Why I Have (Mostly) Given Up on Diagnosis

Every year about this time I review my template file for new client notes. It has blank sections for name, presenting concern, history, plan, and a number of other categories. This year I found myself staring at it, considering whether a revision was in order. And the category that leapt out at me was “Diagnosis.” The truth is, I seldom use it any more.

Hypermodern Hyperactives

ADHD (or “Attention Deficit Disorder” - with or without Hyperactivity) is not among the “cutting-edge pathologies” of contemporary clinical practice, such as the addictions, eating disorders, narcissistic disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, or fibromyalgia; however, in my view ADHD is paradigmatic of the contemporary ethos that some have described as hypermodernity. The advocates of ADHD explain to us that a hyperactive child with an attention disorder is a disturbed and often disturbing child, who does not comply with the adults’ rule, often has his own idea of development, and whose problems, unless they are treated, threaten to undermine his autonomy and self-esteem; the two supreme values of the hypermodern society.

“Let Food Be Thy Medicine” — So Let’s Teach Physicians How to Cook!

Most people reading this blog will have heard or read the quotation attributed to Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Whether or not this ancient Greek physician actually made that comment 2500 years ago is something that we cannot determine. But it certainly is a statement that is coming back into favor in the current era.

Study 329: Big Risk

Study 329 seems to fit the classic picture: It has Big Pharma ghostwriting articles, hiding data, corrupting the scientific process and leaving a trail of death, disability and grieving relatives in its wake. But is it at fault alone? Both Big Pharma and Big Risk (the insurance industry) were once our allies in keeping our hopes alive – in keeping our children alive and well. They are now a threat. And of the two – Big Risk is the bigger threat.

Study 329: Transparency in Limbo at the British Medical Journal

While making money from the publication of pharmaceutical company trials, and in the face of a complete failure by industry to adhere to basic scientific norms and make data available, BMJ and other journals — although BMJ in particular — have run a series of articles on supposed Academic Fraud. These articles feature instances of fraud sometimes as bizarre as researcher claiming he cannot show the data as it was eaten by termites. The universal feature is that these are academic studies, and academic fraud is an issue in academia.

A Square Peg in a Round Hole: The Construction of Depression as a Disease

This blog is a review of Gary Greenberg's book, Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease. I wrote it originally in 2010, but it was never published. By publishing the review now, I hope it will provide a useful reflection for those who have already read Manufacturing Depression, and an incitement to read the book for those who have not.

‘I’d Rather Die Than Go Back to Hospital’: Why We Need a Non-medical Crisis...

It was exciting going back to my old stamping ground. Years ago I’d worked in one of the local community mental health teams and had referred many women to the Drayton Park Crisis House. Walking up the steps of the house brought back memories of standing there with desperate and suicidal clients, some of whom had told me that they would rather die than go back into hospital. As you can imagine, to say I had been glad that there was an alternative would have been an understatement.

Study 329: 50 Shades of Gray

Access to data is more important than access to information about conflicts of interest. It is only when there is access to the data that we can see if interests are conflicting and take that into account. Problems don’t get solved unless someone is motivated for some reason. We need the bias that pharmaceutical companies bring to bear in their defense of a product, along with the bias of those who might have been injured by a treatment. Both of these biases can distort the picture but it’s when people with differing points of view agree on what is right in front of their noses that we can begin to have some confidence about what we have.

Mad Economy: Let’s Change the World!

Everyone in the world is either touched by their own mental health issues or have had a family member affected. What if they directed their buying power to an organization that would use the profits to fund exciting mental health & recovery projects both in the developing world and in their own countries; projects that would be ethical, non-coercive, personal recovery-based, and were aimed at creating recovery communities? What if they could buy products, crafts, services, art, music, books from people who had experienced mental health issues, enabling them to set up their own businesses or buy from social co-operatives that enabled distressed people to work and earn a living wage?

Study 329: Conflicts of Interest

The BMJ states that it takes on average eight weeks from submission of an article to publication. The review process for Restoring Study 329 took a year, with a three-month review process involving six reviewers to begin with, and then a further four reviews in a four-month process, leading to a provisional acceptance in March that was withdrawn.

Study 329 in Japan

By 2002 GlaxoSmithKline had done 3 studies in children who were depressed and described all three to FDA as negative.  As an old post on Bob Fiddaman’s blog reproduced here outlines, several years later they undertook another study in children in Japan. (Editor's note: This is a re-print, by David Healy, of a post by Bob Fiddaman)

On the Tyranny of Good Will: Why We Call Ourselves Psychiatric Survivors

I believe if the public really knew and understood the reason why we who have survived medically-induced harm, and who do not have the human right to — with real evidence — legally expose this, they would support psychiatric survivors and help us to put an end to what has been called ‘the tyranny of good will.’

Human Beings Are More Than a Combination of Letters, or; Why We Needed a...

We are among an increasing number of people around the world who know the importance of holding on to a humanistic idea, and of keeping in mind that people need—first and foremost—other people. People who are willing to take part, to share with us the horror and confusion, to invite the telling of a narrative, and to keep the hope alive.

Study 329: By the Standards of the Time

The controversy over “Study 329” on the effects of Paxil in teen depression has raised questions about the state of ALL medical research. I decided to look at the research for the most recent psychiatric drug approved by the FDA, a new antipsychotic called cariprazine or Vraylar.  I located twenty studies of Vraylar on www.ClinicalTrials.gov, the U.S. government-sponsored registry for clinical trials.  Three were still in process, and seventeen were completed.  Not one had shared its results on the government website, a supposedly mandatory step.

A Reflective Checklist to Reduce Psychotropic Drugs for Vulnerable Children

This thought-provoking reflective checklist strategy is designed to challenge the increasing 'quick fix' mentality of many doctors who decide to move immediately from a possible diagnosis to medication. With school-aged children we need to promote their Safeguarding, and a Pause-Reflect-Review process that will, hopefully, reduce unnecessary prescribing.

Why Did 158+ People Attend an Antipsychiatry Book Launch? (A Reflection)

There is a hunger out there for a foundational critique of psychiatry—something that pulls no punches, minces no words. That is, there is a hunger for a reasoned antipsychiatry position. Something that explains how we ended up here, provides solid evidence that psychiatry should be abandoned, and begins theorizing what we might do instead.

Study 329: Minions no Longer

Good Pharma is the story of the Mario Negri Institute. Mario Negri was a wealthy patron who on his death in 1960 bequeathed a large sum of money to support independent pharmaceutical research to an upcoming researcher Silvio Garattini. Garattini and Alfredo Leonardi set about building an Institute centred on the new drugs and new techniques. They continue to grow without ever having patented any of their many discoveries or concealing any of the data from experiments that didn’t work out or accommodating any of their trials to industry’s wishes.

Hey; Don’t Just Shoot the Messenger!

Global leaders in the critical psychiatry movement met on 18 Sep 2015 for a one-day conference to address an urgent public health issue: the iatrogenic harm caused by the over-prescription of psychiatric medications. We were treated to an expert review of the ways in which the widespread use of harmful and barely (if at all) helpful medicines has become the mainstay of psychiatry’s contribution to society. At gatherings such as this, when people discover I am a psychiatrist I often become a lightning rod for their anger and frustration. It’s okay; it comes with the job, but a couple of things happened at Roehampton which reminded me why this can happen, and why all of this is so much more complicated than the simple black-and-white “Pharma and psychiatry bad, everyone else good.”

Should Consumer/Survivors Help Psychiatrists Become Better Psychiatrists?

I was recently surfing the internet and came across an Etsy ad selling a lobotomy tool set - hammer and orbitoclast. I was tempted to make the purchase and indulge my penchant for this historical “apparatus” especially given its rise as heroic therapeutic intervention for three decades. It was a mere $168.00. Although I didn’t buy the historical torture device, that ad left me with one penetrating realization: psychiatry is here to stay.

My Successful Campaign for Dedicated Benzo Withdrawal Services

The story starts on 19th of March, 1986, when I withdrew myself from 30 mgs of Ativan daily and 360 mgs of Opiate painkillers daily—all doctor-prescribed—with no support or assistance, other than the love and full support of my lovely wife Sue. It took me 15 months of hell on earth to withdraw.  So afterwards I researched the issues involved (after my brain had started to function again) and started on the long road of campaigning for dedicated withdrawal services by contacting our local newspaper and telling them my story. Horrifying as the facts read, not only was it a release for me to express my emotions and observations, but it slowly informed the general public of the dangers of long-term prescribed addiction.

The Ubiquity of Unhappiness: An Introduction to Cultural Psychiatry

Cultural psychiatry provides a robust critique of a biologically orientated psychiatry. All cultures divide the world up into normal and abnormal; all have some notion of madness, but the idioms used to describe these states and the causes behind them can only ever be understood in the full context of the culture where they take place. It suggests that the very categories which are assumed to be natural occurring forms, are in fact just social and cultural constructions.

Reasons Not to Believe in Lithium

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.

It’s as Bad as You Think: The Gap Between the Rich and the Poor...

Many of us in the U.K. are mad - mad with anger at the injustice and cynicism of a political system that is turning the gap between rich and poor into an unbridgeable chasm. Mad with anger because the most vulnerable in society are now paying the price for a political ideology - neoliberalism - with their lives. We are mad and angry because they are blamed for failings that are not of their making, but which originate in the system under which we live. 'Psychological' assessments, online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and other forms of 'therapy' are being used to force unemployed people with common mental health problems back to work. Mental health professionals responsible for IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) have been relocated to help 'assess' and 'treat' claimants.

Can Madness Save the World?

Over the years of my explorations into psychosis and human evolution a very interesting irony became increasingly apparent. It is well-known that people who fall into those deeply transformative and chaotic states typically referred to as “psychosis” often feel, at different points throughout their journeys, that they have received a special calling to save the world, or at least the human race. Indeed, this experience played a particularly prominent role in my own extreme states, as well as within those of at least two of my own family members. From a pathological perspective, this is often referred to as a kind of “delusion of grandeur,” though in my own research and writing, I have come to feel that the term “heroic (or messianic) striving” is generally more accurate and helpful.

Children, Youth and Mental Health in British Columbia: A Presentation to the Legislature

"From years of personal and professional experience, I must tell you my biggest fear is that we’re massively misunderstanding the emotional and mental suffering of children and teens. We’ve taken their feelings, thoughts and suffering and transformed them into symptoms, diagnoses, reductive theories and then prescribing them an array of psychiatric drugs with dire short- and long-term consequences. We’re drugging their emotions, their thinking and their quest for meaning into disabling silence."