Starvation: What Does it Do to the Brain?

The Minnesota Starvation Experiment was conducted at the University of Minnesota during the Second World War. Prolonged semi-starvation produced significant increases in depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis, and most participants experienced periods of severe emotional distress and depression and grew increasingly irritable. It really should not be a surprise to this audience that the brain’s functioning is highly compromised when the body is being starved of food (and nutrients). What we wonder is whether eating a diet of primarily highly processed foods low in nutrients has similar effects.

Katharine Hepburn is Glamorous – Suicide is Not

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What do you do when the media reports stories of children who have killed themselves on SSRIs? Position the stories of these children, not the drugs they were taking, as a suicide risk. Warn that more children will die if mouthy parents are allowed to speak and upstart journalists are allowed to report. And then position psychiatrists as the only people who can talk about suicide without producing an epidemic of self inflicted deaths.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Does Not Exist

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Since the 1980s, a type of psychotherapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has become dominant. Like it or loathe it, CBT is now so ubiquitous it is often the only talking therapy available in both public and voluntary health settings. It is increasingly spoken about in the media and in living rooms across the country. Yet when we speak about CBT, what are we talking of? For CBT only exists - as we will see - as a political convenience.

Sweeping Benzos Under the Carpet

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Being an ex-accountant I am always interested in figures (not to mention that prescribed benzodiazepine drug addiction has played such a major part in my life). According to a yearly booklet released by the Home Office in the UK, benzodiazepine drugs accounted for more deaths than ALL the so-called hard drugs put together.

Things Your Doctor Should Tell You About Antidepressants

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The conventional wisdom is that antidepressant medications are effective and safe. However, the scientific literature shows that the conventional wisdom is flawed. While all prescription medications have side effects, antidepressant medications appear to do more harm than good as treatments for depression.

How Reliable is the DSM-5?

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More than a year on from the release of DSM-5, a Medscape survey found that just under half of clinicians had switched to using the new manual. Most non-users cited practical reasons, typically explaining that the health care system where they work has not yet changed over to the DSM-5. Many, however, said that they had concerns about the reliability of the DSM, which at least partially accounted for their non-use. Throughout the controversies that surrounded the development and launch of the DSM-5 reliability has been a contested issue: the APA has insisted that the DSM-5 is very reliable, others have expressed doubts. Here I reconsider the issues: What is reliability? Does it matter? What did the DSM-5 field trials show?

Reasons Not to Believe in Lithium

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I Don’t Believe in God, But I Believe in Lithium’ is the title of Jamie Lowe’s moving account of her manic depression in the New York Times. The piece reminds us how devastating and frightening this condition can be, so it is understandable that the author put her faith in the miracle cure psychiatrists have been recommending since the 1950s: lithium. The main problem is that there is no study in which people who have been started on lithium have been compared with people who haven’t.

The Inane Search for Magic Bullets to Treat Mental Illness

Those of you following our posts on Nutrition and Mental Health know that we ended the last one, on ‘history’, by saying that the two of us are essentially devoting our research lives to re-inventing the wheel. It is old knowledge that good nutrition is essential for mental health, and it is really old knowledge that improving nutrition can improve mental health. We are going to spend the next few blogs outlining the science and rationale that supports the role played by nutrition in wellness as well as the expression of mental illness. This information will provide modern scientific validation for the conclusions drawn by some of our ancestors, described in the previous blogs.

Madness and the Family (Part One): The History and Research of Family Dynamics and...

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There are very few things considered more taboo in the world of mental health than the suggestion that problematic family dynamics can lead to a child developing a psychotic disorder. And yet, when we look honestly at the history and research of psychosis and the broader concept of “mental illness,” it becomes apparent that there are few subjects in the mental health field that are more important. I’d like to invite you, then, to join me on a journey into this taboo territory, dividing our trip into three legs. In the first leg (Part One), we’ll go back in time to explore how such a crucial topic has become so vilified, and then embark upon a flight for an aerial view of some of the most essential findings of the last 60 plus years of research that look at the links between problematic family dynamics and psychosis.

What is Critical Psychiatry?

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Over the last twenty years there has emerged a body of work that questions the assumptions that lie beneath psychiatric knowledge and practice. This work, appearing as academic papers, magazine articles, books, and chapters in books, hasn’t been written by academics, sociologists or cultural theorists. It has emerged from the pens and practice of a group of British psychiatrists.

Not so Black: Ablixa and Homicidal Side Effects

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So now we know Soderbergh’s movie Side Effects is not so Black/Noir after all – more Fifty Shades of Grey. Emily Hawkins (Rooney Mara) is put on Ablixa by her psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) and while on it kills her husband. She apparently murders him while sleep-walking triggered by Ablixa and sleep walking being a perfect defense against murder she is acquitted.

Wholesome Wave

In a recent blog, we talked about the fact that nutrition and poverty are linked, and how poor nutrition is likely a mediator variable in the relationship between poverty and illness. In other words, it is the suboptimal nutrition associated with low income which likely explains much of the vulnerability to mental and physical illness. Today we want to tell you about an amazing American program that is making great strides in addressing this issue.

Psychiatry Gone Astray

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At the Nordic Cochrane Centre, we have researched antidepressants for several years and I have long wondered why leading professors of psychiatry base their practice on a number of erroneous myths. These myths are harmful to patients. Many psychiatrists are well aware that the myths do not hold and have told me so, but they don’t dare deviate from the official positions because of career concerns. Being a specialist in internal medicince, I don’t risk ruining my career by incurring the professors’ wrath and I shall try here to come to the rescue of the many conscientious but oppressed psychiatrists and patients by listing the worst myths and explain why they are harmful.

Are Micronutrients a Waste of Time? – A Randomized Controlled Trial

Julia has received a lot of media attention in the last few days as a result of her blinded RCT published in a prominent journal, the British Journal of Psychiatry, showing that micronutrients were better than placebo at improving ADHD and mood symptoms in adults. But what interests us far more is the amount of public emails we get as a result of this work. And the theme running through almost every email is that the child/adult/husband/wife has tried all kinds of medications and the symptoms are still there and, often, getting worse. Could the micronutrients help?

Antipsychotics and Brain Shrinkage: An Update

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Evidence that antipsychotics cause brain shrinkage has been accumulating over the last few years, but the psychiatric research establishment is finding its own results difficult to swallow. A new paper by a group of American researchers once again tries to ‘blame the disease,’ a time-honoured tactic for diverting attention from the nasty and dangerous effects of some psychiatric treatments. People need to know about this research because it indicates that antipsychotics are not the innocuous substances that they have frequently been portrayed as. We still have no conclusive evidence that the disorders labeled as schizophrenia or psychosis are associated with any underlying abnormalities of the brain, but we do have strong evidence that the drugs we use to treat these conditions cause brain changes.

Abolishing Forced Treatment in Psychiatry is an Ethical Imperative

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Forced treatment in psychiatry cannot be defended, neither on ethical, legal or scientific grounds. It has never been shown that forced treatment does more good than harm, and it is highly likely that the opposite is true. We need to abolish our laws about this, in accordance with the United Na­tions Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which virtually all countries have ratified.

Recovery: Compromise or Liberation?

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The 90s were labeled - rather optimistically - as the ‘decade of recovery.’ More recently, recovery has been placed slap bang central in mental health policy. Is supporting recovery pretty much good common sense? Or is the term being misused to pressure those suffering to behave in certain ways?

Rethinking Mental Health, Part 1: From Positivism to a Holistic/Organismic Paradigm

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We find ourselves in very interesting times with regard to our understanding of mental health. We find ever more heated, passionate and polarized discussions taking place with regard to the so-called mental disorders — how or even whether to try to classify them, which factors are generally helpful in recovery vs. which factors are generally harmful, what does “mental disorder” or “mental illness” even mean, and what does “recovery” even mean. Given the way my own mind works, I find it helpful, when such conundrums appear, to try to take the issues all the way down to the most fundamental assumptions and experiences that give rise to them, and then try to reconstruct an understanding that is more conducive to meeting our needs. This discussion, then, is an attempt to do just that.

The Hearing Voices Movement: In Response to a Father – ‘My Daughter, the Schizophrenic’

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There was a heart-breaking and disturbing story in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper entitled, My Daughter, the Schizophrenic’, which featured edited extracts from a book written by the father of a child called Jani. He describes how Jani is admitted into a psychiatric hospital when she is 5, diagnosed with schizophrenia when she is 6 and by the time she is 7, she has been put on a potent cocktail of psychotropic medications.

Open Letter about BBC Coverage of Mental Health

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Following Richard Bentall’s inspired Open Letter to Stephen Fry, we – a group of people who have (and still do) use mental health services, who work in mental health, or who work as academics... or fall into more than one of those categories – have decided to write a parallel Open Letter to the BBC and other media organizations about their coverage of mental health issues. We need as many signatures as possible!

Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Health Care

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In 2012, I found out that the ten biggest drug companies in the world commit repeated and serious crimes to such a degree that they fulfill the criteria for organised crime under US law. I also found out how huge the consequences of the crimes are. They involve colossal thefts of public monies and they contribute substantially to the fact that our drugs are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

The Once and Future Abilify: Depot Injections for Everyone?

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This column is partly a report on the marketing of Abilify, the atypical antipsychotic that has become America’s best-selling drug.   It’s also an appeal for advice and feedback from the RxISK and Mad in America communities, and a call for some brainstorming about strategy.  The plans laid out by drugmakers Otsuka and Lundbeck for Abilify’s future, and the cooperation they’re getting from leading universities, are alarming enough to me that reporting on them seems inadequate.  We need action, although I’m not sure exactly what kind.

Thinking about Alternatives to Psychiatric Diagnosis

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I want to follow up my first post by outlining the principles of possible alternatives to psychiatric diagnosis – that is, alternatives in addition to the most obvious one, which is simply to stop diagnosing people.

The “Mental Illness” Paradigm: An “Illness” That is out of Control

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In the New York Times’ recent autobiographical account of a “bipolar” woman’s struggle the main message is that the current mental health care system has some real problems but that the general paradigm from which this treatment model has emerged is not to be questioned. Anyone who knows my work knows that I have a real problem with this paradigm, believing that it generally causes much more harm than benefit. So, what is it then about this story that grabbed me? I recognized that if we read Linda’s story while holding a different paradigm, then this story reveals what I believe are some of the most fundamental issues at the heart of this epidemic of “mental illness” that so pervades our society.

What is a Simple Way to Prevent the Onset of Physical Disease?

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One thing that amazes us is that even though information linking nutrition to physical health is quite advanced, and generally very prominent in the media as well as in public awareness, people seem to be surprised when told that nutrients are essential for brain function. It may be silly to remind everyone of this, but we need to begin with this simple fact: the brain is part of the body. But to add some heft to this point, let us also recall that the brain is the organ of the body with the greatest metabolic demands (the heart is second).