Sunday, April 19, 2015

UPDATED: Psychiatry-skepticism-social justice reading list

Back in 2012, I wrote about why psychiatry is an important skeptical and social justice issue and created a short list of reading suggestions for approaching psychiatry from these perspectives. The impending release later this week of Psychiatry Under the Influence has nudged me to update it.

Much has changed since 2012, and all of the developments point to the urgency of critically examining and speaking out about psychiatry and psychopharmaceuticals. Just prior to the publication of the DSM-5 in 2013, the NIMH announced that it would no longer use psychiatric diagnoses, acknowledging that they’re not scientifically valid,* which was then publicly admitted (again) by the leaders of the APA. Studies completed over the past three years have provided more evidence of the ineffectiveness and harms of psychiatric drugs, and others have demonstrated the profound psychological effects of marginalization and socioeconomic trauma. Professional movements challenging biopsychiatry and its drugs have continued to grow.

Today, many continue desperately to try to sell the myths about brain diseases and disorders and chemical imbalances, at the same time as others have taken to claiming astonishingly that reputable psychiatrists never made such claims at all. Countless people, including children, have had their rights violated and been injured or killed by psychiatric drugs since 2012, while pharma has reaped the profits and its representatives in psychiatry continue to operate with impunity.** Tragically, the skeptical community continues to exclude and attempt to silence critical perspectives while promoting psychiatric myths. I have no doubt that they believe their arguments and recommendations to be compassionate and helpful, but genuinely helpful approaches should be based in reality and not pseudoscience.

So, because hope springs eternal, I’m adding a few more resources which might entice the curious or the concerned. The original list included:

• Robert Whitaker, Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill (2002)

• Irving Kirsch, The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth (2009)

• Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America (2010)

• Marcia Angell, “The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?”, “The Illusions of Psychiatry,” and “‘The Illusions of Psychiatry’: An Exchange” (2011)

Ethan Watters, Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche (2010)

• Christopher Lane, Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness (2007)

• Ben Goldacre, Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks (2008)

• Ben Goldacre, Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients (2012)

Erich Fromm, various

And here are the additions, several of which I’ve reviewed in the intervening years:

Joanna Moncrieff, The Myth of the Chemical Cure: A Critique of Psychiatric Drug Treatment (2008)

• James Davies, Cracked: The Unhappy Truth about Psychiatry (2013)

• Stuart A. Kirk, Tomi Gomory, and David Cohen, Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis, and Drugs (2013)

• Paul Moloney, The Therapy Industry: The Irresistible Rise of the Talking Cure, and Why It Doesn’t Work (2013) (I hope to critically review this in the not-too-distant future)

Karen Horney, Neurosis and Human Growth and New Ways in Psychoanalysis

• Marcia Westkott, The Feminist Legacy of Karen Horney (1986)

• Alice Miller, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society’s Betrayal of the Child

Ignacio Martín-Baró, Writings for a Liberation Psychiatry

• Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (1961) (don’t know how I neglected this the first time!)

Once again I’ll note that recommending these books doesn’t mean that I endorse each and every argument they contain, which would be impossible in any case as they often disagree amongst themselves.

In addition to Psychiatry Under the Influence, there’s a new book by sociologist Andrew Scull, Madness in Civilization: A Cultural History of Insanity from the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine, that looks interesting (though the Kindle price is pretty high). This excerpt contains an interesting note about Thomas Insel:
A few months earlier, in a private conversation that he must have realized would become public, Insel had voiced an even more heretical thought. His psychiatric colleagues, he said dismissively, ‘actually believe [that the diseases they diagnose using the DSM] are real. But there’s no reality. These are just constructs. There is no reality to schizophrenia or depression...we might have to stop using terms like depression and schizophrenia, because they are getting in our way, confusing things[’].
Apparently, this was from a conversation recorded in Gary Greenberg’s The Book of Woe, which I haven’t yet read and so couldn’t add to the list.

* Thomas Insel remains faithful to the idea that the biological roots of psychological problems will be found, even if it takes, as he expects, decades.

** I’ve discussed all of this in much more depth here over the years – posts on the subject can be found under my “health” tag.

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