Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Comments by Steve McCrea

Showing 5380 of 5428 comments. Show all.

  • I have found the same. You can’t fully trust someone until they’ve seen you let loose with your most difficult feelings and behavior and find they still want to be around you. There is no intimacy without vulnerability, but we’re taught all the time (which actually starts making it true) that sharing our true selves is foolish and dangerous and we’d better keep those masks on, or else!

    I personally found school particularly awful in this way. Keeping one’s own integrity in place in a standard school environment is next to impossible for most kids.

  • And our society as a whole makes it even harder, as even those women with no trauma history are taught that their value lies in sexual attractiveness and acceptability of appearance to others. But naturally, this kind of issue does not appear to carry any weight with the paternalistic psychiatric profession, which seems myopically committed to blaming the victim and letting social institutions off the hook.

  • I heard an almost exact replica of your description from a coworker who was taking Zoloft for migraine headaches, not “depression.” She was shocked with how “reasonable” the idea of suicide seemed to her, just a casual thought, like, “I could go to the store. I could kill myself.” I do think the “positive effect” of SSRIs is a lessening of empathic connection to others. For some people, this will feel like a relief. For others, it will make things seem reasonable that would have seemed outrageous before. Including suicide or murder in some cases.

  • Commenting as moderator: Just so you know, I will never moderate you for including accurate descriptions of your experience, no matter how ugly it was. Moderation is only for things that attack or distract, not for things that are true but uncomfortable. Sharing the true but uncomfortable is a lot of what this site is all about!

  • I think you hit it on the head. “Mentally healthy” in these circles seems to mean not experiencing any strong emotion of any type. Like Stepford Wives or Invasion of the Body Snatchers. “Once you do the transformation, you’ll understand.” If those pea pods from Invasion of the Body Snatchers really existed, the psychiatric profession would be very excited about them.

  • Wish they’d be a little more definitive in their conclusions: “The use of ADM for adolescent depressive symptoms is not supported, as the risks far outweigh the ostensible benefits.” Or “Doctors should not use ADM as a treatment modality for children or adolescents having depressive symptoms.”

    Of course, the idea of “treating” depression is problematic in itself.

  • ““Partnership-based relationships seem to promote personal recovery more than traditional expert–patient relationships. Our findings also indicate that mental health services need to be organized, more individually tailored, and “bottom-up,” starting with the needs, preferences, and goals of service users.”

    This is a very euphemistic way of saying that seeing a doctor is not likely to be helpful, and that services that ARE actually helpful are ones that start from the client’s needs and preferences. Is this news to anyone? But good for them for making it explicit.

  • That was my experience as well. I remember being a safety patrol and having to keep the kids outside the building when it was 20 degrees out while the teachers walked around inside drinking coffee in their comfy sweaters. I think that was the first time it really struck me clearly just how systematically abusive the system was.

  • Well, ugh! But in addition, what does he think the chemicals in the brain are made from? Food, obviously. Even if one fully embraces the “chemical imbalance” myth (which even psychiatrists are now finally backing away from), it would still make sense that nutrition would be a viable intervention.

    I wonder how much money he gets from Big Pharma every year? Sounds more like a drug salesman than a doctor.

  • And I’d probably be much more interested in talking to one who did than one who simply believed in the “status quo” mythology.

    It is my understanding that traditional healers are part and parcel of psychiatric care in Brazil, and they do, in fact, come in and deal with spirits. I also know of a case in Texas, I believe, where a spiritual healer came over from Mexico and cured a person deemed “severely treatment resistant” by the doctors.

    Compared to “standard treatment,” I’d take spirit dispossession any day of the week.

  • The authors’ experience is not in the least bit surprising, and they properly identify the privilege and power of the academic elite who don’t want their authority challenged. I would have liked to hear more of a connection made between that power and the money flowing to institutions from psychiatry, from equipment makers, and from the pharmaceutical industry. Academia has been largely corrupted when the door was opened to big corporations essentially buying research that promotes their product, including the right to not publish research which is critical. This ethos permeates the entire academic world (not just in psychiatry) to the extent that it is almost invisible to those who swim in that particular water. We don’t bite the hand that feeds us, especially when the owner of the hand can now bite back so painfully. We have to get big corporations disconnected from academic research!

  • The term “social psychiatry” appears to me to be an oxymoron. It fails to recognize the corrupt nature of the current biomedical model and suggests that it is feasible to “integrate” this model with more social/psychological views of emotional distress. This is in my view impossible, because the biomedical model is driven by profits and the interests of the APA to control the narrative, and is not in any way directed toward “health,” even in the metaphorical sense. It is directed toward profit and control, and as such, can’t be integrated into anything rationally focused on improving people’s lives. If you want a socially responsible and flexible approach to people’s emotional well being, don’t bother with the current model. You’d need to start over from scratch.

  • If someone were NOT a therapist, just a friend or colleague, do you believe that that person might listen to someone else’s experience in a non-exploitative way? And that such listening could be helpful to the person telling their story? Is it possible that those “on the barricades” might tell each other stories during lulls in the fighting, and that they might benefit from sharing their stories with each other?

  • If I really wanted to reform schools to improve what they metaphorically and euphemistically refer to as the children’s “mental health,” they could start by reforming the authoritarian nature of the student-teacher relationship and give the students more control and some genuine recourse when they have been wronged by the staff or other students. There are any number of “democratic schools” around the country and the world, starting with Summerhill way back in the early 1900s. At Summerhill, students got to choose what classes they attended, including not attending any class at all. And yet the students chose to attend classes most of the time and would ask kids who were not serious about studying to leave. They made their own rules and had their own justice system for kids AND adults who might have transgressed the school’s agreed laws. The students and staff all got one vote at the meetings, and staff were frequently overruled in their suggestions. This is the kind of approach that is needed if we want our students to be “mentally healthy” – an environment where they are trusted, where they have responsibility and control, where they are able to protect themselves from abusive or coercive behavior of others, where adults are there to help the students pursue their own goals instead of forcing the students to pursue the adults’ goals. Most adults are horrified by such an arrangement and believe that students will never learn anything unless they are forced and coerced and punished into compliance. This is because our culture hates and disrespects children, and most of adult “mental illness” starts from the disrespect and mistreatment of children as they grow up.

    It is laughable in my view for schools to talk about improving students’ “mental health” when the reality is that schools do a huge amount of mental/emotional damage to our kids that many never recover from.

  • I agree with you. The idea that any one intervention will help in ALL cases of “depression” or “ADHD” or whatever label psychiatry wants to toss out is the central problem. There are real, physiological problems that can affect mood and behavior, and they ought to be identified and dealt with through testing and smart interventions. I only protest when someone suggests that ALL such issues can be handled by nutrition or any other specific intervention. Everyone is different, and how they feel is a very sketchy guide for intervention. Good research and exploration is the key to finding out what is actually needed, instead of assuming that someone feeling depressed or anxious is enough information to know what to do.

  • I can’t say that, and I didn’t say that. I’m saying that no doctor can tell you that your depressed moods and experiences are due to genetics, nor can they say in general (and this is more important) that depression is always or usually due to such genetics, because they don’t know that. They’d be lying to you if they claimed that they did. YOU can make your own observations and believe as you see fit, and I totally support your right to do that for your own situation. It’s when one person starts telling another what THEY should believe that things become dangerous, especially when the person (like a doctor) has a special societal role of translating what is known scientifically for lay people. For a doctor to claim that you or anyone else is suffering from a “genetic predisposition” to depression when they have no way to know if this is true or not is not only dishonest, it should be considered malpractice. Whereas your own assessment of your own situation harms no one and hopefully helps you get a better grasp on how to help yourself to move to a better place. That’s the big difference.

  • Hey, I have never said that I “rule out” biology! I’ve always agreed that there are real biological problems that cause problems with moods and behavior. (One such problem is the adverse effects of drugs one is taking, for instance). What I have said and continue to say is that the fact that one FEELS a certain way or ACTS a certain way does not say ANYTHING about why they feel or act that way, and to suggest that simply because someone feels depressed it means they have a problem with their brains is absolutely ridiculous. It’s very much like a person having a pain in their leg and being diagnosed with “leg pain disorder” and to “treat” it by giving drugs to dull the sensation of pain. There could be 50 reasons why a person’s leg is hurting. Let’s suppose they were hit by a car, or stung by a bee, or have a piece of shrapnel in their leg. Is the pain in the leg the problem? Or is it information that leads us to investigate what is going on?

    I don’t know why it seems to be so hard for you to see this distinction. No one is denying that physical conditions can cause changes in mood or behavior. What we’re objecting to is the idea that ALL changes in mood are behavior are ALL caused by physical conditions, especially when there is absolutely NO physiological finding to support such a ridiculous assertion.

    If you want to believe that you have a genetic condition, you’re welcome to believe that. But there is no scientific evidence showing that there is any genetic basis for depression, and assuming or implying that everyone else who is depressed has a genetic or biological problem is going to be viewed as a problem by most of the people who post here.

  • I actually do think that words define our reality. For instance, if a person is kidnapped and threatened with death, and as a result has moments of intense anxiety that this might happen again, do they have an “anxiety disorder?” Or are they responding pretty normally to a violent and terrifying experience?

    I’d say it matters a lot to the victim whether you tell them that their response is a normal reaction or a “disorder” that needs to be “treated.” Having worked with a lot of traumatized people in my career, I’d say that it makes a HUGE difference to have a person think of their reaction as an understandable response to a difficult or impossible situation. The more I was able to have the person understand why they reacted the way they did, the easier it was for them to recognize that the present moment was different and that perhaps a different response in the present is a possible option. Whereas telling someone that they “have a disorder” tells them they SHOULD have reacted differently to the situation and that the fact they are upset about it is a personal failing that needs to be fixed.

    Words do matter. A lot. Especially words about who you are and what your behavior and feelings mean.

  • Dang, these guys are really making things complex!

    What’s wrong with mind-body dualism, anyway? Why would that philosophical position be outdated? I’d say the majority of the world’s cultures see the spirit and the body as being separate entities that interact with each other. This viewpoint could also have explanatory value if it is not dismissed out of hand. Without knowing what “the mind” really is, how can it be considered “disproven”?

    What needs to change is demonstrated in the article – the masquerading of philosophy (such as ethics, epistemology, etc.) as scientific inquiry. Asserting materialistic philosophy as established “truth” does not do science any favors. It’s best to acknowledge when the unknown is unknown, instead of calling a viewpoint “outdated” because it isn’t currently fashionable.

  • This is true, of course. Medical care is the third leading cause of death in the USA. But I consider it even more egregious when the “conditions” being “treated” aren’t even objectively definable, and actually represent social assumptions and biases rather than medical conditions. It’s bad enough we have to trust doctors to treat actual illnesses. I sure don’t want them “treating” my emotions and thoughts!

  • Let’s get rid of the “mental health” language here!

    How about: “Survivors’ reality is badly messed with when people don’t believe them.”

    Or: “Survivors of sexual abuse find it invalidating, infuriating, and depressing when people pretend that what happened to them wasn’t real.”

    Or: “Denying the reality of sexual abuse survivors is another form of abuse.”

    It doesn’t “affect the mental health” of abuse survivors. It attacks them directly and undermines their safety and sense of reality, and it does so intentionally. It is normal to be pissed and confused and self-blaming after someone abuses you, and even more so when those entrusted to protect you protect your abusers instead.

  • How would we react if our doctor told us, “Well, I can’t say for certain what’s wrong, but we think you have a little tiredness disorder, plus a rashy skin disorder and an insomnia disorder plus a headache disorder and a right leg numbness disorder. We have a drug for each of those conditions, but it won’t cure them. It might keep the symptoms under control, but the drugs will make you gain weight and possibly raise your risk of early death through heart disease and/or diabetes. And we still don’t really know what’s causing all of this.”

    I think we’d all realize we were visiting a charlatan.

  • The burden of proof is always on the person supporting the hypothesis. So one can say a hypothesis can’t ever be proven absolutely, because there is always the possibility of new data having to be incorporated into a system. Even Newtonian Mechanics, the ultimate in a set of certain laws of the universe, had to be modified eventually due to relativity and quantum mechanics.

    But science is actually very capable of disproving things. All that’s needed is for the theory to predict something that doesn’t appear to be true in reality. For instance, if there is a claim that “low serotonin causes depression,” it would follow at a minimum that all people who are seriously depressed will have low levels of serotonin compared to normal. That isn’t sufficient to prove it, because of course low serotonin could be an effect rather than a cause, or simply a co-occuring phenomenon that has no relationship to depression. But if depressed people DON’T have lower serotonin on the average than non-depressed people, the theory is shown to be false, because the results conflict with the hypothesis. And in fact, this is the case. People who are depressed don’t always have low levels of serotonin, and people with low levels of serotonin aren’t always depressed. Moreover, increasing serotonin levels doesn’t consistently improve depression, and many “antidepressants” don’t even attack the serotonin system.

    So yes, the theory of low serotonin causing depression has been convincingly disproven. We know it is not true. It isn’t just a lack of data – the data show that that hypothesis does not predict realty, and is therefore false. Similar arguments can be shown for the high dopamine theory of psychosis, and the low dopamine theory of ADHD. The idea that “mental illnesses” are caused by “chemical imbalances” can’t entirely be disproven, but in every case where a concrete hypothesis has been put forward, it has been disproven.

  • I agree with you. I’m not sure whether I was responding to you or just to the topic in general. I think it’s important not to generalize about how to handle specific manifestations as if they all require the same handling. I actually think that point is quite consistent with yours, as the nature and meaning of voice hearing could also be very different depending on the person in question.

  • I tend to agree. There are other forces not obvious to the doctor-patient relationship that act to make it more difficult to avoid psychiatric “treatment” even in the absence of overt force. For instance, doctors are pressured from insurance companies and their own organizations, as are counselors and therapists, potential patients are pressured by friends, family, workplace, schools put pressure on parents to psychiatrically “treat” their kids, the news media makes it seem like people are foolish for not “taking their meds” as prescribed, movies and TV shows dramatize again and again how those who “don’t take their meds” deteriorate and become dangerous, and yet are magically fixed when they are back “on their meds.” Maybe it’s not “force” but “social coercion,” but there are a lot of people on these drugs against their own better judgement, or lacking any kind of informed consent, who were not ordered by the courts to take them. Lying to people can be a form of coercion if the lies create fear that the person will be damaged or do something dangerous if they don’t comply with the doctor’s “suggestions.”

  • It seems this is where we disagree. If I want to challenge someone regarding psychiatry, it’s not the time pr place to speak out against Scientology, because I see it playing into the hands of the person trying to avoid the question.

    Now if a person GENUINELY thinks that all antpsychiatry activity is started or supported by Scientologists, that’s an opportunity for education. Very different in my mind from a blatant effort to intentionally deflect attention away from a critique of psychiatry by implying that anyone taking such a stance must be irrational and unscientific.

    Anyway, as I said, we can respectfully disagree on this point. I don’t see much point in continuing the discussion, as we’ve both made our positions and arguments clear. People can consider either one and do what works for them.

    Another clever approach was suggested by another poster: “Actually, I’m a Buddhist. What about you? Now that we’re done with talking about religion, let’s get back to talking about psychiatry.”

  • BTW, do you really think that most of the psychiatric profession is asking protesters about Scientology because they are concerned it is a “dangerous cult” and don’t want to interact with it? Or do you think they
    are using a preexisting social reality/fear to manipulate people into thinking that anyone who opposes psychiatry is only acting out of the dogmatic insistence of Scientology’s leadership? I personally doubt very much that any psychiatrist actually has such a concern or would be in the slightest degree reassured if you told them you were not. It seems to me that the goal is to tarnish all resistance with the brush of irrationality, and my preferred response is not to allow that goal to be put forward unchallenged. Because people are easily manipulated by innuendo.

  • That’s my position as well. Social control should be named what it is. It’s not “treatment” of “mental health issues.” It’s an attempt to control “deviant” or “undesirable” behavior from the point of view of the status quo. Naturally, it’s a very slippery slope when we start reframing “He’s doing something that annoys his neighbors and should be stopped” as “He’s got a ‘mental disease’ MAKING him do something annoying and heneeds to be ‘treated.'” Again, what is “deviant” is defined socially, not medically, and it’s a pretty big scam to pretend otherwise.

  • I am never arguing for any kind of “broken brain” theory. I am saying that there ARE brain problems, which are handled by neurology or some other actual medical specialty. I was trying to explain within Rassel’s context of materialism why “mental illness” still does not make sense as a medical problem. I’m not a materialist by any stretch of the imagination!

  • Well, that could work just fine, but it still leaves you potentially vulnerable to someone changing the topic to how bad Scientologists are or how “most” opponents “are Scientologists” even if you are not. It is an attempt at distraction, whether they are accusing you of being a Scientologist or a Zoroastrianist or a Communist or a Nazi. I think the best approach is not to take the bait. But I know we will respectfully disagree on this point.

  • I don’t think anyone here doesn’t believe that a brain can malfunction. I don’t agree that a brain malfunction is the only thing that can be behind someone being violent or depressed or whatever. It sounds like you believe the brain creates the mind and therefore HAS to be responsible for any actions that occur. I don’t see it that way – I see the mind as being the mechanism for controlling the brain, at the minimum an “emergent property” that extends beyond the mechanism that created it. I also hold the strong possibility that we are spiritual entities that are responsible for our bodies, though it is difficult to prove or disprove this kind of premise. In any case, it is pretty clear from direct observation that the mind can and does control most aspects of the brain. Even the revered PET scans show that when someone simply THINKS something different, the PET scan changes. For instance, someone can think of a sad event and their brain shifts gears into a “sad” profile, and shifts back when they think of something that isn’t sad. This belies the idea that feelings “just happen” because our brains are bad.

    Even if we accept the premise that it’s all in the physical universe, there is still the “computer model” to consider. While I don’t believe that the human brain is much like a computer really, it is fair to suggest that we have “hardware” and “software” operating, in the sense that there are physiological structures that are used while thinking and making decisions and emoting, but there are also “programs” in the sense that we make MEANING out of things and we make decisions based on values that are programmed in starting early in life.

    Using this metaphor/analogy, what if the problem is not in the hardware, but in the programming? You can’t solve a programming problem by replacing memory chips or rerouting the power supply. The program is contained within the chips, and really consists only of on/off switches. It is only because the programmer assigns MEANING to the switches that the computer works at all. It seems to me that what is wrong with the “mind” most of the time is faulty programming, or perhaps more accurately programming that doesn’t create the desired result from a social perspective. Of course, then we get into the question of who gets to decide what the “desired result” is, which is a whole different question. However, it is likely that those who are violent have, in most cases, grown up with and/or developed value systems in which murdering people is not wrong or is justifiable under certain circumstances. This is something that can not ever be improved by physiological intervention.

    So the catch-all of “mental illness” does not necessarily imply any kind of problem in physiology, even if you take a strict materialist point of view, any more than a computer malfunction has to be a function of the hardware. The vast majority of computer problems are programming issues, and the same analogy almost certainly holds true for “mental illnesses” as identified by the committee-driven DSM.

  • Actually, even allowing the discussion of whether antipsychiatry and Scientology are the same or not still gives in to the tactic. When we were at the APA protest in Philadelphia, a psychiatrist said she’d talk with us, but wanted to know if we were Scientologists. We shouted her down, saying, “Oh, no, you’re not pulling that crap! We’re here to talk about psychiatry, not religion!” And various statements of that order. The topic of Scientology vs. antipsychiatry was never breached, because she understood we were not willing to play that game with her.

  • Psychiatry claims to be helping with “mental health problems.” We are seeing a VAST increase in the use of psychiatric “treatments” (especially drugs), and yet we’re seeing a steady worsening of the “mental health problems” that these “treatments” are supposed to solve. Isn’t it psychiatry’s job to address these “worsening conditions of society” through their helpful interventions? Doesn’t seem to be working too well, does it?

    And this trend is seen to happen again and again in countries where drugs and the “treatments” are introduced – more and more people on disability and unable to participate in normal social interactions and expectations. What exactly is psychiatry claiming to be doing about these societal problems? It seems at best to be drugging the brains and bodies of those harmed by these societal woes, and at the same time denying (through their claims of physical causality) that there is any connection whatsoever between the suffering experienced and the social issues that you have identified. In all likelihood, psychiatry as practiced is not helping, but in fact making those conditions worse by providing a handy way to blame and silence the victims of our post-industrial society’s insanities and adding to that insanity by its stigmatizing labels and “treatments” for “disorders” that are voted into existence by committees.

    If mental health problems are caused or exacerbated by social conditions, what exactly does psychiatry propose to do about them, Stevie? Maybe start by discontinuing the blaming of people’s “malfunctioning brains” for their suffering?

    Of course, the bitter irony of you blaming psychiatrists’ high suicide rates on social conditions while the profession blames their clients’ genetics is not lost on anyone reading your comment.

  • It comes from a fear of how others who don’t understand may characterize you. Depending what position one is in, it might make sense not to advertise it. But I don’t think it’s something one needs to defend or explain. It’s the psychiatrists who need to do the explaining. But they are way too often let off the hook by people buying into these rhetorical tactics.

  • I call it the Ad Homenem Attack, based on ancient Greek definitions of rhetorical techniques. The Greeks recognized that attacking the character of the person involved through generalization or implication is a tactic relied on when someone is lacking a logical argument. Ad Hominem means an attack “on the person” rather than on the subject or the argument or the data.

    My usual retort to such an effort is, “Why are you talking about religion/philosophy/(whatever they’re using to distract) when I was talking about scientific facts? Is it possible that you don’t really have a counter argument and are resorting instead to trying to attack my character due to the weakness of your argument?” This immediately shifts the discussion back to the topic at hand and identifies the tactic to the listener. If the person continues the attack, it’s easy to say, “Well, I guess we know who has data to back up their argument and who doesn’t. Come back when you have some actual science to share with the audience.”

    The biggest mistake people make is trying to prove they are NOT “antipsychiatry” or “a Scientologist” or whatever. As soon as you take that bait, they have won, because now the topic is your credibility instead of the data you’ve presented.

    That’s my take on it, anyway. I know not everyone agrees with this.

  • Not only because of, but in support of the demonization of Scientologists, antipsychiatrists, or anybody who threatens their control of the market. The idea that people who oppose psychiatry are anti-scientific, biased and/or irrational is a PRODUCT that has been SOLD by the psychiatric industry in order to deflect criticism. Robert is quite clear about this in Anatomy, where he outlines how the psych profession collaborated with Time Magazine to do a cover hit piece that established and connected any resistance to psychiatric hegemony to irrationality and self-serving bias. To suggest he doesn’t understand this suggests that perhaps a person might need to reread Anatomy again, because they’re forgetting what RW has said about this very subject.

  • Scientific theories are not based on “popularity,” or should not be. The general exception to psychiatry is not that one of its theories got shot down, but that the entire edifice is based on false scientific premises, namely that one can group behaviors together and define “illnesses” based on checklists of behavioral characteristics, all of which might exist in people who might have little to nothing in common except for certain aspects of their external presentation. There are actually diagnoses where people could literally have NO criteria in common and still both have the same “diagnosis.” Additionally, psychiatrists have been chronically resistant to actual data that contradicts their theories. The “chemical imbalance” theory was essentially disproven in the late 80s, and yet continues to be perpetuated to this day by many claiming “scientific basis” for these DSM “disorders.”

    I would not have an objection to an honest science of the brain, as long as it adhered to basic scientific processes and assumptions and admitted to error when conflicting data shot down a theory. Oh, but there already is such a science – it’s called neurology!

  • It sounds like you are defining “mental illness” as any condition that results in people behaving in dangerous or destructive ways. Do you really see these behaviors as “illnesses” in the medical sense? Do you believe that something is physiologically wrong with someone who does these things, and that this explains fully why they do so? Or are you simply stating that these people may meet the “criteria for mental illness” as defined by the DSM, which we all know is something decided on in committees and voted on by the APA, rather than detected by any legitimate test of “health” or “illness?”

    If it is the latter, then claims that all shooters are “mentally ill” is pretty meaningless, as it seems to be defined simply as behavior that a society disapproves of.

  • I agree, and that was actually my point. It’s not “fragile” to need and want safety and agency in one’s life. It’s a normal part of being human. What is abnormal and unfortunate is when humans intentionally take away other humans’ safety and agency in order to profit or dominate others. We should, indeed, be focused on stopping abusers instead of accusing their victims of “fragility.”

  • I agree with this thinking 100%. The primary error in the DSM is the assumption that all depressed people are the same, all anxious people are the same, all hallucinating people are the same… these assumptions are absolutely not true, and there is no reason to suspect they would be. Some people who are depressed love meditation! Others find it completely useless or damaging. Same with CBT, regressive therapies, micronutrients, etc. Every person’s needs are different, and what will help is different, too. There is nothing to suggest that all depressed people will be helped by the same approach.

  • “Working well” is the key phrase here. The vast majority of conventional systems do not “work well” for the majority of those exposed to them. The WHO cross-cultural studies bear this out. A person who hears voices is far better off (in terms of effective help) living in Brazil or Nigeria than in the USA or Great Britain.

  • They are both important. You focus on getting good sleep, eating well, working with supportive providers to address any possible physiological problems. But you make sure that they have a real way to TEST for these problems, rather than just telling you that you “have a disorder” because you meet some biological checklist of criteria voted on in some meeting at the APA convention. AND you focus on environmental factors, managing stress, deciding on healthy vs. unhealthy relationships, creating the kind of life you want, staying away from destructive people, etc. AND you focus on social things – connecting with other people, making sure you are engaged in productive activity that has meaning for you, etc. They are all important. The problem with the DSM is that it ASSUMES biological cause without testing it out, and at the same time minimizes the impact of the psychological, social and spiritual issues that create most of the “mental health” issues that are “diagnosed.” I say this as a person who used to be VERY anxious much of the time, who had frequent thoughts of suicide when under stress, who was tremendously shy and isolated as a child with really limited social skills. But now I’m very easy to talk with, have excellent social skills in most situations, am willing to engage with total strangers, have learned how to have difficult conversations with hostile people – LOTS of things that I could never do before. Do I get anxious sometimes? Sure. Depressed? Absolutely. But I know what to do about it now, and I don’t get stuck there.

    I managed all of this with no “treatment” except for 15 months of weekly therapy in my 20s. The rest I learned by reading and sharing with others and by challenging myself to do things I was scared of through my employment and my drive to improve myself. I have learned that lack of sleep leads me to being more depressed and anxious. That’s biological. But I don’t need a drug, I need SLEEP! And when I get it, I find it easier to deal with stress. It doesn’t cure it, but it makes it easier.

    So I do believe it’s all of the above, but I don’t believe, based on research and observation and stories from others, that the psychiatrists have the slightest idea what might be “biologically” wrong with someone who is anxious or depressed or whatever, if anything. Their claims about ‘chemical imbalances’ are outright lies, and some (like Ron Pies) admit that this is the case. Yet they still try to tell you it’s all because of your “bad brain.” I see the system as being corrupt and misleading and very destructive. Each of us has to come up with our own approach that works for us. Any therapy or other help should be focused on helping YOU find YOUR path rather than telling you what they think is wrong with you and providing false explanations in order to sell drugs.

  • I have no problem with that framing. The problem is that the DSM categories have nothing to do with biology – literally NOTHING AT ALL to do with biology. If you have a thyroid problem, or anemia, or syphilis, you’d better get medical treatment! But that has zero correlation with any DSM category – they are real medical problems that are treatable, unlike the DSM labels. Other issues like food, sleep, exercise, physical pain, all can contribute to feeling bad or being confused or whatever. Those are biological. “Depression” is not biological, “Anxiety disorders” are not biological. They are catchall phrases made up for lazy clinicians who don’t want to bother to actually figure out what’s going on.

  • I have done this, actually. Just heard back from the guy today. He’s doing a lot, a lot better than when I started, but it’s taken years. He was in and out of “hospitalization” and on lots of drugs, now has worked for a year plus in construction, is studying, is able to communicate effectively with others, not using, has made amends to a number of people he’s hurt… still on a very low dose of “antipsychotics” to stave off withdrawal, but tapering gradually. I had no professional relationships with this guy. He was a friend of my oldest son, but everyone had disconnected from him and I was the only one who believed in him.

    So yeah, it happened.

  • I’m not sure I see the similarities you mention. As I understand it, Scientology is based on the idea that we are spiritual beings being held back by physical and emotional pain, and that the answer is reexperiencing this pain to release it. It seemed very individualistic as I have read about it. That’s my understanding, correct me if I’m wrong about that. I’m unaware of any kind of family approach, and there was no talk about “different internal voices” or a lot of talk about “different parts” of people and so on as Schwartz seems to go on about. I don’t really see what is so similar about them. Do you have any specifics?

  • I think you hit the key point – people can label themselves whatever they want, and more power to them. But when credentialed doctors who have the trust of their patients and the general public start promoting “theories” they know to be wrong or speculative as if they are certain and settled science, they are being extremely unethical. And when their clients are concretely harmed by such deception, they have moved from unethical to criminal behavior.

  • OK, in order to honestly prescribe benzodiazepines for anxiety caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, would you not have to be able to establish a) what a proper “chemical balance” is, and b) how to measure deviations from that normal expectation? Would you not also be required to show that anxiety is CAUSED by such an “imbalance” rather than the “imbalance” being a natural occurrence when someone feels anxious? And if neither of these criteria are met, how could anyone be considered to be practicing medicine when they prescribe a drug based only on behavior and emotion rather than any actual measurement of normalcy/deviation?

    I know that you’ve been told by many sources that “chemical imbalances” are real and that drugs “treat” them. But were you aware that mainstream psychiatrists like Ronald Pies, a great champion of the current model of “treatment,” have said that the chemical imbalance theory is false, that it is, to quote Pies, “an urban myth” that no respectable psychiatrist takes seriously? That the idea of a “chemical imbalance” was actually debunked as far back as the 1980s?

    You have been lied to, XxXxXx. I’m sorry to have to say it, but it’s true. There is no evidence of a chemical imbalance even being measurable, let alone “treatable”. Benzos make people relax and not worry about things. It is the same effect on anyone. It’s a crude effect that certainly does nothing to “balance” anything, but actually pushes the brain very far past its equilibrium. This can feel good at times, but it also causes dependence and addiction. Long term use actually does damage to the brain, including damaging cognitive functioning. All of this is commonly known from psychiatry’s own mainstream researchers.

    The idea of “treating” chemical imbalances is 90% drug company propaganda, supported by mainstream psychiatry from day one. There is zero scientific truth to it. Even Ronald Pies says so.

  • So how would you define a “mental illness,” Milan? How would you distinguish it from “normal suffering?” That’s the part I really struggle with. Plus, if your distress is caused by abuse and oppression around you, is it an “illness” to be upset about it? Seems like a pretty strained concept, even though you’re right, there is lots and lots of agreement about it.

  • I don’t disagree with this at all, in fact, I’ve said the same many times. We’re living in the resurrection of Calvinism – your financial success proves that God is with you. This, however, doesn’t mean that we can’t help each other to deal with the consequences of these destructive postulates, whether in formal or informal ways. Naturally, the psychiatric/psychological industry is an industry and is driven by profits, and that’s the real problem we’re all dealing with.

  • The USA exists only as a result of violence and oppression, a fact which colors every aspect of our society. We are not alone in this, of course, but the particular history of the USA, from the treatment of the native population to the use of slave labor to create wealth to the continued second-class citizenship of certain populations in the USA continues to place violent conquest and subjugation at the center of our politics. And of course, the entire business model of Western society is based on conquest and the implied violence of starvation and hopeless poverty for those who fail to comply with “the rules,” and even for many who do.

  • You know, I had not even thought of that until you just said it. I assumed that he realized he was busted and had no hope of preserving his self-absorbed and abusive lifestyle and therefore decided that death was better than living such an ignominious life. But it is quite possible this process was initiated or exacerbated by antidepressant drugs.

  • I would agree that the conclusions from this study are very limited, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that hospitalizations the way we do them is decreasing the suicide rate. Again, it is the responsibility of those advocating for more hospitalizations to prove that they DO reduce suicidality, not the responsibility of those opposed to prove it does not. There is no evidence here that a reduction is taking place, therefore, the scientific conclusion must be that to date, we can’t say that hospitialization is an appropriate action to prevent suicide, at least as it is done. This doesn’t mean that certain individuals might not choose not to commit suicide if they are kept alive a while longer, but there is no data to suggest that the “treatment” is anything more than simply preventing a person from acting upon impulse and giving them time to consider their decision in a new light.

    What I am uncomfortable with is starting from the assumption that hospitalization DOES reduce suicidal behavior and forcing someone to prove that hypothesis wrong. We should assume that it DOES NOT until those in favor of it prove otherwise, just as a drug has to be proven effective against placebo or it is assumed that it is not effective.

    Hope that is clearer.

  • There is a very distinct difference between not accepting psychotherapy IN GENERAL, and I actually agree with you on this point, and invalidating the personal experience of someone whose experience in something that happened to be called “psychotherapy” who describes specific ways in which it helped that person accomplish the very things you claim to value, including feeling one’s unwanted feelings and taking political action. The first is an opinion, the second is disrespectful to someone else’s experience. The first is allowable, the second is not.

    ise, you are contradicting your own premises.

  • This is not about you “going along” with anything or about me “feeling better.” It’s about your chronic attempts to make gross generalizations and being disrespectful about others’ experiences. Coming back with, “Well, it sounds like your therapy experience worked well for you, but it is not consistent with my experience” might work. Suggesting that I am wrong in my assessment of my own therapy experience is a totally different act, and borders on abusive on your part. There is absolutely no inconsistency with receiving therapy and being willing to fight psychiatry, as my case and the cases of many other people on this site can attest. Your inability/unwillingness to accept that anyone else’s experience might not comport with your predigested views massively undermines your credibility. It seems impossible to have an exchange with you, as you appear to be preaching to your own choir and deleting any notes that don’t fit with your song. At a certain point, it moves beyond expressing your opinion and into the realm of suppressing others’ experiences, which is something I’d think you of all people would be against. You don’t want to be one of those that you’re fighting against, do you?

  • I can testify as an advocate for foster kids for 20 years that the system often does more harm than good. There are most definitely some situations that turn out much better for the kids or the families, but there are just as many where the kids continue to be abused, neglected, or forgotten, including being abused by the “mental health” system during their time in care. Most of our advocacy was done to prevent further harm by the system itself. And statistics most definitely show bias against black people, Native Americans, Latinx people and poor people, all across the country. Child abuse is awful, but foster care is not a great answer, either. We need to look at other ways to deal with the problem.

  • It certainly suggests to me that at the minimum, psych hospitalization doesn’t appear to reduce suicidal acts. And from a scientific viewpoint, it’s the responsibility of the “treaters” to prove their treatment works. Saying they are worse to start with and that’s why so many kill themselves afterwards suggests that “Treatment” has had no positive effect.

  • So help me understand how someone learns to face what happened to them as Alice assures us we must do? It’s easy to say that, but as Alice would explain, our defensive symptoms make it very difficult for us to face our pain and instead we tend to pass it on to the next generation. So how does one get through this defensive system so one can feel these undesired feelings?

  • Again, it’s clear you argue from your own personally limited viewpoint and nothing anyone says will sway you from it. You tend to repeat the same statements over and over, but they are full of assumptions, such as the assumption that therapy itself must lead to legal redress, or that therapists are going out of their way to force people to adjust to their circumstances instead of fighting back, which is, of course, only your own assumption and in my case is directly contradicted by the facts I’ve presented.

    You’re also invalidating my assertion that taking on my own parents and reclaiming my power is plenty of redress for me, as it freed me to follow my own path instead of spending all my time worrying about what they think or do. If that is not a positive outcome, I’m not sure what if anything would ever qualify. Perhaps you’d have been satisfied if I’d sued my parents for being insensitive and overwhelmed and not being able to do what they needed to for us kids?

    And you yourself admit that some “stuff” IS between your ears, in the sense that “feeling your feelings” per Alice Miller is an essential part of becoming a whole person, at least if you really believe what Alice was saying. I would think you would support whatever efforts did that for a person, regardless of what it’s called. But you don’t seem to do that. You want to tell everyone else what to think and believe, even when the person him/herself tells you that your beliefs are incorrect in their case. This kind of invalidation doesn’t help anyone, and in fact reminds me of the very failings of the “mental health” system you and I both so vehemently disapprove of. You would be a lot more credible with me, and I think with a lot of people, if you stopped telling me/others what they should believe and started listening a little more and trying to incorporate what you hear from me and others into your philosophy, instead of just ignoring or arguing with me down when I don’t agree 100% with your preconceived philosophical notions.

  • Again, agreed 100%. Cultivating that gut level feeling is something I talk about in my book as the ultimate tool for detecting abusive people, but our society teaches us from early on how to mute that “little voice” and talk ourselves out of believing what we have legitimately observed. A big part of healing on the spiritual level, to me, comes down to learning to listen to those intuitive messages and to take the time to figure out what they’re really about. It’s not always clear exactly why we get those messages, but they are there to be respected and listened to!

  • I agree. Most psychologists and counselors are 4 square with the DSM model and believe most of the mythology about “biological brain diseases.” Some psychologists in some states have even fought for prescribing rights! The therapists/counselors I’m talking about are generally mavericks who aren’t interested in playing along with any system, but are committed to meeting people where they’re at and being present with them to help them figure out their own solutions. I’m not in agreement with any kind of authoritarian approach to counseling, where the counselor somehow “knows more” or tells the client what to think, feel, or do. The only good counselors are the one that help increase the power and capabilities of their clients so that they are able to follow their own paths, not a path the counselor wants them to follow.

  • I don’t disagree. That’s one of the big reasons I moved out of that realm into advocacy. Even the “good ones” are embedded in a system which rewards compliance and challenges any attempt to improve services or humanize clients. At a certain point, it starts to feel like you’re “sleeping with the enemy” and supporting a system that is generally much more damaging than helpful, and not by accident. My personal ethics would not allow me to continue to collaborate with the system.

  • It appears to me that you are unable to accept data from my personal experience that contradicts your philosophical premises. It should be easy enough for you to simply acknowledge that I had this experience and that my therapist, at least, did not have the intention of preventing me from becoming active in asserting my rights or was encouraging me in any way to “adjust” to my environment. Why is this so difficult for you to accept? What would be wrong with recognizing that not all therapists are the same? And that some do, in fact, encourage their clients to stand up against those who are mistreating them, whether in the past or the present or the future, even if the majority do not do this? Is maintaining your philosophical purity more important than respecting the actual data you get from people who actually use this kind of service? Maybe you would do well to stop telling everyone what to think and instead listen to people’s experiences? Maybe you could learn something from listening to survivors yourself?

  • I don’t at all disagree. Most therapists are either ineffective or dangerous. There are a small minority that can be very helpful, but most people either lack access to such people or don’t realize what they are really looking for. Just signing up for a therapist is a dangerous act, because the power imbalance is so profound and so few professionals are able to recognize this problem and address it.

  • They have stopped talking about “endogenous” vs. “exogenous” depression, first off because there is no way to actually tell the difference, and secondly, because if they really looked at this question, it would be clear that the vast majority of their client base has very good reasons for being depressed, which would eliminate their justification for drugging anyone they encounter with these “symptoms,” regardless of the reason they might occur.

  • Not necessarily. There is no requirement that a therapist listen from a point of view of superiority or of instructing the client on what is going on or what to do. Certainly the majority of therapists these days DO operate in that way, partly because they’re now trained to look down on their clients, partly because they haven’t done their own work on their own issues.

    But a truly good therapist would, in my view, listen only from the point of an outside observer of their client’s narrative of their own life and experiences. Their job is to ask questions to help the client make up their own minds about what is causing their distress and what THEY want to do about it. The therapist’s job is not to tell the client what to think, in fact, my own therapist years ago pretty much refused to EVER tell me what she thought even if I asked her to. She did share some things from her own life to help me understand that she was NOT coming from a superior point of view, but had been through similar pain and frustration herself. But she never, ever told me what to do or think. She simply helped me unwind my own story and realize some important things regarding “feeling my feelings,” which you correctly point out is so essential to moving beyond the abusive/neglectful/oppressive environments that most kids grow up in. She empowered me by listening without judging, asking pointed questions about what I said, and supporting me in feeling my feelings and acting on the logical consequences of those feelings. It was my parents who viewed my viewpoints as invalid. She never did, and in fact, strengthened my confidence that my own views were, in fact, valid, in contradiction to what I’d come to believe from listening to and being worried about my parents’ and siblings’ views of what I should/should not be or think or do.

  • It is not a majority that go on psych drugs, but it is WAY more than the average for non-foster kids. Over half of teens in foster care are on psych drugs. Usually around 20% of all foster youth are on psych drugs, including even 1-2% of infants! Interestingly, though, kids placed in relative foster care have only slightly higher drug use rates than the general public, whereas non-family foster placements have 3-5 times higher rates of psych drug use.

    Foster kids are most definitely at higher risk of being diagnosed and drugged than the average kid.

  • Well, I still think you’re making generalizations that aren’t true for every therapy relationship. My therapist didn’t specifically suggest that I do anything or not do anything in particular, because she saw her role as helping me process those unconscious feelings you and Alice Miller talk about, and then to decide FOR MYSELF what I should do about it. It certainly did involve confronting family members about how I had been treated, and seeing roles that other family members had been thrust into and helping protect them against the (mostly unconscious) tyranny of my mom and my brothers. There was also a raising of social consciousness regarding the plight of others who had experienced similar family dynamics and were suffering. This led me eventually into social work, and then when I observed what social work systems were doing to people, into advocacy. She most definitely helped me move from being angry at myself to being angry about social injustice, not because she told me to feel that way, but because she helped me find and connect with my own sense of righteous indignation. And as I said before, without this experience, I would never have gotten to advocacy as a career and life path.

    So my therapist did not fit your model of “teach you to adjust to injustice” or “accept your lot in life.” It was much more about, “If you have an issue, what are you going to DO about it?” Which certainly fits into your framework of encouraging people to take action against their oppressors.

    Now this was in the 80s, and I fully acknowledge that such therapists have become more and more rare as the DSM has taken hold. But to pretend that there is some generalized agreement among therapists that their job is to prevent people from holding their oppressors accountable is to me simplistic and not supported by the fact. Therapists are not lawyers, nor are lawyers therapists, but there’s nothing to prevent a therapist from making referrals to lawyers for class action suits and the like, and I certainly have done that with many a person in my social worker days.

    As a wise man once said, “Generalizations are always wrong.”

  • I am saying that it depends very much on who the psychotherapist is and what they’re about. I would say that it is true that most therapists these days are fully indoctrinated into the DSM system and see people’s problems as “mental illnesses.” But as Bonnie points out, there are therapists who take a very different view of what therapy is or should be, and there are many people, including myself, who have had very positive therapy experiences themselves. I can pretty much guarantee you that I would not have become an antipsychiatry activist and advocate for stopping the mass drugging of kids in our society (and adults, of course, but kids were my specialty) without having gone through that experience myself. You have talked about Alice Miller and the need for people to get in touch with, feel, and validate their own experiences in order not to perpetuate the same offenses on the next generation. I agree totally with Alice, and I would also submit that most therapists haven’t done this work and are either useless or dangerous. But not all.

    So my objection is not to making generalizations about the practice of therapy as a profession, but to generalizing that all THERAPISTS have the objective of removing someone’s honor and having them accept themselves as inferior beings. That was not at all my experience, and others report finding therapists who have helped them gain new and helpful perspectives on how to live their lives without worrying about how “the system” or “the middle class” would judge them. I think this is very valuable when it happens, even if it is rare, and I don’t want folks who have had that kind of experience or who have provided that kind of experience to be invalidated by sweeping generalizations about what “all therapists” are intending to do.

  • I would agree that psychiatry is an organized system with a specific purpose and a political apparatus to support it, including mass funding through the drug companies, and it is much easier to make accurate generalizations about psychiatry. I would still maintain that saying that “all psychiatrists” are the same is inaccurate, but in the case of psychiatry, the defectors from the status quo are much fewer and much more exposed to blackballing and other punishment from the powers that be.

  • That is what I have always suspected. SSRIs appear to create a sense of not caring what others think about your behavior. This might be seen as a good thing of someone is spending a lot of time worrying that others don’t think they are good enough. Being able to say, “Screw mom, I’m gonna do what I want to do,” might feel really good to some people. But what if someone is being prevented from doing something violent because s/he is concerned about the consequences, that they might be shamed or put in jail? In that case, removing empathy or concern for the views of others may be deadly!

  • Denial is not “trauma informed.”

    This is more proof that anyone can take any concept and turn it into a means of oppression. The attitude is what has to change, and calling one’s oppressive attitude “trauma informed” is just another way of coopting the drive to expose abuse of power for what it is and turning it into a way to protect the perpetrators.

  • This is kind of sad to me. Talking about the person’s neighborhood they grew up in or other aspects of their culture should be standard practice for anyone who actually wants someone to feel safe talking to them. Sharing about one’s own background is also helps build trust. If psychiatrists understood that building trust is the beginning of doing anything remotely helpful, this would not be a necessary exercise.

  • I wish I had one! Big social changes take time, and also usually money. I think maybe we have to start with getting money out of politics so our representatives are representing us rather than big corporations. But that in itself is a huge task, and probably starts with political organizing at a local level and commitment for years to making changes. It is a daunting task!

  • I would submit that we don’t KNOW anything that we haven’t personally examined and found to be true based on our own standards. You don’t “know” something just because someone else told it to you. All you know is that this is what you were told. The lack of intellectual curiosity and rigor amongst people who claim to be representing scientific or technological advances is disheartening, though no longer even slightly surprising.

  • Sandra,

    As a psychiatrist whom I respect greatly, I’d be very pleased to hear whether you have seen psychiatrists or the APA promoting the “chemical imbalance” or “brain disorder” hypothesis. It’s hard for me to imagine you have not heard this being put out there all the time, as I ran into it frequently just in the foster care system. What’s your experience?

  • So either they are not psychiatrists, or the entire psychiatric profession in New Zealand has to be regarded as “not serious” by Pies and his ilk. Of course, there is also the possibility that they are lying for the purpose of increasing their “market share,” but no, that COULDN’T be true! Psychiatrists would NEVER be corrupted!

  • Even if psychiatrists did not promote the “chemical imbalance hypothesis” (which of course we all know they did and continue to do), they certainly said and did NOTHING to correct any “misimpressions” created by the Pharmaceutical Industry or whoever else made them look like they believed in it. Failing to take action to correct false information is pretty close to promoting it, in my view.

  • How about if they are informed of the multiple long-term studies showing that stimulants do not improve ANY long-term outcomes for “medicated” vs. “unmedicated” students, including academic test scores, high school graduation, college enrollment, grades passed, delinquency rates, teen pregnancy rates, social skills, or even self-esteem ratings? Why is this rarely if ever mentioned in critiques of stimulant drugs for “ADHD”-diagnosed children? If long-term outcomes are not improved (or in some studies, made worse), what is the purpose of drugging these kids, even if one accepts the concept that “ADHD” exists as a disease state (which I do not)?

  • I have also worked with foster youth, and found that the “trauma brain” trainings, rather than increasing empathy as they ought to, for some people provide yet another way to say that “his brain is broken because he’s traumatized” and use it to justify more drugging and diagnosing. What is needed for traumatized people (which is pretty much all of us!) is empathy and kindness and honesty and human vulnerability. It doesn’t matter how many trainings are done – we need to impact the ethics of the people involved such that they start thinking about how they might accidentally be harming someone rather than assuming that everything they do is magically helpful.

  • The problem with mindfulness is that it has been abstracted from its spiritual roots in Buddhism and is now being used as a gimmick to deal with anxiety. Which it does help with, but it seems a shame (but typical) to remove the spiritual focus that provides a context for why one might meditate and what one might get out of such a practice over time. It should not be a means to escape the rigors of capitalism. It is a lot bigger than that.

  • That is very well said. Unless someone has an identifiable neurological disease that one can accurately test for, whatever people do is “neurotypical.” Genetic diversity is the key to species survival. We need all different kinds of people, and the sooner we learn to value what gifts everyone brings to the table, the healthier we’ll be as a society. But I’m not holding my breath on that one…

  • I respectfully disagree, based on personal experience. You appear to be committed dogmatically to a viewpoint that is not supported by the reported experiences of many people. I agree that the run-of-the-mill therapist is likely to be supportive of the status quo, and that there are certainly a significant number who are married to diagnoses or other client-blaming theories, and that such “help” is not very helpful. However, to say that all psychotherapy has the client yielding as the goal, or the client putting all problems in the past, is simply not true, no matter how many times that idea is repeated. It feels very disrespectful both to people who have found counseling/therapy beneficial and to those therapists (admittedly a minority these days) who work very hard at helping the client meet his/her own goals in an empowering way.

  • I don’t think that everyone knows what is good for themselves, not by a long shot. What I do believe is that everyone has a right to make his/her own decisions, and the job of a helper is to assist that person in gaining sufficient perspective to see the options available and the likely consequences of whatever decision they make. Forcing someone to do something “for their own good” is so fraught with problems that it is far better to decide never to force someone to do anything at all in the name of helping. Sometimes we do need to use force to keep them from hurting someone else, but at that point, we’re helping the potential victim, not the person we’re using force on.

    It is very painful to watch someone doing things you know will lead to pain, but everyone has to learn in their own way. We can provide information, show love, set boundaries, share perspectives, but in the end, each person is responsible for charting their own course in life, even if we don’t like the results.

  • “We do need a model to help clinicians and service users understand why their emotions and behaviors are maladaptive for them.”

    I would respectfully disagree with this statement, as a former counselor/therapist. I believe any “model” needs to understand why their emotions and behaviors are, or were at one time, ADAPTIVE for them, and help them decide if that behavior is still adaptive or if different options might be more effective in accomplishing their goals. Calling clients’ behavior “maladaptive”, in my experience, leads to defensiveness or self-shaming, whereas acknowledging that “all behavior meets a need” (as the saying goes) and that people aren’t acting or feeling random things, but are making decisions based on their own perception of what makes sense in their world. And of course, no one can really understand what makes sense in their world except the client him/herself. As soon as an helping person starts deciding for the person they’re helping what is and isn’t “adaptive,” they stop helping.

  • In my experience, this is very much the norm – it takes an act of Congress to get a doctor to support withdrawing from psychiatric drugs, and the desire to do so is often regarded as a “symptom of the illness” rather than a rational decision based on the pros and cons of the situation. Many docs seem to believe that being “mentally ill” eliminates the ability to think and reason and make decisions.

    It is true that it is getting easier to find clinicians to help someone wean, but such professionals are still the exception rather than the rule. And even when one does find someone “willing” to help them taper safely, there is an almost constant message that it’s a bad idea and will probably go wrong soon. Plus a lot of the “supporters” don’t appear to understand how to taper safely anyway. So it’s not really a very easy process, and some people can’t find anyone willing to help at all.

  • It depends who uses them and how. I have no problem with a person him/herself identifying as “mad” or “neurodiverse” if that is an identity they find helpful. The problem comes in when we start studying “neurodiverse” people to find out “what is different (aka wrong) with them” based on the same brain-based reasoning that the psychiatrists use. So “neurodiverse” in particular doesn’t challenge the psychiatric paradigm to recognize that THERE IS NO NORMAL in terms of “brain function” – everyone’s brain is different, and should be! After all, genetic diversity is the key to species survival. The term also tends to imply for me that one’s brain condition is fixed – I’m “neurodiverse” because I was born that way, you’re not, because you “fit in” better to our society’s expectations. Now, I understand that some people do believe that they were born particularly different, and that may even be absolutely true in their particular case. But brains change and develop over time, and everyone has their gifts and challenges biologically. I do very much appreciate the reflection that people who get diagnosed “ADHD” or “Autistic” or whatever can find positive characteristics associated within the groups that are diagnosed that way, and I often pass on or comment similarly when someone starts talking about “brain-based disabilities” and such crap. But those labels are still based on the DSM and the “adapt or you are diseased” way of thinking, and I’d rather do away with them altogether.

    So again, I’m not against a particular person identifying that way as a person, I just don’t like to use these terms myself because they reinforce the biological model for me. Others are certainly very much entitled to their own views on this, and those views may be far more informed than my own. It was just that the comments on this article brought to my attention why the term bothered me, as I would guess I’m pretty “diverse” based on what is actually expected of human beings in our society, but because I chose a quiet way to rebel and to deal with the oppression I was experiencing, I am considered to be somehow a “normal” person. I don’t think such a “normal” person exists on this earth.

    I hope that makes things a bit clearer.

  • Posting as moderator:

    All comments are put into the moderation queue upon receiving them. Some comments are approved by other people than me, depending on length, complexity, and/or potentially controversial content. I only get to look at them once or twice a day, depending, so some of your shorter or simpler comments might be approved by a different person while one that is longer or more complex may have to wait until later when I get to it. Which means some comments may be approved earlier, even if posted later.

    Hope that explains it!

    — Steve

  • An excellent question, and very kindly put!

    I do support that kind of use of the word – I have never had any problem with people advocating for “mad pride” or seeing themselves as “neurodiverse.” I think my issue is more one of assuming, for instance, that the kids who don’t act out in school and do their homework and try to keep the teachers happy are “normal” while kids who can’t manage that intense effort are “diverse.” I was one of those kids who did what he was told and tried to play the game so that I wouldn’t get in trouble. But I hated every minute of it. It was totally traumatic on a daily basis. So I was no more “neurotypical” than the kid who was being sent to the principal’s office for acting out. I was just being harmed in a different way because I did have the capability of pretending I was OK more than other kids did. I totally support anyone identifying as “neurotypical,” because I know some people have a rougher time than I have had. I just want to make sure everyone is clear that the kids (or adults) acting “normal” may be suffering in their own way from the oppressive system that we have to deal with. Just because I can “fit in” doesn’t make me “typical.” Those who “fit in” are an extremely diverse group that have little in common beyond their ability to dance to the masters’ tune well enough not to be singled out for special discrimination.

    I hope that makes my view a little clearer.

  • You are so right, the “helpers” seem to believe that they are automatically being helpful and are incapable of abuse and harm, and so are blind to the damage they do. People believe that taking a kid from an abusive situation and putting them into foster care makes it all better for them, but it does not. There is automatic instability and craziness inherent to the situation, not to mention unavoidable breaking of almost every social bond the child has had to date, but kids are frequently overtly abused by the system itself beyond those unavoidable challenges. Any helping agency that can’t admit it could inadvertently do ill should not be trusted for human beings.

  • I just realized what it is about using the term “neurodiverse” that’s bugged me. It seems to imply that there is some monolithic mass of people with “normal” brains from whom the “neurodiverse,” well, DIVERGE. But isn’t the real truth that ALL of us are “neurodiverse,” and that it is the practice of expecting everyone to think and act the same that is causing the distress? Shouldn’t the concepts of allowing people to think and feel as they see fit apply to ALL of us, rather than just a category of people who are already judged to be “weird” by the judgmental “mainstream” of oppressive social institutions?

    I’m not saying this as a criticism, just asking what folks think about it?

  • And yet studies where they simply provide food and shelter and basic necessities to people living on the streets, without any requirement to do anything else (the “Housing First” concept) appear to start getting better without any further intervention. Imagine, getting enough sleep, being able to have food and shelter and to be able to wash and use the toilet safely actually helps people feel better and stay safer. What a concept!

  • Your comments reflect my experience completely. There are people who are able to be helpful in more than a run of the mill way, but they are rare and a degree or license or “school of therapy” certainly does nothing to identify such people. They are human, real, caring, and allow themselves to be affected by our stories, and even share some of their own experiences when it is helpful. They make mistakes and apologize for doing so, they are properly horrified by horrific things, they are, in short, real humans who are there to help in whatever way they can. And again, they are quite rare.

  • Little irks me more than when they give someone a bunch of fat-inducing “SGAs” and then put the person on a diet because they “make bad food choices.” Saw it happen all the time in the foster kids I advocated for. Then there was the kid who spent two years working through a tendency not to want to eat anything. She was eating well and doing great, then they decided she had “ADHD” and put her on stimulants. Lo and behold, she appeared to “relapse!” I was apparently the only one who saw the obvious causal factor. They were totally ready to see it as a resurgence of her “eating disorder.”

  • I agree completely that confronting propaganda and sharing factual knowledge is essential for changing the system, and that is sometimes going to be uncomfortable for some people. I’ve certainly been accused of “pill shaming” or “being biased” or “not sharing both sides” many times in the past, and it does not deter me from sharing the information. I do think that “peer pressure” plays a big role in how people decide things, and knowing that there is someone who questions this paradigm and has data to back it up can be a big game changer for some people.

    The only point I want to emphasize is that this kind of work has to be done with a sensitivity to the potential backlash for some people who are very committed to believing in the paradigm for whatever reason. Again, if it is a professional, I have no problem “shaming” them when they are using their power to do harm. I feel different about how to approach a person who has been a believer in this system from a “service user” point of view. I think it’s important to find out where the person is and how much they are able to process to avoid unnecessary pain and confusion. That doesn’t mean not to share the truth with such a person. It just means it’s important to do it in a way that is at least marginally digestible given their present viewpoint. It has been a path for many of us to get here, and it’s sometimes way too easy for those of us farther down the path to think that the truth is obvious, and to forget that we were once farther back along that path and that it took time and patience and multiple experiences for us to get to where we are today. And it’s also important to remember that others’ paths may look different than ours. We don’t want psychiatrists and “mental health” workers to assume we’re all the same – we ought to make sure not to do that to ourselves.

  • You as a client should NEVER have to give the “benefit of a doubt” to your supposed caretakers/helpers. It is THEIR responsibility to figure out what is helpful, or to admit that they don’t know how to help. It infuriates me (though it’s not surprising) to hear the staff telling YOU that you need to understand and take care of the staff who are supposed to be there to help YOU. I find it disgusting.

  • Have you looked into “Hearing Voices” groups? They are run by other people who have had similar experiences and can make suggestions of what may or may not be worth trying. If I were in your situation, I think I might start there.

  • It is certain that feelings of self-deprecation are present in most of us who grew up in this highly shaming society. They are exploited by the system in order to create more compliant “patients,” and this can be very effective. It’s easy to say “not to be open” to shaming, but that has been a journey of decades for me, and I don’t think we can expect most people to be free from it. The real shaming that goes on is the labeling of someone as inadequate or insufficient in the first place, and the responsibility for that shaming lies squarely on the shoulders of the “professionals” who engage in it.

  • I totally respect yours, Julie. I’m simply saying that therapy experiences are all different and that I have an issue with making gross generalizations about what therapists intend, even if in most cases it ends up being fruitless or counterproductive. Believe me, I recognize how fortunate I was to find the person I did! I also recognize that she could have taken the same approach with a different person and not gotten good results. (To her credit, she recognized and stated this to me as well.) It was a good match, for whatever reason, and worked for me.

    I also recognize that therapists such as Elissa would be much harder to find nowadays, since so many people have been trained and propagandized into the DSM model of reality.

  • I agree with you, Richard, except in one point: I think that Oldhead and Auntie Psychiatry are correct in saying we should not use the term “pill shaming,” as it was invented by and is continuing to be used by those in charge of the system to discredit any criticism. But the phenomenon of someone from an anti- or critical-psychiatry viewpoint acting in ways that effectively disempower those who are being victimized by the system or who are trying to sort out what to do does in fact occur and is harmful, and often gets into what seems like victim blaming. I just think we need a new name for it.

    I think we do best when we recognize that people are where they are and that it’s not our job to “convert” people in low-power situations to our viewpoint, as it reinforces the idea that this person is foolish or incapable of making his/her own decisions with the right information. I do think we are responsible for educating anyone who is in any way receptive in the truth about these drugs, but it needs to be done in a way that respects their autonomy and power to make and live with the consequences of their own decisions.

  • I am not sure you’re really getting what I’m talking about, and I find your comments here more than a bit dismissive of my reality. I ABSOLUTELY was encouraged to fully experience all the pain and confusion and loss that was the reality of my childhood, with tears and hopelessness and anxiety and angry swearing and the whole 9 yards. So your comment that therapists are always about stopping feelings or distracting oneself from reality is not accurate, at least in my case.

    Moreover, though this therapist didn’t specifically suggest getting involved in political activity, she certainly inspired me to understand how widespread my experiences as a child were and how important it was to try to change the real conditions that exist which create understandable fear, anxiety, anger, apathy and other strong emotions in children and continuing into their adulthood. It is fair to say that one of the first steps on my path toward political enlightenment was my engagement with this particular therapist. And led to my eventual career advocating for abused and neglected children in the foster care system, including getting a law passed to help protect them from psychiatric drugging.

    So while I agree with you on the fact that most therapy is crap these days, I don’t agree that all therapy can be categorized that way. I agree completely that feeling emotions that are repressed or intellectualized is essential to becoming a fully functioning human being, but I’d have to say that any therapy that does have that effect will help you get folks to the barriers protesting the injustice of the world.

  • Wow, THAT was a “trauma informed” therapist??? I think they missed the boat by a pretty wide margin, there. It goes to show again that training and qualifications don’t mean much in this world of contradictions and power trips. Finding a person who actually cares enough to get to know you is the real winning game, and there is no guarantee or necessarily even improvement in odds that a person with a degree or training in “trauma-informed therapy” will be that kind of person for you. It absolutely disgusts me to hear this kind of story – thanks for sharing it and good for you for seeing what was really going on!

  • And I would add that she was ANYTHING but protective of my parents. In fact, my mom said to others (naturally, I never heard about this for YEARS later and from a third party) that my therapist was “driving a wedge between us.” We spent most of the time talking about my historical relationship with my mother and her denial of any kind of emotional reality except that “everything is just fine.” And it was VERY helpful to me, and I doubt that selecting an average person off the street to share my issues with would have been remotely as helpful. She had a very useful skill, and I was happy to pay her for the excellent service she provided.

  • You’ve said this stuff before, and I’ve finally realized why some of it bothers me. You claim that all therapy is about making someone “feel OK” without dealing with emotions. But I had a fine therapist back in the 80s (before the DSM III and the “chemical imbalance” theory had taken hold), and it was ALL about me learning to feel the feelings I was avoiding. That was the whole point of it. So while I agree that much if not most therapy today avoids dealing with these awkward realities (and that the DSM III and later editions were, in fact, carefully constructed to allow for this shift in emphasis), there have always been therapists who viewed their jobs as doing exactly what you are saying needs to be done. So I think you are overgeneralizing in these statements – there are a lot of different therapists doing a lot of different things, and with a lot of different competence levels, but the idea that ALL of them are aiming to help people repress their emotional experience and side with their parents against abused kids is just not true in my experience.

  • I’d be the last person in the world to argue against some increased sanity in the foster care system, as I worked as an advocate for foster kids for 20 years. The Kibbutz/commune idea has a lot of merit, and I’d love to see it worked out.

    However, I do think it is important to remind everyone that today’s parents were yesterday’s kids who were usually abused and/or neglected and/or misunderstood by THEIR parents (and other adults responsible for them). While there are certainly parents who overtly wish their kids ill, and I see no reason to have mercy on such parents, there are a hell of a lot more who are just passing on what was done to them. You are an Alice Miller fan, as am I, so you know what I mean. Of course, this does not excuse the parents from the damage they do – I personally find the “don’t blame the parent” meme offensive and destructive to kids (and adults) who are the victims of inadequate or abusive parenting. It’s not the kids’ fault that the parents had a rough upbringing, and the parents are responsible for not passing that on. But most do so inadvertently or unconsciously, and I therefore see no reason why sane approaches to raising kids should not be a legitimate subject of study, as long as we aren’t providing excuses for parents or other adults to continue harming their children with impunity. It is very possible to talk about improving one’s approach to child rearing without making excuses for the parent or supporting child abuse, neglect or exploitation.

  • The correlation between “schizophrenia” diagnosis and childhood abuse (especially sexual abuse) is orders of magnitude hither than any genetic correlation that the most optimistic study has every come up with. Yet we still spend millions on gene studies and almost nothing on researching childhood abuse effects and how to help people resolve them. At this point, it is clear to me that those leading the field are either utterly blind to the obvious or extremely corrupt, or both.

  • It beggars belief that anyone would be so arrogant as to claim neuroleptics increase lifespan. Just based on weight gain, increase in diabetes, and increase in heart disease, it is obvious that these drugs kill people more quickly than if you left them alone. Add in the increase in smoking cigarettes as a means of dealing with “side effects” and you know the death rate will climb.

  • This article reinforces my observation that what people need to “heal,” if that is the proper word for it (a bit medical for my taste), is for someone to connect with them on a real and personal level. There is no technique, training, school of therapy, medical intervention, or special approach that will create this kind of connection. It requires a person being human and being willing to experience with another person what is happening in their lives.

    When therapy works, it’s because such a connection is formed. Most of the time, it appears to me, such a connection is not formed. And having a degree or a license is no guarantee of better odds that a person will be helpful.

    You are blessed and fortunate to have found such people, and others are no doubt very fortunate to have found you so you can pass it on. I wish there were some way to teach people how this works, but I don’t know that such a thing is really possible. Everyone follows their own path, even therapists. I guess a person who wants such an experience needs to know what they’re looking for and spend a lot of time shopping around.

  • That is such a good point! The shame is what comes from the system labeling someone and exerting power over them. Then the system comes and accuses anyone who wants to tear the veil of secrecy over their own shame and tries to project it onto those who is trying to get the facts on the table. It’s classic projection.

    I also agree that “no-pill shaming” is a lot more common, and yet no one seems the least bit disturbed by “did you take your meds?” humor or the pressure that people come under to give in to the psychiatric worldview and accept their shaming label without complaint.

  • Very true. In the world of mediation/negotiation, it’s long been recognized that “shared decision making” is impossible in the presence of large power disparities. It’s hard to think of a greater disparity than a person who is highly distressed talking to a person with high social standing who has the back pocket option of imprisoning them if they don’t go along with the program.

  • Some parents won’t listen. There are a lot of parents who are working on doing the right thing very, very hard. And the answers aren’t always as simple as to take away the video stimulation. Parents are fed a lot of bad information, and it’s hard to sort out what makes sense, especially when so many of them have been treated less than respectfully by their own parents growing up.

    Parenting is a tough job, but at the same time, parents should not be let off the hook for the damage that they may do, intentionally or inadvertently.

  • OK, I was overgeneralizing a bit. There are moments when it IS the correct thing to say. But mostly not, and I’d have to gather a lot of information before deciding to go that route. A person has to be at the right point to be able to process that kind of a push.

    But you’re right – there is a difference between personal communication that is unintentionally shaming and the use of this concept of “pill shaming” in a shamelessly (sorry!) political manner as has been done. Acknowledging that there are moments when people can’t process the idea that their pills may be dangerous really doesn’t connect with the idea of “pill shaming” as put forth by the leaders of the psychiatric/drugging movement.

  • Not at all. I’m saying that if you really want to bring someone to a different place, you need to meet them where they are and understand why they believe what they do rather than starting off by telling them that they’re making bad decisions and should change their minds. I’m by no means tolerant for a second of the concept of “pill shaming,” as it was invented for the purposes of stifling discussion. I’m merely saying that an approach that recognizes the person being harmed as a victim of the system who needs some gentle guidance, vs. someone who needs to be rescued or fixed by again doing what someone else says they should do. What I want from these encounters is to maximize the odds that the person’s going to be able to hear what I’m saying. Anything that smacks in any way of me judging the other person’s decisions as being “bad” or “wrong” or me “correcting” their views generally leads me no where at all. I learned this by much trial and error, and believe me when I say, I have had plenty of time to discover what works, and telling people they’re wrong doesn’t do the job.

    Again, very different from how I’d approach someone accusing ME of “pill shaming.” No need for gentle measures there generally, though there are those who are brainwashed and don’t really believe it themselves who still engender my compassion, even though I have to call out their judgmental behavior. But if I want to be in a position to call out judgmental behavior, I kind of have to avoid it myself, don’t I? Or I end up being way too similar to those whose behavior I am trying to stop.

    Hope that makes a little more sense this time. It is a kind of subtle point, but as far as dealing with domestic abuse survivors, it’s tried and tested over hundreds and hundreds of people who have found my interventions generally very helpful, once I figured out what NOT to do. I haven’t done half bad with psych survivors, either, based on what feedback I’ve gotten. I’m not talking through my hat – I’m sharing what I’ve found to work best for those I’ve worked with.

  • I think this is a very good observation. It being such a normal reaction, I think we all need to be sensitive enough to expect it and not judge people who have been understandably pulled into a system they don’t understand for displaying this predictable sign of resistance to being “wrong” about their investments.

  • Hi, AP,

    I have to say, I have seen some pretty serious insensitivity from some folks about the impact of their statements on the person in question. It seems to me that, as we care about the welfare of the folks we’re trying to educate, we need to start gently and from where the person is rather than overwhelming them with information and pressure to agree with us.

    A useful analogy may be someone in a relationship we see as domestically abusive. We may be absolutely right about our observations and assumptions, but I can assure you that it’s not very helpful to say to someone, “You’re in an abusive relationship – you need to leave right away!” Now, the person who says this may have no intention of shaming the survivor, but the effect will nonetheless be one of shaming – the survivor will almost always feel inadequate and defensive, and will in fact often go into a reactive defense of the abuser as a means of avoiding the perceived judgment that s/he is too stupid to see the obvious reality that we “outsiders” are kind enough to point out.

    I have found it MUCH more helpful to enter into a discussion with the person, to find out his/her own view of what is going on, what the pros and cons are, what they’ve thought about as possible solutions, or just to hear their story and listen supportively. It has become very, very clear to me over time that people are in different places in their processes and that the last thing they need is someone else telling them what they should do or that they are wrong.

    Of course, we also have to consider the possibility that we are wrong, that the person is not feeling abused or mistreated, and that the situation is not the same to them as it looks to us.

    This is a very, very different approach than I would take toward the PERPETRATORS of such ill treatment. I see no reason not to pull out all the stops in challenging those in the position of power to deal with the actual facts of the situation and to let them know we see and know what they are about. But they are the ones committing the heinous acts, whether intentionally or not. Those who are being victimized deserve a high level of sensitivity to how our approach may come across, including making sure that our efforts don’t have the unintended effect of making them feel LESS empowered and more shamed. We can absolutely create a shaming situation without intending to.

    I would also suggest that this is very different than presenting objective DATA to a person in a difficult situation, while allowing that person to decide what it means and what to do with that information. My big objection is when people start objecting to providing objective information on the grounds that “it might discourage people from taking their meds” or “it might be perceived that you are shaming them.” I think sensitivity is still in order, but there is nothing “shaming” about sharing research data, statistics, personal experiences, cross-cultural studies, or whatever solid factual information is known with anyone who is interested in hearing about it, and even with some who aren’t.

    I guess the big difference for me is whether one believes that the other person has the right to make their own decisions based on their own assessment of the data, or if one believes that anyone who doesn’t agree with one’s own interpretation is de facto wrong or deluded or deceived or victimized. I think it is a minimum level of respect to grant to any person in the low power situation the right to make up their own minds about things without having to worry about how I’m going to react or judge them if they make a different decision than I would want them to make.

  • Sometimes the article titles are from the journal or publication that published them. But I agree with you – I’d like to see articles with titles more like, “Kids enjoy school more when they have lots of exercise” or “Active kids learn better when allowed to be active.” Or even, “Kids who are allowed to be active are less likely to end up with an “ADHD” diagnosis.” We can talk about issues without labeling kids.

  • I do think we’d agree on most points. My issue is the professionals pushing these “diagnoses” when we know they are BS. But they have permeated society, and some people do take offense or get confused when I communicate my disagreement with these concepts. I think it’s an inevitable part of the problem, and I blame the doctors and the profession for promoting ideas they know to be false for the bulk of the confusion.

    The most important part of helping anyone is, as you say, recognizing that everyone has different experiences. Unfortunately, the main thrust of the DSM (in my view) is to invalidate those differences and suggest that we can lump people together based on how they feel or behave rather than taking the time to actually find out what’s going on. I am guessing we’d be of a mind that the job of any helper should be to find out from the person they’re trying to help what works or doesn’t work for them, rather than forcing one’s own view of the situation down their throat (in some cases literally). As to how the average clinician views the situation, it might be interesting to do a survey and find out for sure.

  • I know what you’re talking about, as I trained as a chemist undergrad and have done some programming as well. The most important element of creating a functional model is feedback from the model in action. If the model doesn’t predict reality accurately, you have to start redefining your assumptions. And you’re right, the most basic assumptions affect the outcomes most significantly.

    So what I see here is that the psychiatric industry, for reasons of economics and prestige/power/status, made a decision to regard the brain as the source of all mental/emotional/behavioral distress or wide variance from the norm. We are seeing now a lot of the feedback from that model in application and it is not pretty. However, rather than doing what a good scientist would do, and understand that the original assumptions were erroneous or at a minimum simplistic and go back and start altering those assumptions, they have a financial and power-based investment in maintaining the original assumptions as true regardless of any feedback they might receive from the model’s outcomes.

    In other words, they have abandoned the scientific method and have decided to do what makes them the most money/power instead of what helps their clients.

  • I think you underestimate the importance of and the damage done by the DSM. To start with, there is no reason that we can’t say, “X has difficulty eating enough food” or “Y has a difficult relationship with food” or “Z has a very negative body image that she wants to change.” Not labeling something doesn’t mean denying the circumstances that prompted the labeling process. In fact, we can get a MUCH more accurate description of what is going on by simply asking the client to describe the circumstances they feel they are facing and having them identify their own description of the problem. So there is no need to tell someone “you have an eating disorder” to provide helpful intervention. Now if the person him/herself identifies that “I have an eating disorder,” I would certainly not invalidate that. But that’s very, very different than a professional telling you, “You have an eating disorder” and defining your reality for you. This is especially true when the doctors start telling you that you suffer from a “chemical imbalance” or that your “disorder” is hereditary or due to some kind of brain malfunction that no one has even come close to identifying as true. And if you don’t believe this happens, you need to read up on this site or talk to a lot more people who have engaged with the “MH” system.

    More importantly, the DSM is taken VERY seriously by both professionals and the society at large. Not all, but lots and lots. Saying that a person “has depression” implies that there is something wrong with THAT PERSON for feeling that way, that they have a “medical problem” and that they need “treatment.” A survey in the late 2000s showed that over 80% of Americans believed that “depression” was caused by “low serotonin.” This belief did not just happen – it was the result of a large and coordinated effort to convince Americans that “mental health problems” were, in fact, biological. There is plenty of documented evidence that the thrust of the DSM III, which prompted a huge expansion of biological explanations for “mental illnesses” defined in the book, was to expand psychiatry’s market share. It was, in fact, a quite cynical effort to position psychiatry as a “real branch of medicine” and to promote its practices as “scientific” and “proven effective.” Naturally, the pharmaceutical industry was happy to team up with psychiatry in this effort, and continues to provide most of the funding for the continued propaganda campaign to that end.

    It’s easy to think that those who made the DSM are just trying to understand better and refine their model, but the origins of the DSM series belie that suggestion. It is more than possible to provide good support to people who face mental and emotional suffering without the slightest reference to a “diagnosis.” Again, if an individual wants to view him/herself through that lens, they’re welcome to do so, but the profession has no right to promote the idea that these “diagnoses” represent real, biologically-distinct entities when they know absolutely that they do not and never will.

  • What if the “diagnoses” are known to be manufactured and to not represent any kind of medical problem? Is it not a fraud to pretend one is practicing “medicine” beyond “symptom management” when “treating diagnoses” that are known not to be scientifically definable? What’s to stop someone from inventing “nose-picking disorder” or “excessive skipping disorder” or “unreasonable political protest disorder?” If we can just invent “disorders” out of anything we don’t like or find uncomfortable or confusing, where does it end? Hell, they’re prescribing STIMULANTS for “Binge Eating Disorder” now! As if the person is suffering from excessive appetite and suppressing the desire to eat is “treating” the problem! I’m sorry, but these utterly unscientific “disorders” are not advancing the understanding of people’s mental/emotional distress or well being, but is instead creating further confusion.

  • You are absolutely right, the proof is in the pudding, and so far the psychiatric pudding is falling pretty flat. Making more people disabled, reducing people’s lifespan, reducing hope and increasing stigmatization and discrimination – nothing that could be called a success in any sense.

    Real science makes things simpler and more effective over time. The psychiatric model makes things more complex and more confusing and is ultimately very ineffective.

    I agree that people are programmed to categorize, but categories are only as useful as they create better understanding. And any real scientist knows that categories are always approximations and that incoming data has to be considered to improve the model of reality over time. A model is not reality, but psychiatry seems to think the model is more important than the results. Unless you count financial results for their corporate buddies.

  • I’m not going to try and explain myself again. You seem to have difficulty following what I’m saying for some reason. I never assumed that bad brain chemistry causes anything – to the contrary, I think the whole thing is a bunch of pseudoscientific chicanery invented to sell drugs. Anyone who has ever read anything I wrote knows this about me. All I’m saying is that sometimes having hard scientific data proving such assumptions FALSE is helpful in counteracting pseudoscientific propaganda put out by the proponents of the DSM “model” toward their potential victims. You’re free to disagree with me, but not to put words in my mouth that I not only didn’t say, but which are in direct contradiction to what I’ve clearly expressed myself to believe over and over again on this forum.

  • I think you misunderstand me. The only research I’m talking about it that which debunks any idea that there is some medical issue at play. For instance, I have found it extremely valuable to read decades of reviews of the literature on “ADHD,” not because I believe in that bogus concept, but because those decades of research prove what we all intuitively know to be true: giving kids stimulants doesn’t improve their grades, their academic test scores, their social skills, their high school dropout rates, their rates of delinquency, or even their “self esteem,” however they measure that subjective concept. This is very useful to me when someone tries to explain to a parent how “untreated ADHD” leads to high school dropout and delinquency, and I can say, “What most people don’t seem to know is that 50 years of research have shown that “treating ADHD” with stimulants does not change those outcomes one iota, and in some studies it makes them worse.”

    I’m certainly not in favor of wasting good money on studying these idiotic constructs. But I do value people (like Giovanni Fava or Jonathan Leo or Peter Breggin) who do or assemble research showing that the institution of psychiatry has its collective head in a very dark place. Yes, even if they use “those terms.” Because sometimes people just need to hear that psychiatry is lying to them as a place to start their journey to understanding how deeply harmful the industry really is.

  • I agree absolutely. I’ve said to people that even if they DID prove that people “with ADHD” have a difference in their brains from the average person, it would not mean that there was anything wrong with them. After all, genetic diversity is the key to species survival! Or as one foster youth once wisely said to me, “Maybe different people should be allowed to have different brain chemicals.”

  • That is my general practice, and I think it says what needs to be said. This particular use of quotation marks is meant to indicate that this term is used by others but is considered by the “quoter” to have a different value, and usually indicates a degree of disrespect or scorn for the term. Kind of like saying, “So-called schizophrenia.” I have also used “persons who have been labeled as” when talking about research. This allows us to communicate the intent of the researchers without buying into the terminology. That’s just my personal take on it, but I agree with Oldhead here that the quotation marks are the easiest way to show disagreement while still using the recognized term for those who are new to the idea of critiquing the DSM “diagnoses.” (See, it works!)

  • I don’t think that it’s possible to be truly “trauma informed” as long as you are relying on the DSM-driven standard “mental health” system. The only “trauma informed” thing to do is to erase everything people claim to know about “mental illness” and start over from scratch, and rebuild from the viewpoint that the people who have been traumatized are the ones who actually know what they need.

  • The problem is that there is no profit in it for any big corporations, so there is no motivation to do anything different than what is being done. If Maori methods actually help “cure” people of their ostensible “disorders,” that would be a strong reason for many in the industry to try and bury the idea as deeply as possible so they don’t start losing “customers,” whether voluntary or not.

  • I am impressed at how complex and confusing they have made a very simple correlation. Burnout and depression “overlap” because they are both descriptions of how people feel and act when they are overwhelmed, stuck,hopeless, and/or disconnected or unsupported by their communities. Making it seem like they are somehow different things that “overlap” is just a sleazy way to continue to legitimize their medicalization of “depression.” I found it particularly amusing that they assert that “burnout” is a syndrome that can’t be clearly defined, as if “depression” were somehow different.

    Anyway, you can tell when someone’s explanation doesn’t hold water if it continues to make the situation seem more and more complicated instead of simpler.

  • Thanks for your kind words. It baffles me beyond belief that a person who knows they feel lonely and unloved would be secluded in a room and put in a straight jacket and drugged!!!! How could ANYONE think that would help you feel LESS lonely and unloved? Seems like the best way I could think of to make you feel MORE lonely and unloved?

    I can only surmise that a lot of these people don’t really understand or care how other people feel. The lack of empathy is astounding to me. There is nothing wrong with a person who is feeling lonely and unloved! Maybe what they need is connection and love? Radical thought!

  • The system itself is organized along racist/classist/sexist lines, and unless the field suddenly and miraculously divorces itself from the DSM and all the attendant “diagnoses” and similar medicalized language toward people in distress, it will continue to function as an agent of oppression, despite the scattered patches of sanity that one finds here and there fighting for their own survival. The fact that the psychiatrist could make that incredibly racist statement without an outcry from the entire staff shows how completely accepted it is that psychiatrists get to do whatever they want and the rest of the staff either go along with the bully or get bullied themselves. How anyone could get “saner” in such an environment is a miracle that occurs in spite of rather than because of the system itself.

  • Way to get complex about it, researchers. The explanation is both simple and obvious: ADHD is diagnosed based on the degree to which the child creates problems for the teacher. Younger kids are more likely to create problems for the teacher, and are therefore more likely to get a referral or pressure to get diagnosed and “medicated.” The other explanations (2-4) are clearly just attempts to rationalize continuing to drug kids because they are annoying.

  • The first problem is grouping all people who fit the “PTSD” criteria into one group and trying to find one intervention that helps everyone. Some people may like “exposure therapy,” some hate it. Some people find meditation to be a very difficult experience, I personally found it very helpful. People are all different, and different approaches help different people. Why anyone would try to force a “therapy” on someone who said it didn’t feel right is beyond my comprehension.

  • I recall doing an excellent exercise on distinguishing facts from opinions/projections. A person would be asked to look at a picture and say what they know about the person in the picture. People would say things like, “He’s sad.” The facilitator would say, “Do you KNOW he’s sad? What do you actually see that you know to be true?” “Well, he looks sad.” “Looks sad to you – that’s your opinion, too. What do you SEE?” “Well, his face looks sad.” “What about his face looks sad?” “He’s frowning.” “How do you know he’s frowning?” “Well, his lips are turning down at the edges.” “THAT is a fact. The rest of the things we think we “know” are assumptions or judgments.” It was a sobering exercise. Most of what we “observe” is not really an observation at all, it’s a judgment. I would also submit that any “observation” made would need to be checked back with the person being “observed” for accuracy, but far better for the person to make his/her own observations without any suggestions from the “helper.”

  • Solid advice. I’d add that there are some “patients” who have bought into the system as it is and will be difficult to engage on these points. I’d also add that the system personnel will sometimes ask if you are “antipsychiatry” or “a Scientologist” or “anti-science.” You want to be prepared not to engage with this kind of attack, and I’d suggest responding by asking, “Why are you changing the subject? I thought we were talking about whether or not psychiatry works?” But of course, anyone who attacks you in that way is probably not really worth trying to convince, as they are invested in the status quo and maybe even making money off of it.

  • I actually agree with you, and efforts to be “objective” are often a big barrier to helpers connecting emotionally with the people they are trying to help. Perhaps a better description is for the helper to understand that s/he is NOT objective, and to make strong efforts to double and triple check his/her observations and ideas with the person whom they are supposed to be helping.

  • “Why is my car not running?”

    “There is no way of knowing – there are too many factors involved.”

    “So if you don’t know why it’s not working, why should I pay you to fix it?”

    “Trust me, I have 25 years of experience working on problems that I don’t actually understand.”

    Time to get a new mechanic?

  • It is possible, but it is my firm belief that only a tiny percentage of people who are suffering will have any kind of neurological difficulties at all. Because being scared, or angry, or depressed, or bored, or even having fantasies are all completely normal activities that every human being experiences at one time or another. It makes no sense at all that 20% of the population is “mentally ill” – they are in the vast majority just people having normal reactions to life. The idea that there will be some physiological cure for something like “depression” is a fantasy. It’s just as likely as curing something like “pain.” It isn’t going to happen, because pain is a part of life, and so is depression and anxiety and all of it.

  • Actually, beyond direct force there is a lot of manipulation using parental fears. For instance, they tell parents that “untreated ‘ADHD’ leads to delinquency and school dropouts and etc etc.” Of course, they don’t bother to tell them that the “treatment” doesn’t do anything to improve any of those outcomes, nor that most “ADHD” diagnosed kids turn out just fine as adults. So parents are afraid if they don’t “medicate” their child, the child will suffer these awful outcomes that the “treatment” doesn’t even touch. It’s pretty evil!

  • Though it is true that many capitalists claim to be “libertarians” in order to justify their opposition to anything that might help the working stiff have a chance at a better quality of life. The Koch brothers are a great example – they claim to be libertarians who are in favor of minimizing regulations and supporting the “free market,” but when rooftop solar started to out-compete other energy providers in sunny places like Oklahoma, they were first in line to propose a tax on rooftop solar. So much for the free market, guys…

  • He clearly states that the use of the term “illness” to refer to a state of mental or emotional suffering is not a proper use of the term. He (and I) believed that some illnesses could have impacts on thoughts and emotions, such as low thyroid or anemia or a head injury. But those are identified as real illnesses and treated by real branches of medicine. He always was clear that if there is no known physical cause, it’s not an illness. I wanted to make sure you knew I wasn’t denying that things like loss of sleep or the side effects of certain drugs or poor nutrition can cause mental/emotional problems. But to call something like “depression” an “illness” doesn’t make sense to me (or to Szaz), because it assumes that everyone who is feeling depressed has something wrong with them. Indeed, it assumes that all people who are depressed have the same problem. This is about as silly as saying that all people who feel pain have “pain disorder” without bothering to see what is actually causing the pain. Actually, it’s even more silly, because feeling depressed is a normal part of living, it’s not even an indicator of something physically wrong, as pain most often is.

    So to be clear: “Major Depression” is not caused by a physical problem. It is an invented category that does not correlate to any physical abnormality. It is just a label for a phenomenon that could have many different causes. Low thyroid IS a physical problem that can cause a particular person to feel depressed. In this case, “depression” is just an indicator of the problem, no different than weight loss/gain or tingling in the hands and feet. So “depression” is never the “illness.” It is just an emotional experience people have, which in rare cases can be caused by a physiological problem of some sort, but which in most cases is simply a normal emotional response to a difficult environment where one has difficulty figuring out what to do.

    I hope that makes things clearer. But Oldhead is right – Szaz did not believe that “depression” was or could be a “disease” or “mental illness.” He wasn’t opposed to treating actual illnesses that might cause a person to feel depressed, but he was very much against any kind of idea that “depression” as a whole was or could ever be the result of a biological problem.

  • That is exactly what I mean. He is pretty clear about saying that if something is discovered to have a real physiological cause, it is moved into one of the actual medical categories, like neurology or nutrition or internal medicine. Psychiatric “illness” is only reserved for those manifestations that DON’T have an actual known physiological cause, which he properly identifies as a metaphorical use of the term “illness,” since there is no reason to believe there is anything physiologically wrong with the person in question. I’d say his take is, “If you know it’s an actual physical ailment, show me the test and treat it as such. If you can’t show it to be physiological, stop calling it an ‘illness,’ because it isn’t.” I’m no Szaz expert, but that’s what I most recall of his writings.

  • Not at all, and neither does Szaz. The important point is that you can’t DIAGNOSE A DISEASE STATE by looking at HOW SOMEONE ACTS OR FEELS. There is no question that certain physiological conditions can cause mental/emotional symptoms or adverse effects. The problem is claiming that a person has such a condition BECAUSE they have certain mental/emotional effects. For instance, it’s legitimate to say that a person might be depressed because he’s had insufficient sleep, but it’s not legitimate to say that you know he has insufficient sleep because he’s depressed. He MIGHT be depressed due to lack of sleep or due to having a dead end job or because he was abused as a child or because he is lonely and has no connections or because his wife just left him or he lost his job or etc., etc, etc.

    An analogy might be diagnosing a person with “knee pain disorder.” It is meaningless to say that a person has “knee pain disorder” because their knee hurts. You’d have to know WHY the knee was hurting. Maybe it’s arthritis, maybe it’s a muscle cramp, maybe it’s a bruise, maybe it’s nerve damage, who knows? You’d have to analyze it further to find out what was the cause before you made a diagnosis.

    Same with “depression.” Saying “he has depression” tells you nothing at all, except that he’s feeling depressed at that particular time. It may be physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, political, or any mix of the above. So calling “depression” a “disorder” is not only meaningless, it is destructive, because it gives people the idea that the psychiatrists have some understanding that they actually don’t have.

  • You should read his books. Essentially, he says that the idea of “mental illnesses” is only metaphorical – they are not really “illnesses” but “difficulties in living” that have been labeled as such for the purposes of those in positions of power in society. That’s all I’ll say for now – you should read some of his writings. I think they would be very helpful for you to understand why some people say “mental illnesses don’t exist” – very different meaning than “people don’t suffer mentally/emotionally.”

  • They say a lot, but it’s mostly speculation and nonsense. The one thing we do know is that brain chemistry is constantly changing as we encounter different stresses and needs. So to suggest someone’s brain is “chemically imbalanced” means practically nothing. We also now know that the actual physical structure of the brain is changed by experience. So it seems to me we waste a lot of time studying genetics, which can’t be changed, instead of studying which EXPERIENCES help people feel more strong and capable.

  • All of those elements are involved in creating or alleviating distress, for sure. For instance, loss of sleep definitely increases my feelings of hopelessness or anxiety and reduces my ability to communicate effectively. So sleeping could be said to be a “treatment” for my negative feelings, but really, all they are “symptoms” of is a lack of sleep.

    So by all means, we should be addressing deficiencies in our social environment, eating better food, working on our own attitudes, working to improve the economic situation, etc. The problem is that my reacting badly to, say, a very oppressive school environment as a child (I was deeply depressed, did act out one time, had a psychological evaluation, etc.) meant that I had a “disorder” or “disease” or “condition” – it meant that the school’s rules, expectations, and processes and the complete lack of recourse that I or any of the other students had to address any kind of injustice or arbitrariness provided a horrible environment for me to grow in. The real answer wasn’t to ‘treat’ me, but to get me the heck out of there or to change the environment so I didn’t feel so hopeless about having to go there and be bored and lonely and angry and frustrated 5 days a week, 6 hours a day.

    Do I have a tendency more than other people to be anxious or depressed? Yes, I do. Could some of this tendency be built into my personality? Sure, it could. But so is empathy, compassion, willingness to fight for justice, humor, and lots of other things that go along with being “sensitive.” I don’t think I needed to be “assessed” or “evaluated” or “treated,” I needed to be loved and listened to and provided more opportunities to take more control of my own life.

    So I’m all for looking at all the factors that contribute to someone’s distress. I’m just opposed to the idea that being distressed in a particular way that is inconvenient for those in charge means that I have a “disorder.” I think it means I’m human, and we humans are all different and unique in our needs and goals and values and deserve to be treated that way. We don’t deserve to be slotted into categories of “wrongness” for the convenience of those who want to pretend that life is a garden of delights and that anyone who is not loving every minute of it needs to be “fixed.”

  • Given what the “mental health” world has done with ‘mindfulness’ by abstracting it from the Buddhist philosophy that underpins it and in some cases making it a requirement in someone’s “treatment plan,” I am very skeptical that Western Psychiatry will do anything but distort and ruin any helpful practice the Maori may have developed. Maybe we should skip reforming psychiatry and instead pay the Maori what we used to pay the psychiatrists rather than expropriating their spiritual practices and turning them into yet another bastardized western product for sale?

  • I don’t think anyone should invalidate your own perception of what works for you. Certainly, lots of people report finding psych drugs helpful. But that does not make psych diagnoses legitimate. They are not discovered, but literally voted on by committee. Read “So They Say You’re Crazy” by Paula Caplan, who served on the DSM IV task force.

    And yes, they do invent “disorders”. Look at the cases if Juvenile Bipolar or Social Anxiety Disorder or Binge Eating Disorder. Not that such things are not issues for some people, but there is solid documentation that pharmaceutical companies conspired with leading psychiatrists to create these “disorders” in the DSM to sell pharmaceuticals and psychiatric “services.” I know it’s hard to believe, but it is true.

  • But it is important to acknowledge that people DO suffer in various ways, and often need help dealing with their emotions and their experiences. This doesn’t make them ill, but I think it is important to distinguish that these “diagnoses” are crap, in that they are social inventions, but that suffering is real and that we need to get together as a community and look for solutions that actually help but don’t blame the sufferer for suffering too much or in the “wrong” manner.

  • I do see what you’re saying. I think it involves a confusion about language. When people say, “There is no such thing as ‘Bipolar Disorder,'” I think they mostly mean that “Bipolar Disorder” is an invention that doesn’t have a scientific basis as a medical diagnosis. I don’t think people mostly believe that those behaviors defined as “bipolar disorder” don’t occur, or that they don’t cause distress, or that help is not sometimes required. I think the objection is that someone with medical authority is DEFINING these behaviors as a “medical disorder” without cause. But it is often intepreted by readers as meaning that people don’t have these feelings or behaviors, which leads to lots of confusion and, as you say, distraction from the key points. At the same time, I really do understand why people who have survived the system often are very strongly against using these terms, which is why I put them in quotation marks whenever I use them. These generalizations have been used to harm people, often intentionally, and if that had happened to me, and I later found out the “disorder” I was assigned was voted into existence by a committee, I’d never want to see that word in print again!

  • I mean the goal of being “normal” as defined by the social norms promoted by our cultural system of values. It is the slavish adherence to this artificial “normalcy” and its conflict with people’s actual reality that is behind many cases of “mental illness.” This is very different from accomplishing what the client personally wants to create as their own “normal” mode of operation. What I find abhorrent is when therapists/counselors/psychiatrists define “normal” for the client and feel their job is to make them “fit in” better to society, rather than finding their own definition of “normal” that allows them to be comfortable in their own skins.

    As for pissing of psychiatrists, it depends if the psychiatrist is in a position to influence your reputation or your employment potential. There are definitely situations where one’s survival as a therapist in a particular institution depends on not being too vocal about critiques of the DSM or “medication” use. I respect anyone who can operate “behind the lines” without being beaten down or giving up. You appear to have established a certain level of respect and independence that has allowed you to be a maverick with limited consequences, but that takes time and skill to develop, and for some, it appears to be beyond their capacity. Working in a psychiatric institution or one controlled by psychiatric thinking can be extremely oppressive toward the workers as well. It takes a lot of courage not to pass on that oppression to the clients.

  • I never really thought about it, but you’re right, the concept of “baseline” is totally bogus. It assumes a person is a fixed entity that is only temporarily impacted by life circumstances. This is rot, of course. People are always developing, and the whole idea of “therapy” ought to be to help someone move onward to their next step in life, rather than returning to some “baseline” equilibrium defined by another person.

  • I think there is a big difference between a person preferring a particular framing of their situation and a doctor claiming that everyone having a particular behavioral manifestation is suffering from “X disorder.” We are all entitled to view our circumstances in a way that makes sense, but doctors are claiming to have some superior knowledge of the situation. Making unsubstantiated claims of understanding situations that are scientifically inconsistent or mysterious or invalid is something no professional should be allowed to do. I see it as extremely damaging to our society as a whole to allow these false claims to be viewed as some kind of scientific truth. At the same time, I have no problem with anyone choosing to view their own problem as a “mental disorder.” I just don’t support doctors making this kind of assertion unless there is actually evidence it is true. Medical diagnoses should not be something people choose because they prefer them. They should be objectively measurable conditions that can be reliably identified and treated. OCD certainly does not meet those criteria, nor does essentially any other “mental disorder” in the DSM.

  • Hi, PD,

    I have to respectfully disagree with your assertion regarding therapists not being allowed to practice if they don’t follow the priorities you mention above. I have tons of experience with therapists, both as a part of the MH system and as an advocate for foster youth for 20 years. I can assure you that therapists are all over the place in terms of practice, and any generalization you’d like to make is not going to be accurate. Some are unwilling to give any direction at all to the client, no matter how bogged down they get, others think they know everything and constantly tell the client what to do. Some believe that everyone’s issues come from poor parenting, others believe that nothing in the past has any impact on the present. Some have people go over past traumatic events in detail, others avoid them like the plague. Some believe religiously in the DSM, others consider it ridiculously simplistic and only use it for billing purposes. Some seek to be empowering, others seek to define and solve the client’s problems for them. Some feel that sharing personal details of their lives is essential to a successful relationship, others consider any sharing a violation of “professional boundaries.” The only generalization that can be made about therapists is that there is no consistency regarding expectations or results.

    I do get that the CONCEPT behind therapy suggests that fixing the person to make them more “normal” is the goal, and I of course find such a goal abhorrent. But therapy for the most part can be whatever the therapist and client make it, and some people report very positive experiences with therapists that have helped them change their lives for the better. (Though I have to admit that such reports seem to have become rarer over the decades.)

    Bottom line, I think comments about the therapy industry as a whole can be reliably made, but generalizations about what would happen to a particular therapist if they didn’t toe some imaginary party line do not line up with what I’ve seen. Therapists can generally do whatever the heck they want, as long as they can bill the insurance company for their work, and as long as they don’t piss off any psychiatrists they have to answer to by threatening their label-and-drug gravy train.

  • Once again, I think we see how the labeling process actually does as much or more harm than the drugs themselves. What if we just said, “Here are some strategies for those who want to figure out a way to reduce unwanted compulsions” or something like that. Why not just describe the problem in terms that are meaningful for the client, and work toward the client’s goals? Why do we have to ascribe some critical label to the behavior, rather than just identifying that it’s something the client wants to change?

    It is unfortunate that some good tips and ideas can be obscured by these medicalizing terms. I hope we as a community can work to tell the difference between our cultural training to use medicalized terms and the actual potential of the interventions being discussed. Some people with good ideas haven’t yet figured out the problematic nature of these terms just yet.

  • Not sure I agree with you, Ron. I think of survivors of domestic abuse – they are or should be proud that they have survived such horrific abuse and continue to lead semi-functional lives in the wake of it, even if they fully know and understand that they have to continue to work on overcoming the damage done to them. It’s possible to be proud that you came up with ways to get through something difficult while still recognizing that one’s life can be improved yet further by continuing efforts.

  • They will always tell parents that “untreated ADHD” is associated with higher rates of delinquency, school dropout, drug use, lower test scores, lower college enrollment rates, lower self-esteem and so forth. What they DON’T ever tell them is that “treatment” in the form of stimulant drugs has never been shown to improve ANY of these outcomes! It’s a real flim-flam job, though I sometimes think the teachers themselves have mostly been flim-flammed and don’t even really realize what they are saying. It’s like a robot or computerized message, they just all say it because they’re programmed to do so.

  • Posting as moderator: I would also add to Emmeline’s comments that choosing to publish a summary and link to a research article in no way implies that MIA approves of the research or supports the conclusions. It is simply a summary of research that some readers might find helpful. If you don’t, it’s fine to ignore it. I personally find MIA to be the best place to gather ammunition if I’m trying to influence a professional person to take another look at their belief system. Some people make up their minds based on research, and this kind of information is sometimes essential to counteract their narrative.

  • And I think the challenge for me is that the degree confers some kind of confidence in people that this person knows what they are doing. If therapists are to be licensed, there ought to be a much more practical way to do so that is based primarily on the person’s actual impact on the client(s) s/he serves, rather than how many years of education s/he may have consumed.

  • It is my understanding that lot of the “paraprofessionals” used by Mosher at Soteria House were people who had used hallucinogens and had experience as “trip guides.” There are many ways to learn the necessary skills to be a good helping person. And it should be very, very clear that obtaining a Masters Degree or Ph.D. is no guarantee that a person will learn these skills. It is unfortunate that the conferring of an advanced degree is assumed to indicate a minimal level of interpersonal competence when there is really no way to assure such competence by any educational approach now known.

  • I think “trauma” can only realistically be defined by the person reporting the experience. Trying to set some kind of standard only gets us confused. Some people are sexually molested by a family member, yet are believed when they tell their parent or loved one and are protected, and some of those people reportedly have relatively little long-term impact from the experience, while others find it horribly traumatizing. Some folks are yelled at by a parent or teacher or left on their own very young and feel frightened enough that it ends up being a lifelong issue for them. I think you get to decide how traumatic an incident that you experience is for you. Anything else is just authoritarian invalidation of your experience.

  • There are all kinds of fundamentalism, which is why I say that the real enemy is not the Right or the Left, but AUTHORITARIANISM in any form. A certain amount of agreed authority is needed to accomplish many tasks, but the assumption that there are authorities who are “right” and that those who want to be successful have to merely follow the instructions of the wiser “guide” or “leader” without having to think too hard is what screws us over. This happens with a lot people who are hard-line conservatives and a lot of people who are hard-line liberals/progressives/whatever and it happens to lots of folks who don’t identify with either end of the spectrum. It’s not a left-right issue, it’s an issue of whether people want to actually solve real problems or feel safe being in the middle of an ideological herd and not have to tax their intellect or their emotions too much.

  • A little confused by this, because I didn’t suggest that Marxism was a solution. I’m asking what it is? I agree that good must defeat evil, but what is the mechanism by which that happens on a societal scale? I don’t think there are any simple answers, but I think humans tend to be easily mesmerized by attempts to present simple answers, whether it be total government control over everything or elimination of all regulations and letting the “free market” save us all, or following some spiritual leader who seems to “have the answers.” Saying “socialism is bad” is no more sensible than saying “socialism is good.” There are clearly elements of socialism that are embedded in any Western democracy, and there are free markets operating in the most totalitarian economies. It’s not a black and white thing to me – it seems we need a balance between freedom to exercise our own ideas and objectives and the need to act together as a society to make sure that people’s rights are not violated.

    Or to put it in terms of an old joke: What’s the difference between Capitalism and Communism? In Capitalism, man exploits man, while in Communism, it’s the other way around.

    We can do better, but I think we have to have a practical way for “good to fight evil.” I don’t think it’s simple, and it most definitely doesn’t involve trusting all or most corporations to be on the side of “good.” Especially Big Pharma!

  • I do feel compelled to add to your narrative that the current “drug first and ask questions later” approach to “mental health” is driven to a very large extent by pharmaceutical companies in the interests of maximizing profits at the expense of the “patients.” This is not Marxism in action, but the profit motive. Of course, we can go off into explaining how “big government” makes this all possible, but government corruption is also a function of too few people having too much money and using it to influence politicians to do their bidding. So as much as an actual “free market” arguably has shown some large-scale benefits, at least for a proportion of people participating, the redistribution of money to those who already have money and power is something that has to be addressed in my view. How do you see this happening? How do we reduce the vast influence of big pharmaceutical money that is driving this “epidemic” of invented “disorders?”

  • I would add that there is plenty of evidence that maternal SSRI usage is associated with increased autism rates, and that the increase in autism diagnoses corresponded to big increases in SSRI use by adults.

    Of course, there is also the loosening of “criteria” for autism and the constant seeping in of the idea that “diagnosing” kids is more effective than understanding them.

  • Posting as moderators:

    Sorry, it seems to have been moved off. Essentially, all comments are going to be read first before they are posted. This will eliminate spam as well as rude or disrespectful comments in advance, rather than have them posted all day before I can get to reading them. It will slow down the rate of posts, but we have extra people looking over and approving comments at different times of the day, so it shouldn’t be too much different than it is now. But if it really affects your experience, Bob Whitaker is available to answer questions and take feedback.

  • In other words, people who are abused as kid are more likely to abuse their kids than those who aren’t. The old cycle of abuse idea. Hardly groundbreaking research here. The disturbing part is that everyone in the field doesn’t already know that childhood abuse is behind much of what is called “mental illness.” Treat kids better and “mental illness” will be reduced. But oh, that’s “blaming the parents,” isn’t it? Safer to blame the kids’ brains.

  • I actually think there is another factor – I think people often become worried that THEY are the “crazy ones” and are happy to find someone else to be labeled “crazy” so they can feel more “normal.” I think most people suffer confusion, anxiety, depression about our current society and the fragmented and often conflicting and competitive roles they have to play to survive, from grades in school right up through competition for jobs and wages. They seek some sort of order that they can hang onto, including looking for someone “below” them in the social order so they can feel like, “At least I’m not as messed up as THOSE people!” Psychiatry is happy to take on that role so that this kind of “othering” has the backing of the “authorities.”

  • I think it is an excellent and important question. It is the kind of question that gets people tied up in knots when someone suggests eliminating psychiatry altogether. While they don’t understand that psychiatric practice appears to actually increase the suicide rate, people will want to know where they can go for help if there is no doctor/psychiatrist/hospital to go to. I’m not sure I have a great answer yet.

  • I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying that grouping people together based on their emotional state is not going to lead to any positive conclusion. Most emotional states are the result of our interaction with the environment. Anxiety is mostly caused by experiencing scary things, depression by hopeless experiences. Now anxiety can also be created by deprivation of oxygen or by taking a lot of stimulants, which are physiological causes, but the idea that there is ONE physiological cause of anxiety is just plain wrong. So what I’m objecting to is not the idea that biology can cause anxiety in some cases, but the idea that anxiety is all caused by the same thing every time, or that anxiety is even always a “disorder.” Anxiety is our body’s way of telling us that something scary is happening and we need to take action to remedy it. What it is that is scary can be very different, depending on the person and the situation. It is not a “mental illness” to be anxious. It may be an indicator of some other illness, but anxiety itself is not an illness. It’s a natural state of the body under stress.

  • I concur. Guilt, like all of our emotions, has a survival role to play in our lives. Psychiatry’s first mistake is identifying emotions as being “good” or “bad,” and trying to eliminate the bad ones. Emotions aren’t good or bad, they send us messages about how we are surviving and what we can do to survive better. Learning to listen to our emotions is a part of being a rational human being.

  • I have not found that to be true in all cases. I’ve certainly seen many who do, and you may not have encountered any who don’t, but psychotherapists are human beings, too, and since they don’t really have any specific guidelines, my experience is that everyone pretty much does what they think works. Whether they support political activism for their clients is a function of their personal beliefs and goals. If they are a “top-down” therapist who believes that they know best, they can be extremely invalidative. But there are therapists (admittedly in the minority in my experience) who truly do believe in empowerment of the client to be more capable of living his/her life the way s/he wants to, including taking action against oppressive agents if need be. And there are a whole lot who are in the middle, trying to be helpful at they can but not really having a good idea of what they are trying to accomplish.

    As I said before, generalizations about “therapists” lead to mistaken ideas. Not all therapists are alike or believe in the same things.

  • Commenting as moderator:

    A reminder that I am not sitting at my desk with a little red light that goes off when someone posts a comment that requires my attention. Making critical comments regarding moderation decisions is not appropriate in the comments section, as it leads to escalation and further difficulties, and it is for that reason a violation of the guidelines to do so.

    If you have concerns about a comment, please contact me at [email protected]. I may be up to a full day before I’m able to deal with the issue, because I only work 5-10 hours a week and have other things to do besides moderating at MIA.

    In the meanwhile, please don’t make things worse by attacking the commenter yourself or by criticizing the moderation process when I may not have even read the comment for moderation at the point you see it. I left some pointers on how to respond appropriately to inappropriate comments in my original blog:

    I appreciate your understanding and patience with this process.

  • Making gross generalizations about therapists leads to errors in judgment. There is a huge range of therapists/counselors out there with different orientations and priorities. I was fortunate to have one who was very empowering and focused on me getting better at accomplishing my own goals. She was very much “trauma informed” and the results were quite significant for me. Of course, this was back in 1981 before the DSM III and the ‘chemical imbalance’ model had totally taken over, but there are still folks out there doing good work, though I most definitely consider them to be very much in the minority these days. I’ve certainly spoken to folks who became more radicalized through therapy, not because the therapist wanted to “radicalize” them, but because as they woke up to what led to their so-called “mental illness,” they realized that radicalization was the path they needed to take. I’m one such.

    In fairness, I know a lot more stories about therapists who were either ineffective or were invalidative and destructive, and more and more these days believe wholeheartedly in the DSM and in drugs for “mental illnesses.” So I’d be super careful looking for a therapist, actually, I probably would not consider it for myself these days because I know more than most of them. But there are still some competent people out there.

  • That’s the basic lie, I agree. Calling it “mental illness” means it is the client/patient’s problem instead of a natural outgrowth of living in a social system that is designed to allow a small number of people to thrive at the expense of the masses. “Diagnosing” people clearly and intentionally puts the problem on the individual and exonerates social institutions from any responsibility.

  • I found this very moving. It seems to me that you have learned that humility is the beginning of understanding and being of help to another human being in distress. Sadly, humility is sorely lacking in most of our ‘mental health’ services and professionals. The entire enterprise is based on hubris and prejudice. I wish your attitude would spread among those who errantly believe they are helping. Being willing to hear that kind of feedback is painful but really the only path to gradually unraveling the truth.

  • It’s pretty freakin’ bizarre. I am sure if you thought I said otherwise, you misinterpreted. I have always wondered how ANYONE could look at this idea, “Gosh, I’m feeling depressed, maybe passing an electric current through my brain and inducing a seizure might help,” has got to be pretty darned confused, and anyone who would do it to someone else is either completely lacking in judgment and empathy or else enjoys making others suffer. I am totally against drugging people for “mental illnesses,” but “ECT” seems even worse.

  • I agree 100% that it is an attempt to “get ahead of the story” and control the narrative. I believe it only is happening because the true information about the ineffectiveness and dangers of psychiatric drugs are coming to the surface. They have to deflect attention somewhere, so they are choosing to focus on “withdrawl effects” in order to keep their “diagnostic” and “treatment” systems as intact as possible. So as distorted as the story itself may be, it is a sign that the recent increase in pressure to get the truth out is having an impact. “Cracks in the armor” make space for a well-placed sword strike to do some real damage!

  • Just to be clear, “Biological psychiatry” was alive and well long before the DSM III. Insulin coma therapy, lobotomies, “hydrotherapy,” and all sorts of weird practices went back decades or even centuries before 1980. I would say, though, that 1980 and following was a shift toward a more systematic marketing and disinformation campaign to intentionally and vastly expand the scope of psychiatry’s influence, especially into the “markets” of children, the elderly, and those formerly considered “neurotic.” There was also a coordinated campaign to minimize the impact of social conditions and trauma that served the purpose of improving psychiatry’s “brand.”

  • I believe the reference to “materialism” refers to the idea that the human is just a body, and that nothing can exist outside the physical plane. Whether that philosophy bred psychiatry, it has certainly been seized upon by psychiatry as a means of “proving” their point that “mental illnesses” are in the brain – “because if they aren’t, where could they be?” You and I have both made the point repeatedly that the assumption that mind = brain is at the crux of psychiatry’s “brain disorder” concepts. I think that is the aspect of materialism being referred to here.

  • “Biological psychiatry” goes back way before Thorazine. But I certainly don’t hear Bob calling for a return to the “good old days.” I see him identifying the DSM III as a big shift toward “diagnosing” teens and children, which was a lot less common before that time. They were identified as a new “market.”

    But you make a good point that the attack on the patients’ liberation movement appears to have been coordinated with the release of the DSM III. It stands to reason that if psychiatry was interested in altering their “image” to appear “more scientific,” silencing those who would tarnish that image would have to be part of the plan.

  • I will say, though, that there appears to be a move to acknowledge withdrawal symptoms from “antidepressants” in many media stories all of a sudden. Someone else said this, but I think it is a “damage control” approach, where things are so bad they have to admit something, but want to direct the “flow” to a place where it will minimally interfere with their financial concerns. So it IS a victory of sorts that the narrative has changed, if only in this one respect, and I don’t think it would have happened without MIA and other efforts to make the truth known to the public. Keep the heat on!

  • I actually think Laura’s story is very common. Many people become ensnared in the system because they trust that the “professionals” know what they are doing. Once they are in, many are scared into compliance by stories of what will happen if they go off the drugs, and if they do try, no one is there to explain about or help with the withdrawal symptoms. So they start falling apart when they go off the drugs, and it seems that the psychiatrists were right so they stay on for years or decades. It’s not a rare story.

  • The obvious point that is overlooked here is that the psychiatric profession “diagnosed” these people “treatment resistant depression,” when in fact there was nothing wrong with them that some artificial hope and time passing could not change. How is it possible that these people were deemed “treatment resistant” when they were completely capable of “self-healing,” if there was even anything to heal in the first place? Rather than “regression to the mean,” is it not in fact likely that the withdrawal of psychiatric diagnosis and “treatment” and the hopelessness that it conveys was the biggest variable in these miraculous recoveries from a supposedly hopeless condition?

  • It seems so odd that those in the field are comfortable with the idea that we can choose the theoretical framework we like or don’t like. Can we decide we don’t like the “theoretical framework” for cancer? If some people don’t like the idea that it’s an overgrowth of cells, and prefer to think of it more as a focus of negative energy, and others see it more as a new evolutionary pathway, do they get to pick?

    Real diagnoses refer to real, observable, measurable physical phenomena. No one has to vote on whether a broken leg is broken, or how you fix it. The very fact that we’re having this kind of discussion is proof enough that the “professionals” don’t have any idea what is going on. STOP DIAGNOSING, at least until you actually figure out what small percentage of the “mentally ill” actually have an observable physical problem you can see, measure, and effectively address!

  • I’m glad you mentioned oppression. The big shortcoming of this article is that it makes it seem like there are two equal ideas competing to see which one comes out on top. This is not what is going on. One idea is being FORCED on people, both practitioners AND clients within the system, and the other is being actively suppressed, not because the dominant one is “better,” but because it is more financially rewarding for certain people and because it helps those in power relieve themselves from any responsibility for the damage they cause. I eventually concluded that I had to get out of the profession completely, because change from within seemed impossible and because I felt I was colluding just by participating in such an oppressive system, even if I could help a small number of people along the way to escape or minimize their experience of oppression within the system.

  • I am not at all being facetious. You write very well and articulately, and have important things to say. I say this as a writer myself. Sometimes writing the book is in itself a very empowering exercise, regardless of who reads it. Mine has not sold a lot of copies, but I figure if even one person is helped by what I have written, it makes the entire process worth my time and energy.

  • I am not sure the “middle ground” you’re talking about is what was meant in the article. Your sounds more like a Hegelian “synthesis,” or like the Buddhist concept of the “middle way,” selecting neither of the two opposites. I think what the article is talking about is something more along the lines of, “Well, ECT does do some brain damage to some people, but let’s not forget that other people say they really like it!” Or, “Let’s not be too extreme in how we talk about psychiatric drugs, because some people who take them might have their feelings hurt.” It’s a call for not speaking the whole truth because it’s uncomfortable. Very different than collaborating to find a solution that works for a wider range of people involved in a conflict.

  • I totally get this. A ton of foster youth I worked with were diagnosed with “bipolar” or “emerging schizophrenia” based 90% on the fact that a parent had such a “diagnosis.” Despite the fact that not one of the “diagnoses” has ever been connected to any genetic anomaly, it’s assumed that “he got it from his mom.”

    The expectation of “medication compliance” from “therapists” is also not surprising to me. Sometimes it seemed they spent more time on that than on actually trying to help the kid sort out how to deal with all the bizarre dynamics of being in an abusive family and then being in foster care. I mean, if you can’t get why a foster kid might be feeling depressed or anxious or angry, what the heck are you doing trying to provide “therapy” to them?

  • It has always bugged me when someone says, “Oh, they JUST need attention!” As if needing attention is some trivial thing, or that the child is being somehow selfish by needing it. Attention is survival for young kids, they will literally DIE without attention. And the need for social connection is vital to all humans. The minimization of kids’ need for attention is a sign of people who really don’t like or understand children at all. Which says a little something about the psychiatric profession.

  • Posting as moderator:

    There is certainly a VERY large difference between arbitrary and ambiguous. Arbitrary would suggest a complete lack of any kind of standard except a person’s whim, whereas ambiguous would suggest that the standard is not black and white, which is certainly the case in any moderating scenario.

    It would certainly be possible to censor people based on the content or position their comment takes, but I think a look at the wide variety of comments and views that are allowed to stand that at least in general nothing of a censorship nature is occurring. Of course, when there are subjective standards, individual bias comes into play, and if there is any preferential treatment of which I am unaware, it would be coming from this kind of place rather than an intent to suppress or promote different views. That said, I can say with absolute certainty that I leave most posts up, including ones with which I personally disagree or some of which are critical of MIA or Robert Whitaker or a particular article or author, and the only intent I have is to make sure that people are “playing nice.” There ARE standards, and they are published standards, and decisions regarding moderation must be held to those standards. That’s what moderation is about. It is not based on any intent to sponsor or suppress any particular viewpoint as long as it is expressed within those rules, which everyone can read and which everyone implicitly agrees to by choosing to post.

  • Commenting as moderator:

    We do not moderate for content here. People are free to express whatever views they want to express. The editorial staff also selects a wide range of articles, many of which are not written for MIA but are gleaned from various places on the web. The only moderation that occurs is for potentially offensive or hostile language that would make the comments section an unsafe place for people to express their views. You are, of course, welcome to respectfully express your opinion on the value or lack of value of such questionnaires or articles regarding them.

  • I think you are perhaps not taking into account the impact of the lies and mythology spread so widely by mass marketing. I personally think it should be illegal for ads to claim things that aren’t true (actually, I think Pharmaceutical ads should be banned, as they are in every other industrialized nation except New Zealand), and I think it should be illegal for doctors to lie to their patients about what is supposedly known about “mental illnesses.” I also think it should be illegal to invent “diseases” by committees.

  • I had a similar thought. I believe he’s talking about the caretakers in people’s lives starting from a place of love. I say this based on past reading of his works. He’s very big about the adults being responsible for creating a safe and loving environment for their children, and doesn’t think kids should have to worry about taking care of the adults in their lives. By extension, it would make sense that he means that the “mental health professionals,” if that term applies, would have to be loving toward those in their care. I doubt very much that he means that if you meet your psychiatrist with love, that s/he will somehow magically become a good and loving person. We don’t live in fairy tales!

  • I don’t have a lot of time to make comments, John. I am mostly moderating others’ comments for appropriateness, so I don’t have a lot of time to make lengthy remarks. Additionally, you have summed things up so well in most cases that there isn’t much to say besides, “I agree, and I’m glad you said that!” You’re talking about a lot of things that occurred just as I was coming to adulthood. I grew up in the 60s and early 70s and related to the student protest movements big time. The election of Reagan was such a grave disappointment to me, yet the media and a lot of Americans somehow continued to portray him as some kind of hero or amazing leader when he was mostly a figurehead B-movie actor acting out his greatest role. The same scum that were really behind him were behind Bush, Bush II, and continue to have influence on Trump, though Trump is pretty hard to control. These are not nice people, and you are absolutely right that they were terrified by the youth movements and did all they could to shut them down. Limiting employment and creating economic anxiety were not accidents that happened, but in my view were part of the plan to get us so worried about our daily survival that we (especially the young) had no time or energy left for organizing. It’s been very effective, unfortunately.

  • There are most definitely “secondary gains” for people who’d rather pretend that emotional distress doesn’t exist or is pathological. Makes it easier for folks to discriminate and dismiss anyone whose behavior they don’t approve of.

  • Commenting as moderator:

    John, I understand your feelings, and a lot of people feel that way. I’m going to post this not only for you, but for anyone who is feeling that way. It is an act of power for me or another moderator to choose to remove what someone has posted, and that can easily feel like bullying to anyone. I try to be very, very sensitive to this fact when I make moderation decisions.

    I guess the question is what is meant by “censorship.” If I or anyone is removing comments because their content is considered unacceptable by the management, that would be censorship.


    “the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.”

    What happens here is that we have certain standards of behavior that are expected and are implicitly agreed to by anyone who posts. These standards are posted and available for anyone to read. When we remove comments, it is intended ONLY to reflect concerns about whether or not it violates the guidelines that are written on the site. I always try to work with anyone whose comments are moderated and give them an opportunity to re-post an edited version that doesn’t violate the guidelines. And I have in a few cases been talked into leaving the post unchanged once I understood the intent.

    So no, we don’t do censorship here, though I understand why it might feel that way. Anyone is free to post any idea or thought or story they have, as long as it fits within the posting guidelines. In fact, I sometimes get pushed to censor certain viewpoints that aren’t popular in the community, and I always refuse to do so. Everyone has a right to their viewpoint and to express it here, as long as it is done in a way that respects others’ rights to do the same.

    I hope that clarifies things, and I do apologize for any hurt feelings that may have happened along the way.

    —- Steve

  • It sounds awful, John! No one should have a parent who doesn’t care. Sadly, it happens far too often. I have worked with foster kids for over 20 years and I have seen a lot, including a teen whose mom in fact backed over her in the driveway. She said she THOUGHT it was accidental, but couldn’t be sure. It’s just wrong to have to feel that way about a parent or caretaker!

  • Once again, your analysis is spot on. He broke the ATC union which had a chilling effect on unions nationwide, and he also promoted the idea that if you’re not doing well, it’s all your fault. “It’s Morning in America,” and if you’re not happy, you’re not trying hard enough. Very good fit with the psychiatric worldview, which not coincidentally began to expand its influence at just about the same time.

  • You said a mouthful! I think that is the real key to good parenting – to teach kids that it’s OK to be who they are and it’s safe to bring up stuff that is uncomfortable. Of course, kids need a lot of guidance and love, but it is so important for them to be able to “bring what’s inside to the outside.” In fact, that sounds like a great title for a book!

  • Of course, you are grieving. It is hard for me to understand how people can be so callous? Is it just because they don’t want to feel the grief themselves? But in any case, it means nothing about you. You’re entitled to feel whatever you feel, and the heck with anyone who says otherwise!

  • This is such a sad story, and really illustrates one of the many unintended consequences of forced “hospitalization.” It is also pretty awful that you are “used to” being looked at in a negative way. I am certain you do not deserve such treatment, yet a “diagnosis” (especially of “Borderline Personality Disorder”) seems to leave one open to any sort of denigrating comments from those claiming to be “helping.” It kind of makes me ill.

  • Commenting as moderator:

    I have not moderated any of the comments between Krista and Kindredspirit, but in both cases, some of the comments are getting pretty personal. I’d ask you both to back off and refocus on the content of the article, or to come up with a more respectful way to discuss the cat issue so I don’t need to intervene. Thanks!

  • I really don’t think it is, if the “bashing” is coming from the victims of the system. I consider it quite natural and necessary for oppressed people to gather up their energy and get good and angry before they can fight back against the oppressors. I don’t consider it quite reasonable to expect those who are being harmed to differentiate between the “good workers” and the “bad workers.” While I think intentional meanness and cruelty should not be practiced against anyone for any reason, but I guess I see it as the job of the “good mental health workers” to listen and hear the harm done by our colleagues and to help the person in question come to terms with it and decide what they want to do about it. At the end of that, it’s up to them to decide if you or I are an exception to the rule or not, no matter what we think of ourselves. And perhaps if we do a good enough job, we can introduce the possibility that not ALL “mental health workers” are abusive or condescending.

    I experienced plenty of oppression from my supervisors when I spoke up and called out things that were wrong and hurtful. But I can’t say I ever experienced the kind of uncontrolled harmful environment that was enforced on those our system claimed to be “helping.” It is different in both kind and in degree.

  • I think what he’s getting at is that psychiatrists pretend to offer the “quick fix” and take advantage of people who are looking for it. I think he’s said elsewhere that he’s not criticizing the patients, but the system for setting up rewards for being compliant and not asking a lot of questions but instead accepting their assigned “identity” as “mental patient.”

  • This is an excellent example about how “privilege” works. Those running the show can do almost whatever they want and get away with it. Some choose not to, but they all have that privilege in the system. Those below them have to accept abuse from their superiors as they dish it out, but they have the privilege of dumping it on the person below them. They may or may not exercise it, but they do have that ability to do it and get away with it. So people can be and are oppressed and yet still have privilege over someone lower down in the hierarchy. I feel bad for those line workers, but they do have a choice not to pass it on and to challenge the oppressive environment they are working in instead of taking it out on the inmates. Someone has to make a decision to toss a monkey wrench in the works, and yes, it’s scary, but continuing to work in the oppressive system without challenging it is tacitly approving of it. That’s what eventually drove me out. I could no longer live with what I had to do, or should I say what happened to some of the people even when I did my job well.

  • Thank you for saying this. I think your experience is pretty typical of “voluntary” patients. They have been told that this is the place they should go for help and that these people know what they’re doing. It’s quite a shock to arrive at the conclusion that they don’t.

    I also very much appreciated that a PTSD “diagnosis” “allowed me to reframe how the trauma in my life had led to my mental distress.” This seems in my experience to be what most people really are looking for – a way to reframe their experience that makes sense to them. Sadly, the DSM “diagnoses” generally do the opposite – cause more confusion and minimize or invalidate completely the role of trauma in the genesis of one’s so-called “mental illness.”

  • I think you may want to add one more incentive: parents or caretakers benefit from “diagnosis” by having the responsibility for figuring out what’s going on and how to help taken from their shoulders. It’s not because you need to develop more effective parenting skills – she has Bipolar Disorder! It’s not that you’re a boring teacher with poor classroom management – he has ADHD! It’s not that we’re neglecting our child – she has Depression! It makes it easy for parents, teachers and other caretakers to blame the child for their inability to care appropriately for him/her or to figure out what s/he needs.

  • Two excellent points, Lee. Morality and ethics are not scientific endeavors, and no amount of scientific experimentation can determine right from wrong – that’s an entirely human individual and social effort.

    I have also argued that the “null hypothesis” for these drugs should always be that they ARE dangerous, and the burden of proof should be on the company selling the drug to prove convincingly that they are not. If they can’t prove safety, we should assume dangerousness and act accordingly. If we did, medical care wouldn’t be the third leading cause of death in the USA today.

  • I think it goes even beyond that. There is an underlying need to believe in materialism, the idea that nothing can exist that goes beyond the physically observable and measurable universe. Any suggestion that there may be such a thing as a spiritual existence beyond the body, or even the idea that there are extra-physiological phenomena (like the mind) that might arise from the body but transcend it, seem anathema to such people. They seem to believe that materialism is the only way to be “scientific.” Ironic, as they are operating on a non-scientific assumption but are unable to recognize it because they’re so committed to making others whose beliefs are based on non-scientific assumptions wrong.

  • You make a valid point. However, in terms of brain damage specifically, it seems likely that both could cause such damage in a similar way due to similar effects. They use benzos, for example, to detox someone from alcohol, so they’re almost interchangeable in terms of effects on the brain. As such, their damage profiles in the brain should be similar. It may be that the livers and hearts of the benzo users are not impacted in the same manner, though again, it may be very much dependent on dosage control, or lack of same.

  • Since Benzos and alcohol both act on the same systems in the brain, if alcohol causes brain damage, it stands to reason that benzos would do the same eventually. Perhaps it depends on the person, dosage, and length of exposure, but it seems we ought to expect benzos to do such damage and be surprised if it doesn’t.

  • Mindfulness is, in the end, a SPIRITUAL practice, which is grounded in Buddhism. Efforts to make it into a utilitarian tool for surviving the rigors of a heartless and isolating modern society I think disrespectful to the true purpose of meditation, which is to free the mind/spirit from its bindings to the cycle of life and death. There is a lot more than “brain activity” going on here!

    —– Steve

  • Commenting as moderator:

    At this point, it appears that this thread has had plenty of time for everyone to air their views, and it feels like the comments have in some cases become excessively personal and disrespectful. My appreciation to those who have maintained equanimity throughout the discussion.

    I will try to summarize what I see happening at this point. It appears that one side of the discussion is focusing on the need for survivors to take a leadership role in the antipsychiatry movement, and it appears that the other side is saying that professionals have a lot to contribute and that it should not be framed as an us-vs-them dynamic between professionals and survivors. I think both of these viewpoints have some validity and that it is very understandable that professionals and survivors are likely to have different points of view, and indeed are likely to have difficulty completely understanding where the other side is coming from. I’m also not certain that either side is actually trying to say what the other side seems to believe they are saying.

    I don’t think there is a lot more to say, and it seems that further discussion, rather than leading to further clarification and understanding, is instead leading to more frustration, hurt feelings and hurtful comments. As such, it seems best that we close this discussion on this thread.

    I am closing the thread for further comments. I will continue to moderate comments that have already been made, as it appears there are some which will need to be addressed, but we will now be ending further discussion on this topic thread.

    —- Steve

  • I agree, John. There is frequently a collaboration between the parents, who want the professionals to “fix” their child, and the professionals, who want the parents’ support in keeping the child in “treatment,” with no respect for what is going on for the child. Often (not always) it is the parents or the family that needs to be “fixed.” It sounds like you needed support you didn’t get.

  • That is one of the less obvious problems with the DSM – it allows abusive parents and professionals to blame the children for their own inability to appropriately handle the children in their care. I read a study at some time in the past where children with abuse histories were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with “ADHD.” Some psychiatrist actually commented that this was because “ADHD” kids are more difficult and it makes it more likely that their parents will abuse them! The least powerful person always gets the blame when the DSM is involved.

  • My understanding is that esketamine is just one of the steroisomers (two different mirror image molecules) of ketamine, which contains both stereoisomers. What difference that makes is not something that is obvious. It could make a difference in some cases, but I’m guessing (as a chemist) that in most cases, the actions of stereoisomers would be very similar unless they’re engaging some system that only accepts one isomer over the other. And even if only one isomer is active, the ketamine contains both, so if there is a difference, the most likely one is that it would be a more powerful impact of the same effect.

  • I merely commented that Ketamine has been used as a date rape drug.

    What is Ketamine?
    Ketamine was developed in the 1960’s as an anesthetic for surgeries. Today it is used mostly by veterinarians. Ketamine causes unconsciousness, hallucinations, loss of body control and numbing. Overdose can be fatal. Ketamine is found in a white powder or a liquid and has a horrible, strong bitter flavor. Ketamine works very quickly, so if you tasted it in your drink you would only have a few seconds before losing consciousness.”

  • I think you are more than a bit optimistic about the intentions of the psychiatric profession when you say it’s obvious that “mental health is not a medical issue.” In fact, this is the song the profession has been singing loud and clear since the DSM III came out in 1980. Millions of the so-called “mentally ill” have been told by their doctors, their psychiatrists, the Oprah Winfrey show, TV shows and movies, and of course, those wonderful DTC advertisements showing Zoloft “rebalancing” the chemicals in our cartooned synapses while failing to mention the dramatic reduction of serotonin receptors that results from this supposed “balancing.” It is thus VERY far from “obvious” that “mental illnesses” are not biological entities. A few years back, over 80% of surveyed Americans believed that “low serotonin” causes depression, despite the fact that this idea was convincingly disproven by the mid 1980s.

    I’m glad you “get” that, but I don’t think you’re going to convince anyone that the psychiatric profession agrees with your assessment or shares it with their clientele in most cases.

  • This was my strong reaction! For every case where someone was dense enough not to recognize that stimulants were causing the problem and instead the child was diagnoses with a “psychotic disorder” and prescribed another drug, there have to be at least 10 where the doctor or the parent or the child him/herself was smart enough to say, “Hey, this shit’s making him/her nuts! We need to get them off immediately!” If this is true, then suddenly we’re going from .2% to 2%, which is hardly negligible. And we’re only talking about psychotic episodes here. A Canadian Journal of Psychiatry retrospective study of 100 kids’ files showed an over 6% rate of psychotic symptoms in kids taking stimulants for “ADHD,” which means it’s happening in one kid out of every 16 kids who is taking the drug. With millions of prescriptions out there, there are at least hundreds of thousands of kids experiencing psychotic symptoms as a result of their “treatment.” Yet we’re just “discovering” this now?

    “And in other news, people who are cut have a tendency to bleed…”

  • I have seen many, many cases of this working with foster kids. Stimulants cause aggressive behavior, or less commonly, mania and even frank psychosis, and instead of stopping the stimulants, they add more drugs to “treat” the adverse effects, and of course that requires new “diagnoses” as well. Part of the “juvenile bipolar” explosion was due to stimulant adverse effects being diagnosed as ‘bipolar disorder.’ Ironically, they are often prescribed antipsychotics, which reduce dopamine transmission, while still being given stimulants, which INCREASE dopamine transmission. But as many times as I pointed out this contradiction, only one psychiatrist ever listened to me that I remember.

  • I actually believe the medical education system chases off critical thinkers from the word “go.” The hypercompetitive atmosphere, the extreme authoritarian approach, the intentional overstressing of trainess by loss of sleep and ridiculous expectations – an antiauthoritarian or non-authoritarian would run the other way screaming. I think the field also attracts authoritarians because being a doctor conveys status and financial success, which are less important to antiauthoritarian types.

  • “Narcissism” is just a description of a way of behaving, nothing more or less. A pretty obnoxious way, admittedly, but it’s just a description. Anyone who thinks that people fall into two classes, “good” and “evil,” will not be very successful in understanding human behavior.

    As one wise person once said, “There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us.”

  • I agree with you about antiauthoritarian vs. anarchist. It is very much a real possibility to have government that respects people’s rights to make their own decisions. Such governments are, sadly, very rare, as most people are in the end authoritarians, and are in fact heavily trained to be so by our school system and other institutions. But I have, on rare occasions, been part of a group that governed itself in a truly democratic fashion, and it is a joy to participate in.

  • This has become our policy ever since our 18-year-old son was “screened” for depression by a doctor, who afterwards went into the usual tirade about how “depression is a disease, just like diabetes” and “it’s now treatable” and so on when he told them he’d been suicidal. The doctor never for ONE MOMENT asked why he had felt that way. It actually pissed him off big time, as he had been struggling with an assault and other issues and so had many good reasons to feel hopeless or discouraged at the time. Now if someone asks, we simply decline to answer those questions, or else say, “I’m just fine!”

  • The fact that stimulants can be perceived as helpful for some people doesn’t make “ADHD” a “disorder.” It appears to me that people who “have ADHD” are simply different in that they are less tolerant of arbitrary rules and boredom, and have a more difficult time getting organized and planning things. This is no more a “disorder” that being a person who doesn’t like big groups of people or who lacks athletic skills or who finds doing artwork challenging. I’m not for a moment suggesting that these challenges are not real or difficult, or that stimulants can’t be helpful in dealing with them. I have two (of my three) boys who all fit the “ADHD” criteria, and believe me, I know what the challenges can be! But to call something a “disorder” just because people have particular personality characteristics that are difficult for them or for people dealing with them is just not scientific. People can “have ADHD” for dozens of different reasons (at least 50, by one author’s count), including sleep apnea, low iron, rigid classrooms, high intelligence relative to peers, poor parenting skills, abuse/neglect/trauma at home, nutritional deficiencies, allergies, and on and on and on. Or maybe that’s just the way they are.

    If folks want to take stimulants to help them focus or pay attention to dull things they need to do, I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with a doctor telling you that you are deficient simply because your personality doesn’t fit with the expectations of modern society. “ADHD” behavior has survival value for our species, and it should not be disrespected or diminished in value.

    One quick example: a recent study put groups of three kids together, elementary age. One half the groups had an “ADHD” diagnosed child in it, the other half did not. They were each given a set of problem-solving tasks to do. The groups with the “ADHD” child in them spent significantly less time working on the problems and significantly more goofing around, while the other groups stayed with the problem most of the time. But in the end, the “ADHD” groups solved all the problems, while those without the “ADHD” child didn’t solve any.

    Staying “on task” is overrated, especially when the task is mindless and pointless and repetitive. Being able to look at things from different angles and try out new ideas is critical to solving problems. Of course, if we had a group with THREE “ADHD” kids, who knows if they’d ever get anything done? But the “ADHD” types were essential to the more straight-ahead reasoners, and when they worked together and valued each other, they had more fun AND they came up with better results!

  • There is definitely incredible value in reclaiming one’s own narrative, telling one’s story in public, defining one’s own experience. It’s vital to empowerment. It’s just that it doesn’t sound like that’s the true purpose of this arrangement, as the people running the contest seem to have their own agenda as to what an acceptable narrative is. At least that’s how it sounded in Sera’s case.

  • I see it as a PR thing, as well as providing protection to those who are so unfortunate to run into this kind of situation while we’re trying to unravel it. Psychiatry’s not going to end tomorrow, and even if it did, there are still plenty of other options for extrajudicial incarceration that will arise. I think they all should be viewed as what they are, namely arrests, and be treated accordingly. Otherwise, people are tricked into “confessing” their “symptoms” to someone they thought was there to help.

  • Yeah, the 80s was kind of a nightmare from a dating perspective, wasn’t it? I remember avoiding discos at all costs because I didn’t want everyone judging my dancing or my clothing as “not cool enough.” Plus the music I grew up with was all about protest and revolution and fun and love, not about money, sex and drugs! OK, well, there was a lot about drugs in there, too, but you get my point.

  • I think the Miranda Warning makes it more clear to non-involved people that this is not about helping, it’s about incarceration. Plus it increases the odds that the potential prisoner will get legal counsel, which means fewer people locked up. Naturally, it’s not anything close to a total answer, but I think it would be an important statement and provide needed protection.

  • That was my first thought – we have more and more kids “in the system,” and particularly taking one or more psychiatric drugs, and we have more kids with worse “psychopathology.” If this shit remotely worked, wouldn’t our “new technology” be REDUCING the burden of “mental illness?” Yet this theme is essentially never, ever heard in the media or the psychiatric research world. At best, we can easily conclude that all the extra drugs are not helping. But based on the long-term research, there’s a good possibility that they are actually making things worse with their “diagnoses” and “treatments.” WAKE UP PEOPLE!

  • It also occurs to me that even these “candidate genes” in the most POSITIVE light presented by biased researchers never came within orders of magnitude of the known effect of trauma and environmental stress on so-called “mental disorders.” Most likely, nutrition, exercise, sunlight exposure, change of environment, laughing, hugs, and all sorts of other things have more measurable effect than the most optimistic estimates for any gene. Yet somehow, these studies continue to get funded. It’s a total dead end, and high time the research literature stated this out loud.

  • The real question is why placebo so often equals or beats the drugs. I often wonder what would happen if active placebos were used to avoid accidental unblinding.

    Additionally, remember that most psych drug trials are 4-8 weeks at the longest. There are lots of drugs that can temporarily make you “feel better.” Alcohol is a great example. It’s a superb “antianxiety agent” and would certainly beat the pants off of placebo in a 6-week trial for anxiety. Unfortunately, the withdrawal effects have a tendency to counterbalance the benefits, don’t they? Especially after 10 years. Of course, the exact same thing can be said for Xanax, Valium, Klonapin and the other benzodiazepines. But somehow, these are considered “medications” rather than simply a way to distract oneself temporarily from the pain of living. What’s the difference? Someone’s making a lot more money off the benzos. That’s about it.

  • Yes. Because panic attacks have never been shown to be caused by one thing only. They are caused by many different things, including physiological (like insufficient oxygen), psychological (such as reactions from childhood abuse), social (as happened to me when I retired, sold my house and bought a huge camper to live in), and spiritual (such as losing faith in God and not knowing what happens when one dies). There are as many causes as there are individuals, and the idea that genetics would cause such a temporary and conditional situation is actually so unlikely as to approach zero probability. And to date, there is absolutely not one iota of evidence, despite decades of research, to suggest a genetic cause to ANY “mental illness.”

    We should look at what is going with each individual and stop trying to blame normal emotions like anxiety on “bad brains” with zero evidence that it is true.

  • “Little boxes on the hillside
    Little boxes made of ticky-tacky
    Little boxes, little boxes, little boxes, all the same
    There’s a green one, and a red one, and a blue one, and a yellow one
    And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same.”

    “And they all play on the golf course
    And drink their martinis dry
    And they all have pretty children
    And the children go to school,
    And the children go to summer camp
    And then to the university
    Where they are put in boxes
    And they come out all the same.”

    Malvina Reynolds, 1962

  • I am pretty disgusted by the movement to silence ANY discussion of vaccine science that doesn’t totally support that every vaccine ever invented is safe and necessary. I got temporarily tossed off another site for mentioning that the flu vaccine is not generally very effective against the flu, and should probably not be a priority for anyone who isn’t in a high-risk group. I provided a link to scientific research on the point I raised. But I was accused of posting “antivax propaganda.” Pretty authoritarian, and ironic, as people accusing others of being antiscientific are denying anyone else the right to post scientific information and to discuss its implications. I complained to the moderators, to no effect. Disgusting.

  • Very true. The first thing a scientist should do when presented with evidence that a particular hypothesis is true is to generate any other possible explanation that might also be valid and start testing those, too, while setting up to have others try to replicate the experiment you did. Apparently, something like 50% or or more of recent accepted studies fail when replication efforts are made. We would be much better off being a lot more humble about what we “know,” especially in a “soft” science like psychology. Unless, as you say, our purpose is marketing, in which case we spin every “positive” study to make it seem better than it is, and either spin “negative” studies to sound positive, or make sure they are never published. That’s Marketing as Science, and it seems to be how business is done these days.

  • Quite so, and that is my point. What is called “major depressive disorder” could be caused by childhood trauma, iron deficiency, low thyroid, chemotherapy, finding out about a serious life-changing diagnosis, having a dead-end job, being in a domestic abuse relationship, not knowing the meaning of life, having Lyme Disease, or a long, long list of other possibilities. As Kindred Spirit points out, they don’t even bother to check for well-known biological causes. All of which tells us that “mental disorders” AS DEFINED IN THE DSM are nonsensical entities that have no meaningful value, and that claiming any such “disorder” is caused in the main by a “brain disorder” is rank idiocy without a shred of scientific evidence.

    If we ditch the DSM, we might actually find out what IS causing the problem, be it biological, psychological, social, or spiritual in nature.

  • It is perhaps a generalization, and as I often say, “All generalizations are wrong.” However, what I’m talking about here is an extreme of strong reaction to normal feedback, for instance, a person says, “I’ve felt really weird since taking this drug, it doesn’t seem to be working and it’s keeping me from sleeping and making me itchy.” The doctor says, “This has nothing to do with the drug. You have to wait for it to work, you can’t expect instant results, besides, maybe you’re just not used to feeling good and it seems weird.” Or even worse, “I’m the doctor here, and I know what these drugs do. Just report your experiences and I’ll decide what’s working. I have medical training and experience, you can’t possibly understand these things.” This person is clearly uncomfortable with plain old FACTS as presented by the patient. To me, it’s a bad sign. Sure, it might be caused by something else, but the odds are very strong that this person is trying to establish authority over you for some reason, and very often that reason is that they don’t know how to help you and that this drug is their only tool, but they can’t admit it. To me, it would be a HUGE red flag that I want to go elsewhere for advice.

    There is no reason for a professional person to feel threatened by a client reporting the results of an intervention. At a minimum, it would take a very insecure doctor to find this kind of feedback disturbing or upsetting. But I guess there are a lot more insecure doctors around than one might expect, especially in psychiatry.

  • Well, THAT was an impressive list! Perhaps we’re missing each other a bit because of what is defined as “mental illnesses.” I have never had any interest in denying that there are biological causes of mental DISTRESS or CONFUSION. What I have a problem with is when the DSM creates a “disorder” like “ADHD” or “bipolar disorder” and claim that ALL people with these ill-defined and subjective “diagnoses” have the SAME biological cause! What you said toward the end is what I believe also – that each case is different and no one-size-fits-all approach will suffice for any “disorder,” especially those defined by behavioral observation rather than any kind of scientific measurement and analysis. In fact, one of psychiatry’s great crimes (and there are many) is their insistence on “diagnosing” people without even bothering to do a physical workup to see what might be causing their “symptoms.” This doesn’t even get into environmental stresses (both physiological and psychological) that contribute beyond a person’s own biological variables.

    So sure, there are biological causes of mental/emotional distress, and you’ve documented a ton of them here, which is appreciated. The question I pose is, can anyone name one DSM-defined disorder that is reliably caused by any specific biological problem? I think we all know the answer to that one.

  • I think you are right on. Any time a supposedly professional person gets defensive with someone they’re supposedly trying to help, it suggests that the person doesn’t actually know the subject matter at hand and their client/customer is hitting too close to home.

  • Yes, it is, unless your goal is to “capture a maximum market share” by implying that any divergence from being mildly happy to mildly irritated is a sign of “mental illness.” It is also rooted in the assumption that “normal” people are always happy (but not TOO happy, that would be MANIC!) with things just the way they are. This kind of thinking lets our leaders off the hook for the damage their institutions, agencies and corporations are doing by blaming anyone who is unhappy for having a “bad brain” instead of seeing if maybe we have some bad institutions creating problems.

  • Just to clarify, I’m not a fan of “crazy” or “bonkers” either. But I’m saying that I find “mental illness” a far more damaging term, even though professionals claim that they use it to decrease “stigma.” If you say I’m nuts, at least I know you’re not trying to help me out!

  • I think “mental clarity” is a very different term than “mental health.” Clarity is a much more specific quality than “health”, especially in the “mental” sense of it. I’m also OK with “spiritual well being.” I think the problem now is that “mental health” as a term has been coopted by the industry, and brings a whole lot of negative assumptions along with it. I’m for not using it except in quotation marks. But that’s just MHO.

  • The underlying problem is trying to categorize all these people who are suffering some kind of emotional/mental distress as being in a group that has anything in common with each other. Kind of like talking about Native Americans as if they were a group who are all the same, or children, or women, or gay people, or any large group. It’s bigoted at the least to view people as being the same based on one shared characteristic. The terms “mental health” or “mental illness” both seem to imply that there are some people whose brains work right and others whose brains work wrong, and that being in the second group implies some kind of pathology. It’s not a good starting point for a positive discussion of how to help people who are suffering for whatever reason.

  • My understanding is that “neuroleptic” generally refers to a class of drugs that act by decreasing dopamine transmission in the brain. Thorazine, Haldol, Stelazine, were the original neuroleptics. The “second generation” antipsychotics are hybrid neuroleptic/SSRIs. There are lots of neurotoxins that are not neuroleptics, but all neuroleptics are neurotoxins.

  • You may be an exception, or your school may be. But I don’t think this has changed. Schools are very concerned with liability and try to “counsel” students with “mental health difficulties” to go on leave, at least in the USA. The confidentiality violations alone in this story are hair raising. I think the advice to be VERY careful about college counseling centers is very much on target.

  • Following up on Miranda’s comment, I find it interesting that the fact that the clients are feeling too intimidated to speak up is not considered to be the central problem in this interaction. If you want “shared decision making”, you need shared power, and the current model goes against that. “Clinical authority” is simply the asserted right of the psychiatrist to dominate the decision-making process. In other words, most psychiatrists don’t BELIEVE in shared decision making. This should be the primary focus if someone really wants to change that dynamic. I actually make it very clear to any doctor I have to see that I am, in fact, the one making decisions here, and that their advice is advice which I may accept or reject, and if they don’t like this attitude, they should let me know now so I can find another doctor. But most people are very uncomfortable taking that assertive a position.

    This also belies the “blame the patient” approach to explaining away the steady increase in prescribing by doctors in every area of medicine. These things are not happening because the clients saw Drug X on TV and are demanding it. In most cases, it is the doctor who is deciding what the patient is supposed to take, and it’s clear from this discussion that most patients don’t have the skills or the wherewithal to challenge the doctor’s opinion on any recommendation.

  • I think the problem with “mental health” is that it implies that people who are suffering are somehow “ill” and that “healthy” means not being upset in any way with the status quo. I’d rather go with “crazy” or “nuts” or “bonkers” than “mentally ill.” But there are better terms that can be used. I believe that controlling language is part of controlling the narrative.

  • Wow, well done! There are SO many things that can be done to help a kid succeed, but we have to actually both observe and care about the child instead of trying to shut him/her up! It’s not rocket science, but it starts with understanding that kids do what they do for a reason – and it’s NOT because they have broken brains!

  • For a lot of us, the function of a family is to raise capable and empowered children and to support each other in surviving the insanity that is our modern world. Admittedly, it would be a lot easier if we had much bigger units than “nuclear families,” but I see that more as a symptom of the larger problem of intentional community destruction by our “leaders.”

  • I think the correct statement is that people who TOOK ANTIPSYCHOTICS showed brain shrinkage, regardless of their spurious psych “diagnosis.” But I agree that avoiding psych terminology is an important strategy in decreasing the power of the psychiatric profession to control the narrative.

  • “Our” case means the case of anyone who wants to ditch the current DSM label-drug-and-shock paradigm of doing business. These folks aren’t going away without a fight. I don’t see the “brain shrinkage” argument as being about permanent brain damage (though we know that does occur – Tardive Dyskenesia and the like) so much as being about undermining the disingenuous and unsupported arguments from the psychiatric mainstream that there are good reasons to believe these “disorders” are biological in nature, and that their wonderful drugs actually repair some “imbalance.” The entire enterprise is founded on that faulty mythology, and I don’t think it’s possible to undermine people’s faith in it without some hard evidence that the psychiatrists are full of crap. Science alone won’t do it, but it is part of the picture if ending psychiatry is the goal.

  • I have always viewed authoritarianism as more of an attitude as a system. An authoritarian believes that some people are above and others below, and that those above get to give orders and do as they please, while those below have to follow orders and do as they’re told. Of course, one can be below someone and above someone else, so the basic rule of authoritarianism is “fecal matter descends to the area of lowest gravitational potential.” Those higher in the structure have entitlements and different rules, but any frustration the authoritarian may feel can be dumped on those lower than them in the structure. It’s all about in-groups and out-groups and hierarchies and entitlement and force and power.

    As Oldhead properly observes, any political party or structure, as well as commercial and religious groups, or really any group of people can have an authoritarian set of social expectations. It is more about how people interact with each other and how decisions are made in the group than it is about political orientation.

  • I think the importance of this particular study is that it was done by a mainstream psychiatrist whose interest was to prove that “the disease” was causing loss of brain matter, and accidentally proved it was the drugs which did so. The loss of brain matter (on the average) claimed to be seen in long-term “schizophrenia”-diagnosed people was used to support the idea that “untreated schizophrenia” was dangerous and was used to promote “early intervention” for anyone with the slightest indication of what they call a “thought disorder.” This study has almost silenced that argument. I think it’s important to know about and use these studies to make our case, even as we all know that every individual case is different, and that recovering even from long-term use of these drugs is possible for many so exposed.

  • The challenge I see here is that you can’t really compare a car accident to being suicidal or hearing voices. In a car accident, you can see broken bones, bleeding, bruises, you can check pupil dilation or reflexes or a hundred other little things that tell you what’s going on. But as you say, you can’t do this with psychiatric diagnoses. In fact, one could easily invent a psychiatric diagnosis by choosing any behavior you think is “unhealthy” and calling it a “disorder.” We have stupid things like “internet addiction disorder” and “mathematics disorder” and “oppositional defiant disorder” which are obviously just observations and judgments about certain behavior. There is, as you say, no test.

    The part I’d like you to think about is the question of why, when there is so much research and information on the dangers of these drugs, the psychiatric profession is not interested in investigating things like Soteria House or Open Dialog or even stuff like nutritional approaches or other forms of helping like “hearing voices” groups and other peer support? While they often give lip service to some of these ideas, they are always considered secondary or additional to the REAL treatment, which is drugs. Do you really believe the billions of dollars raked in by the drug companies don’t come into play here? There is now strong data showing that long-term use of antipsychotic drugs leads to a LOWER likelihood of ever recovering. And yet the profession continues to recommend immediate and ongoing drug “treatment” to every single person who presents as “psychotic.” Why is this?

    I’m not suggesting that the individuals at the front line are all bought off and corrupt. I’m suggesting that they all participate in a system that is based on a dishonest model of reality, and that model was constructed with the idea of making money in the forefront, not the idea of helping people get better. You said you have read “Anatomy of an Epidemic?” Bob Whitaker talks about this at length in his book.

  • Most of those who buy the current paradigm fully actually think the brain IS the mind, that there is nothing else to “treat” except the brain, in my observation. They get quite confused when I talk about mind being more than just brain. They think they are being “Scientific” by not believing that anything beyond “brain” could exist.

  • Which is rank discrimination, plain and simple. I could easily have been diagnosed, in fact, I probably was in my 20s when I went for therapy for a year or so. I’ve been tremendously successful as a counselor and social worker, according to my clients, which is the only measure that’s worth looking at. Why would they not want me as a social worker? Some of the best social workers I’ve known have had rough lives. It helps them empathize with the clients.

  • I am so sorry! That is just awful! Your story is emblematic of exactly what is wrong with this whole idea of “broken brains.” There is no healing that way, only more and more damage. And I HATE how they minimize memory loss as no big deal, just a minor “side effect,” when it is evidence of brain damage and can ruin someone’s life. I know a survivor who can’t remember her own wedding. It is too sad for words, but it also pisses me off big time!

  • Another psychiatric success story!

    A very sad tale, that the doctor himself was taken in by the psychiatric/big pharma mythology, to the extent of being told he was condemned to a life of drug “treatment” and anxiety. No one apparently told him there was anything else he could do, and the “diagnosis” itself appeared to be the final straw. How very sad – no one created a safe space for him to talk about why his life wasn’t working for him, about the pressures and tensions at work and whatever else was happening, including the pressure to keep pretending everything was AOK. It is a classic example of how and why the psychiatric paradigm is not only not helpful, but significantly adds to the kind of problems it purports to know how to fix.

  • I believe those suffering from what are metaphorically called “mental illnesses” might be much better off if “mental health” were NOT a central plank of the candidates’ platforms. Unless there are some uniquely well-informed and courageous candidates who are willing to argue for the removal of “mental health” from the field of medicine altogether, or to prevent any kind of forced “treatment” (which is an oxymoron to me), it would be better for all if “mental health” is left in the background, as it will be easier that way for those wanting to avoid the system to fly under the radar.

  • I agree. Calling something a “last resort” is admitting that you’re desperate and don’t know what else to do. Any “medical” person in a state of despair will no longer be providing ME service, that’s for sure! I’d much prefer if the person says, “I’m not sure what to do that would help you” than have them engaging in some desperate “treatment” that might kill me or leave me wishing that it had.

  • I wish I were surprised by this. Good for you for having the guts to speak up! The idea that they are somehow able to induce “different” seizures is beyond comprehension. Do the other doctors really BELIEVE this? Or are they in on the not-so-funny “joke?”

  • I think the problem with your statement is the word “treatment.” People deserve HELP, but the term “treatment” redefines these issues as medical problems and invalidates the reality that trauma, pain, physical illness and social conditions all impact what is defined as “mental illness.” This may be very different from what you’ve been told or read about, but that’s because most people seem to have bought into this very idea that “mental illnesses” are something a psychiatrist can measure and identify and “treat.” You just stated yourself that there are no tests. To me, this means that “diagnosis” is completely subjective and could be given to anyone for any reason. Which means the “treatment,” including ECT, can be given to anyone for any reason.

    I think the link you provide is moving more in the right direction – nutrition, exercise, change of environment, listening, all of these serve to return the power to the person with the problem. Drugs and electrically-induced seizures do nothing but damage the brain and do essentially nothing to help the person even figure out what’s going on, let alone what the person can do about it.

    So by all means, let’s offer help and support to anyone who is suffering! But there is no need to redefine their suffering as a “disease” nor the helping as “treatment.” Let’s just call it helping each other out!

  • Sigh… This is what happens when you brand “anxiety” as a problem instead of looking for its cause. Their conception of “anxiety” is a disembodied head with a weird expression on its face and the word “anxiety” written across the forehead, as if anxiety were just some “thing” associated with heads and having no relationship to the school, its staff, its students, their parents, or the community in which the anxious person lives.

    Where is the curiosity? Doesn’t anyone wonder WHY the kids are feeling anxious? Is “school refusal” in a particular case due to some disembodied “anxiety,” or is it due to being worried about the bullies waiting for you at school, or the mean teacher you have to put up with all year long, or the incredibly DULL class periods where you always fall asleep and get in trouble, or the reading group where you’re forced to read out loud and are so worried about making an error and having kids laugh at you that you can’t read at all and they laugh at you anyway?

    This kind of idiotic research shows how the DSM “diagnoses” prevent meaningful research from actually occurring, because everyone stops at the “diagnosis” as if this means they understand the situation.

  • I have known plenty of people with physical disabilities, and very, very few ever lived lives of luxury, and none did so on the government. The amount provided by SSI is generally barely enough to survive, and many of the “mentally ill” who are so disserved by the “system” have physical disabilities, too, many induced by their “treatment.” I don’t think it’s proper to make generalizations about people with physical disabilities – they are an extremely diverse group!

  • Hope you can find your way not to feel guilty about your thoughts. There is no harm to thinking thoughts, as long as you don’t act on them. There are lots and lots of people who have similar fantasies, as well as parents with thoughts about killing their children. My wife and I always share our brief homicidal impulses with each other – most of the time, we just laugh about it!

  • I also find that a good percentage of alternative practitioners have adopted the DSM “diagnostic” terminology, which affects both how they talk to people about their difficulties and the kinds of strategies they tend to employ. I’d keep clear of anyone who is still talking about “natural remedies for bipolar disorder” and the like – they are still steeped in the medical model, just coming up with other “magic bullets” within that model.

  • I agree completely. There is an entirety of Buddhist theory and beliefs that underlies the whole idea of why we meditate and what is to be gained from it. It is ironic that someone could think of scheduling a “mindfulness seminar” in the midst of an insane, “monkey-mind” world where real mindfulness would create nothing but horror as the person gained real awareness of what was going on!

    Psychiatry aims at removing any idea of spiritual existence and awareness in favor of worshiping the material world under the guide of corporate capitalism. Buddhism moves away from materialism to spiritual awareness of the meaninglessness of striving to control the material world. It is in some ways the essence of anticapitalism.

  • “Treatment-resistant depression” translates loosely to “I have no idea how to be helpful to you, but want to pretend that it’s your fault, or better, your DEPRESSION’S fault.”

    Would we ever want to take a car to a mechanic who told us we had “repair-resistant fuel injectors?” Or a tutor who said we had an “education-resistant child?” How do they get away with this nonsense?

  • Instead of calling it “sinking,” let’s call what happened to the Titanic “assuming a lower floating equilibrium.” That way, everyone will feel better as they go under.

    What the heck difference does it make if it’s renamed? Do we have to “gain consensus” before we decide whether cancer is an illness? If “schizophrenia” is decided NOT to define a “disease” category, why would you rename it instead of just tossing it out?

    Or maybe we can rename each person’s experience without forcing them all into a category – maybe ask the client him/herself what name seems most appropriate to them? But then where would the research money come from, and how could we justify drugging if every person’s needs are different and can’t be categorized?

  • When people have grand mal seizures in any other context, doctors will do anything they can to stop them. It is known that people with seizure disorders experience brain damage if the seizures are not controlled. Why on earth would anyone expect that inducing a seizure would have a different effect?

  • I would add that in Buddhism, participation is always voluntary, and no one is “the authority” who can tell you that “you are doing it wrong.” It is understood that it is a practice that will unfold differently for each person, and that the person him/herself is the judge of what it all means. VERY different than the “mental health” version.

  • It is one of the underrecognized ill effects of the DSM and the “chemical imbalance” concept – it gives adults permission to not take responsibility for their condition, or more nefariously, to blame their children or others in their care for not “appreciating” their abusive behavior sufficiently. I think the problem is painting with too broad a brush. This is one of the forces at work, but even that force is created and encouraged by the psychiatric profession for power and profit. The fact that other misguided or ill-intended people are willing to buy into the fiction in no wise alleviates the responsibility for the psychiatric “profession” for creating this mess in the first place.

  • I totally agree that there are individual physicians who are corrupt and evil and know absolutely what they’re doing. I don’t think most of them are – I think most are simply entitled and believe they know a lot more than they do. Some are also report being afraid to “disappoint” patients by not prescribing something. But there are definitely evil docs out there – I have met more than a couple.

  • I agree 100%. We do seem to have lost some of this “grit” over time, for many reasons, and of course, every person is responsible for their own attitude toward the current dire set of circumstances. But the psychiatric profession has led the charge to promote this idea – their concept is that “no one should have to suffer,” even though suffering is a key part of learning how to live, and even though of course they have no real solution for suffering and generally create more and more suffering in the long term. I’m all for helping create cultural change, and it starts by recognizing the economic and power incentives for those telling the tale that we can’t handle adversity. I believe most people still have this in them, but some of us need help bringing it to the surface, usually through moving from fear or hopelessness to righteous indignation. Casting blame on the victims of these evil machinations doesn’t help them get there. Educating them regarding what’s happened and why and that they are not alone is a much better path, IMHO.

  • Psychiatrists are almost ALWAYS portrayed in movies and TV as caring therapist types who know how to listen and help people safely explore their conflicts and issues. If someone’s only image of psychiatrists was from the media, it’s easy to see how they might expect that they could be helpful. I don’t think it’s by chance that such portrayals so massively predominate. I think it’s part of the propaganda effort, just like it is to show “patients” who “go off their meds” and do something dangerous. They’re painting a picture, and it is hardly surprising that most people expect that picture to reflect reality.

  • I am NOT trying to minimize medical errors as a cause of death! I’m trying not to allow a reframing of this issue as one of “errors” in medical care when a huge proportion of the deaths come from “standard care.”

    “Estimates dating back nearly two decades put the number at 100,000 or more deaths annually, which includes a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 that projected 106,000 deaths. A more recent analysis estimates 128,000 Americans die each year as a result of taking medications as prescribed – or nearly five times the number of people killed by overdosing on prescription painkillers and heroin.”

    While medical errors in and of themselves are a HUGE problem, looking like something over 200,000 annually, I don’t want to minimize 128,000 deaths as “errors” when the doctors were simply following the standard protocols and dosages. Even a “good doctor” could kill you!

  • I realize the real problem with Lawrence’s statement: that people “knowingly” turn over their lives to psychiatry. If they did this “knowingly,” it would mean that they knew and understood the likely outcomes, including the potential negative consequences, and that they knew and understood the fictional nature of the idea of “mental illness” diagnoses and related concepts. VERY few people who actually know this would be willing to turn their lives over to those in charge of such a mass deception!

  • Actually, it wasn’t “medical errors,” though it has been spun that way by the propaganda machine. It was actually MEDICAL CARE that measured out as the third leading cause of death in the USA. And the most common cause of death by medicine was not an “error,” but side effects of properly prescribed and properly administered “medication.” I think the attempt to spin this as “medical error” is an intentional PR effort to make it seem like “bad doctors” are the problem, rather than bad drugs and bad medical training.

  • I think you may be confusing intent to avoid responsibility with trust. We humans need to develop trust with our clan. These “doctors” are selling trust – “We’ve got you covered, don’t worry, we have the answers!” While it is true that looking for simple answers is part of the problem, I think it’s pretty unrealistic to expect the entire culture to decide not to trust doctors when they are told from birth onward that doctors can be trusted. I think there is a difference between WANTING to give up responsibility and BELIEVING that someone can be trusted when they can’t. It takes a lot of courage to challenge cultural mythology, and I personally think fear plays a much larger role than desire to avoid responsibility. That being said, I do believe that learning to assume maximum responsibility for what we control is critical to our getting out of the current capitalistic trap. But I don’t think framing it as laziness on the part of those who succumb to the propaganda machine really helps move us forward.

  • Sam,

    Just to clarify, there really WAS an epidemic of falsely accused people, which led to some much-needed reforms in forensic interviewing of children, which have taken hold nationwide, and maybe internationally as well. The McMartin Preschool case was most definitely an example of implanted or extracted “memories” of things that did not happen, and the therapists were in the main culpable for creating this disaster.

    What I’m objecting to is jumping from the clear and fully supportable observation that false memories CAN be implanted to the conclusion that there is no possibility of suppressing a memory of something that really did happen. There are people who can’t remember anything before they’re 10 or 12. I doubt that they really can’t remember anything during that time, but I do believe it’s possible not to WANT to remember bad stuff and to wall it off from conscious recollection.

    But it’s a very delicate area, and it is very easy for a person to inadvertently (or intentionally) encourage or induce “recollections” of things that did not happen. I’m not in a position to know what has happened in your family’s case, nor do I really want to weigh in on that question. I just don’t want you to come away thinking that I believe implanted or created “memories” are a fantasy. They are very real and very, very destructive to all involved.

  • I don’t think it requires encouraging people to alter their beliefs about past events to validate that such events may not be entirely conscious in their memories. I have a clear example from my own past where my second grade teacher hit me in the head and tossed me and another kid out in the hallway. I shared this story with a classmate at our 30th high school reunion, and she remembered the incident, including some parts I was not aware of (like the part after she hit me in the head!) While I still did not recall this part of the event, I did remember going down to the nurse after heading to the office, and I remember her checking my head for signs of injury, which I did not recall previously. I also knew there was another kid in the hallway, but she reminded me of who it was, which helped me flesh out the memory.

    Was that recollection 100% accurate? I very much doubt it. Did my teacher hit me in the head? I am absolutely certain that this is what happened. And the parts I recovered were not manufactured or imaginary, but were very much connected to the events I had recalled before. There is no reason to doubt that I was hit, that Freddy Baughman was crying (which I also recalled after telling the story) and was tossed out in the hallway with me, and that I did make a visit to the nurse. The exact details of the event will no doubt never be known, and I’m sure different people who were present would have different recollections of what occurred. That’s the nature of memory.

    So I don’t think it’s anyone’s job to tell anyone else what is true or not true, and especially to tell anyone what to BELIEVE about their historical trauma. But I do think it is absolutely wrong to deny the possibility of recalling or fleshing out memories of abuse that a person comes up with themselves. In fact, telling them NOT to believe their recollection IS telling someone what to believe about their historical trauma, which we both agree is wrong. It is up to that person to determine for him/herself what is and is not true about their own past. And I agree, the relevant point is to process the emotion attached to such events, including any conclusions or decisions the person may consider they have made in regards to their interpretation of such events. But the client owns the recollection and their own sense of how certain that memory is in their reality.

  • Bummer!! Two years can feel like a VERY long time!

    Where I live (West Coast USA), there is an organization that does legal advocacy for teens in difficult legal situations. Have you looked for that kind of service near you? The “age of consent” is generally regarded to be around 14-16 in most states, so you may have a legal right to decide this for yourself. I would definitely recommend you talk to an attorney in your area and find out the laws in your state. Of course, a parent can always claim that you are “a danger to self or others,” but from what you’ve said, you’re not threatening to kill yourself or anyone else, and are obviously rational and articulate enough to care for your own basic needs, by a very long margin. Who knows? Maybe you can win this one!

  • You may be right on some level, Lawrence, but it seems to me that such motivations as you discuss are largely unconscious and are fed by general social agreement and expectations. It’s true that we have the free will to challenge or refuse to comply with these expectations, but that often comes with consequences that people aren’t willing to contemplate. I’ve found plenty who are seeing psychiatrists because they literally have no idea that there is any other option. While I’m all for empowering them to realize they have other options, blaming such people for lacking the levels of awareness and responsibility to recognize psychiatry’s shenanigans and manipulations is unproductive and in some cases could be seen as downright hurtful.

  • Interesting discussion – clients are certainly going to do better with such an approach than “treatment as usual” (and I use the term “treatment” very loosely).

    Unfortunately, the discussion doesn’t go deep enough to get to the core of what is really going on here. The two client examples are people who were TOLD that their “moods” and “anxiety” were, indeed, things that descended upon them for no reason, and they were TOLD this by the “mental health professionals” they were seeing. The fact that the client had “never been asked” these questions before tells us enough to know that the people dealing with him either were completely incompetent or were corrupt and didn’t care about the outcome. It’s time to move beyond the question of “what to do when people ask for ‘medication,'” and start informing them of the misinformation they have been fed, and the actual hope that they can go way beyond “not feeling bad” in their lives.

  • But you CAN prove that the “treatments” provided make things worse, which Harrow and Wunderlink and many others have successfully done without setting out to do so. The studies proving that antipsychotics cause brain shrinkage, done by someone who deeply believed in the “medical model,” were particularly useful in debunking the idea that “schizophrenia causes brain shrinkage.” There is no need to embrace psychiatric terminology or “diagnoses” to debunk the bullcrap “research” that is out there. Obviously, this by itself does little, as the APA and their profiteering supporters will simply discount such research as irrelevant or biased, but it does provide a base for making deeper strikes into the PR machine.

  • Hi, Sam,

    Are you suggesting that the current dilapidated and destructive state of psychiatry as a profession is not strongly linked to corruption within the field, due to huge financial incentives and the desire for professional credentials and power? I can’t agree that the current state of affairs is solely the result of confusion and fear on the part of professionals and others who want to make things more comfortable. This plays a role, but what I see is the APA and the drug companies SELLING an idea that somehow they have a magical solution in the form of a pill that will obviate the need for the kind of personal work and commitment that you and I both know is really necessary to do things like healing attachments and gaining insight into the impact of traumatic experiences and learning how to love oneself enough to stand up and take action in an increasingly hostile world.

    So I agree that the psychiatric model is a tool, but I don’t believe it’s designed to actually accomplish the things that you have spent much of your adult life working towards. I see the model being designed to make things more comfortable for those in control and to increase financial gain for big corporations and associated “professionals” who profit from having clients that never get better. If this were not the case, why is the APA so resistant to the evidence that these drugs are only useful, if they ever are, for short-term suppression of symptoms, and that long-term use creates the very problems that they purport to address? Why the powerful resistance within the ranks to the results of their own research, if not to protect their personal prerogatives and their funding?

  • Posting as moderator here:

    I am feeling that this back and forth regarding who is really saying what about how antipsychiatry should move forward is unproductive and is getting kind of personal. I am not inclined to go through and moderate/edit all the negative comments and tones that are emerging, but I really think we’re all in position to hear where both parties are coming from, and I don’t see much point in trading competing accusations. I am still going to go through and remove anything egregious, but if the two of you could please take this discussion back channel, I’d appreciate it. It’s really gone quite far off the topic of the article at hand.

  • I don’t buy that it is ignorance. I believe it is not so simple to revise one’s beliefs without understanding the emotional reasons for adopting one’s original belief system, especially when early life trauma or attachment issues are present.

  • You probably told us this already, but if so, I missed it. Are you under 18? If not, is your mom your guardian? There ought to be some way an articulate person such as yourself could be in a better position to make your own decisions!

  • Absolutely! Cognitive therapy methods are, in my view, only ethical if the client identifies what thoughts (if any) they find troublesome and what kind of changes they would want to make. If the therapist has an agenda, the process is going to go south quickly, though many therapists don’t seem to notice when this happens, and mistake compliance for engagement.

  • Well, you do make a good point here. We have to start somewhere, and building strong attachments always seemed to me to be the easiest place to make the biggest impact, because the kids aren’t messed up yet! But of course, the kids are raised by parents who have their own attachment issues, and have also been trained by our social system to believe certain things that aren’t necessarily very helpful to creating a connected community of human beings. So we have to somehow help the parents attach to the children despite their own fractured attachments. A monumental task. Alice Miller has a lot to say about this. I guess my wife and I decided to simply start with our own kids and build out from there. It wasn’t perfect, but they are certainly some of the least sexist, racist, whatever-ist boys I’ve ever met. Modeling is the most important part of learning, including learning that the world is a safe place to be who you are.

  • Stigma is a euphemism for prejudice and discrimination and bigotry. “Stigma” suggests that the poor “mentally ill” are unable/unwilling to “get help” because they’re afraid their families or friends will be ashamed of them, or that they’ll be ashamed of themselves. It is intended to be rooted in the unreasoning fear of the potential “patient.” Whereas prejudice and discrimination clearly lie in the treatment of the potential “patient” by the very system that purports to “help” them. It’s a very important distinction, I believe. These terms are chosen strategically.

  • I do agree that attachment is central, as I’ve said, however, there are plenty of outside influences, such as racism, sexism, etc., oppressive schools and churches, our mobile, disconnected society (lack of community), and other influences which can result in anxiety, depression, anger, distractedness, and anything else in the psychiatric hierarchy. I want to make sure that people who don’t perceive themselves as having been mistreated or having had poor parental attachment are not considered of less importance or have their suffering minimized.

  • I think you are missing the point here. It’s not that people are arguing against being happy, it’s the EXPECTATION that everyone is happy, all the time, regardless of circumstance. The corollary to this is that if one is unhappy, it’s one’s own fool fault for not “thinking the right thoughts.” While it is helpful to maximize one’s ability to choose his/her reaction to events, we do not control all of the events around us, not even vaguely.

    For instance, I was miserable in school. I was a very smart kid who was very shy. Elementary school in particular varied between weeks of massive, soul-crushing boredom and discrete oppressive events, the majority of which were perpetrated by the teachers. Now, one could say that I had a choice – I could have “made the most” of the situation, I could have left in protest, I could have learned to meditate so the boredom and anxiety I felt were reduced… sure, I had options, but realistically, I was in a very bad situation and had no way to really change it. I think depression is a very natural reaction to being trapped in a miserable situation. I think if I were cheerful about it, it would have been at the cost of utterly denying my humanity.

    Was I “disordered” because I was massively depressed and anxious and “maladjusted” to the school environment?

  • I agree, attachment is fundamental, and without it, a person has no sense of safety and can’t relate to others. Naturally, any kind of therapeutic intervention (the real kind, anyway!) depends on connecting to the counselor/therapist/helper/group, and absent the ability to attach, it’s almost impossible to process traumatic experiences of any kind. It is the most overlooked and most important element in a child developing what is so euphemistically called “mental illness.” So I don’t minimize the importance at all. I only wanted to be clear that there are other people who have good attachments but experience other kinds of abuse and trauma and oppression that lead to “mental illnesses” as defined in the DSM. Of course, the psychiatric profession doesn’t want to look at any of these valid and real sources of distress, because it upsets their political and financial power base.

  • That was my philosophy – you do what works for the client, and if it doesn’t work, you stop doing it. Pretty simple, really, but it is based on the idea that the therapist actually gets to know and care about the client, and is able to empathize with the client’s suffering and understand how s/he thinks about things. In other words, human connection guides a helper toward things that work. In fact, a person in excellent communication with another can actually invent “techniques” on the spot, specific to that person. Eric Erickson said, “Therapy has to be reinvented with each client.” I believe he was right.

  • I’d say that attachment is one important factor in development, but there are many others. We don’t want to go down the same path as the psychiatric profession by assigning all distress to one single cause and approaching it with one single approach. That being said, the current reality in the “mental health” field is for the most part to excuse parents’ behavior as “doing the best they can” while refusing to acknowledge the damage parents (and siblings, BTW) can do inadvertently, even with the best of intentions. So it’s good to have articles talking about attachment – it really does affect everyone, but it doesn’t explain everything.

  • Perhaps I worded that carelessly. Helping people find some ACTION they can take to improve their lives provides hope, whereas telling them their brains are broken and that there is nothing to be done about their “lifetime illness” drives people into despair, unless they are smart enough to understand that they’re being scammed. I don’t believe in broken brains, or if there is brain damage, it is observable and is dealt with by neurologists based on actual evidence.

  • In my experience, CBT is simply one of many potential techniques one can use depending on the person you’re working with and their needs and goals. To make it a “therapy school” has always seemed like a delusion and a deception to me. Why would someone restrict themselves to a particular technique and apply it to everyone? Different people have different needs. I’ve also seen/heard of CBT being used to blame the victim of abuse for not “thinking correct thoughts” instead of dealing with the traumatic experiences that led a person to the kind of beliefs they have.

    It seems like the movement was driven by ego and money-making. Starting from the assumption that someone’s thoughts are somehow “wrong,” and that these thoughts occur in a vacuum, having no relationship whatsoever to past or current experiences, is both idiotic and guaranteed to create bad effects. I’m glad someone is writing about this, but as usual, the facts will do little to nothing to disturb the professionals from their greed and egotism.

  • I also wonder if OrthoPsych contributes to increasing hope and a sense of agency in the recipient, beyond whatever concrete physiological health issues are being addressed. One of the worst things about the psychiatric model is that it tells people there is nothing they can do about their “broken brains.” It seems that OMP challenges that directly and says, “Yes, you can!”

  • This truly accomplishes a new level of idiocy. We now want a pill so that people don’t care if they are isolated and disconnected from their community? The need to communicate, organize, and work together is as fundamental to humans as the need to breathe and eat. It seems that the drug industry and psychiatry are bent on making sure that basic humanity is drugged out of existence.

  • I used to be a staff person for the Long Term Care Ombudsman program in Oregon. I was called once to a nursing home to see a guy whose daughter thought he was “overmedicated.” I could barely get him to open his eyes. He had bruises on his head because he’d walked into the doorframe instead of through the opening in the door. I interviewed the activities director and she told me that a week ago, he’d been hitting a volleyball back and forth with her in the courtyard! The difference: he was now on Risperdal.

    How anyone could call this an “improvement” is beyond my comprehension. It shouldn’t take an outsider coming in to point out that they’ve now disabled a perfectly capable person for nothing but the convenience of the staff.

  • “Moreover, the study suggests that although it may seem that further questioning about suicidal ideation would elicit more information to facilitate accuracy in assessment, it is also associated with a higher false positive rate. In other words, detailed questioning increases the likelihood of inaccurately assessing people as at-risk for suicide when that is not the case.”

    “Clinicians sometimes rely on suicidal ideation as a crucial test for short-term suicide risk, and it has been argued that asking about suicidal ideation could form part of a screening test for later suicide.”

    I think these paragraphs highlight the real problem with this kind of questioning. The clinician is “assessing” or “screening” or “testing” for “short-term suicide risk.” They aren’t having a real conversation with the client – there is nothing here about establishing rapport, about finding out what is going on in this person’s life, about exploring why the client would feel that ending his/her life was a good or necessary idea. It is no small wonder that their clients/patients aren’t willing to share the truth with them. Would you tell someone whom you knew was “assessing” you that you were considering suicide, when that their “assessment” could get you locked up if it went the wrong way?

    There is nothing wrong with asking someone if they’re thinking about suicide, IF you have a sufficiently trusting relationship and have the clear intent of listening and helping rather than “evaluating” the person you’re talking to from some elevated pseudo-“objective” viewpoint. The problem isn’t the question, it’s the intent of the person asking it that causes the difficulty.

  • I think perhaps you are confusing the effect on certain individuals with the character of the institutions involved. The fact that there may be some psych wards that get good reviews, or that some teachers run very democratic and engaging classrooms, or that some kids love school for whatever reason, does not change a thing about the underlying purpose and structure of the institutions involved. If the basic design of schools is to teach children compliance and snuff out creative thinking, and that is the general effect on the population as a whole, the fact that a small or even moderate number enjoy their time being brainwashed and trained to bark on command doesn’t alter that effect.

    A similar argument is commonly made about DSM diagnoses – “Some people like their diagnoses.” Well, sure, they do. But does that change for one second the fact that the diagnoses themselves are complete social constructs with no actual validity in the real world, or that they are used to undermine and blame those who experience psychological and social oppression by claiming their adverse reaction to their oppression is due to malfunctioning brains, rather than a malfunctioning social and economic system?

    When I worked as an advocate in nursing homes, a home was taken over and put into federal receivership because it was so awful in terms of patient care. Yet they received approval ratings in the mid to high 80% range. Most people are satisfied with the status quo, even if it isn’t something they ought to have to put up with. They simply aren’t aware that other options exist.

  • In addition, there are misunderstandings and personality misfits between parents and children which contribute to later “mental illness” diagnoses. Moreover, there is research showing that sibling relationships can do a lot of damage, especially in families where feelings are not processed and problem-solving is done in a mostly unconscious manner. No overt abuse or trauma need necessarily be present. For instance, I was assigned a role as a “scapegoat” in my family and was picked on by an older sibling. I became seriously ill and was no longer an acceptable target, and my youngest brother was born about the same time, so my next youngest brother got the job of “scapegoat.” I suddenly became aware, though I could not have verbalized it, that I wasn’t the scapegoat because of some flaw, it was an assigned JOB.

    Anyone looking at my family would have thought that all was well. There was very little in the way of overt trauma per se, but plenty of subtle undertones of hostility and unspoken emotion and unspoken rules and defined roles, all of which caused a great deal of emotional damage without any discreet “trauma” on which to hang one’s hat.

  • I would recommend it. DV professionals seem to be the ones who really understand and speak from a position of empowerment and understanding of oppression and the pain it causes. I don’t know Seattle at all (I live in Olympia, and before that Portland), but the DV programs there might be able to help you find a good person to help. At the least, you will experience that you are very far from the only one to experience such disrespect and foolishness in the Court system.

  • I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. The research in question is about children healing while still children, and the ability to have a safe dependency on a caring adult appears to be the most important aspect of their psychic healing, which apparently manifests in the brain as well. When we get to adulthood, we have to figure it out on our own if we are not fortunate enough to have had such a person, but similar considerations still come into play. What is quality therapy but a person listening to and caring about another person in a safe space? And why can’t non-professionals do the same for each other? Of course they can, and they do, as you (and I) have observed.

  • Ornish was absolutely on target when he started writing this stuff back in the 70s. Naturally, he was roundly attacked and ostracized by his peers at the time. Now everyone makes Ornish’s recommendations, but I never heard any apologies or crow-eating on the part of the big medical system. It is amazing how often truth is obscured in medicine when it conflicts with habit or profits.

  • As JRR Tolkien wisely said, “It takes but one enemy to make a war.” And we know who created THIS war. It’s not the fault of the downtrodden who rise up against the oppressors that the oppressors fight to maintain their power. They could simply acknowledge that these drugs have little positive effect and a lot of potential harms, and redo their “algorithms” accordingly. No war would be necessary if those in charge would simply admit the facts and work from them.

  • I often do the same. If we’re going to use a label, I use the ones that indicate damage from trauma. Though I talked to a psychiatrist once who said “PTSD” was not caused by the trauma, because not everyone who was traumatized got “PTSD.” What? So being hit by a car doesn’t cause broken bones, because not everyone’s bones break when they get hit by a car??? The problem is apparently “vulnerability,” because I guess everyone should be able to handle being traumatized without having flashbacks or nightmares. Very weird!

  • I am SO sorry to hear all this! I wish it were an isolated incident, but it is not. What amazes me is not that abusers engage in this behavior, but that the “professionals” seem so ready to fall for it. The fact that you’re teaching school all this time despite the abusive crap he’s been spewing at you should be enough to make it clear you’re a very sane person in an insane situation. Additionally, his focus on controlling how much time you spend with your child and ACCUSING you of wanting to spend more should be an obvious indication that he is abusive and controlling and doesn’t care a whit about the child.

    Are you connected with any kind of domestic abuse agency or services? They can be really helpful! And keep reading your Lundy Bancroft – he is the best guide to how to deal with these suckers.

  • That is an excellent point! The psychiatric worldview is in actuality a religious one, and it attempts to supplant other belief systems. Perhaps enforced “treatment” can be objected to on the grounds of freedom of religion?

  • I very much like your first statement – if anyone is “mentally ill,” we all must be, because there is really no way to distinguish “normal” from “abnormal” people.

  • I would rather suggest that the new/old way of thinking is not at all compatible with the DSM or any of its definitions. If things defined as “mental illness” are to be considered common reactions to difficult circumstances, we need to dispense with the idea that a particular emotional/behavioral reaction is in any way a “disorder” or “disease.” Moreover, the idea that lumping people together based on their particular reaction to their particular history and context and saying they all are “suffering from the same disorder” is, to me, inherently invalidative of the very context it seems you and I both want to see brought to the forefront. I hope that makes sense!

  • I have seen this many times in my work with foster kids and Juvenile Court. I got to the point where when I saw a crying, emotional, seemingly out of control mom and a super calm, confident, under-control dad, I thought, “OK, we know who the real problem is here, and it’s not her.” I also saw how things changed in the cases where the survivor was believed and things started turning against the abuser. All of a sudden, the calm, confident person became increasingly angry, agitated, and even bizarre as the control slipped away from him. But someone has to start by believing that the person who is upset has a reason for it, and the reason is usually sitting across the courtroom from her.

  • I have to agree. The very fact of being told that your brain is broken and there is nothing you can do about it would make anyone feel hopeless. Add to that the frequent invalidation of one’s own experience and internal knowledge about what is going on, and you don’t need a drug to make someone give up. Not even getting into the horrors of “involuntary treatment.”


    meanwhile adverb
    Definition of meanwhile (Entry 2 of 2)
    1 : during the intervening time
    meanwhile, however, new projects are being undertaken this year
    — Jonathan Eberhart
    2 : at the same time
    You can set the table, and meanwhile I’ll start cooking dinner.

    Seems like you were thinking of the first definition, while I was intending the second.

  • I don’t disagree with a word you said. Helping people “game” the system and helping them recognize the true sources of oppression in their lives is a huge effort that has its own challenges and rewards, and is very clearly distinguishable from “helping people accept their illness” and other such nonsense. Domestic abuse is a good analogy – we all want to stop domestic abuse from happening, and working at a societal level to alter perceptions and biases and privileges enjoyed by abusers is the ultimate game. But meanwhile, helping those ensnared in such a situation is most definitely needed and contributes to the larger goal, especially when part of the process is political engagement for the survivor.

  • For one thing, many “antidepressants” don’t affect serotonin and still are considered “antidepressants.” For another, studies back in the 80s showed that lots of “normal” people have lower serotonin levels. For a third point, no one knows what a “normal” level of serotonin is – serotonin levels vary widely from moment to moment. Have you read Anatomy of an Epidemic yet?

  • Gotta say, I see both viewpoints here. On the one hand, we don’t want to do anything to validate the dangerous nonsense that is the current system. On the other hand, I don’t want to simply abandon those in the clutches of the system when they are suffering. I think we need to do both – provide practical support to those in trouble while still insisting that the current system is utterly wrong from the ground up. How to do that is the tough question, but I think both/and is the essential way to go.

  • It is my understanding that his withdrawal of the trauma theory was made under great pressure from his colleagues and Victorian society in general. However, we can’t absolve Freud of his decision to create a confusing and dishonest counterexplanation that served to baffle and mislead the public and the profession for generations. His cowardice in the face of social pressures had enormous negative consequences for millions of people.

  • There are definitely points at which men experience bias, but on the balance, women are far more likely to get the short end of the stick, even today (though it is better than it used to be by a long way). For instance, there is this idea that women usually get custody in divorce proceedings. But this is mostly because men usually don’t contest. Many studies done in many US states in different jurisdictions have showed the same thing: men who contest win custody 60-70% of the time.

    There’s a lot more I could say about this, but suffice it to say that while things are better than they were in 1965, men still receive plenty of protection just because they’re men. The Kavanaugh hearing and DT’s comments on how “hard it is for young men” now that they have to worry about being called to task if they’re too aggressive toward an unwilling “partner” should be enough to remind us that there is a LOT of work still to be done.

  • Just my two cents here. I don’t hear anyone wanting to deny membership or participation to people like me or others who don’t fit the “survivor” description. And I’m not sure the most important issue is honesty or trust, either, though I don’t want to invalidate Kindred’s raising of this as a vital issue. It seems to me that the issue is one of social power. It is pretty easy for those in the one-up situation to believe they are being “fair and equitable” when they are actually exerting their unearned authority based on social biases. So making sure that the direction and priorities of an antipsychiatry movement are not only informed by, but directed by survivors seems a very important point to me. It’s not that others can’t help and be passionate and come up with new ideas. To me it’s that the ultimate test of any idea is whether those who have been through the ringer think it makes sense and would work. Survivors have to ultimately direct the effort, even if a lot of hard work is done by people from all walks of life who interact with the system in some way.

    That’s MHO, for what it’s worth.

  • Wow, that doesn’t even make any kind of sense! “However, given the increased risk of suicide in untreated depression and the absence of an increased risk of suicide associated with pharmacotherapy, currently available evidence does not support the avoidance of initiation and continuation of pharmacotherapy for depression in children and adolescents.” Didn’t he just say there WAS an increased risk of suicide with SSRIs???

  • Such a fantastic story of how your own “commonsense” understanding of the situation was repeatedly invalidated or ignored by the “professionals” in favor of their own worldviews and beliefs. It is wonderful that you had the courage and historical models to tell the doctors to shove off when you needed to do so. I also find it important to note that your political analysis of the society you grew up in factored into your ability to resist the inappropriate and abusive authorities. I think such political awakening is often critical to folks “recovering” from their ostensible “disorders.” In the end, our social system has abuse built right into it from the foundations, and recognizing that may be the most “therapeutic” act a person can engage in.

  • I appreciate the perspective of unearned privilege that you lay out in this piece. I had not really thought of it that way, but it makes total sense. “There are some good ones out there” doesn’t do a thing to address systemic oppression, and in fact impedes the effort. I love the idea of convincing local NAMIs who “get it” to go rogue and disavow the NAMI moniker and all the nasty history (right up to the present!) that goes with it. I’d love to see that happen, but even people with respectable levels of integrity have a hard time walking away from privilege, however unearned it may be.

    Thanks for another great article!

  • I agree with all of this, and could go on for days talking about it. My book is in part an effort to raise consciousness, especially in women, regarding how our culture tells us men and women should act, and how acts of abuse are normalized and even romanticized (fighting over a woman, pursuing someone who says “no” as a sign of how much he “loves you,” etc.) I think this is particularly true for those victimized early in life,o or who witnessed their parent being abused, who have little or no model of what a loving relationship looks like and who are therefore less able to distinguish grooming tactics from genuine affection. Our culture does them no favors by romanticizing “bad boys” and making excuses for abusive behavior by men, and putting women in the role of “peacemakers” or “fixers” if the relationship doesn’t seem to be working as it should.

    Domestic abuse is a very, very complex dynamic. It is perhaps natural for those who aren’t aware of this to ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” but too few are willing to look at the very real and very dark and difficult answers to that question when they make the perhaps understandable mistake of asking it.

  • Depression may “feel like a disease,” but that doesn’t make it a disease. I say this as a person who struggled with depression and anxiety for the first 30-40 years of my life, including times of feeling suicidal and seeing no point in life at all. I am GRATEFUL that no one ever “diagnosed” me with a “brain disease,” but instead people (including my therapist) encouraged me to believe that I could DO something about it, and helped me take small steps, one at a time, that led me to a place where I actually spent most of my day NOT feeling anxious or depressed, and where I knew what to DO if I felt that way to find my way quickly to a more effective approach to whatever was bothering me.

    Some approaches that helped: recognizing being over tired or having low blood sugar, learning to meditate, learning to emotionally process difficult experiences from my past in a safe place, spending time hiking and biking, finding meaningful work, listening to clients about their own experiences and seeing what they seemed to find helpful, challenging myself to confront injustice when I was scared of the outcome, raising some wonderful but at times incredibly difficult children, learning how to grow with my wonderful but at times incredibly difficult partner…

    ALL of these things and more have contributed to my learning how NOT to be depressed, and it took a couple of decades and a lot of support from a lot of people, some professionals but mostly just “regular people” who cared about me, or for whom I was responsible in some way or another. How could such a complex interaction of forces be considered a “disease?” Depression didn’t just HAPPEN to me – it was the result of many years of experiences and decisions and goals and accomplishments and failures and relationships. The body was certainly involved, and may perhaps have colored the way I reacted to things. But to reduce my feelings of depression to a random problem in my brain would be absurdly reductionistic and invalidative – it would take away the meaning of the work I’ve done and the things I’ve learned in the process.

    There may be a tiny percentage of depressed people who actually have something wrong with their bodies, and they certainly deserve medical help if it is available. But the vast majority of depressed people have a history of their own, very different than mine and yet in some ways very similar. Reducing their suffering and their emotional experiences to a malfunctioning brain is not only insulting, it is ultimately disempowering in that it denies that person’s ability to look at, sort out, and address whatever range of experiences lie underneath their emotions and behavior. If the indications of depression can be in any way viewed as “symptoms,” they can only be considered “symptoms” (aka clues) of the actual problems or challenges a person has to face. And those problems and challenges are intensely personal and unique to each person, and will never be able to be categorized as a “mental illness” in the physiological sense.

  • Again, we know from scientific research that meditation can change the actual structure of the brain – MENTAL activity can restructure the brain! So to suggest that fixing the brain can fix the mind seems to fly in the face of evidence that it is the mind (whatever that is) that affects the brain, or that at a minimum, it’s a two-way street.

  • Not sure how else I can put it. Mental/emotional suffering does exist. That is not in dispute. The dispute is the idea that “mental illness” can be defined in scientifically precise terms. “Mental illness” is an analogy, a metaphor, a squishy-soft social construct that has no scientific definition at all. Even the former head of NIMH agrees with this. But it is a common argument in favor of the concept of “mental illness” to say that, “saying mental illness isn’t real means that you’re saying that mental suffering isn’t real.” It’s a false equivalence.

  • Your statements are very consistent with my experience with hundreds of domestic abuse survivors. Accusing partners of being “mentally ill” is a very common and very effective tactic used by abusers in domestic relations hearings and in juvenile court child abuse cases. There has been a lot of improvement in terms of professionals’ understanding of domestic abuse, but this strategy still works in way too many cases. And intentionally pushing a partner to retaliate is also very, very common in domestic abuse situations. The threat of involuntary commitment and/or loss of children is a very powerful tool that a “diagnosis” puts into the hands of the abuser, yet a lot of mental heath professionals seem to have no awareness of this kind of manipulation.

  • Expert opinion is, in my view, not relevant to this discussion. We’re talking about science, or I thought we were. The concept of “neural connections” is very soft science at this point – there are not “connections” in the same sense that wires connect to each other. It is certain that neurology comes into play when talking about distressed states, but saying that provides no evidence regarding the causes of distressed states, which is the really relevant point here.

  • I’m not arguing against studying the brain, Shaun. I’m arguing against the idea that you can assume that the brain and the mind are identical, and that studying the brain will yield an understanding of the mind. And I reiterate: the results to date suggest strongly that we are barking up the wrong tree, and in fact probably in the wrong forest. Studying the brain gives information about the brain, which may be very useful information. But so far, the study of the brain seems to have created nothing but confusion about what the mind even is, while studies like Buddhism, which look at the mind as a separate entity, seem to have let to much more satisfying results.

  • The question is not whether distressed states exist. No one disputes that. The question is whether these states can be explained and understood by studying the organ of the brain. I suggest that they can not.

    Of course you can see no distinction, because it violates your basic beliefs. I do assert that the mind boils down to the decisions we make, but more importantly, WHY we decide to make the decisions we do. And I defy you to show where values and principles and priorities are stored in the brain. We don’t even have a clue how memories are stored. You can’t tell me where to find values.

    Perhaps a clearer way to put it is that the brain is kind of like the computer processor. It doesn’t work without a program, which you can NEVER understand just by studying the circuits. But more importantly, the computer requires an OPERATOR. To me, the mind is the operator of the brain. We may one day find the operator within the brain’s structures, but as of now, no one can say where the operator is or how it works. A true scientist would have to admit that this is the case.

  • Millions of people believe a lot of stuff that isn’t true. What is the scientific underpinning of any “mental illness” you can name? How is a person objectively determined to “have” vs. “not have” a particular “disorder?” And even if such “disorders” could be objectively identified (which they can’t), what evidence is there that all people with the same “disorder” have the same thing wrong with them or need the same kind of help?

    The DSM itself proves that neither of the above conditions can be met. It admits in the introduction that there is no line between having one disorder or another or no disorder at all. It also states that there is “no assumption that people with the same disorder are alike in all important ways.” In other words, they admit that these “diagnoses” are actually heterogeneous groups of people who may have little to nothing in common with each other. What on earth is the use of a “diagnosis” that labels people arbitrarily into groups where the people don’t even share common characteristics? It makes about as much sense as saying someone whose knee hurts has “knee pain disorder” which causes his knee to hurt.

    If you claim to believe in science, you ought to think carefully about how these “diagnoses” are arrived at. There is very little science involved, actually.

  • So in other words, yes, you do think the mind and the brain are the same.

    The fact that all information goes back to the brain to be processed proves nothing. The fact that science can’t distinguish between “mind” and “brain” simply means that science has no idea what “mind” is and is incapable of speaking intelligently on the topic.

    MIND, to me, is that part of us that has intentions, valued, priorities, goals, scruples, etc. It demonstrates such qualities as courage, anticipation, regret, integrity, faith, etc. As long as none of these qualities and qualities like them aren’t definable in terms of the brain, then science can not claim the brain is the same as the mind.

    For materialists (like you, I guess), there is no possibility of anything existing beyond the physical. This forces them into a position where they can have no clue what “mind” is, and yet be completely certain it must be part of the brain, “Because where else could it be?” But again, that’s a matter for philosophical discussion, not scientific.

    Science is supposed to be skeptical. This means that if something is not shown by data to be true, it is simply unknown. It can’t be assumed to be true, in fact, any such hypothesis would need to be thoroughly tested and all alternative possible explanations eliminated before we could conclude this is the case. Obviously, nothing remotely close to this has ever been accomplished, or as far as I know even attempted. The fact is, the mind is a MYSTERY to science. It can’t even be defined, let alone located in the brain. (Let me know when you find where “courage” or “integrity” are located in a brain.) Just because you or others are materialists doesn’t mean materialism is “right” or “true.”