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Anti Psychiatry Voices

Updated on January 13, 2016
Institute of Psychiatry London UK
Institute of Psychiatry London UK | Source

Anti psychiatry opinions have been expressed for many years, but an increasing number of professionals are coming forward to voice their concerns about what is often perceived to be a “pseudoscience”. Put rather simply, a pseudoscience is a practice or belief that claims to be based on scientific evidence or proof, but does not adhere to acceptable scientific standards. The professionals I speak of surprisingly include some psychiatrists which should be a cause for concern.

Past mental health service users, sometimes known as “survivors”, are also speaking out in their efforts to add weight to the anti psychiatric movement but we don’t hear much about their opinions either. These people feel that psychiatry has failed them in some way or even proved to be damaging, and yet we know little of these people.

Recovery Model In Psychiatry Brings Hope


We now have the so-called “recovery model” in psychiatric services and it has to be said that it’s a huge leap in progress compared to years ago. Once upon a time you may have been chained to the wall, had your blood drained, stuck in an ice bath or had dubious holes drilled into your skull. Sounds more like punishment doesn’t it? Of course it was merely experimentalism and ignorance on the part of the medical profession but little was learned from these experiments.

Today, the rights of patients are taken much more into consideration and treatment is meant to be geared around social inclusion and coping skills. If psychiatric treatment is deemed to be hugely improved, why are there a growing number of people against what psychiatry stands for?

The Voices of Anti Psychiatry

Michel Foucault (1926-1984)
Philosopher and historian
Power and control issues
Erving Goffman (1922-1982
Institutionalization issues
R.D Laing (1927-1989)
Diagnosis and medical model issues
David Cooper (1931-1986)
Defining mental illness issues
Thomas Szasz (1920-2012)
Diagnosis, treatment and control issues
Peter Breggin
Psychiatrist -current
Medication issues

Six professional people appear to stand out as those who have been instrumental in bringing about strong arguments against the practice of psychiatry.

Note how four of the six people are psychiatrists? Imagine how it would feel to stand up against your entire profession and say your profession is flawed. These people stood to make many enemies and they would have been well aware of that fact, but they spoke out anyway. It takes a lot of courage coupled with hard facts and evidence to argue against an entire medical institution. Their issues are not surprising.

Power and Control

The accent on everything today appears to be on human rights. We have never had so many personal rights as we have now. Criminals even have some rights! If you are a mental health patient you do have rights generally speaking but there is still a concern that limits your rights.

If you do not have the mental capacity to agree to treatment, professionals can make that decision for you. You can hope that a family member, friend or other intervenes for you. If you are detained under the Mental Health Act and on a section 2,3, 36, 37, 38, 45A, 47 or 48, the law states that treatment can be given without consent. This excludes ECT treatment.

This remains a form of power and control. Once sectioned, on the surface of things, most of your personal rights fly out of the window.


To an extent this has certainly improved. Long stay inpatient treatment is a thing of the past in the UK and focus is on community care wherever possible.

Mental Illness is not a Life Choice

Gays were diagnosed as mentally ill
Gays were diagnosed as mentally ill | Source

Diagnosis in Psychiatry

The arguments about labelling people using the diagnostic criteria as set down in the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders), remain as strong today as they ever did. Classifying people as “mentally ill” for dubious character and behavioural traits is a very easy thing for psychiatrists to do…too easy. You would have to see the DSM for yourself to understand just how much some common behaviours can be interpreted as mental illness.

Being gay used to be a mental illness according to the DSM, but this has now been removed. That said, there is an increasing number of diagnostic labels given to what some perceive to be normal behaviour. On reading the DSM, it is as if the powers that be are actively looking to create more and more forms of mental illness. It is of great concern that children as well as adults are being tagged more easily too. Labelling in this fashion has a feel of social exclusion about it; something that today’s psychiatry is apparently opposed to...isn’t it?

Interestingly, psychologist David Rosenhan conducted an experiment in 1973 in which a number of people pretended to have auditory hallucinations to see if they could be admitted to twelve psychiatric hospitals. They were diagnosed with mental illness and admitted. Even when they told staff in hospital that they felt much better and were not having hallucinations, they were encouraged to admit to having a mental illness and to take their antipsychotic drugs.

Medicalizing Psychiatry

If we continue to be told that we can be genetically predisposed to some mental illnesses, and that chemical imbalances are at the core of the problems, we will always see psychiatry as being a medical model. Treating “mental illness” with medications that sometimes produce severe side effects is a growing concern, especially as more and more children are taking these medications. The fact of the matter is that they do not cure, they alleviate at best. I don’t want to get into the medication debate here apart from mentioning the book “Toxic Psychiatry” by Peter Breggin M.D. It is a very believable anti medication argument from Dr Breggin and there are an increasing number of books dealing with the same issue.

To remain a medical model, psychiatry and mental illnesses should be aptly based on scientific evidence. There seems to be rather a shortfall of such conclusive evidence to support the biological claims that are made. No psychiatrist can test you for each individual mental illness which I personally find rather alarming. In my opinion, psychiatry should be based on the holistic model.

A general practitioner is unlikely to treat you for a stomach ulcer on guesswork alone, even if you have the symptoms of one. If he suspects an ulcer, he will back up this hypothesis by sending you for investigative tests. Only when the test results come back and a diagnosis made on clear evidence, would you then receive the medication to treat the condition.

Anti Psychiatry Video

Defining Mental Illness

Taking a behaviour and being able to regard it as a mental illness, with all its social and possible lifelong implications, is all too easy to do. The arguments are based on what constitutes “mental illness”. Perhaps the term itself is bad enough? Many believe that people often behave differently by reaction to something traumatic in life. It may be childhood instigated or not but reacting emotionally and behaviourally to life’s challenges does not necessarily mean you have a “mental illness”. Sadly the DSM decides this and your doctor or psychiatrist is obliged to follow diagnostic criteria.

Not all Anti Psychiatry is About Scientology

Scientology Exhibit - Anti Psychiatry
Scientology Exhibit - Anti Psychiatry | Source

Scientology and Psychiatry

Scientology has been closely linked to the anti psychiatric movement since Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) founded the Church of Scientology in 1952. His published work on dianetics was deemed to be another pseudoscience of psychiatry by many.

Dr Peter Breggin has been linked to scientology, which for the most part is a huge shame because most of his professional opinions make a lot of sense. Is it easier to try to link someone to scientology so that you don’t have to take them seriously? He believes some of the drugs used in psychiatry can cause the very symptoms that they are meant to treat! The drugs industry is a huge money making commodity, and it is not going to take kindly to anyone questioning mass used medications.

We know that a lot of our prescription medications are tested on animals. How can you tell if an animal such as a monkey feels less depressed? He can not tell you and you can’t read his mind. How can you tell if that animal had a mental illness in the first place? Perhaps he didn’t and is purely sedated and quiet after a medication trial (control?)

Why Anti Psychiatry Fails

Most of this will be very obvious to you all. Even I don’t have to be an Einstein to see that majority rules. Those who are anti psychiatry are very much in the minority. Worst of all, the alternative solutions, if any, could never suit everyone involved. An alternative to what we have would have to suit those who write the DSM, the drug companies, the psychiatrists and most important of all, the service users. You would simply never please them all.

The diagnostic manual would have to be completely re-created and drug companies stand to lose a rather heft wedge of their income. Psychiatrists could actually become obsolete as their main role is to diagnose and prescribe medication.

Controversial Reading On Psychiatry

Psychiatry: The Science of Lies
Psychiatry: The Science of Lies
by psychotherapist Gary Greenberg

I have learned much about the "pseudo" side of psychiatry in the last few years and frankly am horrified by what I have learned. I also have had dealings with many psychiatric patients and know that 90% of them would change nothing in psychiatry. There is safety and security in what you know. Many patients have had a diagnosis almost all their lives and have taken psychiatric drugs for all that time too. Imagine the impact on such sufferers. Imagine being told for twenty years that you have had a personality disorder and then suddenly being told, “Sorry we got it wrong because you are reacting to life and you can throw away your pills”! It just wouldn’t work.

Sadly, we come to the reality of psychiatry; that of suffering and those who are close to sufferers. There is much fear and isolation for those suffering with a mental illness.

Asylums were built supposedly for the good of society; for the safety of both patients and public citizens. A form of control was deemed to be necessary and it seems that this still applies today because of ignorance and stigma. No one has come up with a feasible alternative to the so-called science of psychiatry as we know it. This is another reason why those who oppose psychiatry can only ever hope to make the smallest of changes.

I can hear those who have suffered for many years breathing a sigh of relief!


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Sputnick, I'm glad you are finding some of the wirnitg here useful.I'm sorry you're having this problem with your health care providers. That sounds very frustrating. A trusting relationship with your doctor is key in a partnership in working to help you get better.If you really feel like they lied to you and it's inexcusable, then yes, your only alternative is to get a new doctor and build a new report.However, if you lay out the issue before them, exactly like you have right here, you may be able to get a resolution to the problem. It's possible they don't know how upset you are by the situation. It's possible there may be something of which you're not aware. You have nothing to lose by being completely honest if you plan on changing doctors anyway.Sorry, I don't know what CSP refers to.Good luck.- Natasha

    • meloncauli profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UK

      Hi lambservant

      Just out of curiosity, what don't you believe that Dr Breggin says? I wasn't aware that any psychiatric conditions have been emphatically proven in a scientific or medical way. All I ever seem to hear is that they look at brain scans, see some slight changes, but then they can't understand why! They don't check normal brains so often, so the changes could be to do with something else???

      I once asked a doctor many years ago for a serotonin level check...the answer of course was " there is no test because we can't take stuff from the brain"!

      Breggin especially does kind of advocate an holistic approach to many mental health disorders, especially the depression and anxiety types.

      In my opinion, the only alternative solution there can ever be is to home in on the psychology of peoples' conditions. Root causes are seldom addressed adequately for example. Schizophrenia tends to happen in young adulthood, but young adults are generally seen to have gone through or are going through a tough time in life. Sometimes their childhoods have been traumatic. Many schizophrenics are diagnosed when working hard at college or university ( pressure and stress).

      No one ever seems to look at "personal meanings" with regards to mental health. A schizophrenic's "voices" can echo underlying a way that it seems to be forcing them to listen to their subconscious.

      I have known quite a few schizophrenics and because I have known their "issues" pre- diagnosis, I can kind of see why the mind has reacted in such a way.

      Just my opinion and thoughts :)

      Thanks for your comments...much appreciated.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      8 years ago from United States

      I am familiar with Saaz and Breggin. I disagree with much of what they say, but would agree that a lot the way medications are being handled is very problematic. One of them says schizophrenia is not a real disease, that it doesn't exist. I am not a doctor or scientist, but I have been around people suffering with that condition quite a bit, have friends with loved ones with the problem and have done a lot of research on it, and I think of all the psychiatric conditions, that one is the most obvious and scientifically proven mental disorders or diseases of them all. What frustrates me is I never hear an alternate solution. I am not willing to go off my meds yet until a viable alternative solution is offered. I have learned a lot of tools to manage symptoms, but not enough to keep me stable consistently. Great hub. I thank you for your efforts to educate and advocate for the mental health community.

    • meloncauli profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UK

      Thanks for your comment Sid. The spiritual side of psychiatry is never really addressed. Personal meaning in life is highly important for anyone but perhaps even more so within a state of mental disequilibrium. Many personal questions arise when a person develops a "mental illness", and those meanings are of great value to that person's treatment and recovery. If these personal meanings or values are ignored, it is far from a holistic approach.

      Psychiatry would have use believe that although their general treatment is medications, they are interested in people's lives. There are exceptions to the rule, but on the whole, psychiatry tags, medicates and then the person becomes nothing but a set of notes for the purpose of a history.

      Thanks for your input Sid. It is very interesting.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 

      8 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      This is a fascinating and important article. I would add two items. One is that recent evidence shows that *all* of the studies of psychiatric prescription medications of the last 30 years were flawed (not properly double-blind) in a way that now indicates that there is no evidence that any of these drugs is effective. So, even when the scientific method can be applied, it has not been. Second, speaking from my own expertise, there are some spiritual experiences which, if managed in a spiritual context, are very healthy. At the same time, the same experiences can be diagnosed as a psychotic break, and become one, especially if psychopharmaceuticals are used.

      Psychiatry is still a young art and a young science. We can hope it will improve over time. We can also hope that alternative health models can prevent psychiatric illness as they grow and improve and are used more widely and well.


    • thewritingowl profile image

      Mary Kelly Godley 

      8 years ago from Ireland

      You are welcome. I know it is unbelievable the amount of people who are being prescribed medication who should not be on it or are given it because nobody is sure what the problem is and they are just hoping that this might solve it but they have no idea really whether it will work or not. It's a total quagmire of profits and experimentation at the end of the day.

    • meloncauli profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UK

      Thank you so much for that account. It certainly adds weight to how vital diagnosis really is. It is far too easy to diagnose mental illness and be given heavy medications that actually disguise the symptoms so you think it has all "gone away".

      I too found out some years ago that there are no tests in the UK for diagnosing mental illness. Years ago it was suggested that I had bipolar disorder because I had fluctuating moods and offered lithium. I naturally asked "can I have a test then to see if I need the lithium"? The answer was of course " no, there isn't a test". Lithium can be dangerous (lithium toxicity) and I didn't want to take it unless I absolutely had to. I refused it on the grounds that there was no proof I had bipolar disorder. It turned out that my moods were directly related to how good or bad I felt with the panic disorder I used to suffer from!

      It is that easy to find yourself on lithium and I am glad I was able to free myself from this kind of treatment by psychiatry. In the eyes of psychiatry there is only one treatment for all the mental illnesses - medication.

      A lady I know who has bipolar disorder is also an epileptic. Despite all anti epileptic treatment she is finding her epilepsy hard to control. Now she knows why; her antipsychotic medication has side effects of increased seizures in those with a low seizure threshold! She is furious that she wasn't even told and she has been on it for years!

      Thanks for your comment.

    • thewritingowl profile image

      Mary Kelly Godley 

      8 years ago from Ireland

      When I first took anti-depressants I questioned nothing. I believed the cause was a lack of serotonin in my brain and took same. Yes they made me happier and less stressed but they also made me unable to sleep (worse anyway than before I took them), I gained weight, I was unable to concentrate and after a while I started to wonder is this was the only way? So I started to study why I was feeling the way I did and when I then asked my GP 'Why do I have depression and what type do you think I have?' He answered, 'does it matter, once you keep taking your tablets for the rest of your life you'll be grand so don't let it bother you.'

      Then though I read some more and somebody asked what test did your GP do to make sure you were lacking in serotonin before deciding this is why you needed to go on medication? This put me thinking a lot and then I also read that there is actually no way of proving that a lack of serotonin is the cause of your depression? This was a revelation to me.

      So that was the start of my 8 year journey of trying to get to the real root of the problem, so after my son was diagnosed with Autism I contacted a psychiatrist and told her 'I want to be assessed for ASD,' she told me, 'you can't have ASD because you have managed too well in life!' I protested that I didn't think so.

      Eventually a psychologist did diagnose with Aspergers Syndrome and finally I knew why my brain was the way it was and still I think, why couldn't someone just have told me that to begin with and it would have saved me a lifetime of thinking I had several other conditions altogether and must be a very disturbed person indeed!

      Very interesting article and you make many good points.

    • meloncauli profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UK

      Thanks Monica. So many people are discouraged by treatment. If this was about some heart problem treatment or other such vital medical condition, voices would be heard much louder. Many mental health service users actually daren't speak out because of dependency on the system and for fear or recrimination. It's very sad.

    • monicaortegamon profile image

      Monica Ortega 

      8 years ago from Uncasville, Connecticut

      Hi meloncauli your article does bring up a very good point that I can agree with because I have experienced it. I have fallen victim to some psychiatrist who have been very harmful and have made things worse for me than better. Every Psychiatrist has their own theory of how to help an individual that isn't always sound. It is just sad that it has taken so long to figure these things out for myself. Eventually a patient gets tired of the bull and realizes to take charge of their own individual treatment due to bad experiences. Although as you said, how are we to change this if not enough people are speaking out? Exposure is a continual effort in order to be heard. Thanks for the insight, Monica

    • meloncauli profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UK

      Thanks Leah. If you did a Google search you would find quite a few. That's the strangest thing.... psychiatrists feeling uncomfortable within their own profession . It doesn't sit well with me to say the least.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      8 years ago from Western New York

      This is really interesting, meloncauli. I didn't realize there were professionals opposed to the field of psychiatry. It does seem that medication is often used as a first-line approach in modern times, without the use of therapy or other methods to learn to cope with certain problems. It is scary to think of the increasing number of young children on heavy levels of drugs.

    • meloncauli profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UK

      Thanks gsidley. I am glad you are optimistic and I hope you are right. Hmm...another book to add to my list! Many thanks for recommending it.

    • gsidley profile image

      Dr. Gary L. Sidley 

      8 years ago from Lancashire, England

      Now this is my kind of hub ! Outstanding stuff, meloncauli.

      I am a bit more optimistic about change; it will come, albeit slowly. Such an unscientific and often damaging branch of medicine cannot survive indefinitely (despite the power of the vested interests).

      A great little book that provides objective information about psychiatric medications is:

      "A Straight Talking Introduction to Psychiatric Drugs" by Joanna Moncrieff.

      It is well worth a read.

      Best wishes

    • meloncauli profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UK

      Thanks Carol, glad you stopped by to read.

    • meloncauli profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UK

      Thanks billybuc for your comment.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      Very enlightening to read about all this. Again something I never thought about. You presented this in a most intriguing way. Thanks for sharing.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      8 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very interesting stuff; great education and I thank you!


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