Antipsychiatry, as a movement, matters and I would say that fighting antipsychiatry, as a movement, also matters.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to stick my head in the sand and just “live and let live.” I’m a live and let live kind of gal. It’s the way I handle most things and in terms of people who are critical of psychiatry (not antipsychiatrists; moderate, rational people) that’s how I feel about them. Criticism, in the end, is often healthy as it help to make an institution better.
But antipsychiatry? That’s another thing entirely. That’s a concept that needs to be fought. Actively.
Among many things, I have been accused of dismissing the pain of psychiatric patients. Oh, excuse me, “psychiatric survivors.” And I would like to clarify something – I have done no such thing. I, personally, have my own painful stories about psychiatry and I don’t dismiss mine so why, exactly, would I dismiss anyone else’s?
Again, a commenter last night popped onto the blog to tell me how psychiatric medications “do more harm than good” and how “I [the commenter] know for a fact that these meds no not work.”
I’m not sure how so many people confuse “fact” with “opinion.” It is the opinion of some people that psychiatric medications don’t work. It is the opinion of some people that psychiatric medications do more harm than good.
I am not of that opinion. And I actually have facts on my side.
Apparently I’m the only one that understands the concept and usage of healthcare statistics.
Recently a commenter got angry at me for saying this:
“. . . Are there people who have had a bad experience with ECT [electroconvulsive therapy]? Yes. Are there people who have had very bad experiences with ECT? Yes. But then, I was hit by a car, so things happen. It’s not really the car’s fault. . . ”
My point, of course, is that there are people who have bad experiences, I would never deny that. But there are people who have bad experiences with everything. That doesn’t mean it’s the typical experience. We work hard to reduce traffic deaths and injuries in North America and doctors work hard to try to implement ECT in the best way too.
A Commenter on Statistics
But the commenter felt,
“. . . And you wonder why are people anti-psychiatry? Because they had horrible horrible experience and are consider “oooops” and downplayed number in statistic . . .”
Well, um, yes. That’s what statistics are.
Now, I understand that this is a theory and will only be true for a percentage of people. And I understand that no matter what I say, I will have a deluge of people disagreeing with me.
Nevertheless, I write:
Antipsychiatrists are Scared
Antipsychiatrists are scared of psychiatry, scared of what psychiatry does and scared of mental illness in general. I understand. These are scary things. I’m pretty sure I’m scared of all of them too but rationally, I live with them all.
Psychiatry is Powerful and Scary
There is no arguing that psychiatry is powerful. Doctors of all types are powerful but some might argue that psychiatrists are even more so as they have the right/duty of treating people without consent in very limited circumstances. (And, of course, any doctor can have a person held or treated without consent, not just a psychiatrist, but psychiatrists are likely the ones making the call.)
Moreover, a psychiatrist’s primary function is to treat serious mental illness and they primarily do this with drugs. Very powerful drugs. They’re not as powerful as, say, oncology (cancer) or HIV/AIDS medication, but they are powerful nonetheless.
So when I think of a person who has the power to wield these drugs and lock me up against my will, I can quite reasonably be scared of that person. I have been scared of that person. For many years I was scared that a doctor was going to throw me into a psych ward against my will.
However, no psychiatrist ever has or has even discussed it. And as one person who has had the experience said, “There’s no reason to be afraid of involuntary treatment.”
Our Past Makes us Scared of the Present
I understand fear based on the past. It’s something we all have in a variety of areas of our lives. Our experiences are how we learn. Our past tries to tell us how to avoid pain in the future. It may not do the best job of it, however.
And as the saying goes, once bitten, twice shy. If psychiatry has bitten you, you are likely going to be shy, scared, of it in the future. In my case I had a very bad experience when my vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) was turned on (doctor error) which resulted in immediate agony and terror; and yes, I have been scared of getting it adjusted ever since. Not scared enough not to do it, but certainly scared enough to have a butterfly farm in my stomach when it has to be done.
Mental Illness is Scary
And as is obvious to anyone who has a mental illness – mental illness is scary. It’s terrifying to have a brain that doesn’t work. It’s terrifying to have delusions and hallucinations. It’s terrifying thinking of the pain of depression or bipolar disorder.
Fear and Antipsychiatry – Fear is Easy
So it’s much easier to deny and decry what we fear than it is to face it head-on. It’s easier for me to rile against the evils of VNS than it is for me to simply say that it didn’t work for me, it caused me pain, but other people have had other, more positive experiences.
[push]It’s easier to believe that my experience is the only experience and that everyone should change based on that no matter whether I am the exception to the rule.[/push]
It’s easier to avoid psychiatry than accept the fact that one day one psychiatrist may decide I need involuntary treatment. It’s easier to scream and holler against an evil conspiracy than simply to admit that sometimes Bad Things Happen to Good People and sometimes that person is me.
It’s always easier to act out of fear and anger than it is to stand up and deal with the complex intricacies of life-altering, stressful, painful decisions of treatment.
Hate and Anger Stem From Fear
So when it comes down to people who hate me, I get it. They fear what I represent. This comes out as anger and hate. No problem. It’s pretty natural.
But I don’t let fear rule my world. I don’t let the fear of becoming the exception stop me from trying to become the rule. And the rule is most people get better with treatment. The exceptions are bad. The exceptions are worth noting. The exceptions are worth keeping in mind. But it’s the rule on which I base my thoughts. It’s rationale and it’s hope on which I base my thoughts. And that’s just the kind of person I want to be.
Last week I discussed the antipsychiatry movement in general, including some of their critiques of psychiatry – in this piece I will look at why antipsychiatry exists at all. After all, there doesn’t seem to be an anti-cardiology or anti-oncology group – what makes psychiatry so special?
Again, Henry A. Nasrallah, MD’s article: The antipsychiatry movement: Who and why nicely encapsulates this topic, but for those of you wondering about the history of antipsychiatry, here goes.
History of Antipsychiatry – the 1960s
As I mentioned in my last article, I think historical critiques of psychiatry are next to useless as they simply show our lack of understanding and knowledge at the time and bear little resemblance to the issues psychiatry and psychiatric patients are dealing with today. Nevertheless, if you want to know where antipsychiatry came from, you have to look back.
Antipsychiatry and David Cooper
The term “antipsychiatry” was coined in 1967 (although the movement had been around a long time by then) by psychiatrist David Cooper who seems to me is no one to hold up an entire movement. Among other things,
Cooper believed that madness and psychosis are the manifestation of a disparity between one’s own ‘true’ identity and our social identity (the identity others give us and we internalise). Cooper’s ultimate solution was through revolution.
And, my favorite, a quote from his writing in 1980,
Madness is permanent revolution in the life of a person…a deconstitution of oneself with the implicit promise of return to a more fully realized world.
Ah, so madness is good then. Tell that to everyone who’s been through a psychotic episode.
Antipsychiatry, Foucault and Szasz
At this time, Foucault, one of the seed-sowers of antipsychiatry seemed to like the idea of prescribing, “travel, rest, walking, retirement and generally engaging with nature” as a treatment.
Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz was a big part of the creation of antipsychiatry too although he decried the moniker and its adherents, instead, collaborating with the Church of Scientology to create the Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights in 1969. (I know that sounds like a good thing but all you have to do is wander around on their website for about 3 minutes to see why it’s not. They’re one of the most hate-spreading, propaganda-promoting groups I’ve ever seen.)
I suspect this is why many people right off all antipsychiatry groups as merely Scientologists (but they’re not).
According to Wikipedia:
It was later noted that the view that insanity was not in most or even in any instances a “medical” entity, but a moral issue, was also held by Christian Scientists and certain Protestant fundamentalists, as well as Szasz.
(And if someone were to tell me that my mental illness was because of my morals, well, it wouldn’t be pretty. My morals are fine, thanks.)
Also around this time:
- The idea that psychiatry is just an agent of social control began becoming popular.
- Psychiatry from the 1900s, 1930s and other eras was criticised (and rightfully so).
- Psychiatry was tied to the Nazis and the holocaust.
- One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest was also written and became a best-seller.
The History of Antipsychiatry – the 1970s
The “psychiatry survivors” began entering the antipsychiatry movement. These are people who claimed past abuses of psychiatry. (I rather despise the name, personally, because, of course, it makes it sound like psychiatry is something you “survive” rather than simply a medical specialty. It’s particularly insulting to me and those in psychiatry, I feel.) Of course, some of these people had, and have, genuine complaints about how psychiatry treated them, particularly before the proliferation of psychiatric medication when few options (pretty much all bad ones) were available.
Some would claim that antipsychiatry worked to successfully remove references to homosexuality as a mental illness, but I would suggest that the gay rights movement really lays claim to that particular gain.
Today, antipsychiatry argues against the biomedical model of psychiatry (as it always has) and it decries the ties to the pharmaceutical industry (once much worse than it is today). They also fight the idea of psychiatric diagnoses altogether and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM) in particular.
Antipsychiatry is still marginalized within psychiatry and within the mental illness community at large. Although an exception to this seems to be online where antipsychiatry people and ideals are absolutely everywhere.
Thoughts on the Antipsychiatry History
There is no doubt that there are things to fight against in psychiatry. I do it. Other people do it. It’s pretty common. A good example is the DSM-V discussions which hotly debate all sorts of mental illness topics.
I just don’t agree with most of what antipsychiatry fights. Their raison d’être seems to be getting people off medication en masse, and that’s something I could never support. Antipsychiatry started at a time (pre-1960s) where conditions for the treatment of the mentally ill were deplorable and inhuman and wrong but they have continued into times when that’s just not the case. If anything people need more access to psychiatry, not less.
While I’m hard-pressed to argue for antipsychiatry I will say that antipsychiatry provides checks and balances to a very powerful system. I feel these checks and balances could be better handled, but nevertheless, they are of benefit. While I don’t think psychiatrists should have to defend their profession in general (as with any other doctor) it may be helpful for them to cast a critical eye over what they do as what they do is very important and affects people greatly.
In short, naysayers (on this blog as well) force us to look at ourselves which can be seen as a benefit, but you really have to want to see it.
But in saying that, perhaps we should take a greater look at antipsychiatry and what the possible benefits are of such a group (other than giving me writing fodder, naturally).
Do I Know what Antipsychiatry is?
People have accused me of not understanding antipsychiatry. Well, if you say so, but:
- The answer’s kind of in the question
- Far too many people identify as such for there to be any one definition
Luckily for me, Henry A. Nasrallah, MD put out an article: The antipsychiatry movement: Who and why. He expresses many of my thoughts on the group very nicely. He responds to their criticisms and admits that they can be seen as a useful force in psychiatry.
What is Antipsychiatry?
For those of you who don’t know, the term “antipsychiatry” is one given to a group of people who are, well, anti-psychiatry. Some would consider these people skeptics and questioners and not necessarily antagonistic, per se, while others consider this group a bunch of radical zealots that harm people with a mental illness. Any given antipsychiatrist will naturally fall somewhere within that continuum. And, as I’ve said, there is no single definition as many groups have taken this word as a label.
What are their Criticisms of Psychiatry?
Common to antipsychiatry though is the critical claims of the movement, such as, historically (as outlined by Dr. Nasrallah):
- Locking people up and “abusing” the mentally ill (abuse is an arguable issue)
- Medicalizing madness (contradicting the archaic notion that psychosis is a type of behavior, not an illness)
- Drastic measures to control severe mental illness in the pre-pharmacotherapy era, including excessive use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), performing lobotomies, or resecting various body parts
- Use of physical and/or chemical restraints for violent or actively suicidal patients
- Labeling slaves’ healthy desire to escape from their masters in the 19th century as an illness (“drapetomania”)
- Regarding psychoanalysis as unscientific and even harmful
- Labeling homosexuality as a mental disorder until American Psychiatric Association members voted it out of DSM-II in 1973
And more recently:
- Serious or intolerable side effects of some antipsychotic medications
- The arbitrariness of psychiatric diagnoses based on committee-consensus criteria rather than valid and objective scientific evidence and the lack of biomarkers (this is a legitimate complaint but many physiological tests are being developed)
- Psychoactive drugs allegedly are used to control children (antipsychiatry tends to minimize the existence of serious mental illness among children, although childhood physical diseases are readily accepted)
- Psychiatry is a pseudoscience that pathologizes normal variations of human behaviors, thoughts, or emotions
- Psychiatrists are complicit with drug companies and employ drugs of dubious efficacy (eg, antidepressants) or safety (eg, antipsychotics).
Each of these claims has merit, although many of the claims are exaggerated.
Historical Antipsychiatry Claims
So did every medical specialty. We don’t judge surgeons because surgeries were once done without anesthetic because that was due to our medical understanding at the time. Psychiatry, and what we now consider atrocities, is like that – history that speaks to our lack of knowledge and understanding at the time. Now that we know better, we do better.
Current Antipsychiatry Claims
That still leaves many of the criticisms against today’s practice of psychiatry. I recommend you read Dr. Nasrallah’s whole article for his view, but I’ll look at a three.
Serious or Intolerable Side Effects of some Antipsychotic Medications
This is a valid criticism – that can be made of almost any drug on the market. There are people that take a pharmaceutical and get many side effects and there are people who take a drug and have none. Are antipsychotics particularly side effect laden? Well, not compared to, say, chemotherapy but yes compared to, say, the birth control pill. But the birth control pill has been known to kill people thanks to blood clots so nothing’s perfect.
Myself, I find the great majority of antipsychotics to be intolerable so I employ the extremely radical solution of not taking them. But that’s me.
Use of Physical and/or Chemical Restraints for Violent or Actively Suicidal Patients
This is a reasonable concern, to be sure. I would never want to be restrained either chemically or physically, but then I’ve never actively been a danger to anyone.
While, of course, that vast majority of us will never be in that position, what is one to do with a person who is violently out of control if not restrain them in some way? Doctors and nurses can’t run away from the danger – they must do something about it. And so what to do other than restrain? It’s unpleasant. It’s unfortunate. I wish it would never happen. But it’s an extraordinary measure for an extraordinary circumstance.
Psychiatry is a Pseudoscience that Pathologizes Normal Variations of Human Behaviours, Thoughts or Emotions
This one gets me every time. There is no doubt that people can meet some vague criteria for a mental illness and still be happy, functioning individuals.
However, this is not the issue because in every mental illness diagnosis there is a line that says that in order to be diagnosed with the illness the symptoms must cause great distress in the person’s life. Great distress. Not a bit unpleasant. Not make them quirky. But great distress. If you can manage to meet the criteria for depression and not be distressed by it, then I guess you’re not distressed – you just like being unhappy. Well goodie for you. Most of us don’t feel that way.
In the next article I’ll take a look at why antipsychiatry exists and the movement’s possible benefits.
In article three I talk about why some people gravitate towards antipsychiatry.
I often find myself in the unenviable position of defending psychiatry. This, in spite of the fact that I am not a psychiatrist nor do I even play one on TV.
Nevertheless, I feel compelled to speak on psychiatry’s behalf. Maybe it’s because when left to their own devices, psychiatrists aren’t very good at it. Or more likely it’s simply because an unreasonable number of people attack psychiatry unreasonably and I think someone ought to bring the concept of reason into the discussion.
There is a faction of folks out there who are antipsychiatry and every time I mention them I get hate mail. But here I am again. Antipsychiatry. Antipsychiatry. Antipsychiatry.
Rather than give you my definition, which people hate and argue with, here are the central points of antipsychiatry according to Wikipedia:
- The specific definitions of, or criteria for, hundreds of current psychiatric diagnoses or disorders are vague and arbitrary, leaving too much room for opinions and interpretations to meet basic scientific standards.
- Prevailing psychiatric treatments are ultimately far more damaging than helpful to patients.
Some of antipsychiatry’s other opinions, according to Wikipedia, include:
- Inappropriate and overuse of medical concepts and tools to understand the mind and society, including the miscategorization of normal reactions to extreme situations as psychiatric disorders
- Unwillingness to develop and use objective tests (such as intelligence/cognitive tests) to determine patients’ state (such as strong psychosis)
- Unexamined abuse or misuse of power over patients who are too often treated against their will
- Relation of power between patients and psychiatrists, as well as the institutional environment, is too often experienced by patients as demeaning and controlling
- Forced use of government (both civilian and military) psychiatric treatment prevents the patient from choosing private psychiatric or alternative treatment thereby denying the patient of his or her basic rights
I have dealt with many of these claims on occasion, but for now, let’s just say that while criticisms are a valid and useful agent of change, the approach taken by these groups leaves something to be desired.
Psychiatry is Perfect. I Love Psychiatry.
See, here’s the thing, psychiatry is neither perfect nor do I love it. Psychiatry is just a branch of medicine like oncology or cardiology. No branch of medicine is perfect nor do I have emotional attachment to any of them. They are just what they are. They are just areas of medicine where doctors try to make the best decisions they can based on the information they have available.
It’s pretty simple actually. No great conspiracy. No great cover-up. Just people doing the best they can.
Psychiatry is Imperfect
Psychiatry then, naturally, is imperfect. Wildly so. I have had encounters with psychiatrists that would curl your hair and make you turn your head around 360 degrees. Psychiatrists can be absolute assholes.
Among other things, psychiatrists tend to appear cold, unfeeling, callous, uninterested, uncaring, indignant and self-righteous to say nothing of poor bedside manner and a general lackadaisical attitude towards the concerns of the patient. Why so many of them are like this, I don’t know, but I suspect it has little to do with psychiatry and much to do with medicine in general.
But I digress.
Why Fight for Psychiatry?
[push]For every asshole psychiatrist, there are people with the opposite characteristics. Some psychiatrists do care, do listen and do take patient concerns seriously. These people deserve recognition.[/push]
That’s easy. Because for every psychiatrist that shows the characteristics above, there are people with the opposite characteristics. Some psychiatrists do care, do listen and do take patient concerns seriously. And even those who appear not to, they get the benefit of the doubt in my mind as doing the best they can. Like most human beings.
And to be clear, doctors went to school for more than a decade to be in a position to help you. Maybe they’re burned out, jaded and cynical at times but likely down there somewhere is a kernel of trying to help. Really. They are.
Psychiatrists Help People
And they do. Psychiatrists help people every day. Every day they save lives. Every day they make lives better. Every day they make it possible for people to get jobs, have families and relationships. Every day they make it possible for a person to get out of the hospital, be safe and get better from an illness that would otherwise destroy them. Every day they make it possible for me to get out of bed in the morning.
So you see, it’s not that I love psychiatry. I don’t. I think they offer too many meds, not enough psychotherapy and allow insurance companies to dictate too many decisions. They’re not perfect. But no system is. Any medical specialty could be accused of the same.
But they’re worth standing up for because they are the last line of defense between the mentally ill and, well, often death, just like oncology is the last line of defense between cancer and death. They do an important job and fill and important role for people with a mental illness and don’t deserve to be demonized simply for being imperfect. Because not one of us meets that bar at work or anywhere else in life.
Recently I read Invisible Tattoos: The stigma of psychiatry by Dr. Henry A. Nasrallah in Current Psychiatry. Invisible Tattoos is an editorial piece on how the stigma of mental illness affects psychiatrists just like it affects the mentally ill. And my reaction?
Oh cry me a freaking river.
I thought the piece was a little whiny and navel-gazing. I mean seriously, these people are respected professionals making lots of money – they don’t have an illness threatening to kill them every day.
But then I got a comment from a medical student and I reconsidered my position. Maybe antipsychiatry poster-boy Tom Cruise doesn’t just fuck around with the way people look at me, maybe he fucks around with the way people look at psychiatrists too. And maybe stigma is difficult for psychiatrists too.
Antipsychiatry vs. Psychiatry
People, mostly antipsychiatrists, tell me I’m evil because I’m a pharma-shill as evidenced by this site. And perhaps more insidiously, others insist I’m really just caught up in a giant web of pharmacology conspiracy and I’m just too stupid and naive to know any better – thus writing me and my opinions off nicely.
This is all falderal, naturally, but the antipsychiatry folks have to have some hatred to hurl at me, I suppose.
But consider for the moment, if I am evil for what I do, how despicable a doctor – someone who prescribes the evil for others – must be.
Psychiatry and Stigma
According to Invisible Tattoos psychiatrists face stigma from their family and friends, just like the mentally ill.
- Stigma: Psychiatrists aren’t “real” doctors.
- Reality: Psychiatrists are not only medical doctors who attended the same medical schools but they attended additional schooling to become a psychiatrist as psychiatry is a further specialty.
- Stigma: Psychiatrists are only money-driven.
- Reality: Psychiatrists make less money than many other specialties and in the US, health insurance companies reimburse at lower rates for psychiatric services than other medical specialties.
- Stigma: Psychiatry treatment is considered a failure.
- Reality: The success rates in psychiatry are virtually the same, and in some cases higher, than other specialties.
Medical Students and Antipsychiatry
And not only do all these ridiculous antipsychiatry statements affect practicing doctors but they also affect medical students considering going into the field of psychiatry as this medical students expresses:
. . . in medical school and in society I keep picking up a negative perception towards mental illness. My family members keep trying to persuade me to pick internal medicine and do cardiology or GI . . . They feel that the good pay is worth it and at least I get respect from society. Even within medicine, other students tell me not to pick Psychiatry as I won’t be paid nearly as much as the more lucrative specialties such as Gastroenterology. And I won’t have to put up with society’s bullshit and demonization.
This makes becoming a psychiatrist a very difficult proposition. Do you willingly become a pariah among your family, friends and colleagues or do you go with a branch of medicine that pays more and people respect?
It’s a wonder anyone becomes a psychiatrist at all.
Why Do People Become Psychiatrists?
Well, as I’m not a psychiatrist, I can’t say for sure, but I believe, hold onto your hats, they do it to help people. That’s right, the evil-pill-pushing monsters are really trying to help people with very severe, possibly lethal, illnesses. Imagine that.
Again, this medical student expresses his reasons,
I came into medical school wanting to do Psychiatry because I particularly enjoyed working closely with patients and people, and personally feel that Mental Illness can be far more devastating than other types of illness . . . some patients may also have heart disease and diabetes, but the schizophrenia when uncontrolled leads to them not taking their pills and a downward spiral culminating in disaster. Then when I see how most patients with mental illness get ripped on by family members and society in general I feel like helping them all the more.
I don’t know the person who left these comments here, but what I do know is we need more people like that in psychiatry. What I know is it’s hard to stand up against antipsychiatry, intolerance and hatred. What I know is there are more sick people than doctors can handle and one more with a good heart can save lives.
And while I have my problems with doctors, medicine, psychiatry and psychiatrists, I will stand behind their work and always say they are doing the best they can to help people that the rest of society would happily write off.
I will never stand behind those who are not good psychiatrists, those who would abuse their power or who don’t care about their patients. But these are not the average psychiatrist. The average psychiatrist is a caring person who sees psychotic patients not because it’s lucrative or fun, but because they honestly want to help better the lives of others.
So please become a psychiatrist and I will stand with you against the hate. You deserve to be respected every bit as much as I do.
Admit it – you haven’t kept up with your bipolar reading. Come on. I know it. I can barely keep up and I write the bipolar articles.
Luckily for you, I like you a lot, and I’m happy to give you a little cheat sheet on what’s been getting attention at Breaking Bipolar. We’ve got mental illness and higher education, mental illness and physical pain, how to tell if it’s a med side effect and oh so much more.
Articles Breaking Bipolar Over at HealthyPlace
- Is it a Med Side Effect? – What is a medication side effect and what isn’t a med side effect? How can you tell?
- Temperature Dysregulation – Or Why I’m So Cold – Speaking of side effects – did you know psychiatric meds can change how your body temperature feels?
- Yes, You Can Get a Higher Degree With Bipolar Disorder – So many people have written me to say how successful they have been in school. Read this for inspiration and hope. Some people have taken 10 years to get their degree – but they got it. Article includes tips on being successful at school.
- Mental Illness Means Physical Pain Too – People think mental illness is “just” in your head. They would be wrong about that.
- Is It Really Never the Psychiatrist’s Fault? – I’m tired of doctors acting like they never make a mistake.
- Being Thankful Even When Anhedonic – Even when I can’t feel pleasure I can feel grateful for the things that go right in my life.
- How to Keep Going When Medication Doesn’t Work – And for your final dose of hope and encouragement, here are some tips on continuing mental illness treatment even when everything is going wrong.
Popular Articles at the Bipolar Burble
And just in case you haven’t been glued to the Bipolar Burble, here are a few things you should read here:
- Questioning the Evidence of the Efficacy of Therapy for Depression – Interesting information on how evidence-based therapy for depression really is. Less so than I would have thought. And do you think CBT is intellectual and analytical? I do, but a commenter disagrees.
- When to Get Off Antidepressants if You’re Bipolar – The first in a three-part series on getting off of antidepressants.
- Important Safety Warnings for St. John’s Wort – Please read if you’re on or thinking about trying St John’s wort.
- Cutting Supplemental Security Income Hurts Mentally Ill Children – A guest post by Allison Gamble that garnered a lot of reads.
- Psychiatric Myths Dispelled by Doctor – Fighting Antipsychiatry – Have you read this article yet? It garnered more comments than any other at the Burble. It’s always a hot topic.
This week’s three new things include:
- A new supplement that may help brain health and mental illness: l-theanine
- A poor comparison between rapid cycling bipolar disorder and the financial markets
- A new discussion of antipsychiatry
1. New to Me: L-Theanine as an Antidepressant
Maurya, a commenter, asked if I knew anything about l-theanine. Well, I didn’t. Every once in a while even I run across something of which I haven’t heard.
So, for those of you in my boat, here’s a bit about l-theanine:
- L-theanine is derived from green tea although we’re not sure of the best way to extract it.
- L-theanine has been studied on mice and seems to exert antipsychotic- or even antidepressant-like qualities.
- L-theanine is a glutamate derivative and loyal readers will know that I think glutamate will be a big player in mental illness treatment in the next few years. (N-acetylcysteine (NAC) also works with glutamate.)
- There is very little conclusive research on l-theanine, we really just have ideas about what it does; it may possibly be a stress-reducer
- L-theanine may improve cognitive impairment (a human study)
As always, as this is a supplement it is not FDA-controlled and there is no guarantee as to what you will get in the bottle and you should never take any supplement without first checking with your doctor.
More studies on l-theanine can be found here.
I’m a writer so questionable metaphors irk me. And rapid cycling bipolar disorder as a metaphor for the financial marketplace? Really? That’s a whole new level of irk.
If you really want to make that comparison then the bulk of the article should be on the markets and not mental illness, and not the other way around like Lloyd I. Sederer M. D. did in Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder: In the Office and On ‘The Street.’
Comments of Mental Illness Stigma
All this poorly-written article did was confuse people and elicit a bunch of anti-bipolar comments like:
“The foundation of the Bi-Polar epidemic is based in suppressed biochemistry, outdated understanding of genetics and a complete misunderstanding of our true spiritual nature.”
“So how exactly is this different from saying some people dramatically over-react to external circumstances?
Sorry folks, but this one goes into the notebook for the next philosophical discussion of “medicalization” as a way of discussing deviance.”
Seems to me he just wanted to use mental illness as an eyeball-grabber, tricking readers onto a topic they would never otherwise read – with the extra bonus of eliciting remarks of stigma.
3. What I Find Interesting – New Discussion of Antipsychiatry
As you might know, I’m not a fan of antipsychiatry folks. I have written a lot on this topic and I’m sure I will write much more in times to come. But I can across this article, Getting It From Both Sides: Foundational and Antifoundational Critiques of Psychiatry which has an interesting discussion of antipsychiatry viewpoints.
Two Sides to Antipsychiatry
It astutely notes there are two sides of antipsychiatry – those who feel that nothing can be defined and thus no mental illness can be defined; and those who feel illness is rigidly defined and mental illness doesn’t meet that definition.
Both sides, as the author says,
“. . . have had the effect of discrediting and marginalizing psychiatry and of delegitimizing psychiatric diagnosis and nosology.”
It’s a very intelligent view of antipsychiatry criticism that is elevated far beyond what we normally see online. Check it out.