Comments by Miranda Spencer

Showing 131 of 131 comments.

  • This article is incredibly damning: The Emperor has no clothes.

    Indeed, I have always asked myself why, when other illnesses like cancer get a literal and figurative race for a cure, “mental illness” is usually considered incurable and there seemingly is no effort to find such a cure. And if there aren’t even measures or data with which to measure success, they never will. The cynic in me wonders whether this is due to incompetence…or by design.

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  • Here is a news update that’s very pertinent to this podcast. As reported by The Washington Post a few days ago, Yale intends to implement sweeping new policies to help eliminate discrimination and punitive treatment for students undergoing a mental health crisis.

    The fact that Yale is suddenly willing and able to make such big changes so quickly indicates that they feared the lawsuit against them more than the supposed consequences of bringing fairness and compassion into their policies. And that they could have done this all along, but just didn’t want to.

    There is a big loophole, however:

    “In their updated online policies, the university made clear it still retained the right to impose an involuntary medical leave on students in cases of ‘a significant risk to the student’s health or safety, or to the health or safety of others.’”

    More than likely, the vagueness of this caveat will be used to continue to push out struggling students. The person or people appointed to assess this risk will be well-paid to err on the side of “caution” and recommend a forced leave. Hopefully, this loophole will be closed or at least tightened during the settlement negotiations.

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  • It seems to me that the purpose of trauma-informed schools (and communities) is to PREVENT kids falling into the diagnosis-and-drugs trap. I am ambivalent about schools playing too much of a role, but as CTIPP itself notes, there’s a different between therapy and therapeutic intervention. Even befriending a lonely child who’s seen violence in the home is a potentially therapeutic intervention and doesn’t really have anything to do with the mental healthy system.

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  • These study results are devastating. It also leads me to wonder how to deal with it: Suppose a woman is taking antidepressant drugs and discovers she is pregnant. To protect the baby, she can taper off, but how will her withdrawal effects affect the developing fetus? This needs more research.

    Also, it suggests it would be wise to taper off before becoming pregnant, which requires time and support, especially for those who have been taking AD for a long time. Both scenarios reinforce the need for more research and more supports for the under-studied and under-appreciated issue of psychiatric drug withdrawal.

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  • There seems to be a trend: Researchers find that various psychiatric drugs are ineffective, or that biological explanations for mental health issues don’t hold up. But instead of facing reality as a sensible scientist should do, they deny their own findings and double down on their pet theories or mainstream beliefs: If only we keep looking, we’ll find the thing we believe exists! THIS is madness.

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  • I think you nailed it, George cLoony! Who do they choose to interview, and why? From what I could tell, some of the kids featured happened to be patients of the therapist named Kee, and half a dozen of them all went to the same school and belonged to the same mental health support group that formed after a popular student died by suicide. So yeah, it wasn’t random.

    I think this could have been a better film if, instead of Ken Burns-ing it, the Ewers brothers had just curated a collection of interviews and maybe let the viewer draw their own conclusions. I’d love to know what was said that wound up on the cutting room floor.

    One of my favorite kids featured was Yanerry, who had both all kinds of life challenges and a variety of psychiatric “symptoms” including hearing voices and seeing hallucinations. They actually kept in where she says that this is just a trait she has that’s part of her and she’s learned to co-exist with it.

    There is going to be a follow-up live panel with some of the interviewees (including another of my favorites, Billie) on September 8. I’ll be very interested to see what they say after the fact.

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  • This study is kind of a watershed –considering that it was done by so many researchers with links to the pharma industry, they could be expected to massage or spin the data to show a strong benefit from antidepressant drugs, but nope. Even pharma ads have admitted that “two out of three people who take antidepressants don’t see relief of their symptoms,” and now it looks like it’s three out of four.

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  • Once again, our fine readers have already raised several points I was going to make, one of which is that if Jim Phelps actually reads Mad in America, he would already know that we report on science- and experience-based alternatives to conventional psychiatry on the regular. Some of these, like Open Dialogue, even make limited use of drugs!

    As for the ‘scary’ headline over Peter Simons’ report on Dr. Ghaemi’s article, don’t shoot the messenger. It’s an accurate description of what he said…sometimes the truth hurts.
    But I mainly wanted to answer Phelp’s question about what people in distress and their families can turn to when non-psychiatric approaches are insufficient. Has he not heard of the integrative/holistic approach –particularly Functional Medicine?

    When I suffered for months without relief from what he would call a Mixed State depression –tearful and hopeless, yet extremely anxious, restless, and insomniac–I stumbled into an integrative psychiatrist. Besides doing a detailed personal intake interview, he tested my blood for everything under the sun, looking for underlying health issues that could be affecting my moods and behavior (which, at times, was bizarre). I was then provided a personalized and evolving treatment plan that involved nutritional and hormone supplements to address various deficiencies and excesses and support my nervous system: vitamin B12, progesterone, inositol, calming herbs and amino acids like ashwaganda and tyrosine, and more. (I was already on low doses of psych drugs, which he monitored and later helped me taper off of.) Finally, he consulted regularly about me with a new talk therapist I’d found and was seeing twice a week for the psychological side of my crisis. This individually tailored, ACTUALLY bio-psycho-social approach led to both my recovery from “mental illness” symptoms, better overall health, and tools I use to help myself during tough times even now.

    I urge Phelps to seek out functional medicine practitioners/integrative psychiatrists to learn from them and apply these principles in his practice.

    One last thing: I get the sense that most people come to Mad in America not as newbies weighing options but as people all too experienced in dealing with the mainstream mental health system. They’ve tried it and didn’t like it, and are now seeking answers and alternatives.

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  • I’m intrigued by the fact that this seemingly strong critic of most psych “meds” is Nassir Ghaemi, the same guy who, if memory serves, was instrumental in promoting the novel diagnosis of “Bipolar 2” some years ago. With every expanded definition of mental illness lies a new opportunity for drug prescription and sales…this has a very Allan Frances-y feel to it: Do the damage and then become the crusading critic to CYA.

    Will be glad to be proved wrong.

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  • Aside from the fact that I happen to like punk-ish music, I identify with this…my favorite friends and lovers were always folks many thought “weird.” I’ve always found myself drawn to intense, quirky people and have been considered so myself once you get past my unremarkable veneer!

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  • I’m going to get the ball rolling by pointing to a helpful resource. The New York Times, as part of its youth mental health series, has created a series of lesson plans for schools based on information in the series. I liked this one because it encourages youth to think critically about the facts, opinions, and statistics presented in one of their youth mental health articles, and then ponder them in their own lives:

    One interesting thing I noticed in the plan: According to the graph, which traces youth mental health trends between 1989 and 2019, suicidality among teens had actually been dropping dramatically until 2009, and then ticked back up again. But today’s rates are significantly LOWER than back then, which is a hopeful sign. Actual attempts have remained relatively level over the 30-year period.

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  • Again, thanks to Joshua for all this information –you should start a webpage about it!

    YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME about the proposal to raise funds to alleviate homelessness and support mental health programs through online betting. Is this The Onion? Let’s raise funds by encouraging gambling addiction! Of course, we already raise funds for education through selling lottery tickets, but that is next-level ridiculous. It doesn’t matter how much money is raised it it goes to the wrong solutions.

    We need to interview unhoused people for their take on what would help–nothing about us without us and so on. If anyone wants to learn more about the LA area homeless situation, I recommend the podcast ‘We the Unhoused.’ It is produced by unhoused people there.

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  • My sister used to be an elementary school teacher in the “gifted and talented” program of a public school. Other teachers would say, “oh my, how can you deal with [name of kid], he’s out of control with ADHD!” And she’d say, “Not in my class, he isn’t!” They didn’t act up because she kept the kids interested, channeling their creativity and energy into both mental and physical activities. It seems to me such techniques could be used across the board in classrooms.

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  • James, I think you’re mistaken about the vaccine primarily affecting the nervous system–I understand that it primarily affects the immune system. Typically a strong reaction to the vaccine indicates that someone’s immune system is healthy and doing its job, but I can imagine that since (as part of the immune-stimulating process) the vaccines temporarily increase inflammation, a TMS-injured person’s system just might not be able to handle it.

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  • This is covered in a general sense in the interview (see under “Can you break down the acronym?”): Through listening and being present, the practitioner focuses on Connecting, Empowering, and Revitalizing the other person. What that looks like depends on the person being helped and their particular life and issues.

    Oryx and Briza, if you’re reading, please feel free to hop on and elaborate!

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  • Not sure what you’re referring to, Steve…the title asks *how* climate change affects youth, which doesn’t suggest that it should or shouldn’t affect them. Of course it affects them negatively; how can having their life turned upside down by a hurricane or flood not affect a kid?

    And Dr. Barkin’s work acknowledges that being upset about the crisis is a natural reaction, which perhaps doesn’t come out enough in this interview. She does note, “a certain amount of discomfort is needed to drive [positive] change.” Meaning we need to help kids cope with their distress, even as we help them to channel it into pushing for constructive action by leaders with the power to do something.

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  • To both of the above posters, I refer you to our Science News section today, which details the Lancet report on youth attitudes about climate change which surveyed 10,000 people worldwide and reflects results seen over and over in such surveys.

    According to this study’s authors:

    “…some common ways adults and governments respond to climate change primarily involve dismissing, ignoring, disavowing, rationalizing, and negating the negative experiences of others. As a result, the anxiety young people feel around ecological disasters is compounded by the impression that influential people do not care about the problem.

    The authors reject the popular narrative of blaming climate change on irresponsible individual behaviors and instead say it is precisely these powerful entities that must act to combat climate change. To remedy climate change’s negative mental health impacts, the authors propose increased psychosocial resources, coping skills, and agency.”

    In other words, we need to support these youth who fear for their future and hold institutions to account for inaction. Climate change is happening whether one believes in it or not.

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  • I’m somehow relieved to find out that the Sanjay Gupta who was a top 10 earner was not the one on TV. Neurosurgeon Dr Gupta of CNN earned $16, according to Pro Publica’s Dollars for Docs list (see Sanjay Gupta of Atlanta, GA) whereas psychiatrist Sanjay Gupta from Cheektowaga, NY earned $248,000!

    In any case, what a grift! Is it any wonder the US has some of the worst health outcomes generally of all industrialized nations (infant mortality, for example)?

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  • Even more news. There is now a bipartisan bill proposed that would give those under guardianship/conservatorship more rights:

    One of the main points is that the person can petition to have a private (read: family member) replaced by a professional conservator, or someone else of their choice they wish the court to appoint. Wards would also have caseworkers to oversee the workings to help ensure no exploitation or abuse takes place.

    However, there are some issues of concern here. First, though it’s called the FREE Act, it doesn’t free anyone…more like gives them the option to change who is running their life. Also, as some journalists have documented, professional guardians (many of whom have dozens or even hundreds of wards in their “care”) can be as or more exploitative or neglectful as family members. So if passed, this law will be just a start on guardianship reform.

    As far as I’ve seen, the news media (beyond the NY Times) are already getting facts confused or failing to note what I just mentioned.

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  • And there’s more. The New York Times reports that “Prominent Lawyer in Discussions to Represent Britney Spears/ Mathew Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor, plans to attend a hearing on Wednesday and make the case that the singer should be permitted to hire him for her conservatorship battle.”

    In addition, reports the Times, Ms. Spears’s personal conservator, Jodi Montgomery, recently filed an urgent request for the court to appoint a guardian ad litem who would be assigned solely to help Ms. Spears choose her own lawyer.”

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  • I have another update. Britney is actively seeking a new attorney, having asked her “conservator of the person” for referrals and apparently contacted or met with some high-powered lawyers. Unfortunately, unless the court approves it, she can’t hire one –rather, the judge may appoint one.

    Meanwhile, the centrist news outlet Politico published this story, on bipartisan efforts to reform the guardianship system. Its contents reflect information I’ve pointed out in my articles on Spears, and conservatorships in general, for months now:

    As I mentioned in the article, another hearing on Spears’ case is scheduled for Wednesday, July 14.

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  • I’m loving the depths of this discussion.
    The latest update on the case: Britney’s long time manager has resigned, allegedly because he believes she wants to retire. And now her court-appointed lawyer (the one who she said never told her she could request to end the conservatorship, and to generally keep her
    mouth shut) just resigned as well.

    I would guess these people realize they are now suspect and don’t want the publicity anymore of being tied to this case. Let’s hope this leads to positive change.

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  • You’ve just given me another idea for a new article, Maria!

    Yes, it makes sense that one rationale for forced contraception here is awareness that psych drugs can harm a fetus (I gather she’s not on lithium any more, but likely whatever concoction she’d been on before…or perhaps something new). If they really want to play it safe, they can forbid her to date at all and could, unfortunately, argue that it’s in “her best interest.”

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  • Thank you, readers! 🙂

    Today’s New York Times released quite the bombshell, one day ahead of Spears’ personal court testimony:

    “Britney Spears Quietly Pushed for Years to End Her Conservatorship/Confidential court records obtained by The Times reveal that the singer has urged changes to the arrangement that controls her life, and her father’s role in leading it.”

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  • Aside from the issues you both raise, it is completely inappropriate for a psychiatrist to tell a news media outlet about a patient’s treatment and condition –whatever happened to HIPAA and common sense? Although I wouldn’t want to call TMZ a news outlet; it’s really a gossip tabloid. Finally, we don’t really know if the information is accurate. If it is, it speaks volumes about the agenda of Britney’s conservators to allow this information to be made public.

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  • Those are great points, KindredSpirit.

    I took Christine’s story in a different light; as portraying the idea that enough interpersonal stress can drive anyone “crazy.” Meaning so overwhelmed by negative emotion that it becomes difficult to think straight or function. I’m not a fan of the word “disorder,” either, but it does help us distinguish such a state from our usual baseline. Perhaps “injury” would be a better term!

    I got a certain catharsis from this story, because it made me recall abusive or confusing relationships I was in in the past that led to severe anxiety, mood swings, and even physical health issues. At the time (surprise, surprise) I blamed myself for being “neurotic,” rather than recognizing the distress as the warning it was. Now I realize someone drove me to that state, which improved once they were out of my life.

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  • Well said, Kindred. I never thought about it this way before.

    At a screening of the film “Is Anybody Listening?” about veteran trauma, someone got up and talked excitedly about research at (as I recall) NYU Langone that was supposedly close to finding a biomarker for PTSD. My first thought was, if the person’s blood sample tests negative, does that mean they don’t actually suffer from war trauma even though their lived experience would obviously suggest they do?

    Nonetheless, I appreciated Aftab et al.’s paper, though I find it disturbing that someone felt a need to explain to psychiatrists that they must be wary of confusing cause and effect:

    “Aftab and Sharma also point out that identifying a diagnostic biomarker does not necessarily equate to locating the physical cause of a disorder. Alternatively, a biomarker may represent the consequence of a disease process.”

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  • You’ve now heard it: Some years ago I was prescribed 20 mg of Zyprexa (olanzapine) for insomnia. Prior to that, that psychiatrist and other doctors prescribed Seroquel for same. I have heard from other individuals who have been prescribed or are even currently taking an antipsychotic for sleep.

    Of course it’s nuts. But it’s actually fairly common. I googled for 2 seconds and came up with this journal article: See also the “similar articles” on this page.

    By the way, the atypical antipsychotics did not help my insomnia and had bad side effects, so I only took them a few times. For me, the insomnia turned out to be partly menopause-related and hormone treatment gave me back my sleep. I sleep fine now and shudder when I recall the past.

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  • Evan1, great contributions!

    In calling Nutritional Psychiatry an emerging field (my words, not Dr. Rucklidge’s), I mean field of formalized scientific study or branch of psychiatry. Her blogs and book with Dr. Kaplan do point out how ancient the use of food-as-medicine is and how today’s research builds on that.

    In any case, I was excited to find their work because, among many other reasons, it so validated my own experience. When I had my own “mental breakdown” some years ago, I stumbled into a functional medicine practitioner who was also a psychiatrist. Nutritional supplements were an important part of my individualized “treatment” plan, which addressed previously undiagnosed nutritional issues. It was part of a much broader approach but I do recall immediately being put on high doses of a multivitamin as well as getting B12 shots for a bona fide deficiency and also high doses of fish oil for brain health. At the time, no other psych pro I consulted even brought the issue up…just wanted to write me a drug script.

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  • This is pretty stunning — or maybe not, considering the size of the profits threatened. These statements speak volumes:

    “…The placebo effect is quite troubling to the pharmaceutical industry, as their drugs have to be better than placebo (literally, better than nothing) to be approved for use—and they often struggle to meet that mark.”

    “It is unclear how it could be considered ethical to purposefully create … bias in a clinical trial.”

    So, literally, here is a new tool to help researchers fake their results. Kind of reminds me of the argument a lawyer recently used about why voter-suppression laws should be allowed, to the effect of “without voter suppression, we could not win elections.”

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  • Well here’s a teachable moment! While Voodoo is often used pejoratively and/or associated with something scary or silly, it’s actually a spiritual practice whose tenets, as described in this article, seem worth getting behind when it comes to mental health!

    “Voodoo has no scripture or world authority. It is community-centered and supports individual experience, empowerment and responsibility.”

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  • My mind continues to be blown by tragic comments such as this, and what people are posting on James’ private TMS Facebook group. Is this device/intervention even regulated? The idea that they are marketing the procedure as some kind of spa treatment and, if true, that some people with no medical training are offering and performing TMS, is outrageous. There needs to be a serious investigation by regulators of these facilities.

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  • As I told Amy privately, I’ve always used music to “self regulate.” As a very (did I mention VERY?) anxious teenager, I would listen to music to calm down after a panic attack, and at times when I started to feel completely emotionally numb–it would “loosen” my stuck emotions.

    I still use music this way. I’ve been suffering from some deep winter blues (some call it Seasonal Affective “Disorder,” but it’s more likely a response to less sunlight and a little thing called the pandemic). So I turned on my favorite Joni Mitchell album, Court and Spark, today to listen to while I work, and came upon these pertinent lyrics.*

    My analyst told me
    That I was right out of my head
    The way he described it
    He said I’d be better dead than alive

    I didn’t listen to his jive
    I knew all along
    That he was all wrong
    And I knew that he thought
    I was crazy but I’m not
    Don’t know

    My analyst told me
    That I was right out of my head
    He said I need treatment
    But I’m not that easily led

    He said I was the type
    That was most inclined
    When out of his sight
    To be out of my mind
    And he thought I was nuts
    No more ifs or ands or buts….

    My analyst told me
    That I was right out of my head
    But I said dear doctor
    I think that it’s you instead
    Because I, I got a thing
    That’s unique and new
    To prove it I’ll have
    The last laugh on you
    ‘Cause instead of one head
    I got two
    And you know two heads are better than one.

    *apparently this was written not by Joni but one Annie Ross in 1952 (back when people still went to analysts).

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  • This is a tremendous article, James! I appreciate how much research went into it, and how well you’ve synthesized it and then lain out the facts. To me, it’s especially noteworthy how little training or knowledge is possessed by the people performing this procedure, hence the much greater chance of doing it “wrong” and injuring the patient (as if zapping the brain with electricity could ever be right).

    You have a real organizing tool here — I suggest you might want to rally all your research and interview notes into a more formal bundle of documentation and start sending the piece and the packet to professional organizations, mainstream journalists, and so on. At a bare minimum, it appears that TMS must be much more closely regulated and that its harms be thoroughly investigated by those with power to do so.

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  • I checked out the link you posted and went down the rabbit hole of this Reddit discussion. I don’t think anti-ECT activists should worry about this type of response. What I mostly saw was a group of psychiatrists and neurologists acting defensive (ie feeling threatened). Their unconvincing arguments were as follows:
    * Ad hominem attacks on the original poster: “He’s an ambulance chaser”; “He doesn’t understand science”; “He works for his daddy’s law firm.”
    * Insistence that ECT is safe and effective. When other commenters point to damage to themselves or loved ones, they reply that “the risks are well known, but people give informed consent, so it’s OK.”
    * When other posters point out that informed consent often doesn’t happen and some ECT is done involuntarily, they reply that “involuntary treatment never happens; the doctors would be sent to jail.” Or that “it only happens when someone is so far gone they are too sick to give consent, so it’s OK to give it to them.”
    * When a poster talks about having lost more than 35 years of memories due to ECT, they say in effect, “Well, isn’t that better than being crazy?” or “You’re an outlier.”

    In other words, a gaslighting festival.

    Who was it that said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”?

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  • I’d like to better understand exactly how these payments to doctors (aka bribes) are made. Does the doc just open up the mail one day and there’s a check from X Pharma Company? What does the cover letter, if any, say? Is an offer made by phone or mail with a blatant offer that “if you prescribe X for Y, we will send you a check for Z”?

    This practice should be illegal, full stop.

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  • My guess is gaining control and power over another. Those who truly believe the drugs help may view them as bestowing control and power to the patient. But I’ve met enough psychiatrists who become anything from incredulous to SO ANGRY if you don’t want to take them, or even question them, that they clearly “mean something” symbolic to these people.

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  • Since writing this piece, I have continued to follow the Britney Spears saga. Recent news reports of court activity indicate that Spears is working toward regaining more autonomy. She has stated through her lawyer that she wants her father removed as her conservator, would like records of her case to be public, and even appreciates the #FreeBritney movement. For example:

    These seem very natural responses from someone who was metaphorically saved from dragons, but then isolated for over a decade in a well-appointed but lonely tower. In the latest “Britney’s Gram” podcast, a forensic mental health expert discusses the trauma this isolation and lack of control could cause a person:

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  • Thank you all for your comments and sorry for the late reply.

    I’m not as cynical as some of you, obviously, nor am I a starry-eyed idealist. But if voting didn’t matter, the powers that be wouldn’t be trying so hard to disenfranchise so many. They know that if people –especially the marginalized — voted in proportion to their numbers, it could change the game.

    I agree with you, Bradford, that psychiatry is a root issue here, and that was kind of my point. The branding of some people as mad happened before psychiatry was invented, but the official designation of individuals as “normal” or “abnormal” has been used to perpetrate political mischief. Ironically, having a psych diagnosis can help someone gain assistance through disability rights laws, but it shouldn’t have to come to that. Based on what I’ve learned, I believe that all of the state laws that threaten voting rights due to mental “incompetency” and/or guardianship should be struck down.

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  • Let me clarify a few things. As far as I’m concerned any “mental illness” diagnosis is a misdiagnosis– in that they are constructs without real-world physical correlates. So I’m comfortable with the word “misdiagnosed” in relation to myself. Also, even if the bipolar label were credible as a diagnosis, I just didn’t tick off the boxes…like so many people, including Kristen.

    As far as the headline, Kristen had headstroke or heat exhaustion. Proper treatment would have been simple and she’d have likely left the ER within a few hours. Instead, she was put through a battery of tests, given psych eval and diagnosis, and prescribed strong and inappropriate drugs. That’s the textbook definition of “overtreated.” More medical interventions than called for.

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  • It’s so easy to get a bipolar diagnosis these days. Today’s science news discusses how this phenomenon is playing out in Iran:

    I got a bipolar 2 diagnosis for a time based on “symptoms” for which there were other explanations. But I lacked more of the supposed symptoms of BPD than I had. No matter; if your emotions or behavior deviate in anyway from some concept of normal, you just might be bipolar and to be safe here is a script for heavy-duty, life- and health-changing drugs.

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  • I can’t help but think the research could have been funded in part by pharma. It seems in line with a sentence in the article the authors link to in The New York Times:

    “The Food and Drug Administration has cited every major A.D.H.D. drug — stimulants like Adderall, Concerta, Focalin and Vyvanse, and nonstimulants like Intuniv and Strattera — for false and misleading advertising since 2000, some multiple times.”

    Even if they weren’t involved, their marketing permeates the culture, and perhaps the minds of researchers.

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  • This is one of the more damning science news reports we’ve published. What a blatant example of bad science, with a eugenics twist to boot. As Peter excellently explains them, all the flaws in this study are blatantly obvious. And yet they’re published in a top journal, and the authors’ obviously erroneous conclusion is allowed to stand. This study should have been rejected at the reviewing stage.

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  • Back in the days before DSM III (1980), which basically launched the medical model of “mental illness,” if a young person had a panic attack and sought help from a mental health professional, they would ask you what was going on in your life. They’d reassure you that the episode was an emotional reaction, not a physical illness, and that you could feel confident about moving on with your life as long as you addressed the issues that were causing the anxiety.

    I had my first panic attack in 1975 at 16 years old and that was how it was addressed. Drugs were not only not prescribed, but discouraged, because using them would be covering up pain instead of working through it. Granted, there was too much Freud thrown around then, but at least the emphasis was on growing through the struggle.

    If Rose had been born a few decades earlier she wouldn’t have been prescribed Zoloft (which didn’t even exist yet) nor had to endure an iatrogenic cascade and withdrawal. Psychiatry is the only field of medicine (sic) where instead of seeing progress we are regressing to deliberate ignorance.

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  • Thank you for sharing your story, Sammy. I wish I had good advice or referrals for you — it seems that most lawyers shy away from psychiatric abuse cases. You may wish to contact the people mentioned in the lawsuits I discussed, who perhaps can offer advice and referrals.

    If you wish to share your story in more detail for publication here at Mad in America, you can email me at [email protected].

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  • As someone prescribed Olanzapine for suspected “hypomania” (a misdiagnosis; I actually had a life crisis, perimenopause, and a vitamin B-12 deficiency…but I digress) I can confirm the stuff is poison, even after being on it for only about two weeks in 2008. Feeling somewhat calmer soon gave way to losing control of my memory and physical coordination, then worse and I wound up in the ER. Was told never to take it again; I dodged a bullet.

    Peter Simons, did the paper discuss the possible role of withdrawal in the subjects receiving placebo? (Withdrawal from the Zyprexa they had been on before being randomized into the control group.)

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  • This article by New York Times reporter Benedict Carey, who covers ‘mental health,’ psychiatry, etc., was published today:

    Apparently the predicted spike in acute and chronic ‘mental illness’ promoted in the articles I critiqued has not come to pass. In what seems like a turnabout for his profession, one psychiatrist Carey quotes says the following: “In most disasters, the vast majority of people do well…Very few people understand how resilient they really are until faced with extraordinary circumstances. In fact, one of our first jobs in these situations is to call attention to just that.”

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  • Steve, per your comment of being able to publish truth-revealing videos of people being shocked, restrained, isolated, before/after forced Haldol injection…I believe that would be very powerful and cause the public to wake up to the psychiatric abuse that is SOP rather quickly. Psych hospitals are like factory farms, where all cameras and most visitors are forbidden. At least with factory farms, we are able to learn of this abuse when someone sneaks in, makes a video, and smuggles it out (and is often later arrested). We need the 21st century version of journalist Nellie Bly (who exposed the horrors of a “madhouse” early in the 20th century by pretending to be “mad”) who can find a way to sneak that camera in and out. For now, words are our cameras.

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  • I don’t understand your comment, Streetphotobeing, because this storytelling platform is FOR telling about the harm psychiatry can inflict.

    If you mean psychiatry could come after a person who told their story under their own name, that is why MIA lets people use initials. But I do see the tension here, the privilege of being able to use one’s own full name as Sera mentions. I don’t think letting people write anonymously is the answer, either; it’s a discussion to be continued.

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  • I’ll leave it to Bob Whitaker to explain the reason behind the policy. I’m sure it’s not arbitrary. For starters, the use of some form of one’s real name is part of journalistic practice/ethics, and MIA is a news organization.

    My own take is that it’s a credibility issue: pseudonyms make it easier for readers (and the powers that be of psychiatry) to dismiss the true stories people tell: “If the names are fake, how do I know the story isn’t also?” I don’t condone that, but it’s a possibility we’d want to avoid.

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  • Hi Readers: If anyone would like to tell their story here and being identified is their main deterrent, we do have workarounds for you. MIA’s rule on pseudonyms does allow for people to disguise their identity through use of a vague version of their name (I’d be, say, M. Spencer or Miranda S.). And sometimes (as with Richard Francis) we let folks who’ve been published under a certain name elsewhere use that name here. Same with the image: Childhood photos, dressed in a hat and sunglasses, pictured in a crowd…authors may submit a photo that is both “them” and not immediately identifiable.

    Also, Sera, I greatly appreciate this essay and the extensive effort you put into thoughtfully answering each and every comment. As the long thread illustrates, this makes for a rich and constructive discussion from which we all benefit.

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  • Wonderful interview; very eye-opening.

    What he says about the Soviet Union –it promoted bio-psychiatry because “there are no social problems in our great nation!” –reminds me of the United States and the myth of exceptionalism. I think something similar is going on here: “America is a land of opportunity, a land of plenty! We have no social problems, so if you’re unhappy you must have a chemical imbalance.”

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  • I find this ad hominem attack on someone’s personal reproductive choices both offensive and irrelevant to this discussion.

    If you read Dr. Beurkens’ bio and visit her website, you’ll see that she has a holistic, integrative practice that looks for underlying causes of what gets labeled psychiatric and other behavioral issues and seeks to address those, in lieu of conventional psychiatry. This type of practice would seem to be something MIA readers could get behind.

    Even if you disagree, attacking someone’s family is below the belt, in my opinion.

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  • It’s kind of mind-blowing that the authors of this study don’t even consider the concept of overdiagnosis, given their results. It’s pretty obvious to me that if almost everyone qualifies as mentally ill at some point, then no one does. It’s a meaningless concept.

    Or rather, if we define MI as a deviation from the norm, but clusters of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors so defined turn out to be so common that they ARE the norm, then we should now define anyone NOT meeting the criteria for MI as mentally ill.

    The idea that we as a society allow a small guild (APA) to decide who’s normal and then build a “scientific” research enterprise around that is absurd.

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  • In my opinion, a figurative pox on both Jeffrey Lieberman and Bandy Lee! Both believe their “expertise” in the pseudoscience of psychiatry entitles them to exert a disproportionate influence on politics and public discourse.

    Should the APA be able to muzzle the group of psychiatrists who want to argue from authority that Donald Trump is dangerous? No. But Trump should not be removed because psychiatry says so, but because anyone with common sense can see that he’s incompetent, vicious, and a host of other adjectives unsuited to a president.

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  • This is the type of gaslighting that prevents stories like James’ from being believed and shared. This is his reality, and it doesn’t seem temporary. Noting the fact that drugs are dangerous — which is why he said he didn’t want to take them–doesn’t negate the fact that TMS is not always the miracle cure it’s purported to be.

    jjnoles, you’re earning a living from TMS; maybe step back and consider that where you stand depends on where you sit.

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  • Hi, Paula, sorry for the delay in replying.

    I mostly agree with you about putting quotes around psych diagnoses and have done so quite a bit in this article, but I diverge regarding the use of words like “anxiety” and “depression.” These are generic terms for real experiences (moods) that were in common use well before psychiatry co-opted them, added capital letters and billing codes, and turned them into diseases. Like “mad” and “queer,” I think we need to take these words back rather than use them only in the context of a medical construct or not at all.

    They’re indeed broad and not very specific, but at times I find them useful to concisely describe my own experience. “Anxiety” covers an overarching sense of dread and hyperarousal, and the word “depression” speaks to an overarching feeling of low mood, dark thoughts, and sluggishness.

    Regarding grief, this topic so far has been under-reported in the news media, although as the pandemic drags on I’m starting to see it mentioned more. I can’t speak for anyone else, but grief is the main emotion I am experiencing now. What I think the press needs to im-press upon the public is that people are going to react in a wide variety of ways and the same people will feel and act different on different days. I do better when the sun is out. Yesterday I could barely function, but I wasn’t too concerned because I knew this wasn’t a permanent state…I have enough experience with “mental health problems” and therapy to have faith in my own resilience.

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  • One thing that strikes me about TMS marketing is that the procedure is called “noninvasive.” Anything that purports to change one’s brain via sending electro-magnetic pulses through it is, by definition, invasive.

    Also, as has been documented repeatedly, it is primary-care doctors who often place people on the psychiatric treatment train, often quite casually as happened in James’ case. I imagine sales reps from TMS machine companies make the rounds of GPs just as pharma company reps do, assuring doctors that these newfangled devices are “safe and effective.”

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  • I’ve been noticing for some time how US medical websites purvey the standard pharma lines about “antidepressant” drugs, including the unproven statement that depression is a result of a chemical imbalance or genetic defect. It’s not hard see why this might be the case: Many of these allegedly objective medical websites, including and WebMD, are rife with pharmaceutical advertising.

    For example, I just checked the Mayo Clinic site’s page on “Major Depressive Disorder.” It includes an ad in a sidebar for Latuda, a neuroleptic drug sometimes prescribed to people with a depression diagnosis as well as other mental illness labels. These sponsor dollars surely exert an effect on the reader that reinforces the idea that psych drugs are necessary and safe, and help keep these websites in business. Follow the money.

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  • I would like to point readers to MIA’s Parent Resources section, which has many blogs, feature essays, Q&As, and a few videos and podcasts about non-pathologizing, non-drug approaches to helping kids with emotional and behavioral issues. Please explore and share widely!

    Dr. Paula J. Caplan’s “Talking About Psych Diagnoses and Drugs: A Primer for Parents & Professionals” is a great place to start. There’s also Dr Craig Wiener’s video series, “ADHD: A Return to Psychology,” which challenges the whole notion of the ADHD diagnosis so many kids are saddled with and advocates looking at what’s going on with the individual child. And the podcast “Stop the Psychiatric Abuse of Children,” with Drs. Peter Breggin and Michael Cornwall, on the threats from high-tech interventions and how to fight back. Just a start.

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  • This trend terrifies and enrages me. It’s also a bit absurd, assuming people aren’t even able to know their own moods without a tech assist from essentially an outsider.

    This article in today’s New York Times tells of a related phenomenon, government use of cell phone and other data to track people’s movements during the coronavirus crisis:

    The story notes, “[R]atcheting up surveillance to combat the pandemic now could permanently open the doors to more invasive forms of snooping later.”

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  • Thank you for this deconstruction. The final quote blew me away. The il-logic of it can be seen if we replace “psychiatric disorders” with “flying pigs”:

    “In our ongoing project to study and justify the nature of flying pigs, we ought to be broadly pragmatic but not lose sight of an underlying commitment, despite the associated difficulties, to the reality of flying pigs.” (p 5)

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  • I can’t speak for MIA in this case, but I just retweeted Leah Harris’ tweet of this shameful obit to the New York Times on my personal account. It included this comment: @nytimes, an obit is supposed to honor the dead’s accomplishments, not make attacks they cannot answer nor be “objectively balanced.” Remove Dr Shorter’s nasty comments from this, please!

    Feel free to retweet me or send your own tweet.

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  • I hadn’t realized Lady Gaga was on something as heavy as Zyprexa (olanzapine). When she starts gaining 80 lbs and experiencing rigid muscles, tremors, and inability to think straight–it pains me to think of it, she’s a very talented, bright woman–perhaps she will awake to her poisoning and join us on the survivors’ side.

    Neo_liberalism, Dr Caplan was on the DSM task force and left in disgust. Check out her book, They Say You’re Crazy for her detailed discussion of that period.

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  • I’ve ordered the book and look forward to reading it. In addition to its being an important addition to the canon of critical psychiatry books, it bears witness for people like me. Back in 2008, I was prescribed a high dose of this dangerous drug on the basis of a very quick and superficial intake after being told I was likely manic because I was highly agitated and could not sleep. Within days I was suffering tremors and inability to remember a conversation from five minutes ago. As I began to feel worse, I wound up in the ER and had to have the drug flushed out of my system. I was very lucky I was not forced to stay on it and experience the longer-term effects.

    As I understand it, at that time many other people were prescribed it as casually. Though Lilly had to pay a fine, the drug is still out there and being forced on people with impunity.

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  • I understood it to mean that well before people wind up at the doctor for their symptoms, negative experiences and exposures have already begun triggering changes in their brain and body. IE, a state of overwhelm starts a physical disease (or emotional dis-ease) process.

    Is that right, Dr. Stillerman?

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  • Thank you for your commments!

    Dr Peter Breggin has posted his new “TV” show about the topic of applying electricity to brains on YouTube. His special guests are Dr Cornwall and Dr Ken Castleman, an electrical engineer who used to work with NASA.

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  • Very good points, anomie.

    It chills me to read that Princeton University is perpetuating the unscientific chemical imbalance hypothesis and actively encouraging struggling students to take “meds” without also mentioning counseling and other supports.

    Consider, though: Princeton is located in central New Jersey. Central New Jersey is an epicenter of pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Collaborations between the two abound:

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  • Sunbelt Wellness, as you well know, ketamine (as distinct from eskatamine) is increasingly being used as a treatment for depression and PTSD, among other things. If you have an issue with the study itself I suggest you take that up with the authors.

    Reporting on new scientific findings should never be silenced because you think those findings might be stigmatizing; that’s censorship. Science is science; we may not always like what it tells us, but it gives us more information with which to make decisions.

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  • To Scary Black Kitten’s comment, I understand being leery of any biological explanations pointing to physical imbalances, given the myths perpetrated by psychiatry. But as someone who benefitted greatly from functional medicine myself when I was having a mental health crisis more than a decade ago, I think it’s a mistake to reject any and all medical explanations for our suffering.

    One important difference between the standard chemical-imbalance concept and the concepts of functional medicine is that the former has little evidence to back it up (including no blood tests) while the latter does. Our nutrition status and other health issues do affect how we feel emotionally and mentally, which is why too often medical problems are misdiagnosed as “mental illness.” Vitamin B12 deficiency, for example, can lead to brain fog and even psychosis-like symptoms. Too little or too much estrogen can wreak havoc with one’s mood, as most menopausal women can tell you.

    Also, psych drugs do not actually fix anything in our brain or elsewhere, whereas diet and nutrition and hormones (etc.) actually can correct underlying health issues, so a person is better positioned to address life problems that may be causing emotional distress and disability.

    Physical “imbalances” of this nature are real, but they are not the whole story. So while functional medicine may sometimes be necessary, it’s not always sufficient to lighten our soul’s burden.

    As to the cost, I was able to buy all the supplements and such prescribed to me because I was lucky enough to be economically privileged, with good health insurance. (I also had a doctor who knew the right codes to use for me to get at least some reimbursement.) As Elizabeth said, the only way to overcome the very high cost of tests and ‘treatment’ is for insurers to start covering them, which could save a tremendous amount of money in the long run. Or maybe we will get Medicare for All or even single-payer healthcare (one can dream)…

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  • Yes, I agree with you!

    Since, as I say, we are trying to reach a broad audience here — especially parents whose child has most likely received an OCD diagnosis–we use the term because it’s familiar to them and they will probably be using that as their search term. When editing, I often will phrase it as “diagnosed with” XX, rather than having XX, because the former is a fact and the latter is an opinion. It certainly is tricky, because by repeating the term OCD one in a sense reinforces it, and on the other –by conceptualizing it as an imaginary gremlin–it reframes the problem from a medical one to more of a “problem in living.”

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