Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Barbarity of Modern Psychiatry

It is no accident that Thomas Hobbes—the “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” guy—advocated dictatorship. He was a materialist, one who holds the philosophical notion that consciousness is an illusion, at best an effect or non-causal by-product of the brain. Materialism denies free will and therefore assumes that all of our behavior is determined either by internal bodily functions or by external environmental events. The mind plays no role in influencing behavior. To avoid living in a nasty, brutish, anarchical society, says Hobbes, we need a strong, controlling central government to tell us what to do.

Today, the field of psychiatry is dominated by the theory of materialism. As a result, most of its practitioners have no qualms about imprisoning people against their will, then equally forcibly giving them electro-convulsive shock treatments or neuroleptic (psychotropic) drugs or performing surgery on them. The coercion is considered good medical practice, made possible by the government-sanctioned licensing and patent monopolies, the government socialized and cartelized medical-insurance system, and the laws regulating state-run mental hospitals and wards. The effects of the treatments are not cures for so-called mental illness (“biochemical imbalances”). They amount to total control over unwanted behaviors and their ultimate consequences often are irreversible brain and body damage.

The story is exhaustively documented in Peter Breggin’s 1991 book Toxic Psychiatry.* The culprit is the “medical model” that says psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, and paranoia are physiologically based and must be treated medically, with electroshock, drugs, or surgery. Yes, psychosurgery of the Ken Kesey type is still practiced today in the twenty-first century. Courses on psychotherapy, Breggin points out, are no longer taught in most medical schools that train psychiatrists. The outrage of it all, he demonstrates, is that there is no scientifically valid evidence for the physiological cause of any of these problems.

In page after page, chapter after chapter, Breggin cites researchers, many of them psychiatrists, who acknowledge that no causal connection has been demonstrated between brain physiology and psychological problems. Quite the contrary, evidence of brain damage due to electroshock, drugs, and surgery is abundant. For example, tardive dyskinesia and brain shrinkage are two common effects of the typical “treatments.” The terms “chemical straitjacket” and “chemical lobotomy” are used to characterize the results of some drug use and the immediate, short-term effect of drugs (and shock and surgery) is described as “blunting the personality,” “flattened affect,” and “subdued behavior.” The patients, in other words, look and act drugged. (More here and here.)

The treatments are instruments of restraint, especially of the hyperactive type of behavior that may occur in prisons and mental wards . . . and in schools.

Yet, as William Glasser says, so-called schizophrenics are “just lonely people.” And, as Breggin concurs, the root of the problems most often is family abuse (verbal and physical) or neglect.** The solution is Carl Rogers’ “unconditional positive regard” and nurturing talk therapy. Safe houses run by uncredentialed amateurs, psychiatric survivors in some cases, produce far better results for schizophrenics than any of the shocks, drugs or surgeries of psychiatrists.

Why do establishment psychiatrists persist in using the medical model when the evidence against it continues to pile up? Materialism, of course, is no small theory that blinds them to the contents of consciousness and possible psychosocial causes of mental stress. As academic researchers, some do what other academics have been known to do when discovering embarrassing facts: they bury them in tiny footnotes (all found by Breggin) or relegate their confessions and cautions to post-research interviews (all again found by Breggin) long after the headlines of supposed drug success have played out in the press. And then there’s the blatant conflict of interest, acknowledged by too few psychiatrists, of the millions of pharmaceutical company dollars that are fed to the profession.

“Modern psychiatry,” as Breggin puts it, “is not about counseling and empowering people. It's about controlling and suppressing them.” Its history dates to the seventeenth century but its tactics too often over the years have been those of the Inquisition: subjugating “behaviours unacceptable or inconvenient to those in power” (Models of Madness, p. 14). Mental hospitals of the nineteenth century, and even of the twentieth, have been called snake pits; inmates then, and still today, were and are treated as objects, not people with problems to be resolved.

Consider the eugenics programs of the 1920s and ‘30s in both the United States and Nazi Germany. Both were promoted in the name of science by psychiatrists; hundreds of thousands of people were sterilized or killed during that time and the death houses of the Nazi psychiatrists became the models of concentration camp gas chambers (1, 2). (In the United States compulsory sterilizations continued well into the 1960s.) And let us not forget the political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union, the incarceration of political dissenters. Abuse? Yes. Surprising? No, given the philosophical premise of materialism. (And China?)

Consider also the 1992 federal Violence Initiative of the National Institute of Mental Health. It proposed psychiatric interventions to identify and treat children allegedly biologically and genetically predisposed to violence. Presumably the targeted children would have been treated with drugs. Because there is no evidence whatsoever of a genetic connection to crime or violence and because most victims and perpetrators of violence in the United States today are African Americans, accusations of racism quickly quashed the plan (1, 2, 3, 4).

But again, this is what materialism can lead to. Total domination. Consciousness is irrelevant. Psychosocial causes of behavior are only an illusion.

Thomas Szasz likened the questionable science of modern psychiatry to alchemy and astrology. Perhaps it should be called totalitarian science.

* In the twenty-one years since the publication of Toxic Psychiatry, evidence against the shock-drug-cut approach to helping distressed people has only increased. See Breggin’s web site for detail.

** Glasser and Breggin, both psychiatrists who heroically stand up to the authoritarianism of the profession, are not the only practitioners who talk and work in this manner to help so-called schizophrenics. See, for example, the authors of Models of Madness. Chapter 5 explains why I keep saying “so-called” about schizophrenia; John Read argues that it is an invalid concept.

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