is a sick, twisted, paternalistic, systemic child abuse and rape covering system. So one must ask oneself, does our society at large actually benefit – whatsoever – from such a system?
I venture to say our world would be a better place without a child abuse and rape covering up group of scientifically “invalid” DSM “bible” billing industries … and that includes the paternalistic religions which have “partnered with” the DSM “bible” believers.
Author Jessica Taylor says, “I really love that fact that the brain doesn’t gives away secrets…..But I know lots of scientists are looking for answers….. I think maybe we’re not supposed to know, because we’re a pretty horrible species” –
What do Ms. Taylor’s sage words reveal about (mainstream) psychiatry?
That fools rush in where angels fear to tread –
I have only one question.
Why did the police or ‘Kate’s’ lawyer not take a sworn statement from her before she ended up in the hands of ‘mental health professionals’?
COVID (the reason given in the program) or maybe the war in Ukraine?
Given what is written above, I’m glad I’m not the only one that can see the purposes that mental health ‘treatments’ can be put to. The same was true of a large number of the victims of child sexual abuses in Church run institutions, with many of the ‘doctors’ no doubt holding positions in the very organisations they were ‘protecting’. The justification for a failure to report children being raped a “character flaw” in the perpetrators. Is this not a situation where the ‘label’ is actually used to defend the rapists? They’re not criminals, but instead have a ‘personality disorder’ and therefore can avoid any punishment….. for 40 years or until after their deaths.
Someone or something has obstructed justice. The invisible hand huh?
I don’t have a lot of educational background to comment, but I do have experience in the mental health system with a diagnosis of BPD. I went 40 years with the diagnosis. I had a life of trauma and couldn’t talk about it because no one took me seriously.. Within me, I always felt I was not borderline and it didn’t sit well with professionals. I conformed and rode the system out until I learned about narcissistic abuse and narcissism. I applied what I learned and the burden of “guilt” lifted in such away and I am now beginning to regain my sense of personal power. I am also experiencing a lot of grief. I am working on it a day at a time. My life now makes sense to me.
Misogyny, patriarchy and a faulty definition of patriotism are the backbone of the narcissism are at the core of the narcissism I grew up and married in to. I didn’t fit so I was the scapegoat. I didn’t rely on the medical system to validate who I was and learned what I could about BPD, depression and whatever other disorder I have had on my medical file.
In the end, I saved my self. I am sure the diagnosis is not on the first layer of diagnoses on my chart because there is another axis for the personality disorders. It will follow me til I die. I have to accept that as I am older now and I don’t have the energy to keep fighting it. I am accepting it in my heart and soul of who I am now. So much was taken from me, but to live like that only gives the DSM and the providers power. I would love to have my experience help others. I just don’t have confidence that it would matter. So, I am just very grateful that you have written this book and that there are people out there who have the ability to pursue the endeavor to figure this thing out and to make a difference. Thank you!!
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“I also want us to create an appeal process. There are a lot of women out there with psychiatric diagnoses on their file that is still harming them 20, 30, 40 years down the line—and they’re not even taking any medication anymore. They’re not even in any services, but the actual diagnosis is still on the file. I really want to see that taken off. You should have the right to have things removed. I want to build something around that, too.”
Skipping a few links. The cult of jesus as god is the source of the problem of sexism in psychiatry. Christians have not appealed literal belief in the bible, or virgin birth. Society is eons away from freeing women, like me, from the madwoman in the attic view.
I want my attackers to suffer, too, like they make me suffer. Seems fair.
An appeal process would be nice.
I read your article in the link about your experience. Sounds like you went through hell and are still there. Can you tell me what cult if Jesus means to you? I’m not setting you up or anything. Just wondering what you think.
I went through hell, I live in hell, I will remain in hell without acknowledgement that I was not evaluated by Dr Andrew Muzychka on February 22, 2013, or at any time I was held illegally until February 28, 2013, by what I consider the scum of earth, the sexist Catholics who raised me, who built St Mary Merciless human trafficking mental ward in Livonia, Michigan. Nuns nuns nuns, Felician nuns, supposed women of an alleged god, are activley seeking to silence me and my story. Nuns are keeping me in pain to protect their godless brand. Irish laundries and Native America boarding schools ARE NOT OVER FOR ME!
Jesus was the first historic DSM psychotic. Jesus would be shackled and drugged even by the Catholics of my hometown if the human were alive today with his same alleged story that he’s the only son (no daughter) of god.
The Jesus story is one birth of sexism. People do not rise from the dead and float to heaven 33 years after virgin birth. Men wrote the Christian bible and the pscyhiatric bible, and both their both of full of shit.
Warner Salman painted the very Caucasian head of christ as a blond haired blued eyed Jesus in 1940. Too many people in this country act like Jesus is a priviledged white man.
The cult of jesus is a group of people safely allowed by society to believe in delusions while psychiatry locks up people like me who tell the truth of man’s abuse of women.
Thanks for sharing with me. What you experienced has had a huge impression on your life. You are a truthteller and really are suffering for it. No justice it seems. I was a truthteller, too. Rubbed a lot of feathers the wrong way. Not easy to forget.
I am a Christian, but the Jesus I used to know is not who I know today. The Church really messed me up when I was much younger. I was too naive to know any different. I have been challenged ongoing since I have realized a good part of my life included narcissistic abuse. As a woman, i know and have experienced that abuse. Not easy work but so far has been going okay.
Do you follow any religion or faith? Are you working at all since you went through what you did? I went through a hospitalization of only two weeks at a state hospital because there was no room at the local hospital for me. I am not sure they sent me there to scare the crap out of me or if there really was no room. It was a scary place to be. I wasn’t on any meds. Looking back I was in the narcissistic cycle of abuse but there was no name for it back then and I couldn’t convince anyone it was happening. At that stay I witnessed a hanging (she survived), I was almost kidnapped while being out with a fellow patient for a walk, (it was part of her escape plan), I became so angry at a very large woman who was in the first bed who cooed through the nite and no one would stop her so I went after her. That was hardly me at all. Staff actually let it happen. She was gone the next day. Makes you wonder what I was actually seeing. Then I was allowed to leave for Christmas. When I returned, I had been discharged any way. No one thought to call me. None of this makes any sense but then maybe it does. I was 23 years old. I am doing a life review under narcissism narrative and I can see the patterns over time and how they layered themselves into the pain I experience today and am working on healing.
I hope you can find justice and peace in your life.
People aren’t crazy. They just get upset. Sometimes to extremes, but upset nonetheless.
Crazy is used in so many ways and often hurtful. People are all different and that difference is labeled crazy if it doesn’t fit the norm. I appreciated your definition of “personality disorder”. Behavior patterns can be examined and hopefully heard not just from one person or observer, especially the patient. For me, that did not happen. The label was given and the label followed.
Yes, crazy is often used disrespectfully, but I used it to show a respectful alternative (upset), because a lot of people tune out technical or psychobabbly words, myself included.
“lots of psychiatric diagnoses”
Psychiatry destroys BOTH male and female, I don’t know why you think male patients do any better than female. That they JUST destroy the female patients is bull.
So there goes your misogyny, if they hate males just as well as female?
I would say psychiatry is a matriarchy not a patriarchy for they do not put people in prison but in a hospital. People are not guilty or responsible for their actions (something a mother would say) because they do not know any better and are not in their right mind.
“The insanity defense, also known as the mental disorder defense, is an affirmative defense by excuse in a criminal case, arguing that the defendant is not responsible for their actions due to an episodic or persistent psychiatric disease at the time of the criminal act.” While a patriarchy would put someone in prison and call it a prison.
“that you can only access welfare if you’ll take a psychiatric diagnosis and take the medication.”
in psychiatry people get help with psychiatry medicine, they’re not controlled or coerced with (no visible violence) poisons.<matriarchy
"He whips out his prescription pad, and he writes out a prescription for Prozac."
It is about selling legal drugs as "medicine" to a willing public. (on the voluntary side of psychiatry)
Billions and billions of dollars.
I would have to disagree that these drugs are not coerced or that there is no visible violence, except to the extent that folks who have never seen the inside of a psych ward have not witnessed such violence being applied. There are tables in there with wrist and ankle and waist restraints, and people get wrestled into them, or held down and injected with psych drugs (as “masculine” an act as I could ever imagine.) Additionally, mothers do not own the market on telling people they aren’t responsible for their actions.
Perhaps more importantly, history shows us that women are, in fact, the targets for certain interventions, in particular ECT, and for certain diagnoses, in particular, “Borderline Personality Disorder,” among others. Phyllis Chesler has written extensively about this in “Women and Madness,” but she is certainly not the only one.
Finally, psychiatry is fully the invention of white European males, with very little contribution from other sources. While it has become more “diverse” as the decades have passed, the basic assumptions, particularly the idea that a “sane” practitioner can determine the “insane” patients by observation and can use force or coercion to get them to behave “properly,” have never actually changed. The more recent marriage to the pharmaceutical industry to use drugs and ECT to alter someone’s brain to stop them from feeling the “wrong” things and/or behaving the “wrong” way certainly fits with a historically “patriarchal” worldview, namely that the “authorities” get to decide what YOU ought to do, and dissenters are to be punished. It’s true that the “punishment” has taken on a different color, mostly due to the presence of mass media and drug company marketing of “diseases,” but when push comes to shove (sorry for the ironic analogy there!), psychiatry is a top-down, fully authoritarian effort to “make people behave,” and it is very much backed up with the full use of government and social force to make its pronouncements stick OR ELSE.
“but when push comes to shove (sorry for the ironic analogy there!), psychiatry is a top-down, fully authoritarian effort to “make people behave,” and it is very much backed up with the full use of government and social force to make its pronouncements stick OR ELSE.”
So your happy to say that this is morality policing dressed up as ‘medicine’?
I mean to me it seems obvious given the “exclusions” in our Mental Health Act as to what they can’t write down in the documentation (their ‘verbals’). Want to lock someone up and force drug them for their ‘socialist’ political views? That’d be unlawful of course, so ‘verbal’ it up a bit and make it sound like the ‘activism’ is an illness.
Refusing to answer what you know is a loaded question becomes a symptom of your illness. “Do you take drugs? (asked in front of police by a Community Nurse)”…. “i’d rather speak to my lawyer before answering that question” …… (denied) and what was written on the documentation? “refused to answer re substance abuse”.
Refusing to answer a question is not a justification for anything and proves absolutely nothing. But it does create an air of suspicion which is precisely the intent of a ‘verballer’ (or forger which is possibly the correct term for the fabrication of a fraudulent statutory declaration)
Fairly easy to do, and those that can’t do it are sent for ‘creative writing’ training (yes, they literally train our police in the corrupt act of ‘verballing’). The ‘exclusions’ are basically a list of what to avoid writing on the documents. make no mention of their sexual preferences, but we know what’s code for ‘faggot’ right? same goes for ‘acute stress reaction’…… code for the use of torture methods, but just don’t use the correct terms for what is actually being done…… see the manual for Abu Ghraib as to how to ‘stress’ inmates to prepare them for interrogations. Think I have a copy here somewhere…..
Who loses, who gains, and what are the benefits of enabling such human rights abuses (ie ‘treating’ people for their political deviances? Or any of the other ‘deviances’ called exclusions? eg the way that homosexuality used to be an inclusion, but is now an exclusion?)
Interesting shift in the way this is being done with the rewriting of our Mental Health Act. Once ‘captured’ there is little need to bother about the deviances that the individual is being ‘treated’ for, all that matters is that they are labelled and can live in the community until it is time to snatch them should their moral conduct come into question….. by anyone.
The 80 or so people who were the reason the politicians said they needed powers to deal with (those dangerous individuals who were “slipping through the cracks”) quickly went from 80 or so people who needed to be subjected to Community Treatment Orders, to more than 3000 individuals once the laws were passed.
Who is actually responsible there? The people who pushed to have the laws passed with lies about how they would be used, or the people who passed them and watched as they are being abused despite claims this wouldn’t occur?
“People are not guilty or responsible for their actions (something a mother would say) because they do not know any better and are not in their right mind”
Gee, my mother never said this. Just the opposite. She said I was guilty and should be punished. She applauded every time Psychiatry inflicted punishment, every time Psychiatry hurt me (like with ECT) and then said I was a bad person (borderline) or I would have gotten better from the ECT.
Psych hospitals, most of them (maybe not the ritzy self-pay ones, but the ones I’ve seen the inside of), are pretty prison like. I’ve heard many people say if they had a choice between the psych ward and jail, they’d choose jail.
The following was just posted, I Believe by a psychiatrist, on the antipsychiatry sub on Reddit and a thread regarding borderline personality diagnosis and invalidation. The diagnosis is sexist to its core.:
“Honest question- A lot of people have had a woman in their life who would do things like take a bunch of pills and start fights, cause car accidents, set someone’s car on fire, have sex with multiple guys and tell them the other ones raped her… You get the idea. Total chaos. Behavior that’s traumatizing for people who know them. It’s traumatizing for them, too, but they get a kick out of the power they wield over their victims. Then they have kids and they dont change. They get sole custody, and then they sleep with an unemployed addict for child care, because they know he needs a place to stay and he won’t be gone at a job all day. Kids’ lives are hell.
“A lot of people have been traumatized by having someone like that for a mother or wife or sibling. What do you propose they should do? Remember, calling it a personality disorder is actually the “nice” way of saying it. They are trying to describe the problem without using any morally loaded language. In some ways, I agree, morality is a dimension of a human being. When they try to pathologize something as a medical condition, it does more harm than good, precisely because stops people from admitting their is a moral dimension to a person’s behavior, and that may be the problem.”
The magic words of society: “make people behave”. Stirred a lot of anger in me. It’s where I am right now. Realizing the lost years of my life in order to manage the feelings I had that were not in the correct order of the normal life span. Nothing fit the “normal” order. My life experiences were shared to doctors by other people and not by me. Again, the minimization by the patriarchal world view. Along with that, patriarchs don’t really teach emotions but to deny them so they are gentlemanly, sophisticated and the women, enable the patriarch with their smiles and laughter. Bring them joy, like a kid and a new puppy. Perform. The medicine will help you perform. You have only 10 days to show you can perform. The medicine saves dollars with the insurance companies and society. It saves money instead of hiring someone or two, to actually listen to the entire company of a family or maybe even the patient AND the family. Don’t anyone dare to challenge the authoritarian, probably based in narcissism anyway. And so we continue to follow the Yellow Brick Road.
‘Research’ just released
“Smacked Children twice as likely to develop mental illness”
“Six in ten parents still smack their children, according to a new study from the Australian Catholic University.
The ACU study found that 61% of Australians aged 16-24 have received corporal punishment from parental figures four or more times.
Further, it revealed that children who are smacked repeatedly by their parents are almost twice as likely to develop anxiety and depression.
The research, once fully released, could influence law reform surrounding the protection of children.”
I got to thinking a little about this. This from such an organisation which resisted ‘law reform’ regarding some of the treatment of children in the institutions they were running?
Move the line to smacking children three times and they could include more kids for labels and drugs I suppose?
I wonder if I am missing something about this ‘research’ though?
I guess what stands out for me most is the use of a ‘fear narrative’ by the ‘researchers’. If you beat your kids, then they will need to be labelled and drugged. Which will no doubt have a greater effect on the immigrant community.
Mother blaming has become ‘parent blaming’? From an organisation that claimed that children being raped by their clergy was a “character flaw” and not a criminal offence? And I guess it exposes where the people who they allowed to be abused ended up? That is, labelled with mental illnesses and silenced by the ‘treatments’
Forgive my skepticism.
I think the ‘penny just dropped’ for me.
Apart from being a great distraction for the main event…….this almost looks like the Church is directing people into the hands of ‘mental health services’ and by proxy drug companies. The mass drugging of children with ‘anxiety disorders’ and ‘depression’ can easily be justified f the ‘mental illness’ was induced by the anxious parents (who also need drugging because of their fear of their children having a mental illness. Hyperalertness syndrome).
But more importantly for me is that I believe that the introduction of an “Ellis Defense” into our Mental Health Act has enabled the “explosion” of the use of Electric Shock Treatments on children. This ‘legal reform’ (presented to the community as being an “added protection” without any further comment as to WHO was being protected) will no doubt be exposed in time…. though a little too late for those who are damaged and who die as a result.
I’d like to see the data on the amount of ‘shock Docs’ who were heading our way once they realised their was an ‘enabling’ act going on.
And as far as the ‘research’ mentioned above, I’d also be skeptical of a Cook Book by Jeffrey Dahmer as a means to make amends for his “character flaw”. Especially when you consider how the Ellis defense came into being, to ensure that those who they knew had been abused were denied access to compensation. Doctors concerned they will be sued for ECTing children? What do they do? The heart exposed by their actions.
Borderline is psychiatry’s invitation to men to abuse women who are angry, who don’t smile enough, who aren’t impressed.
KateL says, “Borderline is psychiatry’s invitation to men to abuse women who are angry, who don’t smile enough, who aren’t impressed.”
This is the truth, through and through.
Psychiatry and misogyny go hand in hand, meaning you can’t have one without the other, meaning if you’re a woman, you better get ready to kowtow.