Brilliant, thoughtful critique of psychiatry

I have excerpted from a very long article from the Psychiatric Times, the below paragraphs. I strongly urge people to read the whole thing, but if you need a taste of what David Kaiser MD is saying read the below paragraphs. This is the best critique of psychiatry I’ve read from a practicing psychiatrist. It was written over a decade ago but the reality on the ground remains disturbingly exactly the same:

The purpose of this piece is not to attempt a full critique or history of this occurrence, but to merely present some of the glaring problems of this movement, as I believe significant harm is being done to patients under the guise of modern psychiatric treatment. I am a psychiatrist trained in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and I use both psychotherapy and medications in my approach to patients. I state these facts to make it clear that this is not an antipsychiatry tract, and I am speaking from within the field of psychiatry, although I find it increasingly impossible to identify with this profession, for reasons which will become clear below.

Biologic psychiatrists as a whole are unapologetic in their view that they have found the road to the truth, namely that mental illnesses for the most part are genetic in origin and should be treated with biologic manipulations, i.e., psychoactive medications, electroconvulsive treatment (which has made an astounding comeback), and in some cases psychosurgery. Although they admit a role for environmental and social factors, these are usually relegated to a secondary status. Their unquestioning confidence in their biologic paradigms of mental illness is truly staggering….

….So what are the limitations of biologic psychiatry? First of all, medications lessen symptoms, they do not treat mental illness per se. This distinction is crucial. Symptoms by definition are the surface presentation of a deeper process. This is self-evident. However, there has been a vast and largely unacknowledged effort on the part of modern (i.e., biologic) psychiatry to equate symptoms with mental illness…..

….It is an absolute myth created by modern psychiatry that these “disorders” actually exist as discrete entities that have a cause and treatment. This is essentially a pseudo-scientific enterprise that grew out of modern psychiatry’s desire to emulate modern medical science, despite the very real possibility that psychic pain, because of its existential nature, may always elude the capture of modern medical discourse and practice…..

…..What is left completely out, of course, are any notions that our psychic ills are a reflection of cultural pathology. In fact, this new biologic psychiatry can only exist to the extent it can deny not only the truths of psychoanalysis, but also the truths of any serious cultural criticism. It is then no surprise that this psychiatry thrives in this country presently, where such denials are rampant and deeply embedded….

….Patients these days are not suffering from “biologic illnesses.” What I generally see is patients suffering from current or past violence, traumatic loss, loss of power or control over their lives and the effects of cultural fragmentation, isolation and impoverishment that are specific to this culture at this time. How this manifests in any individual is absolutely specific; therefore, one should resist any attempt to generalize or classify, as science forces us to do. Once you go down the route of generalization, you have ceased listening to the patient and the richness of their lived experience. …..

…..Having said this, what I am advocating is a psychiatry which devotes itself humbly to the task of listening to patients in a way that other medical practitioners cannot. This means paying close attention to a patient’s current and past narrative without attempting to control, manipulate or define it. From this position a psychiatrist can then assist the patient in raising relevant questions about their lives and pain.

The temptation to provide answers or false solutions should be absolutely avoided here. Medications are used judiciously for lowering painful symptoms, with considerable attention paid to the psychological effects of medication treatment. Diagnosis should play a secondary and small role here, given that little is known about what these diagnoses actually mean. Above all suggestion, coercion, normalization and control need to be assiduously guarded against, as these are natural temptations that arise out of the dynamics of power that exist between psychiatrist and patient.….(emphasis mine)

Read the whole awesome and profoudly thoughtful critique here.

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8 thoughts on “Brilliant, thoughtful critique of psychiatry

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  1. David,
    You seriously rock!!

    thanks everyone else…

    I’ve been really lousy about responding to comments but know I’m listening…and that you are all important….

    going through a bit of a rough time…it’s all I can do to get stuff up right now and I really want to keep doing that…


  2. The Nazis also had a genetic “theory” of “mental illness”. Ernst Rudin, a Nazi psychiatrist, was one of the people who developed a “theory” that “schizophrenia” was of a genetic origin. Many people who are non-conformists have been falsely labeled as being “mentally ill”. Peter Breggin, a dissident psychiatrist, made a mention of dissidents in the now-defunct Soviet Union being psychiatrically labeled, institutionalized, and drugged in his book “Toxic Psychiatry”.( and its handmaiden psychology are just forms of social control. I see no healing value whatsoever in even psycho”therapy”.

  3. This is really good!

    “The perverse beauty of this scheme is that if you take away a patient’s symptoms, the disorder is gone. For those who do serious work with patients, this manual is useless, because for me it is simply irrelevant what name you give to a particular set of symptoms.”

    This one of the crucial issues for me since I was put into numerous drugs due to side effects of other drugs that mimic symptoms of diseases.
    Last Wednesday I have finally come to the conclusion that psychiatrists don’t give a damn to what you have to say.
    I’m sure I told him things he has never heard before and if I was on his shoes after all I have said to him I have research and experienced I would spend one afternoon hearing what, well, I had to say.
    He was the one to whom I told all the Effexor tapering process withdrawal symptoms blah blah blah….
    I have to taper 150 mg Effexor. We don’t have the tablets for sale in Brazil.
    He told me to take a 37,5 XR pill every other morning.
    I’ve send him by e-mail the right way: cutting 37,5 mg Effexor tablets in tiny little doses.
    I’ve got no reply and I know I will never get.
    I’m on 200 mg Seroquel.
    He says nothing.
    I’m feeling dizzy… he knows nothing.
    Many… he knows nothing.

    I’ll have to find a way. I’m very confused but I will have to find a way.

    this is also great:

    “It is no wonder that psychiatry declared the 1980s the decade of the brain instead of the decade of the mind. In their pursuit of the human brain they have quite literally lost their minds.”

    I told him about people reporting on SSRI-sex yahoo group that they don’t have sexual fantasies and men feel nothing seeing beautiful breasts after being out of SSRIs for years.

    I asked him how can it be that these drugs alter something so profound? And what about suicidal thoughts?
    It’s clear to me that minds are affected.

    But it’s not regarded as a problem.

    All I know is that I would feel like a freak if I didn’t exchange ideas with all of you.
    I have nobody to talk about it here and this is a very important part of my life.
    It has deeply affected my life. Destroyed is the right word.

  4. Thank you for posting this article. I read a lot, but I missed it. I believe strongly in what the good doctor says, but no one would listen to me–he has the education and experience to yield great credibility to his message.

    In my years of having the medical profession treat my mental illness, I just wished I could talk to someone who would listen–really listen. When I went to AA and other support groups, I did find people to listen. They fixed me! I have not had to take bipolar meds for decades–something all the doctors said was impossible. AA works because one alcoholic shares with another. AA depends on talk, not the selling of drugs.

    One would wonder why such efforts could not help others with depression, anxiety, etc.

    Thanks again,
    Jim S

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