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I certainly don’t want to be part of your version of that movement.
“But that’s ALL we’ll hear unless there’s plan in place and a clear direction”
That’s pretty much what I said above.
“Unless you’re talking about “ragging” without organizing and educating against psychiatry. ”
That’s precisely what I’m talking about. This website serves a critical function of educating people about corruption in the mental health industry, and in the medical industry as a whole. The articles stimulate discussions about what needs to change and about how to implement change. But I have been in many discussions here in which comments just degenerate into variations of “I hate psychiatry/psychiatrists”. The productive ideas get hijacked and the discussion gets cut off.
I don’t agree that psychiatry is a “stopgap measure to save capitalism”. It’s one of capitalism’s tool, like the prison system, like the tax code, like the school system, the military, etc. There’s a lot of unconsciousness motivating this whole system. I can’t speak very knowledgeably about that process, but it’s pretty clear to me that psychiatrists represent a cross section of humanity: dumb, lazy, corrupt, criminal, kind, caring, hard working, brilliant, etc. You also have to understand that doctors go through an indoctrination process similar to that which young military recruits go through. It starts before medical school, with the intense academic work and competition. Then you are admitted to this elite society on a provisional basis. For four years you are immersed in this system. Your entire existence has to do with Medicine. Then internships and residencies. Sleep deprivation, no time to be a normal human being. At the end of all that, you cannot help but be IN the system.
I went through veterinary school (actually I did my vet degree and PhD at the same time, so 2x as intense). The indoctrination is the same, the work, the struggle, the identity formation are all the same, maybe with a little less ego at the end. I’m not justifying the system; the system is broken. The way we grow our doctors is wrong. But that is how doctors are produced. It can take many years for a thinking person to peel off the shackles of that indoctrination. It’s a painful awakening.
Indoctrination is not a justification for harming others, but all you have to do is look around and see how much unconscious violence goes on in every part of society. It’s not just physicians. The medical societies absolve doctors of their violence against patients in the same way that religious societies absolve priests and pastors who are pedophiles. It’s all part of the same broken process. These inventions of human beings represent an aspect of the psyche of H. sapiens that is very dark. These patterns have been repeated throughout the history of hominids. If we don’t recognize that, we will only continue repeating that pattern, no matter how good our intentions are.
There are layers of complexity that need to be recognized and understood in order to make effective changes that last. Casting everything as either black or white, good or evil won’t allow us to make effective changes.
” I don’t see any magical path forward, especially with the huge majority of people being convinced daily that their efforts to assert their power are doomed to failure.”
I think it’s more that there’s not enough shared pain in this country yet. When serious pain starts to hit the major consumer base, we will hear more talk of real change. Middle class Americans are too comfortable in their delusions. Their comfort is being bought at a very high price–so many people are mortgaged and in debt up to their eyeballs because affordable housing has all but disappeared in many parts of this country and jobs are not paying enough for young people to maintain the lifestyle that they think they deserve. Many Millennials work two or three part time jobs with no benefits to try to create the illusion of middle class-ness. So many people have no savings, and the current administration is blatantly trying to destroy the social safety net while it destabilizes the dollar around the world. There are so many parts of our society that are teetering on the brink of disaster that the pain will be massive.
There is really very little that groups like us will be able to do to hasten this disaster. The system is imploding by its own design. They’re sticking chewing gum in the holes of the dike and they’re running out of chewing gum. And they know they built the dike with rotten cement.
That is why I am practically pleading with people to stop this constant ragging on psychiatry. It’s a waste of time. It serves no useful purpose other than to maybe assuage personal pain temporarily. We need ideas and creativity and constructive talk of how to rebuild or we will be left in the dust and someone else will decide what the next version of society will look like.
This is going to take many people with many different backgrounds and education who are willing to come together and discuss their ideas and develop a plan. It cannot just be an intellectual exercise. I’d like to think that there is time to experiment in small ways, but I don’t know. My crystal ball is on vacation…
One other thing, FB is a tool that is in place and accepted by many people, but it is very flawed. It’s useful for some things, but I don’t trust it. I really wish we could recreate somehow the “Salons” that were responsible for major social changes in the 1700s and 1800s. We have so tied ourselves to internet-based everything and so few are willing to have real social interactions anymore. I don’t know how to buck that trend. It is absurd to think that anonymous internet message boards can replace real face to face conversations. Social interactions have evolved over hundreds of millions of years. We are FAR more dependent on nonverbal communication than we would like to believe. How can we think that we can just toss that out in the space of 10-20 years?? That is true H. sapiens hubris! And yet, here we are having a discussion! 🙂
JClaude, Yes, there are many, many small revolutions taking place around the world. I recently read “Adults in the Room” by Yanis Varoufakis, the former economic minister of Greece. He describes the destruction of Greece by the EU and powerful European bankers. It is a frightening and heartbreaking story, but the outcome is a growing movement opposed to the terrorism of capitalism in the EU. Italy has also recently pushed back against the EU economic oppression. Hundreds of thousands of British people living in the EU have been virtually abandoned by Theresa May and pro-Brexiters in England, and there will be payback from that, too. There are many disturbing things going on all over the world with a rise of authoritarianism, which will lead to many people getting hurt. The pendulum will swing back eventually. How many swings of the pendulum H. sapiens can survive, I don’t know.
“There are many examples of alternatives to mainstream psychiatry both in time and within different countries across the world.”
Yes, and I hope to learn more about what is happening in Europe after I leave the US. I haven’t had time to do much reading recently, but I did read that because of a shortage of psychologists in Germany, and also the cost of accessing services, there are more underground alternatives springing up.
People who are experiencing emotional/psychic pain need support, understanding and help. We cannot simply reject all notions of help just because of some connection with the “Mental Health Industry”. What’s difficult is that people who are suffering are very vulnerable, and there is no dearth of criminals ready to take advantage of that vulnerability. Because of that, there still needs to be a structure with oversight to protect people from being hurt the way we have been. Is that even possible to do without recreating the same toxic patriarchal system we have now? I have no idea.
I sent you an email through your website…
Helpstillneeded, thank you. I’ve grown body armor, but it still covers up a lot of pain. I drop in here every once in a while to get beat up 🙂
It is heartbreaking to hear of your experience. I’m so sorry. I can say without a doubt that the trauma of my own multiple psychiatric hospitalizations was far worse that the trauma of years of being raped, which is what sent me into the nightmare of psychiatry. The trauma is so deep that I’ve never felt able to talk much about it even with my therapist, who is the only person I trust. The trust only goes so far, I guess.
Here’s a sentence from Wikipedia in their description of Semmelweiz that I find so interesting:
The rejection of Semmelweis’s empirical observations is often traced to belief perseverance, the psychological tendency of clinging to discredited beliefs. Also, some historians of science argue that resistance to path-breaking contributions of obscure scientists is common and “constitutes the single most formidable block to scientific advances.”
Yeah, no kidding! As in all things, those who point their fingers the most are only projecting their own internal bullshit. The “mental disease” that psychiatrists see in others is really their own.
I have said this elsewhere, as well. Our entire medical system is corrupted by money. I’ve been mutilated and disabled by orthopedic surgeons who are completely in the pockets of the prosthetic device industry. I’ve had 7 failed hip replacement surgeries. I have had toxic levels of cobalt and chromium in my blood for many years and didn’t even know it until someone bothered to check in 2014. My hips dislocate with the slightest provocation and I’ve been told there’s something wrong with “my physiology”. Right. There certainly is something wrong with my physiology NOW, but it’s a result of years of cobalt poisoning.
My heart and lungs have been damaged, all my other joints have been damaged by toxic cobalt levels. The information is in the medical literature! But even when I bring copies of medical journal articles demonstrating the toxicity of cobalt, my surgeons have refused to read them! Because–wait for it–I’m just a nutcase!
Anyone contemplating joint replacement surgery had better think twice about it and do a lot of research. Good luck finding an orthopedic surgeon who isn’t being paid as a “consultant” by the prosthetic device industry.
I will not stop saying this: targeting psychiatry for destruction is a waste of time. even targeting the entire “healthcare system” for destruction is a waste of time. All of this is a symptom of our capitalist economic system. We are all “profit centers” for someone else.
Actually, what I meant was “from the beginning of the field of psychiatry, it was co-opted by governments…” You’re correct, of course, and I think psychiatry is an offshoot of religion, or extension of religion.
All norms are arbitrary. I’m suggesting that those who have experienced what doesn’t work might have some better ideas about what might work. I’m not talking about “curing” or “eliminating” psychic suffering. That is a feature of humanity and it serves an important purpose, that of emotional and psychic growth. Psychic suffering is not an illness. A humane society would provide support, care, and understanding to those who are suffering, not punishment. The need to eliminate suffering or hide its presence comes from the fear that everyone eventually ends up immersed in this cauldron of suffering, like it or not. As I intimated above, those who have the audacity to suffer in public are punished and marginalized so everyone else can feel better, or tell themselves that they feel better (safer).
As difficult as my pain is and has been, even I see the value. It’s presented new and different choices to me for how to structure my life, choices that never would have appeared otherwise. It has not been easy and I sometimes wish I could melt into the comfortable sameness of society around me. But that’s not for me. Never has been.
I’ll check out your website
Don’t misinterpret what I said, which was to keep the bigger picture in mind. You certainly inserted so much more than what I actually said. I’m sitting here with 3 little dogs who are my sole motivation for staying alive. The idea that they are unconscious automatons never crosses my mind. They are far wiser than I am because they don’t bother themselves with the trappings of “consciousness”. Sorry you’re uncomfortable with my point of view, which is, in reality, that we should be spending our time inventing something new, not calling for the destruction of something that we do not have the power to destroy.
Yes, I do read the literature, since I’m a neuroscientist with 40+ years of research experience. By the way, it is just as important to keep the “scientific method” at arm’s length and to scrutinize carefully every new finding that’s publicized in the scientific literature. I do know how that game works. I also know that our biological explanations for psychic phenomena will always fall short of the mark.
I love how people tell me to go away because they are uncomfortable with what I say! I can’t even conform within a community of non-conformists!
The need to have everyone conform is primitive, a feature of the limbic system, and by no means limited to H. sapiens. A non-conforming individual in any community, any species, is to be feared because they are unpredictable, and therefore dangerous. We humans like to think that because of a very, very thin layer of cells in our brain (prefrontal cortex), we are somehow not subject to the same unconscious drives that other species are. That is a false assumption. Our development of language has allowed us to create all kinds of complex systems to obfuscate the fact that primitive unconscious drives are behind everything we do. Religion, government, economic systems, psychiatry, and more, all serve that function.
Also, don’t get caught in the trap of believing the words that the institution of psychiatry puts out there. They market themselves as being in the service of patients, but of course they are NOT! This survey makes that abundantly clear. Psychiatric medications are not designed to “help” patients. They are designed to make patients easier to control, more predictable, less “dangerous”. They benefit the families of the patients, the community they live in, society in general, the medical community, and certainly the drug companies. Many patients who take those drugs–probably the majority–believe that they are being helped, but that’s because they want to be conformists. The vast majority of the population wants to conform because of the fear of what will happen to them if they don’t. The damaged non-conformists are all around, reminding them of what will happen if they don’t conform!
The whole motivation for this website (I think) was to remind people of the history of psychiatry. From the very beginning, psychiatry was co-opted by governments to do the dirty work of eliminating people who are different from some arbitrary “norm”, as defined by whoever is currently in power, and to do it in a way that appeared palatable enough to society in general. Brilliant strategy, really, unless you’re one of the targeted individuals!
This is why I keep saying here (and keep getting stomped into the ground!) that it is useless to keep calling for the destruction of Psychiatry, or the entire “Mental Healthcare” structure. It’s like calling for the destruction of the military, because they too commit terrible atrocities. We have to keep in mind the big picture, including understanding the unconscious biological basis that drives so much of human behavior. If we ignore that, we’re just farting in the wind. It’s easier to call for the destruction of something than to engage in the process of inventing something new.
I’ll add another comment here and get myself in even bigger trouble, again.
This is all part of a growing push towards authoritarianism. I don’t claim to be an learned historian, but this waxing and waning of authoritarianism is a pattern throughout history. We’re definitely on the waxing side of that pendulum swing. Authoritarianism depends on a powerful “us vs them” mentality to survive. “Conformers vs Non-conformers” is another way to put it. People with “mental illness” diagnoses are non-conformers. Punishing non-conformers makes the conformers feel safer. The seeming exponential growth in DSM diagnostic categories is a sign of the growing fear of conformers, who need ever larger numbers of people to punish in order to tame their fears.
In a capitalist/consumerist society the fear is defined as “not having enough”. It’s realistic because the population of H. sapiens is 2-3 times the ideal carrying capacity of the earth, and it’s projected to continue to grow in this out of control way. You’d have to be asleep at the wheel to not have noticed how this is playing out like a Greek tragedy in our government today: the extreme push to consolidate wealth by those in power, the extreme need by those in power to generate many populations of enemies.
Of course the “conformers” are constantly worried that they will be found out! That they are actually “non-conformers”! So they try extra hard to prove that they are conformers. How? By zealously punishing “non-conformers”! And in their zealous behavior, they begin to look more and more like “non-conformers”. It’s the image of the monster consuming itself. Stable genius, anyone??
Does anyone really think our government, our society, will happily remove a handy dandy population of “enemies”, “non-conformers,” that they can punish to tame their fears and quiet their anxieties (and fatten their bank accounts)??
Yes, it’s pessimistic! But I think it’s too easy to lose sight of the bigger picture here, because most of us are in intolerable pain as a result of being victimized by this system. If change is possible, it will NOT come from within the system and it will NOT happen without recognition of the larger forces at work. Leave the system intact. None of us can topple this system. The government, the legal system, consumer organizations, whatever, no one will help topple this system, because whether they are conscious of it or not, THEY DON’T WANT TO!
Go outside the system and start something new. If it’s effective, it will drain resources from the old system, which will, eventually, shrivel up and die. Just don’t expect them to not fight back when they start feeling the pinch.
wow, this really triggered a lot of awful stuff in me. It’s always there, anyway, every single day.
I was going to suggest maybe publishing this in a medical journal instead of on a website where most/all of the readers already know these things. But, no, it’s not a good way to spend your time. (1) it would never get published, (2) even if it were published, it wouldn’t change anyone’s mind, because doctors don’t believe anything that “mentally ill” people say. It’s a perfect self-perpetuating system!
“Human beings should never be treated that way. I am still dealing with trauma. Currently living in denmark due to fear of ever going back to a mental hospital in the states.”
Yup, I’m counting the days till I leave. The fear consumes me some days.
I pretend a lot that it’s not there. I try to even fool myself. Doesn’t work too well. But I pretend that I’m fooling myself haha. Multiple layers of foolishness…
Maybe someone has mentioned this already (I’m too tired to read all the comments above): As long as there is money to be made by harming people in this fashion, the system will not change. The voracious monster of capitalism consumes everything in its path, even the individuals who think they’re running the show. The prison system, “mental health care” system, and now there’s a private system profiting from imprisoning helpless immigrant children. No doubt psych drugs and sexual abuse are part of that system, too. This monster will even consume itself when there’s nothing else left. What happens when it eats everything up to its mouth?? Interesting image…
Good luck going through the legal system to try to stop this from happening. the legal system is clearly in the service of promoting abuse for profit. It suits their bottom line.
So what’s the answer? Evolution, maybe?? Having made it through another “Christmas” (ie., the biggest unconscious capitalist extravaganza of the year), I’m staggered again by the huge percent of the population that so easily slides into unconscious knee-jerk mode when the appropriate triggers are applied. I’m pretty pessimistic about any big changes coming down as long as Homo sapiens ver 1.0 is still running the show.
Re: Szasz…I just didn’t want to write a thesis. As you’ve probably noticed, I tend to get a bit carried away. It’s difficult to do him justice in a blog comment and I’m also tired tonight.
well, no, not contradictions. Maybe I should have been more clear, but I’m using the term “dis-ease” in a way that is not at all the same as a medically diagnosed “disease”. My definition of dis-ease flows from Jungian analytic theory as a state of being in which there is incongruence between the overall “Self” and one or more parts of the Self, one of which Jung called the ego, but there can be many others. Actually, I don’t know if that would be “standard” Jungian analytic theory. I don’t claim any expertise, just some familiarity and fascination with his ideas. However, that is how I experience what I call psychic dis-ease.
Here’s an example: Ego: “We need more money!” Self: “No, we have enough.” Ego: “How do you know?? We might run out of money!!” Self: “No, we’ll be fine.” Ego: “But we might END UP HOMELESS!! We might STARVE TO DEATH!!” Self: “We’ll manage.”
Note: histrionic, fear based ego, anxiety driven behavior leading to over-working, physical symptoms, obsessive compulsive kinds of behavior, poor decision making, etc. In this example, the whole premise of not having enough money has no basis in objective reality, but the ego doesn’t see it that way. Other times, Self may agree with ego, saying “yeah, we should probably either make more money or spend less.” Then the ego is HAPPY because it gets to go into executive mode and organize, plan, and make things happen!
In the first case, the behaviors and symptoms generated by the unhappy ego might receive a diagnosis of “mental illness” by a shrink requiring medication or worse, whereas a good psychotherapist might help sort out what’s generating the unhappiness and then help to unravel it.
Of course, things can get a lot weirder than that, but it always seems to be some kind of incongruence between what the Self knows and what some part (complex, according to Jung) thinks it knows, leading to uncomfortable emotions, unhelpful behaviors, various physical symptoms, etc., any or all of which could receive medical diagnoses.
That was a long-winded explanation of how I view two separate concepts: disease vs dis-ease.
I am familiar with the writing of Dr. Szasz; again, not in any expert way, but I read a lot. I think that much of what he wrote is interesting and has merit, but his ideas are not universally accepted, or maybe I should say that not all of his ideas are universally accepted.
I am, happily, not an expert in any of these ideas of mind, psyche, psychopathology (for those who believe that exists), etc. My research training is in behavioral neuroscience, very much the nuts and bolts of the brain, with occasional forays into mind stuff. But as my life unfolded into the brutal world of psychiatry, “mental illness”, psychosis, and every bad thing that happens when those 3 come together, I struggled a long time to make sense of what was happening and what it meant. Nuts and bolts explanations just didn’t cut it for me.
I have read and continue to read a lot. All these great thinkers have contributed ideas to help make sense of the human experience. Some things I don’t agree with, some things I do, but it’s all valuable. All of it helps me make sense of my own experiences, although there are some experiences that will never make sense. I’ve also learned that sometimes there are genuine reasons to be paranoid. There is evil in the world.
Yes, I agree, psychiatry IS defective in its basic premises. But more and more, I am coming to believe that all of Medicine is defective in its basic premises. Every illness has a dollar (or euro or whatever currency) value attached! That is so bizarre to me. It evokes images of walking down the breakfast food isle in a grocery store, thinking to myself “there’s nothing to eat, it’s all junk food!”
How do we know what “illness” is? Is it a commodity? Absolutely it is! The concept that every illness has a currency value is so ingrained in almost all modern human cultures that we don’t even SEE that it’s going on! That brings us back to capitalism, and I think I’d better stop writing!
You misinterpreted what I wrote. Sugar is a nutrient substance. Ingestion is optional because our bodies generate “sugar”, ie, glucose, and-normally-rigorously control the amount that floats around in our bloodstream. So, there really is no VALUE in ingesting various forms of sugar. Refined sugar has no nutritional value. Our bodies can handle ingestion of small amounts, but regular ingestion of large amounts of various forms of sugars, as well as simple starches (grains, potatoes, etc) can lead to metabolic disorders.
The fact that ethanol isn’t defined as a “drug” is a political and cultural convenience with a long history. I’m neither condoning nor condemning that.
Also, the fact that nutrition education in this country is wholly inadequate is really irrelevant to this discussion.
I’m not disagreeing with you that forcing someone to be exposed to a toxic substance is absolutely wrong and is a human rights issue. However, to assume that someone is knowledgeable enough about the effects of a prescription drug, based on the information his or her doctor provides when writing a prescription, is making a huge leap.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I do not think that most people have an adequate understanding of biochemistry and physiology to allow them to make informed decisions about the risks of taking medications (psych or non-psych). My own experience is that a shocking number of my own physicians do not know enough about the medications they prescribe that would allow them to adequately inform their patients. Studies have shown that on average, doctors’ information is something like 17 years behind the times! Most doctors do not read the medical literature and they do not have adequate training in experimental design and statistical analysis. Doctors rely on “expert panels” of other doctors to tell them what they need to know in their daily practice of medicine. Unfortunately, those “expert panels” can have economic conflicts of interest, and recommendations can end up being very industry-favorable, to the detriment of patients.
Of course, people can make their own decision whether to take or not take a prescription medication, just as they are free to make their own personal decisions about nonprescription substances they ingest, whether to jump out of airplanes for fun, have unprotected sex with strangers, etc! That does not mean they are adequately informed about the risks of any of that, though. But access to prescription medications is controlled by the medical profession, whereas access to other potentially dangerous substances and activities is not. The medical profession has a burden of responsibility as the gatekeepers of access to prescription medications. That is the issue being discussed here.
I’m not sure that eliminating the term (mental illness) will solve the problem. Psychic dis-ease does seem to exist. Really, the whole concept of illness needs to be exploded. It is confined in the straitjacket of biochemistry, imposed, ultimately, by capitalist interests. Capitalism eliminates creative thought. Thinking takes time and energy away from producing and consuming–the only things that matter in a capitalist society.
Medical technology has taken on god-like proportions: drugs, diagnostics, bionic parts, artificial intelligence, robotics, and on and on. All the shiny new toys have so limited our concept of humanity and life in general that we can’t even imagine something greater than an assembly of bits that ultimately can be thoroughly described, understood, replaced, perfected. This is what the field of medicine has become. There is nothing of Healing left in medicine today. It’s just another industrial process. The field of psychology is no different, although there are perhaps more independent thinkers who are psychologists than medical doctors.
But again, as I’ve said before here and elsewhere, banishing the term “mental illness” or destroying the field of psychiatry won’t change anything unless we acknowledge that there is a systemic defect that allows–or requires–these things to be created in the first place. If society needs a subcategory of people to bear the burden of society’s inability to take responsibility for the harm it causes individuals, it will continue to create that. Just read history! Witches, sorcerers, practitioners of black magic, etc.: categories of people who were misunderstood, feared and persecuted.
It’s easy for those of us in the current version of the “misunderstood, feared and persecuted” subcategory to get mired in our own pain and fear and to try to lash out and destroy that which hurt us. But we are the ones who have to take the conversation to the next level and insist that the focus be broadened and deepened to include scrutiny of the defect in Homo sapiens that allows individuals to shirk responsibility when functioning as part of the “herd”.
Developing better Informed Consent forms is a version of micro-managing the defect. Yes, in some respects, it is necessary because the abuse has become so critical and people are suffering and dying. But micro-management without the macro-view is destined to fail. Who is having this discussion on a larger scale–a more visible public forum? I honestly don’t know. Like everyone else, at least part of me lives in my own personal bubble of fear for my own safety and the daily grind of survival. Online forums, like this one, are a good start, but they become too insular and only offer an illusion that the discussions here matter to anyone outside this tribe.
If you do a broad internet search on “the meaning of illness” you get mostly dictionary definitions! There is a paper published in The BMJ in 2011 that touched on the problem of medicalization of conditions not previously perceived as “illnesses” and the economic factors driving this. But that is still only a part of the larger concept of “dis-ease”, whether or why we need that concept, and the various forms of value (not just economic) that flow from having this concept.
Maybe it’s just too big a chunk to bite off…
Are you familiar with Slavoj Zizek? He is a prolific writer, not a fan of capitalism, AT ALL. His writing can be very dense, but provocative. Very interesting person. I’ve waded through some of his books. Zizek is a philosopher and also trained in Lacanian psychoanalysis. I’ve dipped my little toe in Lacanian psychoanalytic theory and decided that I’d have to learn French before I could really get into Lacan’s work.
Yanis Varoufakis is another “real” socialist progressive who is an excellent writer. He was the finance minister of Greece during the period when the EU was destroying Greece’s economy, so he writes from a different perspective than Zizek, but equally provocative. If you haven’t read “Adults in the Room”, it is a real life, true story about the absolute destructiveness of capitalism. You can’t help to see the parallels with what’s going on in the US.
Be careful not to conflate prescription medications that have, as Steve says above, “the veneer of respectability as treatments for pseudo-medical diagnoses”, with over-the-counter substances that one can easily obtain without the blessing (or condemnation) of the medical profession.
Sugar is a “nutrient substance”; not a healthy one in the quantities that are ingested in the Western world, but it’s not a drug.
Ethanol certainly could be classified as a drug, and yet for many people, low to moderate exposure does not carry significant health risks. Ethanol abuse certainly does, and what you are describing above are consequences of ethanol abuse. The same argument could be used for cannabinoids, although that’s not a popular sentiment these days. Nevertheless, occasional moderate use by adults likely has no long-term adverse effects. Cannabinoid abuse can have adverse effects.
Psychopharmaceuticals are targeted specifically to disrupt neurotransmitter systems. They are, in fact, highly toxic, although some people are more tolerant than others. For the most part, they are only (legally) available by prescription.
There are many substances that are toxic when misused, but can be obtained without the intervention of medical professionals. The point is that society cannot keep people from choosing to be stupid and damaging or killing themselves. But many people, if not most, still trust and depend on the judgement, education and ethical standards of medical professionals where prescription medications are involved. When medical professionals allow financial and other conflicts of interest to get in the way of their judgement and ethics, then there is real cause for alarm.
Oh, I should add this comment based on the riff above on “it’s the patient’s fault”
The last orthopedic surgeon I consulted about the worsening pain and dysfunction in my hips told me that I would have to have them both replaced again. That would make NINE total hip replacements. I can’t even get my head around that. When I tried to have a discussion with him about the culpability of defective prosthetic devices causing these repeated failures (BTW, I have no pending or planned lawsuit over any of that), he denied that that could possibly be the cause and then said:
“THERE MUST BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOUR PHYSIOLOGY”
“Why not just say, “My treatment failed” or “I don’t know how to help you?” At least that keeps alive the idea that someone else might have a better idea.”
But Steve, that’s too rational!!
I’m a couple decades out from the intense polypharmacy of psych drugs inflicted on me, including injectable depot haldol. Intense, intense misery. I still suffer bouts of akathisia, and it can be triggered by “non-psych” medications, or for no obvious reason. Of course, many people don’t realize that many “non-psych” drugs do enter the brain and have effects, even some antibiotics.
I finally spent the money to go out of network to a doctor trained in both internal medicine and integrative medicine. Very smart woman who thinks outside the box. She ran lots of tests (Genova Diagnostics has some excellent tests that provide a much more comprehensive metabolic and endocrine profile). The whole thing was interesting, but one that stood out and shocked my very experienced MD was that I have extremely low levels of dopamine metabolites in my urine. She told me that she only sees that in her patients with severe Parkinson’s Disease! Of course there are potential explanations other than low dopamine production in my brain, but my symptoms correspond to low CNS dopamine production. Shocking and terrifying.
Also, I have bizarre paradoxical reactions to preanesthetic and anesthetic drugs that a very experienced psychiatrist told me he had never seen in 30 years of practicing psychiatry, but these are the kinds of things that happen when your neurotransmitters are totally screwed up.
There are reports in the medical literature documenting permanent brain damage by neuroleptic drugs. Psychiatrists prescribe these and other psychopharmaceuticals in combinations that defy rational thought processes. Throw a little (or a lot) of ECT into that mix and it is nothing short of medical malpractice.
The field of psychiatry is trapped in it’s own delusional world view and psychiatrists are causing widespread, intense suffering…and death. The fact that they have created this delusional world view to boost their financial bottom line makes it criminal.
HOWEVER, psychiatry is not the only field of medicine that indulges in intentionally delusional thinking in order to hide massive financial conflicts of interest. Take a peek behind the curtain of implanted prosthetic devices and you will find the same morass. As one who has had 7 failed hip replacements, accompanied by heavy metal toxicity, tissue and bone destruction, and nerve damage, I have personal experience wading in that swamp.
I have mixed feelings about this. I guess it’s a start, but I don’t see how “informed consent” can work in any realistic way. It doesn’t work with non-psych medication prescriptions, and in psychiatry there is the additional problem that anyone who has been given a psychiatric diagnosis is assumed by many psychiatrists and other doctors to be incompetent in some way and therefore not capable of making rational decisions about their own healthcare. Very convenient, eh?
The real problem I have with this, though, is that it proceeds from the premise that psychiatric diagnoses have something to do with real illnesses that can be treated with medication. That is absolutely false. Psychiatric medications do have a function, or actually several functions, none of which are related primarily to helping the targeted individual. First and foremost is that these drugs make MONEY for the pharma companies and other businesses downstream from the pharma companies: drug reps, magazines & journals that advertise the drugs, medical associations, prisons and other quasi-governmental agencies that need to control people, and of course, psychiatrists and other doctors who prescribe them. That function is so overwhelmingly powerful that any attempt to limit or control the use of these drugs will fail.
In fact, it could be argued that any other function of these drugs is related to this primary function, although there are non-monetary functions as well. These drugs function to promote the belief that mental illnesses are biochemical illnesses, thus alleviating anyone outside of the “designated patient,” including society in general, of any responsibility in creating the distress in individuals. This function is required by psychiatry because it justifies the continued existence of the field itself, within the current medical model that all illnesses are of biochemical origin. (Note that I am not denying the existence of biochemical factors in illnesses, but the sole focus on inherent biochemical defects has obliterated any alternative discussions about the origin of illness, to the detriment of everyone.) Psychiatry does not have to justify its existence in this way, but it has chosen its own fate. Psychiatrists used to be the primary providers of talk therapies for distressed people, and a small minority still do that, but greed, laziness, and other corrupting factors pushed the field into this fake biochemical model and now it’s stuck with this albatross.
Within the much larger perspective, societies have a need to control their members. This is true in ALL social structures, not just human social structures. This function has evolved with life itself as a way to protect and promote the continued existence of species. This is true for both plant and animal life. For Homo sapiens this function has led to the development of agriculture, governments, organized religions, etc. The concept of “mental illness” is a recent “invention” that has evolved as a way to marginalize and control individuals that don’t conform to societies’ designated norms, and therefore are considered “dangerous”.
Although society itself has created the distress that individuals experience, the designation of illness makes “mentally ill” people disposable, especially those who are so disabled by their distress that they can no longer contribute (economically, in a capitalist society). But wait! Society has created a way for mentally ill people to contribute! Mentally ill people are consumers of drugs, thereby contributing income for many, many other members of society. This allows society to continue to avoid acknowledging its own brutality. Society gets to pat itself on its back proclaiming “Aren’t we kind and compassionate to take care of our members in this way!”
This function of the designation of “mental illness” and the important role it plays in society is rarely acknowledged, or even made conscious. As content on this website clearly indicates, though, there are severe downsides to this concept of mental illness for both individuals and society itself, but the concept has taken on a life of its own because of the economic drivers in the equation.
Is it possible to change this grindingly huge monster?? Pecking away at peripheral factors, like suggesting that there can be “informed consent” for these drugs falls way short of the mark. Really, at least in my view, the only “informed consent” would be: “You don’t need this drug. Don’t take it.” But that is also incredibly naive because so much of society is unconscious of the bigger picture. So, what’s the answer??
“The greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved but only outgrown.” Carl Jung
Each individual must do the hard work of becoming conscious of what society does not want to be made conscious. Of course, that makes one even more of an outcast, even more dangerous. It’s a desperate dance.
This seems pertinent to this discussion, right out of the recent issue of Psychiatric Times:
“A new Lancet Commission report on mental health said that mental disorders are on the rise in every country in the world and will cost the global economy $16 trillion by 2030. The economic cost is primarily due to early onset of mental illness and lost productivity, with an estimated 12 billion working days lost due to mental illness every year……
The report shows that in many countries, people with mental disorders still routinely suffer gross human rights violations—including shackling, torture, and imprisonment. Bringing attention to these kinds of abuse and discrimination, the Commission calls for a human rights-based approach to ensure that people with mental health conditions are not denied any of their fundamental human rights—not just to health but also to employment and education, among others.”
Now, I don’t mean to detract from attention on human rights violations perpetrated against people with “mental illnesses” in some third world countries, but there are many of us within “first world countries” who have suffered gross human rights violations, such as painful restraints, torture by medication and medical devices (ie, ECT), sexual assault, and imprisonment.
The members of this special Commission need to look right in their own backyard, in their own psychiatry training programs, within their own oversight of acceptable psychiatric practices and do a whole lot of house cleaning.
What a bunch of cynical bloviators.
My Dx ended up in my record at the Big Corporate University Medical Practice (that has bought up most of the independent medical practices in this state) by “accident”. My records from a previous doctor whom I entrusted with that info got sent to a doctor within the Big Corp Medical Practice. My previous doctor had retired and instead of his office having control over my records, the records of all his patients were turned over to some medical records management company that had no interest in being careful about what info got sent to whom. In fact, I didn’t even realize the Big Corp Med Practice had requested those records, but there was some signature on some paper somewhere that gave them carte blanche to obtain any and all previous medical records when I went through the grueling process of applying for disability!
It’s shocking how many people know my Dx without me disclosing that information. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the 1980s. I was a fairly prominent young neuroscientist at the time. The shrinks at the Big University Psych Hospital where I was incarcerated gave a grand rounds presentation featuring me, and colleagues of mine at that university ended up attending! That was the end of my career, in reality, even though I did continue to work. I try not to think about that very often because it makes me feel suicidal.
Never, Never, Never assume that you have any privacy in any aspect of your life, especially now with everything digital.
By the way, don’t assume that doctors appreciate smart, educated people. Most don’t, especially smart educated women who don’t let them get away with sloppy BS. They are very insecure and enjoy their massive power trips. I told one doctor I would have failed him in physiology if he had been in one of the classes I taught. I wasn’t always such a b*tch on wheels, but I finally gave up trying to be a compliant nice patient. Best thing I ever did.
All mental health/mental illness diagnoses are completely arbitrary and subjective. I challenge anyone to demonstrate with a high degree of confidence that the biochemical, physiological and/or anatomical changes that are supposedly associated with particular mental illness diagnoses are not a result of physical, emotional, and/or economic abuse, rather than being the inherent defect leading to development of mental illness.
There is no way to conclusively separate cause and effect when society refuses to acknowledge the existence of the major driver of mental “illness”: societally-sanctioned abuse aimed at those who do not conform with the societally-sanctioned world view.
Furthermore, the stress associated with being labeled with a diagnosis that is overwhelmingly associated with stigma and discrimination can lead to further biochemical and anatomical changes in the brain, as well as as the rest of the body.
BINGO!! Steve, you win the prize!
Always check the Dollars for Docs website before going to ANY physician:
It’s not perfect–there are many creative ways to take bribes–but at least it’s a good starting point.
Also, look up any of their publications and check the section on conflicts of interest.
Good luck finding a doc without a conflict of interest!
I totally agree! Ignorance and arrogance is a deadly combination in medical professionals.
This makes me weep:
“The patient whose iatrogenic AKATHISIA is misdiagnosed as emergent “Severe Mental Illness” –
(“Bipolar Disorder”, “Schizoaffective Disorder”, “B.P.D.” ) – is not only incarcerated and forced to ingest more and more AKATHISIA inducing drugs, they are also labelled for life as societal rejects.
Forcibly subjected to physical, social, psychological, economic, relationship injury and deprivation.
They are sentenced to be disbelieved, rejected, ridiculed, blamed and no longer worthy of compassionate, empathetic day to day, year to year, routine medical care and attention for the rest of their lives. ”
I was incarcerated in a mental hospital in the 1980s, unable to get myself out until a colleague from my research profession recommended that I hire an external psychiatrist to help me fight the institutional psychiatrists. I finally was released, but this horror has remained with me to this day, and I am terrified that it could happen again, now that my psychiatric diagnosis has been entered into my permanent medical record.
I have been forcibly drugged, put in restraints, subjected to ECT against my will, sexually abused, and humiliated in so many ways by “mental health professionals” that I will never recover from the trauma. I was able to continue working in my profession, but just a few years ago I discovered just after my boss died that he had disclosed my psychiatric diagnosis to many of my colleagues! The truth of this sentence: “Forcibly subjected to physical, social, psychological, economic, relationship injury and deprivation” has so tangibly played itself out in my life.
I am in my mid-60s now, so I’ve survived more successfully than many with similar experiences. I read a lot and work with a Jungian analyst, so I have a wider perspective on much of this; nevertheless, I remain terrified of the medical profession, so much so that I will be leaving the country (as I describe in another post below) to escape both my medical record and the far too many people who know of my diagnosis.
There ARE compassionate doctors, including a few psychiatrists, but far too few to protect us. Medical education is now under the control of Big Pharma, Big Medical Device Companies, and worst of all, Big Medical Insurance Companies. The “healing profession” no longer exists in this country.
Thank you for this. It does not take long for these drugs to cause permanent damage. But I don’t know which is worse: the neurological damage caused by psychiatric drugs or the psychiatric diagnoses that act like nuclear weapons dropped into a person’s life.
I had the interesting experience of managing to keep my psychiatric diagnoses out of my general medical records until just a few years ago when I had to apply for disability (resulting from multiple failed surgeries, another horror story). I went from being treated like a colleague, or at least an intelligent, knowledgeable, believable human being, to being subjected to outrageously disrespectful behavior from ALL medical personnel. I have 2 doctorates, one of which is a medical degree. I know more about the conditions affecting me than 90+% of doctors I go to. And yet now that my psychiatric diagnosis is plastered all over my medical records, I am treated like an imbecile, at best; a criminal, at worst.
My life has been put in danger, just like the author’s has, because of stigma, discrimination, and arrogant ignorance of medical professionals. It has gotten so bad that I will be leaving this country forever so that I can escape my medical record. How outrageous is that?? To have to leave the country to escape the death sentence of institutionalized discrimination dictated by a few words in one’s medical record…
Psychiatry, and in fact medical practice in general, have not advanced since the Nazi-era abuses. All the technological toys just hide the blunt truth. Torture by medication is now acceptable medical practice. Denial of medical care because of outrageous discrimination based on ignorance is obviously being taught in medical schools. In reality, this is a systemic problem in our society: hatred generated by fear of something/someone different. Until Homo sapiens evolves beyond limbic system domination over “thought processes”, nothing will change.
My university library online access only goes back to the 1980s for that journal, but you should be able to go to your local public library and request a copy through interlibrary loan.
Do you have the citation for the quote by Chris Hedges? I’d like to read the whole article. He is a prolific writer who speaks the truth! The quote you provided is so on point!
What are you, the word gestapo?? Well, just for your edification, the term mental health requires no more special designation than does the term physical health. Or are we required to use only the state approved words and express the state approved ideas here now?
This is a great example of exactly what I have said elsewhere on this site, that psychiatry is not the problem. The problem is power and control and who gets to wield them. If you destroy the field of psychiatry, something just as toxic will rush in to fill the vacuum. Our society is dominated by insecure, small minded people who feel so threatened by people with ideas different from theirs that they have to eradicate them in some way. Dominate the airwaves with only one message; that’s the ticket!
How very interesting that you are becoming that which you so vehemently profess to despise and want to destroy: people who need to control others’ thoughts and ideas and the ways they express them.
All roads seem to lead to the same hell, don’t they??
This site used to welcome people with different ideas. Well, I don’t want to be part of your herd any more than I want to be part of anyone else’s.
You know, this had some real possibilities to become a fruitful discussion about communication style in altered states and the process of listening. I thought what the OP had written was very interesting. I was so hoping this wouldn’t devolve into the usual rant about psychiatry is evil, psychiatrists are evil, we need to destroy the field of psychiatry. So much for that hope.
It’s a mystery to me why some people who so obviously hate everything about the whole mental health field keep hanging around a website dedicated to a wide range of discussions about mental health and what that means in our society. So many of these discussions end up being hijacked by the same people proclaiming the evils of psychiatry.
I am no apologist for psychiatry. I could be a card carrying victim of psychiatry if I chose to be, but I don’t choose to be a victim of anything. One of the take home messages of the article above is that active listening is important. There were several people who contributed thoughtful comments to the discussion. If y’all had bothered to “listen”, we could have had an interesting discussion about communication and the authenticity of listening. How ironic!
Actually, this is one of the more coherent discussions on this website!
I speak psychotic, well, at least I certainly know what I mean.
I can also speak “normal” and “science”
Just keep em guessing!
Psychosis is the result of seeing deeply in a brutal and insane world. There is truth in all delusions, which are, after all, the result of one’s life experiences. It’s just that “normal” people don’t want to see. My world is not incomprehensible. The other world, the “normal” world, is the incomprehensible world. So “normal” people have to turn themselves into zombies so they don’t have to see, don’t have to acknowledge the reality of others’ experiences, or their own, for that matter. That’s how the insanity persists. Just a bit of cognitive dissonance there. A + B = C but only when someone else says it does…
So which time does it equal C and which time doesn’t it??? There’s no mathematical formula, it’s just insanity.
Abolishing the institutionalization of slavery did not change the institutionalization of racism, which is a large part of what drives slavery. And we really haven’t “abolished” slavery. It still exists, even in this country. It is just more hidden and it has a different label.
This is exactly what I mean. The inherent defect that allows humans to abuse and exploit other humans (and other species) is what needs to be addressed. That doesn’t mean that we wait until we can figure that out before we take action to protect those who are vulnerable. But the desire to destroy an institution and the practitioners or members within that institution just because we’ve decided that the entire thing is evil is no different from the desire to destroy a religion because we decide it’s dangerous (Islam, for example), or the desire to destroy people who have a certain skin color/speak a different language/have a different culture because some members of those groups do bad things (immigrants, for example).
Becoming a member of a group that claims victimization by another group is the way that we humans justify punishing or destroying others. Those attitudes play out in every day life for every one of us. How can we claim to be different from those who want to destroy/control/change us, ie., “mentally ill individuals”, when we are saying we want to do exactly the same thing to them?????
Sorry, I see that as blatant hypocracy.
Wow, every time I visit this website I get discouraged by the narrowness of the discussion about abolishing psychiatry. The black or white, all or nothing approach. Kill psychiatry, punish psychiatrists… Are people here so fortunate that they’ve never had to experience abusive treatment by physicians in other fields of medicine? Do people who post here believe that psychiatric medications are the only ones that are toxic and kill people? that only psychiatric diagnoses and treatments can be considered bogus and nonscientific? that psychiatrists and the mental health industry are the only ones hyper-motivated by profit in the overall health “care” industry?
As someone who has suffered permanent physical (and emotional and cognitive) harm as a result of being poisoned by my metal hip prosthesis, I find it very difficult to have such a narrow view. Abuse and corruption have infiltrated all fields of medicine, not just psychiatry.
Just for the record, I’ve experienced the whole range of abusive, damaging psychiatric “treatment”, so I could be right at home with all the rage-filled vengeful anti-psychiatry people.
Personally, though, I have to say that I’ve had extremely competent, caring and compassionate doctors in all fields of medicine, including psychiatry and psychology. I’ve also had extremely abusive, incompetent, practically criminal doctors in all fields of medicine, including psychiatry and psychology.
Well, for that matter, I’ve met competent, caring, compassionate human beings, as well as incompetent, abusive, hate-filled human beings, in all walks of life.
So where does that lead me to in this whole discussion?? If I were to take the argument to its extreme, maybe I would conclude that all of Homo sapiens should be obliterated to remove the “bad” ones. Well, I admit, sometimes I do think a good sized asteroid on a collision course with earth is way past due. However, that doesn’t provide a solution to anything going on in real time.
I am not convinced that “abolishing” anything is the answer. Human beings create institutions that are reflections of themselves, and human beings are inherently flawed. I guarantee that abolishing anything will leave a vacuum that will end up being filled with the same exact thing with a different label on it. Until the discussion changes from “let’s destroy this” to “let’s figure out why we keep creating these abusive systems”, nothing will improve.
Over the long term Homo sapiens needs to make an evolutionary leap so that we don’t keep creating abusive institutions. However, I think (or hope) that we do now have the ability to make a conscious choice in how we act and what we create. Although it may feel good to blow something up, obliterate it, I think we are much more likely to have lasting positive effects by making small incremental changes over a longer term. Often, those small incremental changes set the stage for a quantum leap in evolution, but you can’t force that quantum leap if you haven’t built the base. So whoever it was above who suggested a 10,000 year time frame for change was probably quite accurate. Sorry, it won’t happen in our lifetime. But that doesn’t mean that our suffering and activism are without value in contributing to overall progress.
Wow, thank you for your work on this. Forced hospitalization and forced treatment can take many forms, including “if you don’t agree to a course of ECT we will have you committed…” it’s like POWs being forced to sign “confessions” or face more torture, except in this case (for me) it was forced torture or face months, years incarcerated against my will.
How on earth can you protect vulnerable terrified people from that?
It is going to take forces external to this country now to make the US the “beacon” of freedom that it claimed to be for so long.
Thank you so much, Jody, for helping to shine some light on this abomination.
I just recently learned about this and the abuse of guardianship to make a profit by institutionalizing older people. I have to say that I am terrified of this. It would be incredibly easy for this to happen to me by someone scouring my medical records and getting a court order to be assigned as my “guardian”. In spite of the fact that I have 2 doctorates, worked productively as a research scientist for 40+ years, and am productively involved in several volunteer positions in my community currently, my medical records show nothing of that or who I am as a human being. My multiple medical diagnoses could easily be twisted to “prove” that I can’t take care of myself.
I live with my 3 dogs and own my own home. Doesn’t matter. As Jody describes, these guardians steal everything from people who end up incarcerated in institutions and drugged into oblivion. No one, family, friends, doctors, can get you out.
Homo sapiens is truly the most degenerate species on the planet. Every day I look at the shotgun in my closet and ask myself if I can make it through another day. My dogs are all I live for now.
Critical thinking is ALWAYS more effective than haldol.
Actually, everyone in the country should be required to take a multi-year course on critical thinking.
Having been involved in research for over 40 years, I would have to say that the combination of investigator bias and the toxic influence of the research funding game, and more recently, the push by Universities to own and profit from every idea investigators have, make the “scientific method” highly dubious as a way to generate objective data these days.
It will take many people like Dr. Joseph to continue to challenge these paradigms that no longer work.
The range of comments here shows how complex this situation is. I didn’t know Matt but I still feel grief for the pain he suffered and the loss of a person with so much promise.
I have also been terribly damaged by the mental health system. But I have also been terrible damaged by doctors in other specialties and the scams perpetrated by those specialties. It is not just psychiatry!
Do you want specifics? I have 2 hips. I’ve had SIX total hip replacement/revision surgeries with another one coming up because I’m being poisoned by toxic levels of cobalt now. My very first prosthesis was “recalled”. I’ve had 4 hip dislocations because of subsequent defective prostheses. I’m not the only one. Orthopedic surgeons and the medical device industry make huge amounts of money by deceiving people. It is no different from psychiatry’s scams.
This is a societal issue and it is getting worse. Focusing on one slice of the problem detracts from the real issue we need to address.
This is another reply to your question/comment that is related to my earlier one. When I step outside myself, I just don’t see much value in the “blame game”. Are drug pushers responsible for the epidemic of illegal drug use, or are they just filling a demand? Same with physicians (or veterinarians) or pharmaceutical companies and patients/clients. Is it a chicken and/or egg situation or is there co-development of the situation in a kind of positive feedback loop?
For example, I published some of my thesis work in the journal Science. The work had to do with some new ideas about how food intake/appetite were controlled in the brain. Because Science is a prestigious journal, it got a lot of attention. I actually got phone calls from physicians who wanted my opinion about the applicability of my very basic research to treating obesity in humans. One call from a neurosurgeon, in particular, was very disturbing. He told me that he had patients so desperate to lose weight that they would do ANYTHING, including having cannulas implanted in their brains so that substances could be administered directly into the areas involved in controlling their appetite. So was he taking advantage of his desperate patients or was he just responding to their demands for a new way for them to lose weight (that didn’t involve the hard work of changing their relationship to food)? Now, this kind of situation goes on all the time. There are demands for new and better treatments. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies see potential markets, and because everything is profit-driven, they go for it.
Of course, things spiral out of control when pharmaceutical companies and doctors collude to “create” diseases that don’t exist, just to create markets for new sources of profits. That’s exactly what your article addresses. It happens in other fields of medicine, as well. But why are patients so willing to allow themselves to be labeled? Note that early in my career as a mental patient, I was willing to be labeled, too. I wanted answers; I wanted to know what was “wrong” with me. Over time, and with my skeptical nature, I started rejecting the easy answers. But for someone who just wants to get rid of the pain, Haldol is where it’s at. You don’t feel anything! Well, until the akathisia kicks in. But there are more drugs to treat the side effects. You see where I’m going??
Blaming one side or the other feels good because it eliminates personal responsibility. These are very complicated issues and there is responsibility on both sides. And sometimes, it seems there is real evil.
I’m afraid it would take many, many generations… but one never knows! Big changes can occur all at once. Maybe a close brush with nuclear annihilation would wake enough people up. But it’s not just psychiatry that has to wake up.
I’m afraid I was being kind of simplistic in referring to wiring of the brain. That’s a very mechanical view of our “being”. We can talk about networks and fields, or concepts even more esoteric. Basically, all I’m saying is that our interaction with our environment changes us. We are not just biological beings, of course, but I too easily slide into that reductionist view of neurochemistry and neuroanatomy.
There is no real “normal.” It is a very fluid, socially determined construct. But we also cannot pretend that we don’t live in a society of some kind. So we are judged, rightly or wrongly, as falling somewhere along the spectrum of abnormal/normal. I am clearly outside the realm of what our society calls “normal,” but within my geeky profession (a subset of our society), I can get away with being farther from the overall “norm.” I’m “eccentric.” In fact, eccentricity is valued in science (or was).
Are you saying that we can deny the existence of mental suffering or psychic pain? I certainly can’t deny my own; however, suffering and pain can be largely context-driven. Recognizing the context goes a long way towards putting things into perspective for me; and yet, there is still pain.
Sorry, I’ve been too busy to get back to this until today…
Wow, I’m going to have to go much deeper into this than the others who replied. Their responses are certainly valid up to a point, but to me, the CORE problem has to do with the disconnection of humans from what we share in common with all life. For many reasons, humans have decided that we are “above” everything else; ie., superior. Religions, of course, have played a big part in setting that up, but religions are stories humans have invented to justify the use and abuse of other beings and the earth itself. Once humans set themselves apart from and above even one other form of life, we/they can easily find justification for using/abusing others of our own species.
I’m not really talking about “new age” stuff, although I think that movement is a reflection of the feeling that we have somehow lost touch with a deep unconscious connection to others around us. Also, I think the spirituality that some yearn for and seek out in religion is an expression of that disconnection that leaves people feeling solitary. I should also say that my definition of “life” is not necessarily a biological one. What others call inanimate objects have life, to me.
I’m not a philosopher, so expressing these ideas is difficult, and even a little embarrassing for me. I’m trained in the western paradigms of science and medicine, so the “Doctor” in me is very skeptical. But before all that training and education, there existed (and still exists) an intense awareness of my connection to everything. When the intensity of the awareness becomes too great, or when my awareness of connection is overwhelmingly discordant with the zombie-ness abound me, I get labeled as psychotic. I was “schizophrenic” ever since I was a young child, although not diagnosed as such until my 20s. I’m not trying to say that I am somehow superior to other human beings because I experience this connection. It’s painful; it’s terrible. I often wish I could be so disconnected. In order to survive, I had to create the Doctor person who had no problem being disconnected. The Doctor person is very two-dimentional. However, the Doctor is not totally separate from “me”. The Doctor is more like a survival mechanism.
It has taken me many decades to understand why I feel like such a freak, and of course, I might be wrong! Maybe it’s all about dopamine (says the Doctor). My first major psychotic episode in my 20s was triggered by my desperate attempts to exist as a zombie (I was working for Monsanto as part of the original BST development team—OMG!). It tore a big hole in my universe and there was no going back. I didn’t know that then, and I kept trying, but the revolving door of hospitalizations didn’t end until I stopped having to BE the Doctor. The Doctor is still around and serves an important purpose, but isn’t the whole.
Anyway, the huge focus on I-ness, ME-ness, especially in the West, (MY wealth, MY possessions, MY position, MY health, etc, etc) immediately excludes the recognition that there really isn’t an I or a My. It sets each individual apart and above any other individual, and that is what leads to the casual disregard and violence towards others. I am just as guilty, because it is a fundamental flaw of Homo sapiens. I hear the bullshit that comes out of my mouth sometimes and I think ‘who just said that??’
I think what is going on in the US and elsewhere today is that the desperate struggle between the desire to maintain the disconnection and a growing awareness that disconnection is a terminal disease has reached a crescendo. The blatant hatred and fear of anything that is “other,” in the US especially, is terrifying to me, so much so that I feel that I have to leave in order to keep from flying over that psychosis cliff or killing myself. There is that knowledge that there really is nowhere to go, but my terror doesn’t always allow me to acknowledge it.
Well, I won’t disagree that psychiatry has a dubious claim to legitimacy, and I won’t disagree that psychiatrists have done and continue to do great harm, especially since I have been a recipient of that harm many times. But that wasn’t really my point. I am suggesting that without addressing the underlying systemic problem(s), if the field of psychiatry is eliminated, something equally reprehensible will fill that void.
Although I’m not a neuroscientist wedded to the hardware aspect of the brain, I think I do have to disagree to some extent that there is a lack of physical/biochemical change that occurs when people have emotional, or psychic, pain. Whether the changes are causes or effects of the pain is difficult to tease out.
Emotional trauma, especially in childhood, can rewire parts of the brain. That doesn’t mean that someone who experienced emotional trauma has a brain disease that needs to be treated with drugs! Psychotherapy, meditation, exercise and many other things can also alter brain structure and function. These non-drug modalities are what should be used to help heal the effects of emotional trauma and psychic pain. IMHO….
OMG, Disability Specialists! Yea, I was “totally and permanently” disabled, told I’d never be able to have a career and probably never have a job. Pfffft! My attitude was ‘you’re outta your mind if you think I got 2 doctorates to just go sit on my ass the rest of my life’. I wrote a grant proposal that got funded by NIH during one of my hospitalizations. I never stopped working, even when I was blazingly psychotic. Haldol was the one thing that made it almost impossible for me to work. There was no brain activity going on.
I’m not saying it was easy, though. It was crushingly exhausting. The hardest part was not the work. The hardest part was swimming against the tide of everyone telling me I couldn’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t.
Huh? Sorry you’ve obviously had such poor experience with veterinarians, but as a veterinarian myself, I certainly object to being characterized as not caring about my patients. My patients’ health is always my primary concern. Locking up “dangerous” and “unwanted” animals is certainly not what the majority of veterinarians do. In fact most of the vets I know usually end up taking home or finding homes for as many of the unwanted ones as we can. I’ve never met a “dangerous” animal, but I sure as hell have met many dangerous people. A sure sign of a dangerous person is one who abuses animals.
Please don’t dump veterinary medicine in the same basket as psychiatry!
I guess I’m in the minority here, but I just don’t see how eliminating the field of Psychiatry will have any kind of beneficial effect. What has been happening in psychiatry is a symptom of a much deeper societal defect, and the symptom is not limited to psychiatry. Every branch of medicine is affected; in reality, every part of our society is affected. Tearing an institution down without addressing the core problem will only lead to something equally degenerate taking its place.
In fact, at the risk of being booted out of MIA, I think all the sturm unt drang over eliminating psychiatry is just a way to avoid having to deal with the much more serious systemic malady. Few seem willing to admit that. Treating the symptom without addressing the underlying disease: Isn’t that what we all complain about in modern medicine??
You are absolutely correct about no accountability and a huge power imbalance. And by the way, don’t ever try to level that playing field! I’ve tried to have reasonable discussions with psychiatrists about what recent literature shows about the effects of “antipsychotics” on the brain (eg., neuronal cell death, permanent brain damage). One psychiatrist started yelling at me that I was being combative. He was so agitated and out of control that if I hadn’t been so alarmed by his behavior, it would have been amusing. But the labels are one way psychiatrists try to control people and wield their power. In a slightly different situation, even though he was the one out of control, he could have called the police and had me sent to a psychiatric facility, where I could have been held and medicated against my will. No matter how many advanced degrees I have, no one would have believed that he was the real nut case. I am very aware of how dangerous it is to be a person with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Note the distinction: it is the diagnosis, not the actual illness/condition, that is dangerous.
I wish I were as sure as you seem to be that what happened in Nazi Germany to people with serious mental illnesses won’t happen here. Seeing what has been going on in Washington since last November has me very frightened about my safety. People with serious mental illnesses are not the “cash cows”. We are the ones who are seen as costing money. In a society that values money above all else, we are viewed as expendable. The current administration is hell bent on eliminating people who need medical care in the most heartless and cruel manner imaginable. Make health care unaffordable and unavailable, so if you get seriously ill or injured, please just go die. I am genuinely so frightened that I will probably leave the US.
Thank you for speaking honestly. We need more within the fields of psychiatry and psychology to tell the truth.
When I tried to kill myself after my psychiatrist molested me, he sent me to another shrink for ECT. I nearly died during the 13th treatment, a fact I never would have known if the nurse who attended during the procedure hadn’t been so shaken by the brutality (shrink kept ramping up the current), that she actually told me after they got me out of status epilepticus. I wonder if the 2 shrinks might have been trying to cover up the molestation by wiping out the memory, or maybe eliminating me?? I sure would have liked to give them some truth serum!
Honestly, there was not a single psychiatric medication I was prescribed that did not make me worse. I have a list that’s 2 pages long.
All that crap happened to me in the 80s after I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. After reading a couple of Dr Breggin’s books, I got off all drugs and now refuse to take them. I have a PhD in Neuroscience and a veterinary degree from U Penn, along with 40+ yrs of research and teaching. I read the literature and know more about these drugs than any shrink I ever went to.
Although I think psychiatric diagnoses are about as useless as psychiatric medications, psychosis is no fun trip. I am terrified of going over that edge of psychosis and ending up in the clutches of psychiatry again. Really terrified.
Actually, as a veterinarian, I can tell you that behavioral correlates of most, if not all, of the symptoms of “mental illnesses” in humans can be found in nonhuman animals, especially those who have been subjected to severe repeated abuse by humans. Shame on veterinarians who prescribe psychotropic drugs to dogs and cats with “behavioral problems”!
Symptoms do not designate illness. Behavioral “symptoms”, from a mental health perspective, are a normal response to abnormal situations. Are there neurochemical changes associated with behavioral “symptoms”? Of course! That is how the brain functions. There are genetic and epigenetic factors that both contribute to and are influenced by behavioral patterns, as well. Behavior is the complex response of the brain to the environment, both internal and external. Using a set of behaviors to define an “illness” is ludicrous.
Oh, yes. The worst abuse of my privacy was early on in my “career” as a mental patient. This was before any HIPAA protections. The campus of one of the first (and worst) hospitals I was in also had laboratory facilities, one of which included the lab of a colleague who worked in the same field I did and whom I knew fairly well professionally. When the staff at the hospital did a case review of me, everyone in that lab attended! But I was not allowed to attend!! I was publicly outed in the absolute worst way possible at the very beginning of my professional career. I didn’t find out about that until several years later when I met someone who was a postdoc in that lab at the time I was hospitalized. He told me all about it. My horror and shame nearly caused me to kill myself. I’ve had to work extremely hard to distance myself from the suicidal feelings that come up around these public disclosures. The pain, the shame, the knowledge of how my life as a scientist was destroyed–it gets overwhelming. All the posters here obviously understand that. The public disclosures about my illness have done far, far more damage to me than my “illness” could ever have done.
I was told by several coworkers that my deceased boss had been telling people my diagnosis for years, not just at my last place of employment. You need to understand how academia works to know how gossip spreads faster than the speed of light within one’s field. I’ve left out a lot of details…
I don’t see Dr. Fisher’s comment in that light. We are a pill-oriented society. I’ve met so many people who demand a “pill solution” to every problem imaginable. That is a societal issue with so many causes and implications, one can’t even begin to pull it apart. Some people seem incapable of the level of insight it takes to question the medical model. Judging them as inferior or as “victims” of the medical model, or however one might see it through the lens of one’s own experiences is really not helpful.
When a person in terrible psychic pain and no insight shows up in a psychiatrist’s office wanting a pill, should he/she turn that person away? That seems overly rigid to me, and believe me, I am no fan of the medical model or of psychotropic medications.
Hmmm…there is real pain, at least as I experience my life. It’s not pain associated with any psychiatric label, but pain associated with living as a human being in the world. I don’t feel the need to deny it, any more than I deny the constant physical pain I deal with from a spine injury that was a result of a car accident. I also don’t feel the need to “treat” it with psychotropics.
Apologies don’t mean much to me, either. There are so many terrible things that human beings do to one another. If I were to rank my experiences in a list of human-imposed horrors, somehow I don’t think they would rank even in the upper 10%. And, I should add, I’ve been through the whole range of psychiatric/mental health system horrors many others have described, in addition to the discrimination associated with my label. There would be too many people who ostensibly would have to apologize to me. It would get very wearisome.
As you’ve mentioned in other posts, just living as best one can is what I strive for these days. My incredible stubbornness and persistence in believing that I was an intelligent and worthwhile human being kept me not only alive but also pursuing my career. I don’t know where that comes from. Not everyone has that “gift”, so I don’t judge others for giving up or choosing a different path. So many times I’ve railed against the “gift”…
You may not find “positive” stories, as you’re defining them, in this venue, because this is a place for people to tell the painful stories that need to be heard. In my view, the fact that this site exists is incredibly positive. Through all those painful decades of my life, nothing like this existed. There was no place to tell the stories. No person would listen, even my “therapists”. The attitude was ‘well, you’re mentally ill, what do you expect if you’re going to insist on having a real career?’
Here we can tell our stories and find a great deal of understanding. And there are mental health professionals who contribute here whose attitudes are very different from those whom I have encountered. That is success.
I can’t deny my own pain and sorrow and rage at what’s happened to me, but I can say again that there is value to my life and to my experiences outside of the value that society bestows. The journey is important. That may sound trite, even I have trouble accepting that sometimes (many times), but it is undeniably true.
Well, maybe I’m overly cynical at this point about the government helping to change this situation, especially given the current level of corruption. I don’t really think the EEOC is at fault, anyway. The problem revolves around who is allowed to access the legal system. You have to be able to (1) find and (2) hire (ie, pay for) an attorney to represent you in a court of law. No matter how egregiously a law has been violated, if you can’t pay for legal representation, you have no chance for redress. Also, many laws are structured so that the value of your “loss” is defined entirely by your economic value–how much money you have, and how much money you make. If you don’t make a lot of money, the value of your award is too low to make it worthwhile for any attorney to want to get involved. Like many other things in this country, only the wealthy can afford legal representation.
Of course, I achieved many things, mostly the personal satisfaction of knowing that I contributed some interesting ideas and helped other young scientists have a different perspective than they might otherwise have had in my absence. And yes, I lost jobs specifically because of the label being disclosed. I was also prevented from being promoted and many other career-related things specifically as a result of disclosure of the label.
“Silver linings” is a dangerous thing to look for. It implies that the only value to my experiences would have been career success as I attempted define it over the years. There is “value”, although I’m still struggling to understand it. It has to do with a more complete sense of my self, as more than just as the “scientist”.
The world can be an incredibly cruel place, no doubt about that…
Thank you for this incredibly well written and horrific story. It is my story also, except with one big distinction. I knew who I truly was both before and after my diagnosis, at least in terms of being an intelligent and valuable person. That knowledge kept me from self-destructing, although it didn’t bring me health, wealth or happiness. First, though, I have to say that I HATE that word “consumer” as applied to my search for understanding of my cognitive dissonance. That is truly what “mental illness” is: attempting to live in a world that tells you what is when you know it isn’t. I have never considered myself as a “consumer”, a “patient” or any of the other euphemisms applied, only as a searcher for understanding.
I am now nearly 63 and retired on disability after trying for over 40 years to have a career as a neuroscientist and veterinarian. I was one of those very promising young scientists in the 70s, before my “diagnosis”. My disability now has nothing to do with my own intelligence, talent, and skill as a scientist with a great deal of experience and insight into my chosen field. It only has to do with my inability to be employed because of the repeated and calculated disclosures of my personal medical information by those who had something to gain by those disclosures.
At my last place of employment, I found out about the disclosure only after the person died. I contacted 12 attorneys in my attempt to involve the legal system in what was clearly an illegal action. I finally found 1 attorney who agreed to help me. There was a great deal of evidence supporting my claim of serious damage, and yet I only got a meager settlement because I couldn’t afford to pay the attorney up front in a prolonged battle against a University with unlimited legal funds. That was only the most recent experience of career-destroying disclosure. I have many stories…
In addition, I can relate many stories of discriminatory and cruel treatment by medical “professionals” who learn of my “diagnosis”. The advent of electronic medical records makes it nearly impossible to find medical care uncontaminated by my diagnostic label. The effect is disastrous. I suspect I will eventually die because of a lack of needed medical care due to stigma and discrimination within the healthcare system. I don’t really care at this point–the world is clearly crazier than I ever was, and my cognitive dissonance has only grown greater and greater over time. There is a very good chance that I will take my own life, and that’s ok, too. I have no illusions and don’t fear death.
I don’t know what the answer is. All these calls for the destruction of the field of psychiatry and the whole mental health “care” system don’t make sense to me. If the current system is dismantled, something equally dysfunctional and abusive will spring up. It isn’t the system that’s at fault; it is the inability of homo sapiens to evolve psychically. The latest turn of events in this country, the USA, is a clear indication of that. We are so close, and yet so far, from making that leap. We are so in love with our technological superiority, we fail to see how impoverished we are psychically.
I hope you continue to find some peace in your life. It sounds like you now know much more about who you are, and it isn’t the label. Keep dismissing the labels, especially the ones you put on yourself. They’re meaningless and only keep you from understanding your true self.
Very interesting article. I really haven’t followed the literature on PMDD. The creation of the diagnosis came way after I had fixed my problem by getting “spayed” (I’m a veterinarian with a PhD in neuroscience and it amuses me to use that term). Until I was spayed I had a lifetime of abnormal hormone levels, very serious bulimia, and other psychiatric symptoms. I finally got to the point where I was bleeding continuously and my Gyn agreed to remove both my uterus and ovaries. I really did not have any idea that being spayed would have any effect on the bulimia, but interestingly, that intense pressure to make myself vomit any food that I ate evaporated immediately. It was very specific, because my other psych symptoms didn’t change. I was fascinated as a scientist, and of course very relieved to have that out of my life.
However, any time I mention that to a mental health professional, I get a very complicated description of how it has nothing to do with my hormones, per se, but relates to something about my inability to accept my femininity and the hormones associated with being female. blah, blah, blah. It’s all BS. I am of course on hormone replacement therapy, but only estradiol. Over the past years, any time I try to add progesterone to the mix, those same symptoms return. Fascinating and frightening. As you point out, there is so little research about this.
The popular perception is that progesterone is the wonder hormone and estrogen is the evil hormone. I finally found a few papers describing adverse responses to progesterone in women with extreme PMS, now defined as PMDD. It’s been a while since I looked in the literature, though, so maybe there’s more.
By the way, I’ve experienced no complications due to the surgery itself. As with all surgical procedures, choose your surgeon carefully. My spay surgery is the only surgery I’ve had that has dramatically improved my life.
Thanks for discussing this issue, and I agree with you that surgical treatment should be made available to more women who are suffering. But mostly, women’s issues deserve a whole lot more focus and research funding. After a 40+ year career in research, though, and seeing the decline in NIH sponsored funding and the take-over of research by pharmaceutical companies, I despair of any increased focus on women’s issues that don’t have an immediate dollar sign attached to them.