Also see Iatrogenic Birth Trauma,
The Truth About Birth, and
Leaving Well Alone: A Natural Approach to the Third Stage of Labour


by Rich Winkel

(under construction)

A Quick Economic Overview of Psychiatric Practice

The probability of trauma or domestic abuse victims being "hospitalized" with a "psychiatric disorder" is significantly higher than for other people, so high, in fact, that the odds ratio dwarfs the odds ratios for any known biochemical brain measure, despite decades of psychiatry's assurances that mental illness is best understood as a biological phenomenon. Despite widespread and well cultivated public misperceptions, psychiatry has thus far been unable to backup its claims about "chemical imbalances" with scientific studies. Not coincidentally, more than half of psychiatrically hospitalized people have histories of domestic abuse victimization and/or trauma, and more than half of psychiatric hospitalizations are for depression.

Other research indicates that oppressive social conditions of racial minorities, and not a genetic predisposition, cause them to develop "mental illness" at 6 times the rate of controls (see

Research claiming to show a connection between abnormal brains and mental illness is nearly invariably carried out with psychiatrically-treated patients representing the ill group. Many psychiatric drugs, as well as shock treatment, are well known to cause such brain damage despite public obfuscation by financially conflicted psychiatric authorities. Research which does attempt to avoid such experimental bias systematically ignores the obvious possibility that any neurochemical or structural brain differences between "mentally ill" and "normal" people are simply a gross physiological consequence of a neural net learning adaptation to an oppressive social environment, despite ample evidence for such an hypothesis

The animal model for mental illness research invariably involves abusing or drugging the animals which are to be labelled mentally ill by their captors. Mental illness has never been documented in animals in a natural environment. This particular "disease" has no known natural animal model.

All this strongly implies that trauma, abuse and adverse social conditions are overwhelmingly domininant causes of mental illness. Since involuntary committal of mentally ill people is frequently instigated and paid for by dominant family members, psychiatrists often have a profound conflict of interest between their duty to their patients and their wallets. Essentially, they are being hired by domestic abusers to control the symptoms (but not the causes) of their victim's suffering, often at high cost to the victim. Likewise for racial minorities and the poor, who are often channeled into psychiatry by the social systems which oppress them. The psychiatric prescription for powerlessness is thus to disempower the "patient" further, often inflict permanent brain damage, and indulge in a socially expedient and profitable game of "blame the victim." Tellingly, the psychiatric establishment has never attempted to address this systemic conflict of interest.

The psychiatric response to these concerns seems be that "brains run on chemicals, therefore one can deal with emotional problems by simply tweaking the appropriate chemicals." But this would be analogous to debugging a computer program with a soldering iron, based on the observation that computer programs run on electricity. Cutting cables and tweaking power supply voltages will definitely put an end to the the behavior in question, but at what cost? Ideas and emotions are emergent complex properties of neural net dynamics, a domain where psychiatrists are no more knowledgable than an electrician is of computer programming. Hi tech MRI's of transient neural discharge patterns barely scratch the surface of raw perceptual discrimination and offer little insight into the multiplexed behavior and learning, over time, of individual neurons, much less of the emergent properties of the neural net as a whole. More importantly, such shallow knowledge has very limited and gross applications in applied practice. The chasm between knowledge and practice in neuropsychiatry renders the former a figleaf for the latter.

Furthermore, psychiatry seems remarkably unconcerned with the question of cause vs effect, which would seem crucial to any scientific endeavor. This gets to the value judgement at the heart of the neuropsychiatric paradigm: whether to pathologize a neural net which has no clinically demonstrable organic dysfunction (which would be the domain of neurology in any case), or the often demonstrably dysfunctional social environment which the learning, adaptive neural net (as well as the psychiatrist itself!) is embedded in. If mental illness is often simply a product of a normally functioning neural net adaptation to a harmful social environment, rather than a spontaneous "illness" suffered by a defective brain, then pathologizing the brain amounts to little more than a value judgement and a rationalization for the moral equivalent of treating a gunshot wound with nothing but pain killers, and ultimately, for imposing force on the weak. "Symptomatic relief" of understandable responses to adverse social conditions which might otherwise be constructively addressed serves only to perpetuate social pathology and psychiatric practice.

Psychiatry also seems largely unconcerned with its patients' subjective experiences of its treatments. which, especially given its profound state of ignorance, happens to be the most meaningful and humane measure of its own success. By that measure, psychiatry's record seems mixed at best, with effects ranging from life-enhancement to life-destroying catastrophe. Using force, coercion or fraud in cases with a negative outcome vastly increases the probability of a justifiable perception of violence and trauma by the patient, leading directly to iatrogenic PTS, and the psychiatric survivors human rights movement.

Psychiatry's pathologization, imprisonment, isolation, drugging, shocking, brain-damaging, traumatization and (by virtue of its reductionist ideology) stigmatization of trauma and abuse victims and racial minorities while suppressing this critical research on social causation deserves an explanation. Given that brain damage is well documented to cause often life-long emotional suffering, and psychiatrogenic symptoms such as tardive dyskinesia probably do wonders for "patients" social lives, psychiatric treatments themselves are quite likely to be a major cause of mental illness. People can spend virtually their entire lives locked up in a "hospital," with their fates entirely in the hands of psychiatrists who have an economic interest and a pseudo-scientific rationalization for keeping them there.

It should also be noted that in domestic abuse contexts the objectives of the psychiatrist (enforcing behavior control in the context of an unjust status quo), are remarkably consonant with those of most domestic abuse. Since such social enforcement inevitably involves punishment and oppression, the seeds for further psychiatrization of the victim are fortuitously sown. Perhaps this accounts for psychiatry's tenacity and power throughout history, in the face of its relative scientific illiteracy. It reinforces the social conditions needed for its own perpetuation.

However, it should be stressed that since most domestic abusers are simply unconsciously reenacting their own prior victimization, and would not consciously consent to, (for instance) life-altering trauma or permanent brain damage in their child/spouse, psychiatry is in effect defrauding those clients who engage in domestic abuse, by offering a convenient, superficial and self-delusionary rationalization for perpetuating the abusive status quo, and helping to perpetuate intergenerational patterns of abuse.

Thus psychiatry takes on the outlines of a medical mercenary which isn't even faithful to its client (i.e. in business for itself), utililizing medical technology in pursuit of what in many cases most people would consider to be in the domain of law enforcement or context-sensitive social services. Unlike law enforcement however, the (usually non-violent) psychiatric prisoner is formally denied the human right to physical integrity. Society has a right and an obligation to protect people from other people's destructive behaviors. It has neither the right nor the need to arbitrarily invade people's bodies and minds in order to enforce behavior control, that's what jails are for. This does not preclude truely informed consent to psychiatric services, if the individual deems such services to be of benefit. Psychiatry's continuing dependence on force, coercion and fraud is strong evidence that free people often chose otherwise.

Of course at some point in this analysis one must necessarily begin to question both the competence and the motivations of many people who are drawn to careers in psychiatry. A plausible explanation is that such people may tend to have emotional problems of their own which they hope to find answers for, and indeed, an American Psychiatric Association study concluded that "physicians with affective disorders tend to select psychiatry as a specialty." (Psychology Today, July/August 1997, page 60) The high rate of suicide among psychiatrists as a group also raises questions of motivation. Power over others can bring temporary relief from feelings of powerlessness over one's own life. Is it a good idea to give these people unbridled and effectively arbitrary power over society's most voiceless and vulnerable people?

Furthermore, the psychological crises resulting from the social isolation and stigmatization of psychiatric hospitalization, coupled with its often destructive treatments, also raises the question of whether psychiatry is practicing an institutionalized form of Munchausen by Proxy, which would be entirely consistent with the narcissistic personalities of some physicians.

The deluge of pharmocorporate dollars being channeled to psychiatric research, publications and conferences no doubt also plays a role in setting the psychiatric agenda, exacerbating the institutional and individual conflicts of interest already endemic in psychiatry.

Meanwhile, the pharmocorporate-funded "National Alliance for the Mentally Ill", an organization completely dominated by psychiatrists and family members of patients, monopolizes the political discussion around mental illness.

In many ways psychiatry has hardly changed since the days it locked up women for questioning their husbands. Its economic incentives are certainly unchanged.

Is this the kind of "medicine" that powerless people need?
For more info, see Mind Freedom
My psych stuff.
My MGM stuff.

Dr. Steven Sharfstein, Psychiatrist and President of the American Psychiatric Association, stated on the Today Show, June 2005, "...there is no clear cut test, nor has there ever been in the history of psychiatry, that shows chemical imbalances in the brain. In fact, there is no such thing as chemical imbalances in the brain." Katie Couric asked in mortification, "Dr. Sharfstein, how can you prescribe drugs for things that you are admitting don't exist?!" Dr. Sharfstein smiling wryly replied, "Because we can (chuckle)."

Quoted in the Magic City Morning Star

"We need a program of psychosurgery and political control of our society. The purpose is physical control of the mind. Everyone who deviates from the given norm can be surgically mutilated. The individual may think that the most important reality is his own existence, but this is only his personal point of view. This lacks historical perspective. ... Man does not have the right to develop his own mind. ... We must electrically control the brain. Some day armies and generals will be controlled by electrical stimulation of the brain."

-- Dr. Jose Delgado, Director of Neuropsychiatry,
Yale University Medical School,
Congressional Record No. 26, Vol. 118, February 24, 1974,
demonstrating that mental illness need not be a barrier to a distinguished career in psychiatry.

Also see:

My letter to Ralph Nader
Loren Mosher's letter of resignation from the APA
International Center for the Study of Psychiatry & Psychology
Alliance for Human Research Protection

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