A ‘disease’ whose lesion no one can see

To contextualise this series about psychiatry, see: here. I wrote most of the below text in the last century:
 

In his Occidental Dissent article about yesterday’s California bar shooting, the author wrote:

Take a young man, send him to fight in some God-forsaken Third-World pit inhabited by primitive Brown people, let him watch his buddies get their arms and legs blown off, dump him back in a homeland devoid of true healing religion, a unified culture, and basic healthcare, and you’ve essentially created a ticking time bomb.

Add in experimental drugs that certain (((doctors))) like to prescribe without knowing or caring about side effects, and the situation only grows worse.

So true.

With the Helfgott case I have outlined the model of trauma. Now, I will say something about the so-called medical model of mental disorders.

It is elemental that there can be no medical treatment without a biomedical disease. However, in contrast with true brain diseases such as tumors, multiple sclerosis, meningitis, epilepsy or neurosyphilis, after more than a century of bio-reductionist psychiatry no one has been able to demonstrate that the ‘diseases’ the psychiatrists diagnose are related to brain lesions. Thus by an act of faith and a diametrically opposed logic to jurisprudence, the psychiatrists supposed that the people under their charge were ill (‘guilty’) until proven healthy. Just as the pseudoscience of parapsychology that started about the same time as modern psychiatry, and which after more than a hundred years has not been able to demonstrate the paranormal, the psychiatrists believed it was simply a matter of time for the cellular pathology of the mysterious disease ‘schizophrenia’ to be discovered. (Likewise, the parapsychologists have been running after the mirage that sooner or later they will demonstrate the reality of ESP and psychokinesis.) [1] Thomas Szasz’s words are decisive on this point:

The gist of my argument is that men like Kraepelin, Bleuler and Freud [who defined modern psychiatry and psychotherapy] were not what they claimed or seem to be—namely, physicians or medical investigators; they were, in fact, religious-political leaders and conquerors. Instead of discovering new diseases, they extended, through psychiatry, the imagery, vocabulary, jurisdiction, and hence the territory of medicine to what they were not, and are not, diseases in the original Virchowian sense.

Actually, given the Virchowian criteria of disease [cell pathology], I do not believe that Kraepelin, Bleuler, or the other psychiatrists of that period could have assumed such a role, and gotten away with it. The reason is simple. They would have had to conclude that most of the ‘patients’ in their hospitals were not sick; at least, they could not have found anything demonstrably wrong with the anatomical structure or physiological functioning of their bodies. [2]

On these premises Szasz’s verdict is that:

No one is so blind as the person who does not want to see. Many people did not want to see in the past, and do not want to see now, the naked facts of psychiatry—namely, that psychiatrists diagnose diseases without lesions, and treat patients without rights.

This, then, was the fateful point of departure in the origin of modern psychiatry: the invention of the alleged disease ‘schizophrenia’—a disease whose lesion no one could see, and which ‘afflicted’ persons in such a way that often they wanted nothing more than not to be patients. [3]

Despite the misinforming publicity in the media promoted by the pharmaceutical companies, no one has seen anomalies in the brains of those labeled with that word, so much so that the psychiatric concept ‘schizophrenia’ has a bad reputation among some neurologists (the renowned journals of neurology do not publish bio-reductionist papers about ‘schizophrenia’). [4] Furthermore, it is fascinating to notice that, for many years, in the DSM the very American Psychiatric Association excluded the organic conditions as responsible for what they call schizophrenia. For instance, in the published revision of 1987, DSM-IIIR, the manual says that such diagnosis ‘is made only when it cannot be established that an organic factor initiated and maintained the disturbance’. [5] If they recognise that organic causes have not been found, how do these shrinks dare to tell their clients that the condition is due to chemical imbalances in the brain? What kind of schizophrenia do these professionals suffer from?

Perhaps the explanation of their divided mind can be found in the following fact. It was not until the DSM-IV edition of 1994 that the honest passage (‘it cannot be established that an organic factor…’) was censured from the former version. Psychiatrist Fuller Torrey recognises that the censorship could have been due to ‘the prevailing psychoanalytic and family interaction theories of schizophrenia’. [6] Another explanation is that if psychiatrists did not take bio-reductionism dogmatically and made common cause with the victims they listen in their offices, their drug prescribing enterprise in just a ten-minute consultation could go out of business—and that is something they cannot afford. As Laing said, economics controls politics.

It controls science too, or rather the political pseudoscience in the universities. If the medical model persists it is because it provides an unending field of pseudoscientific research for psychiatric drugs that generate billions of dollars. It is that simple. This ‘research’ has persisted since psychiatrists decided that the people under their charge were ill, and it will proceed because the biological causes of madness do not exist. It is exactly what is happening in parapsychology: both parapsychology and biological psychiatry unceasingly run after a mirage. (It is worth saying that Eugen Bleuler, who coined the word ‘schizophrenia’, was a staunch advocate of spiritualist phenomena in his time.) [7]

It seems incredible that the so-called professionals in mental disorders are capable of self-deception of this magnitude, but just to show that besides Szasz there is a new generation of psychiatrists that have realised how medical students are being deceived, I will quote Colin Ross again:

When I entered my psychiatry residency, I believed that research had demonstrated the genetic foundation of schizophrenia and had shown that schizophrenia is primarily a biomedical brain disease. This view was almost universally accepted at my medical school, and I never heard serious criticism of it while in training. It was by a gradual process that I began to become more and more aware of the cognitive errors pervading clinical psychiatry […]. I also saw how badly biological psychiatrists want to be regarded as doctors, and accepted by the rest of the medical profession. In their desire to be accepted as real clinical scientists, these psychiatrists were building far too dogmatic an edifice on a very meager scientific foundation […].

One of the most disturbing effects of the errors of logic in biological psychiatry I witnessed in ten years as a resident and academic psychiatrist, from 1981 to 1991, was their influence in medical students. Already intensively socialized into biomedical reductionism by the time they arrived on the psychiatry wards, many medical students accepted the folklore and logical errors of biological psychiatry as a scientific fact. I would hear them parroting the teaching that psychiatry has become more scientific recently, has many effective drugs, has demonstrated the genetic foundation of schizophrenia, and is moving ever forward into more specific psycho-pharmacology. The problem was not that all these propositions were completely false; rather, it was the uncritical acceptance of the dogma that alarmed me. [8]

This passage is from Pseudoscience in Biological Psychiatry. In another chapter of this book Ross criticises one by one several bio-reductionist articles of the AJP (American Journal of Psychiatry), the official organ of information of American psychiatry. It is unnecessary to quote the rebuttals to the theories of the medical model of ‘schizophrenia’: studies on monozygotic twins, the dopamine hypothesis, the subjects’ response to psycho-pharmacology, etc. Those interested in the rebuttals can review the writings of Ross and especially Peter Breggin’s journal. [9] Suffice it to quote Ross’ final words about the AJP:

This completes a detailed analysis of pseudoscience in the American Journal of Psychiatry from 1990 to 1993. The January 1994 issue of the Journal indicates that logical errors and bio-reductionist ideology will continue to dominate psychiatry for some time. A similar analysis could not be made of a leading journal in a truly scientific field. [10]

In the market world, the advertising that drug companies sell to the media is taken as real science. This advertising, which ignores the biographies of persons like those of the California shooter, is precisely the same of the medical students who parrot that psychiatry has demonstrated the biologic foundation of schizophrenia, depression and other mental disorders. The impression on the public of these supposed medical advances has been created by the incessant repetition of these psychiatric slogans in the media.

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[1] A splendid book of how for more than a century parapsychologists have been chasing a mirage is Leaps of faith: science, miracles, and the search for supernatural consolation by Nicholas Humphrey (Basic Books, 1996).

[2] Thomas Szasz, Schizophrenia: the sacred symbol of psychiatry (Oxford University Press, 1979), pp. 35 & 21.

[3] Ibid., pp. 42f.

[4] Neurology (the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology), Journal of Neurology (European Neurological Society), Journal of Neurological Sciences (International Federation of Neurology), Journal of Neuroradiology and Archives of Neurology.

[5] Quoted in Lawrence Stevens, Schizophrenia: a nonexistent disease (www.antipsychiatry.org). The page of the DSM-IIIR is 187.

[6] E. Fuller Torrey, Surviving schizophrenia: a family manual (Harper & Row, 1988), p. 149.

[7] George Windholz, ‘Bleuler’s view on the inheritance of acquired characteristics and on psi phenomena’ in Skeptical Inquirer (Spring, 1994), pp. 273-279.

[8] Colin Ross, ‘Errors of logic in biological psychiatry’ in Colin Ross and Alvin Pam (eds.), Pseudoscience in biological psychiatry: blaming the body (Wiley & Sons, 1995), pp. 85-87.

[9] Pam and Ross convincingly refute the biological theories of schizophrenia in chapters 1 and 2 of the book cited in the previous note; Peter Breggin in chapter 5 of Toxic psychiatry (op. cit.) and more academically in his scholarly journal. In addition to the mental institution with his name, Ross has been a contractor of psychopharmaceutical companies; he has been called to participate in neuroleptic trials, and continues to publish in the AJP: his credentials as a psychiatrist are impeccable. The books of veteran critic, Tom Szasz, who already has forty years fighting against psychiatric barbarities, are also useful to approach the subject of this inquisitorial pseudoscience.

[10] Colin Ross, ‘Pseudoscience in the American Journal of Psychiatry’ in Pseudoscience in biological psychiatry, p. 191.

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Published in: on November 9, 2018 at 12:01 am  Comments (4)  

From the Great Confinement of Louis XIV of France to a Chemical Gulag (part 2)

At the end of the 18th century, there was no psychiatry as a medical specialty. The word ‘psychiatry’ was coined by Johann Reil in 1808. The new profession took for granted a postulate that had roots in the medicine of ancient Greece. A postulate is a proposition that is admitted without proof. The postulated platform of the new profession assumed the organic origin of psychic disturbances. This postulate elevated to an axiom, and even to dogma, prevented the introduction of subjectivity in the study of mental disturbances.

As we saw with John Modrow [explained in a previous chapter of the online book], the reality is the diametrically opposite. Only by introducing the subjectivity of a soul in pain, and by rejecting the organic hypothesis, is it possible to understand what the hell is going on in the innermost chambers of those who suffer from mental distress and disorders. Objectivity in matters of the internal world of a subject is as impossible as the opposite case: approaching the empirical world in the manner of philosophers like Plato, who, from his idealist Olympus, despised the practical study of nature.

This colossal error cost the Greek culture its moving upward, just as the antipodal error of reducing the humanities to science is misleading our civilisation. It is a categorical mistake trying to understand psychological trauma through neuroscience, as it is a categorical mistake trying to understand the empirical world, say astronomy, through social discourse. Postmodernist philosophers and psychiatrists represent two symmetrical, albeit diametrically opposed, attempts at extreme ideologies. The former want to reduce science to the humanities; the latter, the humanities to science: and none respects the other as a separate and intrinsically legitimate field. In another place I will delve into these two antithetical errors.

The birth of modern psychiatry occurs when the outcast leaves the jurisdiction of the houses of confinement in France and the rest of Europe and is left in charge of the medical institution. In the profession of the 21st century, armed with a battery of genetics, neurology and nosological taxonomy, it is impossible to see what psychiatry is at its root. But in the book by Johann Christian Heinroth, Lehrbuch der Störungen des Seelenlebens (Textbook on the Disturbances of Mental Life), published in 1818, we see the fundamentals of psychiatry without the pseudoscientific smokescreen so common in our days.

Following the tradition of the 17th and 18th centuries, Heinroth used the expression ‘mental illness’ and defined it as ‘selfishness’ or ‘sin’: terms he used interchangeably. Heinroth not only equated the Christian concept of sin with that of mental illness. Although he considered mental illness an ethical defect, Heinroth’s great innovation consists that he treated it with medical procedures.

How did Heinroth take this conceptual leap? Or we may ask, why should MDs reroute the flock of the straying sheep? This turn was not contemplated in the blueprints of the architects of the Great Confinement of the 17th century. Once the Inquisition was officially abolished, Heinroth himself wonders who would be the new social controller: ‘would this be the task of a doctor?, or perhaps of a cleric?, or of a philosopher?, or an educator?’ [7]

The task fell, finally, on the physician. Presumably this was because, as the doctor deals directly with the physicality of human beings, it was easier to cover physical violence in the medical profession than in the other professions. At a time when the ideals of the French Revolution were still in the air, civil society would have suspected a cleric or a philosopher with jurisdiction over other people’s bodies, but not a doctor.

In order for people to accept the new inquisitor, they also had to literalise the central metaphor of the profession. Originally ‘mental illness’ was understood as a mere metaphor of what in previous centuries had been called ‘men of unreason’, which put together the dissidents with the disturbed. When the doctor assumed the responsibility of occupying the role that used to be occupied by the officials of the houses of confinement, Heinroth assumed that the selfishness and sin that he treated were medical entities: something like saying that the ‘viruses’ that infect our hard drives are not metaphor of subversive programs, but microorganisms.

The literalisation of the metaphor ‘mental illness’ into an authentic illness would not have been possible if Heinroth and many other professionals of mental health had not counted with societal approval. The 19th century was the most bourgeois of recent centuries, and the social forces that drove the wealthy to lock up the undesirables were still expanding, even more than in the times when Heinroth himself was born.

The only way to understand Heinroth and his philosophy of the hammer is to let him speak. I have borrowed the following paragraphs from a study of Thomas Szasz. The first quoted sentence is taken from Medicina Psychica Politica (Psycho-Political Medicine): a title that perfectly illustrates how, in its origins, the psychiatrists did not speak in Newspeak but in Oldspeak. Heinroth wrote: ‘It is the duty of the State to care for mentally disturbed persons whenever they are a burden to the community or present a public danger; and the accommodation, cure, and care of such individuals is the duty of the police’. But who are ‘mentally disturbed’? He answers: ‘It is those least deserving of freedom, namely the maniaci [maniacs], who love freedom best; and as long as they are left to themselves and to their perverted activity, even if only in an Autenreith chamber, no recovery is thinkable’.[8] The Autenreith chamber and the mask of the same name were torture apparatuses on which he explains his modus operandi:

Experience has shown that the patient in the sack is in danger of asphyxiation and of falling victim of convulsions… [In the confinement chair] the patient can remain bound in the chair for weeks on end without incurring the slightest bodily harm. [The pear is a] piece of hard wood, with the shape and dimensions of a medium-sized pear, has a cross-bar with straps which can be tied at the back of the neck of the patient. Since the oral cavity of the patient is more or less filled by the instrument, the patient can obviously utter no articulate sounds, but he can still utter stifled screams.[9]

Heinroth articulated some guidelines for the psychiatrist: ‘First, be master of the situation; second, be master of the patient’.[10] Szasz comments that in these phrases psychiatry appears naked as to what it was and continues to be today: subjugation, enslavement and control of one human being by another. He also comments that contemporary psychiatrists, although they do similar things, do not speak frankly as they used to speak in Heinroth’s time.

However, Heinroth understood from the beginning that in his profession he had to disguise the torture chambers for social control as a hospital activity, for which he recommended: ‘all impression of a prison must be avoided’, a situation that persists today. In Spain, for example, contemporary psychiatrists have changed the bars of the windows by external blinds, some cosmetic though rigid metal sheets that serve as prison bars. The façade of psychiatric gardens of our century follows 19th-century regulations. About what happens behind the façade, according to Heinroth:

The edifice should have a special bathing section, with all kinds of baths, showers, douches, and immersion vessels. It must also have a special correction and punishment room with all the necessary equipment, including a Cox swing (or, better, rotating machine), a Reils’s fly-wheel, pulleys, punishment chair, Langermann’s cell, etc. [11]

Here are other words of this doctor who lived a century before Orwell wrote 1984. According to Heinroth, the psychiatrist

appears to the patient as helper and saviour, as a father and benefactor, as a sympathetic friend, as a friendly teacher, but also as a judge who weighs the evidence, passes judgement, and executes the sentence; at the same time seems to be the visible God to the patient… [12]

Heinroth seems a hybrid between the Orwellian O’Brien and a contemporary man of his times: Sade. The fact that some psychiatrists see in Heinroth one of the founders of modern psychiatry and the precursor of Eugen Bleuler, speaks for itself and does not need further comment.

Thanks to Heinroth and other apologists of medical violence, in the mid-19th century the metaphor ‘mental illness’ was recognised as an authentic disease. In England, the parliament granted the medical fraternity the exclusive right to treat the newly discovered disease. The first specialised journals in psychiatry appeared. The American Journal of Psychiatry, which was originally called the American Journal of Insanity and whose first issue appeared in 1844, published data, since its inception, that now are known to be fraudulent.[13] Throughout the 19th century countless of ‘imprudent’ women like Hersilie Rouy and Julie La Roche [cases mentioned at the beginning of the online book] were imprisoned by their parents and husbands; and the psychiatrists resisted attempts to inspect their ‘asylums’, as they were then called, because it interfered with medical autonomy. Many doctors tried to obtain important positions in the asylums.

The psychiatric profession, in its modern version, was born.

In the 20th century, the psychiatric profession consolidated its power and prestige in society. A smoke-screen terminology was developed and, for the man of the street, it became impossible to see psychiatry in its naked simplicity. Some sadists like Heinroth became ‘psychiatrists’, their tortures ‘treatments’, the social outcasts ‘patients’, the asylums ‘hospitals’ and dementia praecox ‘schizophrenia’.

Before the creation of the Newspeak the asylums were properly called Poorhouses. Before drugs were designed to induce tortuous states for the mind, Emil Kraepelin and Bleuler used other methods of subjugation. In 1911 the latter experimented with a particularly disgusting medication that caused bleeding vomit, but at least Bleuler confessed with a frankness something no longer seen in today’s psychiatry: ‘His behaviour improves. From the ethical point of view, I cannot recommend this method’.[14] Similarly, in 1913 Kraepelin used to inject sodium nucleate to cause fever in his patients, who ‘become more docile and obey the doctors’ orders’.[15]

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[7] Johann Christian Heinroth, quoted in Thomas Szasz, The Myth of Psychotherapy (NY: Syracuse University Press Edition, 1988), p. 73.

[8] Ibid., pp. 74-75.

[9] Ibid., pp. 76-77.

[10] Ibid., p. 77.

[11] Ibid., p. 79.

[12] Ibid., p. 78.

[13] See, for example, Robert Whitaker: Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus, 2001), pp. 75ff.

[14] Bleuler, quoted in John Read, Loren Mosher & Richard Bentall: Modelos de Locura (Herder, 2006), p. 39

[15] Kraepelin, quoted in ibid.

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