Abusive parents and psychiatrists: a criminal association

To contextualise this series about psychiatry, see: here. Below, an abridged translation of a chapter of one of my books:

Modern psychiatry pushes us in one direction—toward blaming the victim and exonerating the adult authorities. It’s the easy way out for all of the adults, including the child abuser; but it’s a disaster for the child.

—Peter Breggin [1]

The biggest surprise I ran across while reading Thomas Szasz and Jeffrey Masson was the discovery that, since its beginnings, psychiatry has sided parents during conflicts with their children; and it has sided them independently of the moral or sanity of the parents. In the 17th century the admission regulations to two French insane asylums for minors stipulated that:

Children of artisans and other poor inhabitants of Paris up to the age of twenty-five, who used their parents badly or who refused to work through laziness, or, in the case of girls, who were debauched or in evident danger of being debauched, should be shut up, the boys in the Bicêtre, the girls in the Salpêtrière. This action was to be taken on the complaint of the parents. [2]

In the same way, in the 18th century parents could appeal to the king for the purpose of, by means of a lettre de cachet confining a rebel child in the Bastille. [3]

In the 19th century the same situation shows up in America. In 1865 the Boston Times Messenger described the McLean Hospital as a ‘Bastille for the incarceration of some persons obnoxious to their relatives’. [4]

This bizarre history could be comprehended if we see psychiatry from an unfamiliar viewpoint: not as psychiatry presents itself, an objective science, but as an extralegal system of penalties which, since its origins, has allied itself with the status quo. And this doesn’t refer only to the alliance of psychiatrists with parents, but with husbands in other times. In America’s 1850s, for instance, Illinois commitment statute indicated:

Married women… may be entered or detained in the hospital (the state asylum of Jacksonville) at the request of the husband of the woman… without evidence of insanity required in other cases [my italics]. [5]

In the 20th century psychiatry gained even more power and influence in Western civilization. It converted itself into a big psycho-pharmaceutical industry, which acts within the tough arena of the market and the laws of supply and demand.

The key word is demand. When family problems arise the parents, and only the parents, have the economic means to hire professionals. Thus, from its origins it has been very convenient for these professionals to see family problems as medical problems, and they have deceived themselves to see such problems that way. Paediatrician Robert Mendelssohn observed: ‘teens are Big Business for psychiatrists’.[6] Psychiatry is not oriented to defend teenagers during family problems. That would put psychiatrists in conflict with the parents, the source of income of the psychiatrist. Paul Fink, president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), put it bluntly: ‘It is the task of APA to protect the earning power of psychiatrists’.[7]

That psychiatrists have played the role of lawyers for the parents and the status quo can be seen with extraordinary transparency when studying the psychiatric labels in the 18th and 19th centuries. A few examples will illustrate this point.

When slavery was legal in the United States, Dr. Samuel Cartwright discovered that slaves who ran away from their masters suffered from drapetomania, a disease that only afflicted blacks who had ‘an insane desire to run away from their owners’.[8] Other blacks suffered from the medical disease dyasthesia Aethiopica, which pathological symptom was ‘paying no attention to property’. Benjamin Rush, the father of American psychiatry also discovered various nervous diseases. He called one of them anarchia, and defined it as ‘the excess passion for liberty’. At present Rush’s portrait continues to deck out the official seal of the American Psychiatric Association.

In 19th century-Europe the situation was no better. Women who didn’t comply with the role assigned to them were labelled folie lucide in France and moral insanity in England and its equivalent labels in Switzerland and Germany. Many were confined in insane asylums prompted by their husbands, fathers or brothers. Indeed, in the 19th century women were the main targets of organised psychiatry (just as in the 20th and the 21st centuries children and teenagers are once more the main target). Jeffrey Masson disclosed testimonies of some of the victims of these mercenary inquisitors: women that managed to escape the asylums and exposed both their families and the psychiatrists. One of these, Hersilie Rouy, committed as a result of a dispute with her brother, testifies in a book published in 1883 in Paris that:

For fourteen years I have lived under incarceration that cut me off from the real world, took away my civil rights, deprived me of my name, took away everything I owned, destroyed my entire existence without even being able to say why. [9]

Incidentally, I am not using these examples to promote feminism or anti-slavery for American blacks. I believe in patriarchy—but in a patriarchal society not based on the pseudoscientific claim that the liberated women in the 19th century suffered from a biomedical disease and that therefore should be ‘treated’ by MDs. This is analogous to the pseudoscientific claim in our century that boys who don’t pay due attention in the traditional school system have a brain disease that must be treated with Ritalin. The same could be said about runaway black slaves: punish them if you want but do not invent spurious diseases. Otherwise, such pseudoscientific diagnoses and empowering of the medical profession beyond its limits will metastasise into the white community with dire consequences.

Another piece of information that shocked me while reading Masson and Szasz was that since those times there has not only been an association between abusive parents and husbands with psychiatrists, but another alliance between psychiatrists and the state. For instance, after escaping and publishing her book Rouy appealed the French Ministry of Justice. Yet the ministry sided the psychiatrists:

Our doctor who knows more about it than we do has the conviction that she is mad and we bow before his infallible science. [10]

The case of Hersilie Rouy was not the only one that Masson disclosed in his investigations, but the pattern is very similar: young women perfectly sane diagnosed as suffering from ‘moral insanity’ in spite of the fact that the doctors acknowledged that there wasn’t anything wrong with their intellects. This is why the condition was named folie lucide in France (literally, lucid madness).

Another curious psychiatric label for unmarried ladies of the high society that had fiancés of lower status—and here I cannot help reminding the film Titanic—was nymphomania.[11] In some cases these ladies were confined in their bloom of youth to be liberated old to homes for the aged. Following next I quote an excerpt from a letter of Dr. Massini to Dr. Binswanger to confine Julie La Roche to an insane asylum in Switzerland:

In mid-January she ran off from there, supposedly with her brother, but in fact with the adventurer von Smirnoff, and suddenly appeared in Basel, presenting him as her fiancé. Here of course the relationship was nor approved…

All of this leads me to conclude that Miss La Roche, who is otherwise a thoroughly lovable girl, is heading toward ‘moral insanity’, which makes medical supervision advisable… She will surely attempt to escape, perhaps at the least pretend to commit suicide. It will therefore be necessary to put her in charge of incorruptible guards who will watch over her very closely… I do not believe that Mr. La Roche ever mistreated his daughter. [12]

It could be thought that these are relics of a barbarian psychiatric past already surpassed that have nothing to do with our civilised age. This was La Roche’s testimony:

My father abused me in a terrible manner… after he had thrown a sharp object at my head with such force that my face was covered with blood, to which a deep wound testified. There are witnesses to all these events.

One day in Saarburg, where we returned after our marriage [with von Smirnoff], and where I had to remain in bed, we were surprised by the police and then by my father. Though sick, I was dragged off through storm and rain by Mr. La Roche [her father]. My marriage certificate, everything was in vain. With court transportation, I was taken to Kreuzlingen, which is a private insane asylum (as can be ascertained by looking it up in any directory). There, on the first day, I was diagnosed as melancholic and insane.[13]

Like Hersilie Rouy, La Roche managed to escape. Thanks to this she left us her testimony, originally published in the Swiss newspaper Thurgauer Tagblatt. And just as the Rouy case, the united psychiatrists faced the exposé. Julie La Roche never was vindicated before society. On the contrary: the newspaper where her testimony appeared had to publish a shameful recantation stating that La Roche suffered, in effect, from moral insanity.[14]

The labels of the 19th century were not always invented to cause stigma on second-class citizens, sometimes they were invented to avoid stigma in the favoured classes. For instance, when a daughter of a high-born family stole something and was arrested, a psychiatrist was asked to diagnose that the poor girl suffered from kleptomania, an illness which symptom was an uncontrollable compulsion to steal.[15] Thus the law was outwitted and the spoiled daughter could return home. But like the stigmatising labels, it’s notorious to see how authorities used to go into open-handed complicity with psychiatrists to avoid, or to cause, social stigma.

These diagnoses—‘drapetomania’, ‘dyasthesia Aethiopica’ and ‘anarchia’ for blacks (anarchia, the disease invented by the father of American psychiatry was applied for whites as well), and ‘folie lucide’, ‘nymphomania’ and ‘kleptomania’ for women—seem ludicrous nowadays. Values have changed so much that the essentially political character of the labels and the role of psychiatrists as agents of the system and the affluent classes is visible from every point of view.

However, regardless of the obscure technicalities of present-day labels, which makes more difficult for the layman to detect the trick, the situation at present continues to be basically the same. The concealed objective of psychiatry has always been control, especially control of the most vulnerable members in society. That this policy persisted in the 20th century can be heard from the cynical statements of Francis Braceland, who was president of the American Psychiatric Association during the hippie movement in the 1960s:

It is a feature of some illnesses that people do not have insight into the fact that they are sick. In short, sometimes it is necessary to protect them for a while from themselves… If a man brings his daughter to me from California because she is in manifest danger of falling into vice or in some way disgracing herself, he doesn’t expect me to let her loose in my hometown for that same thing to happen. [16]

I could not say it more plainly. Notice how the thoughtpolice have not changed since the 17th century when they sent these ‘daughters in danger of falling into vice’ to the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. Again, I am not against disciplining a spoiled brat. I only take issue with the immense danger of inventing pseudoscientific diseases that the medical profession should treat as if they were ‘illnesses’, often against the will of the ‘patient’.

Something similar could even be said about quite a few cases diagnosed as ‘schizophrenia’. Below, a quotation from the brochure Schizophrenia published in 1998 by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the National Schizophrenia Fellowship of England:

How do families react if a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister develops schizophrenia and becomes odd and unpredictable? They may regard the change in behaviour as rebellious, perverse and unacceptable without at first realising that it is due to mental illness. [17]

This brochure, destined to the masses, expresses more clearly the behavioural criterion for schizophrenia than the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM, the ‘Bible’, so to speak, of the psychiatrists.[18] The brochure does not ask how the adolescent sees his parents. It does not ask, for instance, ‘Is your mother so reluctant to her “psychological childbirth” that she treats you like a little boy?’ ‘Is she possessive, tyrannical and harass you often?’ Or ‘Is your father a passive fellow who always obeys your mom?’

Psychiatrists would never do a brochure for youngsters who cannot remunerate them. Those who wrote the brochure, the official psychiatric associations in England, have had ears exclusively for what the parents say, who are euphemistically called ‘the family’. It doesn’t even occur to them that the adult child’s version exists, or that his or her rebelliousness may be justified. The equation: rebellious, perverse, unacceptable is schizophrenic reminds me that during Brezhnev’s ruling the political dissident’s rebelliousness, an unacceptable perversity for Russian authorities, was officially considered a symptom of schizophrenia.[19]

The English brochure is most perverse when advocating the idea that ‘they may regard the change in behaviour as rebellious without at first realising that it is due to mental illness’. In other words, adolescent rebellion is, by definition of the most reputable associations of English psychiatry, an illness, schizophrenia or schizoidism; the feminist liberation of the 19th century was an illness, moral insanity; the anxiety of the black slave to escape was an illness, drapetomania. All these illnesses require medical intervention, which frequently ends up in incarceration without legal trial. The same brochure says:

People with schizophrenia do not always realise they are ill and may refuse treatment when they badly need it. In these circumstances, the Mental Health Act in England and Wales [enacted in 1983] and similar legal arrangements in other countries, permit compulsory admission to hospital. [20]

Take notice that this is a brochure published in 1998, and that they gave it to me in 1999 in a ‘mental health’ course in England’s Open University.

In essence, psychiatry has not changed since the 19th century, only the social values have changed. Psychiatrists have behaved, and continue to behave, as agents of the current status quo: be it slave-owners at the south of the United States, bourgeois parents that abhor the plebeian affairs of their liberated daughters, or harassing mothers that do not tolerate any rebelliousness in their children.

More direct evidence that an alliance exists between parents and psychiatrists, an alliance not declared to the public, has been exposed by a man who defrocked himself from the lucrative profession of psychoanalysis and that I have already quoted: Masson. In Final analysis he says:

‘When a child manifests gross pathology…’ these words startled me into consciousness. They were enunciated, for emphasis, very slowly, and in a booming voice. There could be no doubt about it, the department chairman was a fine orator. He had acted on the stage. His voice, his urban wit, his friendliness, his poise, his great knowledge of literature were all admirable. He laughed a great deal. He liked to make jokes. You had to like him.

But you did not have to like what he said. And I did not. What was it to ‘manifest gross pathology’? In this case, an eight-year-old boy was the ‘identified’ patient. The word ‘identified’ was a popular and venerable psychiatric term. He had been ‘identified’ as the patient by his mother and father, simply because he was not doing well at school, he had few friends, and he was a ‘problem’ at home. How was this, I wondered at the time, ‘gross pathology’? Where was I? I was at grand rounds.[21]

‘Grand rounds’ was the visit of psychiatric wards in the city of Toronto during Masson’s training for an analyst. The hospital staff met and a senior psychiatrist presented a case of one of the hospitalised ‘patients’. As Masson observed, this was humiliating for the patient:

It soon became apparent that every presentation of therapy was only good as the intellect and heart of the presenter. You did not, you could not, learn about the patient, but you learned plenty about the presenter… So here was a department chairman talking about still another ‘patient’, Jill, nineteen, ‘who was admitted to the hospital with a schizophrenic psychotic decompensation’.[22]

The department chairman who presented these cases was a respected psychiatrist who believed in electroshock. Masson continues:

How did we know, for example, that somebody was ‘sick’? It was simple: they were brought to the hospital. The chairman made it clear that a person who had been ‘identified’ as a patient by the family, was, in fact, disturbed in a psychiatric way. People apparently did not err when it came to making these kinds of home diagnoses. Thus, he told us, speaking of the ‘maladjusted’ (a medical term?) child, that we should accept

that the ‘identified’ patient is ‘sicker’ than the others. A study by S. Wolff (in the British Journal of Psychiatry) lends support to the family’s identification of its most disturbed member as the ‘sick one’…

To me, this was suspiciously convenient for the psychiatrist. What gave the psychiatric community this power? [23]

Who gives psychiatry these inquisitorial powers against children and teenagers? Society and its laws, of course; the state, our very culture! (Remember the epigraph of this book, ‘To commit violent and unjust acts, it is not enough for a government to have the will or even the power; the habits, ideas and passions of the time must lend themselves to their committal’, wrote Alexis de Tocqueville.) Masson is the only former analyst of the world that has dared to expose in his writings what happens in the ‘indoctrination process’ of this ‘semi-secret society’ as he calls the formation of psychoanalysts.

Another piece of evidence that there exist a criminal association of parents and psychiatrists is suggested by the fact that American psychiatry, represented by the American Psychiatric Association, has entered a collaboration with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI is formed by parents that, like Julie La Roche’s father, want to undertake psychiatric action against their offspring. NAMI’s position has been so extreme that it has even come to harass those psychiatrists who are not practitioners of the bioreductionist faith. [24]

It’s important to know that this alliance between tyrannical parents and psychiatrists is a very old story, and that it continues without serious challenge in our societies.


[1] Peter Breggin, Toxic psychiatry: why therapy, empathy and love must replace the drugs, electroshock, and biochemical theories of the ‘new psychiatry’ (St. Martin’s Press, 1994), pp. 269 & 315.

[2] Quoted in Thomas Szasz, The manufacture of madness: a comparative study of the Inquisition and the mental health movement (Syracuse University Press, 1997), p. 14.

[3] Ibid., pp. 48f.

[4] Ibid., 308.

[5] Ibid., p. 307.

[6] Toxic psychiatry (op. cit.), p. 298.

[7] Ibid., p. 360.

[8] This, and the following diagnoses, appear in Mind games (op. cit.), p. 105.

[9] Quoted in Jeffrey Masson, Against therapy: emotional tyranny and the myth of psychological healing (Harper Collins, 1997), p. 57. The alliance between parents and psychiatrists is exposed in chapters 1, 5 and 6 esp.

[10] Ibid., p. 60.

[11] Roger Gomm, ‘Reversing deviance’ in Tom Heller (ed.) Mental health matters (The Open University, 1996), p. 80.

[12] Against therapy, pp. 70f.

[13] Ibid., pp. 72f.

[14] Ibid., p. 76.

[15] Mental health matters, p. 80.

[16] Quoted in The manufacture of madness, pp. 46f.

[17] Schizophrenia (National Schizophrenia Fellowship & Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1998), p. 12.

[18] Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition, DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).

[19] Thomas Szasz, The therapeutic state (Prometheus Books, 1984), p. 223.

[20] Schizophrenia, op. cit., p. 9.

[21] Jeffrey Masson, Final analysis: the making and unmaking of a psychoanalyst (Harper Collins, 1991), pp. 48f.

[22] Ibid., pp. 50f.

[23] Ibid., p. 51.

[24] Toxic psychiatry, pp. 425f.

It’s time to go

Tech experts are helping me to migrate this site elsewhere. Soon I will tell you the new address but not with everything fully functional yet, and the internal links will still point to this blog probably for the indefinite future. All the old material will be left here for archival purposes, with comments turned off.

We will be very busy in the next days. Meanwhile, don’t forget my yesterday’s post, the one below this one, on how some licit drugs induce psychic torment. I suspect that quite a few nationalists who have visited this site have suffered from those effects without realising that your drug may be your problem and that (under medical supervision) you should stop taking psychiatric meds.

For more information on this subject see Peter Breggin’s webpage.

Published in: on September 7, 2018 at 9:20 pm  Comments (8)  

Akathisia: the torments of the neuroleptic

– mistakenly called ‘anti-psychotic’ –

To contextualise this series about psychiatry, see: here. The below article, translated and adapted from the original in Spanish, already presupposes a previous reading about akathisia within my online book: the torture of inner anxiety artificially induced by the involuntary administration of some drugs.

‘These drugs are not used to heal or help, but to torture and control. It’s that simple’. —Janet Gotkin [1]

For some time doctors have used substances to control people. The most famous case was that of King George III of England. The same year that the French Revolution broke out an alienist secretly sprayed an emetic on his meals to subdue him.

The effect of contemporary drugs induces such a mental torture, like the case of the young Ricardo [mentioned in the online book] that some people have hanged themselves, thrown from the buildings, stabbed or killed in other ways. An American study showed that eighty percent of these suicides suffered from akathisia due to neuroleptics. It could be said that if drugs like marijuana or cocaine are taken voluntarily to cause pleasure, neuroleptics are administered involuntarily to cause torment.

In the early 1960s, the decade of civil strife par excellence, the victims of akathisia began to defend themselves from the torture by refusing to take the pills. The drug companies reacted: they began to replace the pills with colourless and odourless liquids so that they could be secretly mixed in the meals.

In the United States, the lawyers of the pharmaceutical corporations have argued in the courts that it was legitimate to force an individual and inject him these drugs, or put them in his meals furtively.[2] There are even mental health organisations that occasionally advise putting psychiatric drugs in children’s food in order to control them.[3] That the object of these drugs is control was recognised in cases of dissidents of the communist Soviet system who were imprisoned in psychiatric wards and administered the same type of drug that in the West is applied to some rebellious teenagers.

In March 1976, the Russian mathematician Leonid Plyush told a scientific meeting in New York that his colleagues locked him up in the Special Psychiatric Hospital Dneprospetrovsk. He lived in constant fear of the effects of neuroleptics, and heard stories that these drugs had driven mad some of the interns. Others declared that these chemicals were used in them ‘to inflict suffering on them and thus obtain their complete subjugation’. Speaking in the United States Senate, Vassily Chernishov declared about the akathisia he experienced: ‘Although I am afraid of death, let them shoot me rather than this’. These political dissidents complained that the modern neuroleptic is a more inhuman form of seclusion than any prisoner has ever experienced before. [4]

What distinguishes us from animals is a protruding development of the frontal lobes: the part of our brain that allows us to have abstract ideas and plan for the future. If we compare ourselves with the other species of animals, in the frontal lobes our aristocratic faculties reside: we have them much more developed than in primates and are barely visible in other mammals. These lobes are the seat of our intelligence, the part of the brain responsible for civilisation.

For the same reason, these lobes are the favourite target of what Orwell called thoughtpolice. That in the former Soviet Union the thoughtpolice used neuroleptics to attack the faculties of the political dissident is explicable in a totalitarian regime. How was it possible to do that in presumably free and democratic nations? In what perverse mind could the idea of doing that to a boy or girl fit? Should not the professional who recommends parents drug their sane child be in jail? Are there academic professors and doctors in the West who conspire with the parents to subjugate the child as the Soviets did?

Although I suspected that psychiatry was not a true science, my ignorance of its criminal past was almost total. But during a stay in England in 1998-1999 I took courses of biology and mental health at the Open University.

Thanks to my stay in Manchester I was able to read two extra curricular authors: Thomas Szasz and Jeffrey Masson. There is no more devastating critic of a religion, sect, party or pseudoscience than the one who dedicated years of his life to it and realised its erroneous foundations. Although, as we will see, I have distanced myself from the thought of Szasz, I find myself in immense debt with these two apostates of their profession. Both opened my eyes to what psychiatry and psychoanalysis really are.

Jeffrey Masson showed me that the vast majority of psychotherapies, at least as they are practiced today, are the younger sisters of the psychiatrist, as we will see in the section about Freud in this book. Both are professions that blame the victim for the ravages caused by abusive parents. Without Szasz and Masson I could hardly have corrected my position prior to my maturity, when I still believed in the legitimacy of psychoanalysis.

Peter Breggin has spoken of the folie à trois between some parents who mistreat their child and the psychiatric profession that drugs not the aggressors, but the abused child. In this book I focus on this collusion between parents with psychiatrists. It is a known fact that, from its origins in the asylum institution in the 17th century, parents have used psychiatry to control their children.

Breggin has talked a lot about the harm caused by the drugs that parents advised by psychiatrists administer to their children, including the fad of medicating children who become restless or distracted in traditional schools. Currently, in North America alone, several million of these children are being drugged legally, some as young as one or two years of age. The Big Pharma makes a killing by considering diseases conditions such as ‘hyperactivity’ or ‘attention deficit’, thus converting children into an unlimited market.

Another guide for this book was the heroic autobiography of John Modrow who confesses that, due to the mistreatment of his parents and some psychiatrists, he suffered terrible panic attacks when he was a lad, becoming momentarily disturbed. Regarding the cases where the family uses psychiatry not to repress the behaviour of a sane member, but that of a genuinely disturbed person, I will show that even in those cases the psychiatric profession is harmful and fraudulent.

To visualize it, let’s compare the human mind with a computer. There are neurological diseases, such as tumours, that affect the ‘hardware’ of a person. But mental disorders are not found in this group. If the computer where I write this introduction was loaded with a defective version of a word processor and it is necessary to format it, the problem lies in the software of the machine. Likewise, in a human being, a bad software can be ‘programmed’ through emotional, physical and even sexual abuse at an early age: the province of the psychologist. Psychiatrists ignore this reality and attack the individual’s hardware: his brain.

But the mind is not the brain.

It is as absurd to confuse the human mind with the brain as to confuse the Word program with which I write this book with my CPU.

If something goes wrong with the way an individual sees the world—say, someone who believes himself to be Jesus Christ—the problem lies in his cognitive process, in his defence mechanisms; not necessarily in a physiological dysfunction of his brain. By attacking the brain with psychiatric drugs, electroshocks and lobotomies, the profession we call psychiatry re-victimises the disturbed victim. Following the above analogy it is as if, in my desperation to fix the malfunction of my machine, I got into the Mother Board circuits with cutting clips instead of installing the program again. Clarified this point I reiterate that in this book I focus on sane children assaulted by psychiatrists.

In the appendix I point out how so-called biological psychiatry does not meet the standards of a true science. Among several criteria that distinguish between true and false science I give special value to Karl Popper’s criterion, which I try to explain in the most didactic terms possible. If this book falls into the hands of a sophisticated individual who believes that psychiatry has a medical basis, I invite him to read that appendix, where I remove the scientific mask from psychiatry in one go. But in this book I will focus on how abusive parents use psychiatry to finish destroying one of their children.

[1] Janet Gotkin: Too Much Anger, Too Many Tears (Time Book, 1975), p. 385. Gotkin is one of the few survivors of psychiatry who has managed to publish a book about what psychiatrists do to their victims.

[2] I read this in Robert Whitaker: Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill (Perseus, 2001), p. 214.

[3] An American told me in a personal email of August 2005: ‘I remember when I first got involved with anti-psych activities, and I heard NAMI [National Alliance on Mental Illness] psychiatrist (she was on the national board of NAMI, this was the late 80’s), and she was advising True Believers to sneak psych drugs in their children’s food, as she had done with her son—whom I never was able to meet to ask how I felt about this’.

[4] Mad in America, pp. 216s.

Published in: on September 6, 2018 at 12:01 am  Comments (2)  

Why psychiatry is a false science

This text appears in Day of Wrath

______ 卐 ______


“An irrefutable hypothesis is a
sure-fire sign of a pseudoscience.”

—Terence Hines [1]


According to Ron Leifer, there have been four parallel critiques of psychiatry: Thomas Szasz’s conceptual and logical critique of the mental illness idea; Leifer’s own parallel critique of social control through psychiatry, Peter Breggin’s medical evaluation of the assaults on the brain with drugs, electroshock and lobotomy, and the cry of those who have been harmed by it.[2]

Another way to question the validity of psychiatry is to examine the scientific basis of biological psychiatry. This fifth parallel critique, which I would call the evaluation of the scientific status of psychiatry, takes psychiatry to task on its own theoretical base. Exponents of this late strategy have focused on the various bio-reductionist claims and logical fallacies in psychiatry;[3] on the dubious science behind psychopharmacology,[4] and on statistical analyses that show that poor countries with few psychiatric drugs called neuroleptics (“antipsychotics”) fare much better in the treatment of people in psychotic crisis than the rich countries.[5]

Here I will present an apparently innovative way to call into question the scientific status of biological psychiatry.

However odd it may seem, biopsychiatry has not been attacked from the most classic criteria to spot pseudosciences: Karl Popper’s test that distinguishes between real and false science, and the principle known as Occam’s razor. Both of these principles have been very useful in the debunking of paranormal claims,[6] as well as biological pseudosciences such as phrenology.

Mario Bunge, the philosopher of science, maintains that all pseudosciences are sterile. Despite of its multimillion-dollar sponsoring by the pharmaceutical companies, biological psychiatry remains a sterile profession today.[7] Despite its long history of biological theories since 1884 when Johann Thudichum, the founder of modern neurochemistry, believed the cause of madness were “poisons fermented in the body” to the current dopamine theory of schizophrenia, psychiatrists have been unable to find the biological cause of the major disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.[8]

This lack of progress was to be expected. If the biologicistic postulate on which psychiatry lays its foundational edifice is an error, that is to say, if the cause of mental disorders is not somatogenic but psychogenic, real progress can never occur in biological psychiatry; and the subject of mental disorders should not belong to medical science but to psychology.

Nancy Andreasen, the editor of the American Journal of Psychiatry, the most financed and influential journal of psychiatry, recognizes in Brave New Brain, a book published in 2001, that:

There has not been found any physiological pathology behind mental disorders;

nor chemical imbalances have been found in those diagnosed with a mental illness;

nor genes responsible for a mental illness have been found;

there is no laboratory test that determines who is mentally ill and who is not;

some mental disorders may have a psychosocial origin.[9]

A better proof of sterility in biopsychiatry can hardly be found. It is worth saying that a book reviewer tagged Andreasen’s book as “the most important psychiatry book in the last twenty years.”[10] The above points show us why, since its origins, psychiatry and neurology are separated.
Popper’s litmus test

While neurology deals with authentic brain biology, it is legitimate to ask whether psychiatry might be searching for a biological mirage.

In The Logic of Scientific Discovery philosopher of science Karl Popper tells us that the difference between science and pseudosciences lies in the power of refutability of a hypothesis.[11] Despite its academic, governmental and impressive financial backing in the private sector, psychiatry does not rest on a body of discoveries experimentally falsifiable or refutable. In fact, the central hypothesis in psychiatry, a biomedical entity called mental illness—say “schizophrenia”—cannot be put forward as a falsifiable or refutable hypothesis.

Let us consider the claim that psychiatrists use the drugs called neuroleptics to restore the brain chemical imbalance of a schizophrenic. A Popperian would immedia-tely ask the questions: (1) What is exactly a brain chemical imbalance? (2) How is this neurological condition recognized among those who you call schizophrenics and which lab tests are used to diagnose it? (3) Which evidence can you present to explain that the chemical imbalance of the so-called schizo-phrenic has been balanced as a result of taking the neuroleptic?

Before these questions the psychiatrist answers in such a way that he who is unfamiliar with the logic of scientific discovery will have great difficulties in detecting a trick. For instance, Andreasen has acknowledged that there have not been found biochemical imbalances in those diagnosed with a mental illness and that there is no laboratory test that determines who is mentally ill and who is not. That is to say, Andreasen is recognizing that her profession is incapable of responding to the second and third questions above. How, then, does she and her colleagues have convinced themselves that neuroleptics restore to balance the “chemically unbalanced” brains of schizophrenics? Furthermore, why does Andreasen have stated so confidently at the beginning of the section in Brave New Brain that addresses the question of what causes schizophrenia that the disorder “is not a disease that parents cause”?

Speaking in Popperian terms the answer is: by contriving a non-falsifiable or irrefutable hypothesis. In contrast to neurologists, who can demonstrate the physiopathology, histopathology or the presence of pathogen microorganisms, Andreasen and other psychiatrists recognize that they cannot demonstrate these biological markers (faulty genes or biochemical imbalances) that they postulate in the major disorders classified in the revised, fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-IV-TR. If they could do it, psychiatry as a specialty would have disappeared and its body of knowledge merged in neurological science. What psychiatrists do is to state that after almost a century of research in, for instance, schizophrenia, the medical etiology of the “disease” is still “unknown,” and they claim the same of many others DSM-IV behaviors.

As Thomas Szasz has observed, in real medical science physicians observe the pathological alterations in the organs, tissue, and cells as well as the microbial invasions, and the naming of the disease comes only after that. Psychiatry inverts the sequence. First it baptizes a purported illness, be it schizophrenia or any other, but the existence of a biological marker is never discovered, though it is dogmatically postulated.[12] A postulate is a proposition that is accepted without proof. Only by postulating that these disorders are basically genetic and that the environment merely plays a “triggering” role can psychiatrists justify to treat them by physical means. On the other hand, if neuroses and psychoses are caused by poor parenting and extreme parental abuse respectively, to treat them with drugs, electroshock or lobotomy only “re-victimizes” the victim.[13]

In the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s tens of thousands of lobotomies were performed in the United States,[14] but since the advent of neuroleptics only about two hundred surgical lobotomies are performed each year in the world. About 100,000 people are being electro-shocked every year in the United States alone, many against their will.[15] North America consumes about 90 per cent of the world’s methylphenidate (“Ritalin”) for American and Canadian children. Many parents, teachers, politicians, physicians and almost all psychiatrists believe in these “medical model” treatments for unwanted behaviors in children and teenagers.

On the other hand, the “trauma model” is an expression that appears in the writings of non-biological psychiatrists such as Colin Ross. Professionals who work in the model of trauma try to understand neurosis and even psychosis as an injury to the inner self inflicted by abusive parenting.[16] As shown in the next essay of this book, the psyche of a child is very vulnerable to persistent abuse while in the process of ego formation. Some books of the proponents of the old existential and “schizophrenogenic” mother are still in print.[17] More recently, the books by Alice Miller have also become popular.[18] In a moving and yet scholarly autobiography John Modrow maintains that an all-out emotional attack by his parents caused a psychotic crisis in his adolescence.[19] Despite claims to the contrary, the trauma model of psychosis is still alive. Only in 2004 two academic books were released on the subject,[20] and in the Journal of Psychohistory Lloyd deMause still suggest that the gamut of mental disorders, from the dissociative states and psychoses of ancient times to the neuroses of today, are consequence of child abuse.[21]

Let us take as an example an article published in a July 2002 Time magazine. The author used the case of Rodney Yoder, abused during his childhood and as adult hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital in Chester, Illinois. From the hospital Yoder undertook an internet campaign for his liberation. Catching on the favorite phrases of psychiatrists the Time writer tells us: “Scientists are decades away [my emphasis] from being able to use a brain scan to diagnose something like Yoder’s alleged personality disorders.”[22] In the same line of thinking, Rodrigo Muñoz, a former president of the American Psychiatric Association in the 1990s, stated in an interview: “We are gradually advancing to the point when we will be able [my emphasis] to pinpoint functional and structural changes in the brain that are related to schizophrenia.”[23] That is to say, psychiatrists recognize that at present they cannot understand a mental disorder through purely physical means, though they have enormous faith they will in the near future. Hence it is understandable what another psychiatrist told the Washington Post: “Psychiatric diagnosis is descriptive. We don’t really understand psychiatric disorders at a biological level.”[24] Psychiatrists only rely on conduct, not on the individual’s body, to postulate that there is a biological illness. Child psychiatrist Luis Méndez Cárdenas, the director of the only public psychiatric hospital in Mexico which specializes in committing children, told me in a 2002 interview: “Since the cause of any disorder is unknown, the diagnosis is clinical.”

More to the point, in February 2002 I debated psychiatrist Gerard Heinze, the director of the Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatría (the Mexican equivalent to the American National Institute of Mental Health or NIMH.) Arguing with Heinze I rose the question of the lack of biological markers in his profession. Heinze answered enumerating two or three diseases that medical science has not fully understood; he tried to make the point that mental disorders lie in this category of still incomprehensible diseases. For example, until 2006 the Hutchinson-Gilford syndrome, which makes some children start to age since their childhood, was an authentic biomedical disease of unknown etiology. But its existence was not controversial before 2006: it was enough to see the poor aged children to know that their problem was clearly somatic. On the other hand, diagnoses of the alleged psychiatric disorders are so subjective that their inclusion in the DSM has to be decided by votes in congresses of influential psychiatrists. Heinze’s point would not have strained my credulity to the breaking point if most of the 374 DSM-IV diagnoses were already proven biomedical illnesses with only a few of them remaining as mysterious diseases. But we are asked to believe that virtually all of the DSM behaviors are mysterious diseases “of unknown etiology”!

One last example related to a 2003 hunger strike of psychiatric survivors in Pasadena, California, who demanded scienti-fic proof of mental illness as a genuine biomedical disease, will illustrate this attitude.[25]

A demand of the hunger strikers was addressed to the American Psychiatric Association and the offices of the Surgeon General. Psychiatrist Ron Sterling dismissed the strikers’ demand for positive scientific proof describing the mental health field in the following way: “The field is like cardiology before cardiologists could do procedures like electrocardiograms, open-heart surgery, angiograms and ultrasound […]. Since brain structure and physiology are so complex, the understanding of its circuitry and biology are in its infancy.”[26] The Surgeon General Office did not even bother to respond. However, in a statement released in September 2003 the American Psychiatric Association conceded that:

Brain science has not advanced to the point where scientists or clinicians can point to readily discernible pathologic lesions or genetic abnormalities that in and of themselves serve as reliable or predictive biomarkers of a given mental disorder or mental disorders as a group… Mental disorders will likely be proven [my emphasis] to represent disorders of intracellular communication; or of disrupted neural circuitry.

The trick to be noticed in the above public statements is that psychiatrists, physicians all things considered, are stating that even though the etiology of mental disorders is unknown such etiology is, by definition, biological, and that it is only a matter of time that it will likely be proven. This is the hidden meaning of the code word “of unknown etiology.” By doing this psychiatrists dismiss in toto the work of the many researchers who have postulated a psychogenic origin of mental distress and disorders.

Although it is more parsimonious to consider a psychological cause for a mental disturbance that has no known biological markers, with its somatogenic dogma orthodox psychiatry ignores the simplest hypothesis, the model of trauma. To inquire into Yoder’s childhood, for instance, is axiomatically dismissed in a science that clings to only one hypothesis. In other words, by postulating unknown etiologies that will be discovered in the future by medical science—never by psychologists—, these physicians have presented us a biological hypothesis of mental disorders in such a way that, even if wrong, cannot be refuted.

If psychiatrists were true scientists they would present their biological hypo-thesis under the falsifiability protocol that Popper observed in hard sciences. Let us consider the hypothesis:

“At sea level water boils at 40º C.”

This is a scientific hypothesis in spite of the fact that the proposition is false (water does not boil at 40º but at 100º C). The hypothesis is scientific because it is presented in such a way that it just takes putting it to the test in our kitchen with a thermometer to see if it is true or not: if water does not boil at 40º C, the hypothesis is false.

In other words, according to Popper the scientific quality of a hypothesis does not depend on whether the hypothesis is true, but however paradoxical it may seem, it depends on whether the hypothesis may be refuted assuming it is false.

Thus the hypothesis that at present water boils at 40º C can be refuted: it is a scientific hypothesis. On the other hand, the hypothesis that schizophrenia and the other major mental disorders are biological and that this “will likely be proven,” the words of the American Psychiatric Association, cannot be refuted: it is not a scientific hypothesis. Against this biological hypothesis there is no possible evidence at present, that is, there is no empirical evidence that can show that the hypothesis is wrong.

This is the sure-fire sign of a pseudoscience.


A biopsychiatry that drugs millions of children with healthy brains is not a genuine science. True scientists, such as geologists or biologists, never postulate their central hypotheses as non-falsifiable hypotheses that “will likely be proven.” It is the futuristic stance of psychiatrists what gives the lie to the claim that their belief system is scientific.

A pseudo-science is a belief system that pretends to be scientific. Psychiatry is not the only biological pseudoscience, but it exhibits the same unequivocal signs of pseudoscience present in every system that pretends to be scientific. Other biological pseudoscientists such as phrenologists or the communist proponents of anti-Mendel genetics did not comply with the Popperian requirement of presenting their conjectures in falsifiable form either.

All pseudosciences, biological or paranormal, have four things in common. Just as its biological sisters (phrenology and anti-Mendel genetics) and its paranormal cousins (e. g., parapsychology and UFOlogy), psychiatry is a “science” that (1) presents its central hypothesis in a non-falsifiable way; (2) idolizes in perpetuity that sole hypothesis; (3) violates the economy principle by ignoring the more parsimonious alternative, and (4) is completely sterile. After decades of research neither phrenologists nor psychiatrists, para-psychologists or ufologists, have demons-trated the existence of the (alleged) pheno-mena they study.

In other words, psychiatrists do not have medical or scientific evidence to back their claims. Their own recognition that they cannot tell us anything about the above-mentioned question—with which lab tests do you diagnose this so-called neurological condition?—demonstrates that their schizophrenia hypothesis is unscientific. The same can be said of ADHD, bipolar “illness,” depression and the other major DSM disorders.

In a nutshell, psychiatry is not a science. Since the middle 1950s the lack of a mental health science in the medical profession has been compensated by an invasive marketing and the aggressive sales of psychiatric drugs by the pharmaceutical companies.[27]


[1] Terence Hines, Pseudoscience and the paranormal: a critical examination of the evidence. New York: Prometheus Books, 1988, p. 2.

[2] Ron Leifer, “A critique of medical coercive psychiatry, and an invitation to dialogue,” Ethical Human Sciences and Services, 2001, 3 (3), 161-173 (the journal has been renamed Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry).

[3] Colin Ross & Alvin Pam, Pseudoscience in biological psychiatry: blaming the body. New York: Wiley & Sons, 1995.

[4] Elliot Valenstein, Blaming the brain: the truth about drugs and mental health. New York: Free Press, 1998.

[5] Robert Whitaker, Mad in America: bad science, bad medicine, and the enduring mistreatment of the mentally ill. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus, 2001.

[6] The Committee for the Scientific Inquiry, that publishes the bimonthly Skeptical Inquirer and whose members included luminaries such as Martin Gardner, Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan, has been a think tank in the debunking of pseudosciences since 1976.

[7] Cf. Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, a journal authored by a group of mental health professionals that specializes in debunking biopsychiatry.

[8] For a critical review of the dopamine theory of schizophrenia see for example Valenstein, Blaming the brain, pp. 82-89; Ross and Pam, Pseudoscience, pp. 106-109.

[9] Nancy Andreasen, Brave new brain: conquering mental illness in the era of the genome. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

[10] Ty Colbert, book review in Ethical Human Sciences and Services, 2001, 3 (3), p. 213.

[11] Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery. New York: Routledge, 2002, chapters 4 and 6 esp.

[12] See for example Thomas Szasz, Pharmacracy: medicine and politics in America. Connecticut: Praeger, 2001.

[13] César Tort, “Cómo asesinar el alma de tu hijo” in Hojas Susurrantes, Lulu distributors, 2016.

[14] As to date Whitaker’s Mad in America is the most readable exposé I know of the darkest period in American psychiatry.

[15] Ibid.

[16] See for example Silvano Arieti, Interpretation of schizophrenia. New Jersey: Aronson, 1994. Originally published in 1955, this celebrated treatise is worth revisiting.

[17] See for example Ronald Laing, The divided self: an existential study in sanity and madness (Selected works of R.D. Laing, 1). New York: Routledge, 1999.

[18] E.g., Alice Miller, Breaking down the wall of silence: the liberating experience of facing painful truth. New York: Dutton, 1987.

[19] John Modrow, How to become a schizophrenic: the case against biological psychiatry. New York: Writers Club Press, 2003.

[20] Colin Ross, Schizophrenia: an innovative approach to diagnosis and treatment. New York: Haworth Press, 2004. See also John Read, Loren Mosher and Richard Bentall, Models of madness. New York: Routledge, 2004.

[21] See e.g., Lloyd deMause, “The Evolution of the Psyche and Society” in The Emotional Life of Nations. New York: Other Press, 2002.

[22] John Cloud, “They call him crazy,” Time, 15 July 2002.

[23] Rodrigo Muñoz, quoted in Jeanette De Wyze, “Still crazy after all these years,” San Diego Weekly Reader, 9 January 2003.

[24] Thomas Laughren, quoted in Shankar Vedantam, “Against depression, a sugar pill is hard to beat: placebos improve mood, change biochemistry in majority of trials of antidepressants,” Washington Post, 6 May 2002.

[25] Fred Baughman, Peter Breggin, Mary Boyle, David Cohen, Ty Colbert, Pat Deegan, Al Galves, Thomas Greening, David Jacobs, Jay Joseph, Jonathan Leo, Bruce Levine, Loren Mosher and Stuart Shipko, “15 December 2003 reply by scientific panel of the Fast for Freedom in Mental Health to the 26 September statement by the American Psychiatric Association.” (I read this article at the beginning of 2004 in mindfreedom.org.)

[26] Ron Sterling, “Hoeller does a disservice to professionals,” op-ed rebuttal, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9 September 2003.

[27] Valenstein, Blaming the brain (op. cit.).