How can psychiatry maintain its authority and influence despite its repeated scientific failures and lack of progress—now even acknowledged by key members of the psychiatric establishment and the mainstream media?

As I documented in CounterPunch earlier this year, it is now mainstream to acknowledge that: (1) psychiatry’s treatment outcomes are “abysmal” and “not getting any better”; (2) the serotonin imbalance theory of depression is untrue; and (3) psychiatry’s diagnostic manual, the DSM, is scientifically invalid.

Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) from 2002-2015, acknowledged in 2011, “Whatever we’ve been doing for five de­cades, it ain’t working. When I look at the numbers—the number of sui­cides, the number of disabilities, the mortality data—it’s abysmal, and it’s not getting any better.”

In 2021, New York Times reporter Benedict Carey, after covering psychiatry for twenty years, concluded that psychiatry had done “little to improve the lives of the millions of people living with persistent mental distress. Almost every measure of our collective mental health—rates of suicide, anxiety, depression, addiction deaths, psychiatric prescription use—went the wrong direc­tion, even as access to services expanded greatly.”

In 2023, Time reported, “About one in eight U.S. adults now takes an antidepressant”; however, Time continued, “Mental health is getting worse by multiple metrics. Suicide rates have risen by about 30% since 2000. . . . As of late 2022, just 31% of U.S. adults considered their mental health ‘excellent,’ down from 43% two decades earlier.”

Among the many examples that shatter the myth that “psychiatry is a young science making great progress” is the fate of Prozac and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), ushered in during the late 1980s as “miracle drugs.” During the last three decades, SSRIs have been repeatedly linked to higher suicide risk; found to create a far higher percentage of sexual dysfunction than to positively affect depression (with SSRI success rates no different than placebo rates or even lower than placebo rates); and result in withdrawal reactions that can be severe and persistent.

In addition to treatment outcome failures, it has long been known by researchers that there is no scientific basis for psychiatry’s serotonin imbalance theory of depression—this now acknowledged by establishment psychiatry, and finally reported by the mainstream media in 2022. Furthermore, key members of establishment psychiatry have also acknowledged the scientific invalidity of psychiatry’s DSM diagnostic manual, with Insel in his 2022 book Healing stating: “The DSM had created a common language, but much of that language had not been validated by science.”

How can psychiatry retain its authority and influence despite its scientific failures? That’s been the question posed to me in 2023 by interviewers such as Nick Fortino on “Psychology Is” and Mollie Adler on “Back from the Borderline.” In these interviews, I have talked about the components of the psychiatric-pharmaceutical-industrial complex, along with how psychiatry meets the political needs of the ruling class and dysfunctional families. However, in addition to these financial and political explanations, a fundamental cultural reason why psychiatry lives on is Western society’s worship of technology—but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical-Industrial Complex

Readers familiar with the military-industrial complex will recognize that the psychiatric-pharmaceutical-industrial complex follows the same institutional-corruption “playbook.”

The psychiatric-pharmaceutical-industrial complex is fueled by the profits of Big Pharma, which have made a staggering amount of money from psychiatric drugs. By 2005, Eli Lilly had amassed over $22 billion in sales from its SSRI Prozac; and Lilly’s antipsychotic drug Zyprexa, at its peak, grossed more than $5 billion in annual sales. That’s just two psychiatric drugs from one drug company. When an industry is grossing billions of dollars, it is easy to spread around millions to make many more billions.

Big Pharma has spread its money around to psychiatric institutions such as the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the guild of psychiatrists, and to so-called “patient advocacy” groups such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Big Pharma has also spread millions of dollars around to individual psychiatrists, especially so-called “thought leaders.” One of many psychiatrists exposed by 2008 Congressional hearings on psychiatry’s financial relationship with drug companies was Harvard psychiatrist Joseph Biederman—credited with creating pediatric bipolar disorder—who received $1.6 million in consulting fees from drug makers from 2000 to 2007. Federal legislation in 2013 required drug companies to disclose their payments to physicians, resulting in the creation of an Open Payments database; and in 2021, utilizing this database, journalist Robert Whitaker reported: “From 2014 to 2020, pharmaceutical companies paid $340 million to U.S. psychiatrists to serve as their consultants, advisers, and speakers, or to provide free food, beverages and lodging to those attending promotional events.” Whitaker noted that approximately 75 percent of the psychiatrists in the United States “received something of value from the drug companies from 2014 through 2020.”

As in other industrial complexes, there is also “regulatory capture,” which includes rewarding friendly government officials with high-paying jobs after they leave regulatory agencies. In June 2019, two months after stepping down as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) director, Scott Gottlieb joined the board of directors of Pfizer (whose products include the SSRI Zoloft and the benzodiazepine Xanax). By rewarding Gottlieb, Pfizer sent a clear message to high-level officials currently at the FDA. This message—along with drug companies funding the research evaluated by the FDA in its approval process—majorly increases the likelihood of drug approval.

Mainstream media is another major player in the psychiatric-pharmaceutical-industrial complex. In the late 1990s, following the FDA’s loosening of restrictions on direct-to-consumer advertising, Big Pharma became a huge revenue source for mainstream media. By 2019, Big Pharma’s $6.6 billion yearly spending on TV advertising ranked it as the fourth-largest spender of TV ads in the United States. Mainstream media is very much aware that drug companies can pull their advertising if their reporters are too critical of Big Pharma’s institutional corruption of psychiatry. This has resulted in mainstream media serving as stenographers for the psychiatric-industrial-complex, not reporting the major failures of psychiatry—including the fraud of serotonin-imbalance theory of depression and the STAR*D scandal (the 2006 study that inflated antidepressant effectiveness, which The New York Times in 2022 continued to uncritically accept).

Meeting the Political Needs of the Ruling Class and Dysfunctional Families

The individual-defect/pathologizing of emotional suffering and behavioral disturbances meets the political needs of those who wish to remain in denial of their connection with emotional suffering and behavioral disturbances.

Psychiatry’s biochemical/brain disease explanations for emotional suffering and behavioral disturbances clearly meets the needs of the ruling class. If a population believes that its suffering is caused not by social-economic-political variables but instead by individual defects, this belief undermines political rebellion and maintains the status quo. Psychiatry’s mental illness theories are a major component of what Antonio Gramsci described as cultural hegemony—the prevailing cultural beliefs of a society that are social constructs implemented by the ruling class through favored institutions so as to maintain domination.

The political implications of biological individual-defect theories—promulgated by the psychiatric-pharmaceutical-industrial complex—have been obvious to many prominent scientists. Evolutionary geneticist R.C. Lewontin, neurobiologist Steven Rose, and psychologist Leon Kamin, in their 1984 book Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology, and Human Nature, make clear the political ideology implicit in the individual defect theory of biochemical/genetic determinism: “Biological determinism (biologism) has been a powerful mode of explaining the observed inequalities of status, wealth, and power in contemporary industrial capitalist societies. . . . Biological determinism is a powerful and flexible form of ‘blaming the victim.’”

At the family level, psychiatry meets the needs of families that prefer to stay in denial of their dysfunctionality. Prior to the ascendency in the 1980s of the psychiatry-pharmaceutical-industrial complex—and its promotion of a biochemical/brain disease perspective—it was not radical to consider the possibility that severe emotional and behavioral disturbances could sometimes be a product of a dysfunctional family. In family-systems theory, the “mentally-ill” labeled family member is considered to be the “identified patient” (IP), enabling the family to stay in denial of its dysfunctionality; and family therapists view the IP as a kind of “emissary,” calling out for help for the dysfunctional family. Family therapists recognize that family members (including sometimes even the IP) are often attached to the belief that their family is a normal and loving one, and such an attachment results in family members needing to believe that the only problem in the family is the “mental illness” of the IP, who is essentially scapegoated. Shame-based families that would rather stay in denial of their dysfunctionality have an ally in psychiatry’s individual-defect medicalization of emotional suffering and behavioral disturbances.

For societal and family authorities, psychiatry has another political role, an “extra-legal police function.” Specifically, a major political role of psychiatry is to control individuals—via involuntary drug and hospitalization “treatments”—who have done nothing illegal but who create tension for authorities. David Cohen, UCLA professor of social welfare, notes: “This coercive function is what society and most people actually appreciate most about psychiatry.” Cohen explains how the societal need for psychiatry’s extra-legal police function compels society to be blind to psychiatry’s complete lack of scientific validity: “Because of psychiatric coercion, society gives psychiatric theories a free pass. These theories never need to pass any rigorously devised tests (as we expect other important scientific theories to pass), they only need to be asserted.”

Technology Worship

For quite some time in the United States, and now in much of the world, technology progress has served as a soteriology—a doctrine of salvation from pain and discomfort. And so rather than thinking critically about the value of a technology, anything labeled as technological is uncritically accepted, and anything considered to be a new technology is celebrated.

Psychiatry’s technology history is one of repeated failures. However, in a society that worships technology, psychiatry has cleverly positioned itself as forever embracing the latest and most popular technology—be it surgical, chemical, electrical, or digital.

With each failure of psychiatry’s technologies—some now viewed as barbaric, such as lobotomy and insulin coma therapy—psychiatry seeks new technologies or revives and tweaks older ones. In former NIMH director Thomas Insel’s 2022 book Healing, he acknowledges that psychiatry has discarded its “chemical imbalance theory” of mental illness, however, he promotes another theory lacking scientific proof: “The idea of mental illness as a ‘chemical imbalance’ has now given way to mental illnesses as ‘connectional’ or brain circuit disorders”; and he pushes for more electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), commonly referred to as electroshock. While one can find anecdotal testimonials for any treatment, including ECT, there is no scientific evidence (randomized controlled trials) that ECT is effective, and a great deal of evidence that it results in adverse cognitive effects.

Psychiatry is undeterred by its repeated technological failures. In 2017, Insel candidly acknowledged: “I spent 13 years at NIMH really pushing on the neuroscience and genetics of mental disorders, and when I look back on that I realize that while I think I succeeded at getting lots of really cool papers published by cool scientists at fairly large costs—I think $20 billion—I don’t think we moved the needle in reducing suicide, reducing hospitalizations, improving recovery for the tens of millions of people who have mental illness.” Yet in his 2022 book Healing, Insel is unrepentant, “I have no regrets about NIMH funding for genomics and neuroscience,” and he now pushes digital technologies.

Psychiatry’s thought leaders such as Insel are well aware that in contemporary society, anything labeled as a new “digital technology” gets attention, and so upon Insel’s 2015 exit from NIMH, he joined a company focusing on something called “digital phenotyping,” which includes using smartphone signals for measuring behavior and mood.

Technology critics, in general, are often accused of being Luddites who want to eliminate all technology. However, as technology critic Kirkpatrick Sale notes in his history of the Luddites, Rebels Against the Future, even the Luddites were not against technology per se—they in fact used technology. Rather, the Luddites rebelled against a new technology that would destroy their autonomy, create boring work, lower their standard of living, and diminish the quality of their lives.

Similarly, critics of psychiatry are routinely mischaracterized by psychiatry apologists as “anti-drug.” However, I know of no psychiatry critic who is “anti-drug,” but rather for informed choice and autonomy. I don’t know any psychiatry critic who does not recognize the value of the temporary use of a sleep-aiding drug in order to prevent the type of extensive sleep deprivation that may result in psychosis. Rather than being “anti-drug,” such critics expose falsehoods that psychiatric drugs correct nonexistent chemical imbalances, and these critics bring to light research showing that for many people the long-term daily use of psychiatric drugs has resulted in more and not less suffering.

Technology criticism, for anti-authoritarian thinkers such as Peter Kropotkin, Rudolf Rocker, Murray Bookchin, and Lewis Mumford, is “a central component of a broader critique of society and modernity,” notes technology historian Zachary Loeb. These critics were concerned about how technologies would be used, and who would be in control of them. Loeb notes: “The emphasis that Bookchin put upon the opposition between ‘authoritarian’ and ‘libertarian’ technics was not an accidental echo of Mumford’s ‘authoritarian’ and ‘democratic’ technics.”

In the twentieth century, Lewis Mumford was a well-known critic and historian of architecture, urban planning, literature—and of technology (or what he called technics). As a young man, Mumford was fascinated by electrical engineering, and his first published articles were in Modern Electrics. In the 1930s, he wrote Technics and Civilization about the effects of the machine age. Later, Mumford became increasingly troubled by the irrational and dehumanizing use of technology, and he wrote the two-volumed The Myth of the Machine, which includes Technics and Human Development (1966) and The Pentagon of Power (1970). Instead of using technology to promote greater autonomy, community, and culture, Mumford’s concern was that technology was being employed to transform human beings into what he called “a passive, purposeless, machine-conditioned animal.”

With a worship of technology comes an exclusive focus on the quantifiable and the measurable. However, by eliminating life’s subjectivity and its non-quantifiable dimensions, Mumford recognized, many of life’s most interesting and significant attributes are ignored or turned into second-rate phenomena, resulting in a culturally impoverished society that is obsessed with power and control.

The worship of power and control is at the heart of the worship of technology. For psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to gain prestige and influence, they need society to see them as technological and powerful. As I detailed in Mad in America earlier this year in “Psychiatry’s Control-Freak Medical Model Versus Healing and Healers,” psychiatry’s fundamental paradigm is a technical-mechanical model in which behaviors and emotions that cause tension and discomfort are manipulated with various technologies. In this model, the psychiatrist is a technician who fixes what is defective. While a technical-mechanical medical model works in some parts of medicine (such as for removing a malignant tumor), this mechanical model has failed when it comes to emotional suffering and behavioral disturbances.

In the training of psychiatrists, a large effort is made to socialize them to be scientist-technicians. They are socialized to accept a medical/mechanical model that views human beings as essentially genetic-biochemical-electrical machines, in which techniques can be applied, and outcomes can be quantifiably assessed. In return for deleting the subjective and non-quantifiable human experiences—leaving these to the Philosophy and English departments—the profession of psychiatry gains prestige and influence.

However, with such deletions, psychiatrists became psychotic—literally losing contact with the non-quantifiable dimensions of humanity that are vital to reducing emotional suffering. Psychiatry’s technologies (such as its drugs) can temporarily blunt the pain of emotional suffering; however, trauma—the root cause of much emotional suffering—is healed though kindness, empathy, curiosity, compassion, and love, which are subjective and non-quantifiable.

In summary, psychiatry lives on despite repeated failures and lack of progress not only because of the psychiatric-pharmaceutical-industrial complex, and not only because it meets the political needs of both the ruling class and shame-based dysfunctional families. On another level, psychiatry lives on despite repeated failures and lack of progress because it embraces the worship of technology and the belief that salvation from emotional suffering will come with a new technology. So, no matter how many times psychiatry’s theories are proven scientifically invalid, and no matter how many times its treatments are proven nonproductive and counterproductive, by its embracing the widely popular technology-worship “religion,” psychiatry is permitted to ignore the reality that its repeated failures are evidence that its fundamental paradigm is misguided, and psychiatry is permitted to claim that its repeated failures are part in parcel of the road to progress.


  1. “How can psychiatry retain its authority and influence despite its scientific failures?”

    Well, because it’s authority and influence is not strictly speaking scientific nor medical.


    By using false premises, anyone arguing about mental stuff can reach conclusion labeled TRUE and FALSE at either moment. Basic logic.

    And that kind of “arguing”, even when dialectic and “analytical”, is common enough in political and ideological, even religious discourse so that the civil society, legislators, judges, etc., feel comfortable enough that have difficult time understanding effectively that the arguments about “mental” are by their starting point FALLACIOUS.

    Empirical obfuscation, lots of papers, lots of research, lots of statements, lots of appeal to emotion, lots of appeal to authority, to conceal the fact the king is naked. There is no Wizard of Oz. No truth supporting mental statements.

    And the civil society, even the scientifically minded one, precisely by going to empiricism without comprehending effectively that there is no true bases for mental statements, fall pray to arguing from false premises.

    So, that kind of “reasoning” is common enough among the populace to render almost ineffective any kind of empirical evidence, since always can be explained on fallacious grounds, either way. Like politics, ideoly and religion. Let’s take a vote, let’s have beliefs, let’s make opinions, let’s build consensus statements, and/or use authority…

    And that is not a failure of power dynamics, it’s part of the culture of societies that embrace scientific progress without understanding the Progress of Science.

    Teaching critical thinking while apparently embracing the use of logic, epistemics and the Scientific Method, when they clearly point from the start to fallacious ways of discussion, understanding and decision making is part of our Neo-Irrational world.

    With a sometimes false assurance and a deadly touch of either way empirically “proven” cuasi-causality.

    In my small-time deluded ignorant mind, psychiatry has to be submitted by logical repeated garroting, not by empirical means. (garroting as in clubbed/cudgeled).

    It’s an ideological AND political fight, it never was from the start a scientific fight. Except it has a veneer of scientificism, that it is in FACT pseudoscientic.

    And that did not bode well for the Skeptic movement, so I’m not overly optimistic. But maybe it’s failures might provide some caveats for the logical garroting approach. And even skeptics run away, from little I know, of fighting that kind of pseudoscience.

    They can be more vitriolic against the paranormal than against the truly nefarious pseudoscientific. Acceptable, sometimes comendable, but enlightening when fighting that kind of illogical, fallacious and reputable pseudosciences.

    Report comment

  2. Thank you, Dr. Levine. I appreciate the nuances that are sensitive and inclusive of the range of diversity in the critics’ viewpoints, the range of understanding and education of the readers, and the range of experience of those exposed to psychiatric treatment. The potential audience and users of these informative articles is mixed and many of us are looking for articles to share or to improve our ability to promote better understanding when the opportunity arises.

    Report comment

  3. Dr. Levine has done a wonderful job of answering the question few have asked: “If psychiatry has no medical and/or scientific validity, then why has it gained and maintained its supremacy as the go-to profession to solve human problems?”

    As he points out, a significant part of the answer has to do with the large sums of money spent on the mental health movement by the drug companies.

    Another part has to do with the role of the media, which has also been bought off by drug advertising.

    Still another has to do with the usefulness of blaming the individual victim provided by the theory of biological reductionism.

    But perhaps the most significant is the utopian idea of the mental health movement: if there were no mental illness, there would be no interpersonal conflict, no anxiety, no depression, no suffering, no divorce, no conflicts between parent and children, and of course no suicide.

    In his 1960 article “The Myth of Mental Illness,” Dr. Thomas Szasz wrote “the myth of mental illness encourages us to believe in its logical corollary: that social intercourse would be harmonious, satisfying, and the secure basis of a good life were it not for the disrupting influences of mental illness, or psychopathology. However, universal human happiness, in this form at least, is but another example of a wishful fantasy.”

    Report comment

  4. Hmmm, there are over 3,000 views, currently, but no one has commented so far ? I guess I will try to kick things off but maybe there are already comments in the queue ? Bruce , I always look forward to your articles and I purchased and read your Spinoza book. Anyway, lately I have been seeing things mostly through a Marxist lens. I think that why psychiatry is allowed to exist is imply because material survival –rather than the development of rational or spiritual thinking marks every epoch (at least under capitalism). Also, I am no Marxist scholar but it seems to me that technology , as a fetish, can be explained via a Marxist analysis as well.

    Report comment

  5. One also has to ask what is the role of psychology in maintaining the status quo. Professional bodies with perhaps the exception of the British Psychological Society have been reluctant to stand up to the dishonesty of psychiatry and the pharmaceutical companies. Collectively as a profession they can make enough noise for change, but they have chosen to remain loyal to the disease model and stayed silent to protect their financial interests. As such they continue to fail the public.

    “To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men” – Ella Wheeler Wilcox

    Report comment

  6. Thanks Bruce – another great article. You might want to mention that psychiatrists were given the keys to the asylums mid-19th century because they told the magistrates (and politicians) that they could predict dangerousness. They still do – (even though we know they can’) and that from a legal viewpoint is why they maintain control.

    Report comment

  7. You summed it up nicely, doc. I especially appreciated the final nail on the coffin—technology. Humans love progress! Evolution is what we’re all about. Devolution is what we’re going to get though. Very sad. Very

    Report comment

  8. Psychiatry was under assault in the 1960s and 70s. So in order to bolster its medical bonafides, it beefed up its small 1968 DSM-2 manual for the 1980 DSM III launch which expanded the number of possible diagnoses and pages.

    The psychologists, which had struggled since the 1950s to practice independently, balked at DSM’s claim that all diagnoses had a biological claim; they threatened to develop their own separate manual, as detailed by Kirk and Kutchins in their book, “The Selling of DSM.”

    But the American Psychiatric Association backed off on the biological claim for all conditions, and came up with the weasel words, “mental disorders.” The psychologists signed on to using the DSM primarily to become members of the “health care team” and to collect health insurance money. Social workers too signed on to using the DSM.

    The payment of health insurance to psychologists and other so-called mental health providers now guarantees that they will remain complicit in the myth that “mental health treatment” is a real medical enterprise. Many psychotherapists and counselors have hooked up with psychiatrists so their “patients” can be put on antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs and have endorsed the neurotransmitter explanations of “mental illness.”

    As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding.”

    Report comment

    • Well there was an assault against the asylum strand.

      The psychoanalytical one was alive and well in the 70s, even the 80s. But it was only for the more affluent.

      Woody Allen’s and many other cultural expressions were kinda praisy and apologetic of the old couch therapy. Movies like Sleeper, Zelig, Another Woman, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Deconstructing Harry, for example.

      The theater play Play it Again Sam is a quintessential example of masculinity, the subconscious, represed sexuality and feminism.

      Even today psychoanalytic remoras are present in literary analysis. I’ve read at least one in the NYTimes that uses, still, psychoanalytic concepts.

      Repression, suppression, desplacement, projection, insight, slip of the tongue. The subconscious survived alive, well and more pervasive than immediately after Freud’s demise.

      Report comment

    • Yes, the switch to the medical model/chemical imbalance approach worked out well for many.

      I used to wonder how psychiatry didn’t get called out by the more legitimate medical specialties — the ones that base conclusions on objective measures like blood work and x rays. I eventually realized that all areas of medicine benefit from psychiatry. Whether a patient who pushes button, a patient who keeps showing up complaining of vague and shifting symptoms when nothing shows up in tests, a patient who someone on staff made a big mistake with? It’s in the professionals’ interest, then, to diagnose that patient with a personality disorder, or maybe just “traits”, if you want to be nice about it…and question compliance and throw in words like somatoform for good measure.

      Report comment

  9. I really want to focus on the second aspect of psychiatry which is often overlooked but this article touched on as a side thing, which it is not. It is 50% if not more of the problem with being a psychiatrist.

    The way we discuss the issues surrounding psychiatry is, in itself, a problem.
    Psychiatry comprises two distinct areas, IMHO: the medical license and the legal aspect.

    The medical aspect lacks a solid foundation basis for its diagnosis because there is no health spectrum (even the doctor does not know why they are not depressed like the client – until there is a quantifiable answer for the basis of diagnosis; it is just othering now) and giving medication for something the doctor does not know what its health looks like is wrong and basic abuse of power.

    The legal aspect, primarily concerning involuntary restraint or confinement, is likely more problematic because it is not the job of a doctor; if a doctor means healing, then restraining is not healing in any culture!

    I think that by separating these two domains, it would be a significant step. I think most people will agree that it is widely recognized that they are not the same and do not require the same set of skills. They are two different professions or jobs!

    By creating this division of responsibility, most doctors would no longer be in a position to medicate a person for the sole purpose of enabling another person (who is not a doctor) to restrain that person.

    Separating these two areas would provide a more nuanced approach to enhancing support for individuals facing various crises especially if they work in tandem in different locations.

    I know this may sound blahh but I think separating the powers may make one stop and think …creating a bit of adversity between the two areas of responsibility may safe many people from unnecessary medication without their consent. It is like police and persecutor! (they work together but may not agree with each other 100%).

    Report comment

  10. Psychiatry and its auxiliaries have the advantage to perpetuate themselves by means of lies, the speed of technology and the fact that its professionals are operating business, making a living, in a state of relative health and ambition while targeting others who appear to be vulnerable. Psychiatric harm is enabled by societal traits and values such as general ignorance, the acceptance of “collateral damage” , devaluation of human life, monetization of humans, “looking the other way”, and classism. The mental health system outpaces the typical time it takes for many people to work through their dilemmas and to understand their danger from the psychiatric system and the reductionist and toxic value system that supports it. Many victims are captured due to their lack of resources to escape the mental health system scouts and gate keepers. That’s how I ponder it.

    Report comment

  11. Thank you for an excellent essay Dr. Levine. Psychiatry lives on by exploiting people’s hardships and suffering and employing a “blame the victim” attitude.

    Thank you for writing on how psychiatry is an ally for dysfunctional shame-based family members. There are family members who need to hide their wrongdoings and protect their self-image of perfection and psychiatry will happily collude with them to scapegoat and project onto an “identified patient”. I have read this type of projection has been given a name – FSA – Family Scapegoat Abuse.

    Report comment

    • Yep, my mom was throwing game systems out of windows and ramming other people’s cars and taking OD quantities of hypnotics, and had a hair trigger temper and would launch into shame based tirades whenever anything wasn’t to her liking. My dad once said he ‘never had any idea what to expect in any interaction with her,’ imagine what that’s like for a kid! Meanwhile my brother was violent to the core and by middle school was making attempts on my life, and anything could set him off — he could stub his toe and he’d punch me for it or chase me with a knife. My dad was just a kind of enabler figure and whenever I’d get upset he’d chide me for not being able to ignore the abuse. He was also sadistic, he’d wake me up by pinching me mercilessly until I was screaming and crying and walk away laughing to himself. I had my own issues, of course, but mostly I just tried to stay invisible. I saw a play therapist who eventually called my parents when I was only in elementary school and said my brother was traumatizing me and the house was unsafe and he had to be taken out. They didn’t like that, had me call him and tell him he ‘got the wrong idea about our family,’ took me to a biopsychiatrist and got me diagnosed with ‘GAD,’ anxiety not explained by the circumstances. Can you imagine, hyper vigilance not being warranted in that context! But I was like 11 years old, I didn’t have the words or voice to protest. My mother cleaved to biological psychiatry as her lifeline and would mercilessly criticize me for ‘parent blaming for my mental illness’ if I ever said the family wasn’t well and it wasn’t just me. That’s the narrative they’ve still got, ‘Ryan just needs someone to blame.’ Really it was the reverse! I even got the ptsd diagnosis from a psychiatric professional and they wouldn’t accept it, all the other diagnoses were fine, but this one pointed to context so the guy must be a quack! Anyway, I believe firmly in the identified patient role as an existing and pervasive phenomenon, and it is almost impossible to get out from under.

      Report comment

  12. Excellent analysis Dr. Levine! And interestingly, two of the three reasons you provide apply not just to psychiatry, but our entire medical system. You have just explained, more clearly than I have ever seen it done before, why most people in our society still cling to the belief that there’s a “pill for every ill” and are quick to line up for the latest medical intervention (even something “experimental”) despite the inherent risks. Indeed, the worship of technology augmented by Big Pharma’s unrelenting propaganda echoed by regulators captured by the pharmaceutical industrial complex has destroyed the health of millions. Ivan Illich had a bit to say about the entire medical-mechanical model in his Medical Nemesis book way back in the 70s. But of course psychiatry is at the top of the evil pyramid with no redeeming qualities whereas (as you pointed out) if you get in a car crash, having a medical mechanic in the ER could very well be life saving.

    Report comment

  13. This is a really succinct and clear analysis of the issues at hand. It also further confirms for me the need to address change in this sector with the full support of political and economic theories because of the profound relationship between psychiatry and the current political and economic conditions of the United States. I do not know how much change is possible until we address as a society the political and economic failures of our current functioning, and there is real change to the systems utilized in our existence. Why this web of psychiatric corruption has always felt so complex to me is precisely because of its deeper reflection of all other corrupt systems in our society. It truly warrants a much larger coalition based effort, combining multiple fields, in order to change its course. And the political and economic hurdles to mounting that kind of national movement cannot be ignored. I do think it is going to take something of the scope of the Civil Rights or Disability Rights movement to see change, in addition to collaborating with our other current national movements that also seek liberation. Because at the end of the day that’s really what we’re talking about. Liberation.

    Report comment

  14. Bob Whitaker asked me to provide him with screenshots of my comments, which are clearly being censored, so I will do that here. My comment, which was censored, is that the UN is speaking out two sides of its’ mouth. On the one hand they are defending the rights of psychiatric patients, but on the other, they are erasing the language of women. We are “birthing persons”, “people with vaginas” etc”, while leaving the language of men intact (no one is proposing “people with penises”). WOLF, The Women’s Liberation Front held a protest at the UN over this in NY and not one media outlet covered it. Suggesting that women’s mental health will somehow improve as the words we use about ourself are being erased is the fly in the ointment of supposed progress. I have been an author here many times, and the idea that I have been censored over the last several years is outrageous. Dr. Peter Goetzshe, my houseguest at the moment, shared an article he had written about this very topic; the erasure of the language of women. Will you also censor him?

    Report comment

  15. Ha!I had never heard of WOLF before but I do know Grace Paley talked of censorship regarding peace efforts and the Gaza issue.Sometimes I think, it’s amazing that even some truths get out side the silent bubbles.I think censorship whether through textbooks and if one looked at my father’s Rc approved American Lit textbook one can see the now startling omissions and very questionable choices, is the norm more than not. And this goes way way back to bowderlization and the Index of Forbidden Books. The game has always been there the name and subjects just change. But you are right to call out gender and how that continues to be at best mishandled at worst abuse.Most of what I have learned is through self education while trying to accommodate the education circles I was born into. So having a seminar taught by a War College faculty member I was reading Vera Britten’s Testament to Youth not on the all male author syllabus. And the psychiatry world as patient mostly awful and so obviously not treatment at all. The word treatment euphemism in reality containment and punishment.The UN history with art works and words always problematic depending on the times and people involved.

    Report comment

  16. So offering support and letting folks choose to take or even before asking if support is needed and vast old and new ways of support using all the senses instead of standard treatment. And over and over again the male voice just keeps on being ahead which I find problematic and then over and above that racism and abelsim.

    Report comment

  17. Always love your writing, Bruce. Thank you! Can you tell me the page number in ‘Healing’ where Insel wrote, “The DSM had created a common language, but much of that language had not been validated by science”? Thanks. I’m writing something and want to include that quote and page number.

    Report comment