Mental Illness or Social Sickness?

When you are sick or injured, you want to know what’s wrong and what can be done. You want a diagnosis. A correct diagnosis reveals what is wrong, what is the preferred treatment and what is the likely outcome. For example, a diagnosis of pneumonia indicates a serious lung infection that can usually be cured with antibiotics.

While medical diagnoses are based on science, psychiatric “diagnoses” are not at all scientific. They do not reveal what is wrong, what is the preferred treatment, and what is the likely outcome. Nor are they reliable. Different psychiatrists who examine the same patient typically offer different “diagnoses.” Moreover, psychiatric “diagnoses” move in and out of favor, depending on a variety of social factors.

Psychiatric “diagnosis” is actually a labeling process, where the patient’s symptoms are matched with a grouping of symptoms listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM). As we shall see, this psychiatric “bible” was developed and is maintained by financial and political interests.Kirk, S.S. & Kutchins, H. (1992). The selling of DSM: The rhetoric of science in psychiatry. New York: Aldine De Gruyter.

Sigmund Freud

Who decides what is normal or healthy and what is deviant or sick?

Before the 20th century, life stresses were generally seen as spiritual problems or physical illnesses, and people turned to religious advisors and physicians for help. Medical doctors treated “hysteria” and “nerves” as physical problems. Psychiatry was restricted to the treatment of severely disturbed people in asylums.Horowitz, A.V. (2002). Creating mental illness. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. The first classification of psychiatric disorders in the United States appeared in 1918 and contained 22 categories. All but one referred to various forms of insanity.

In 1901, Sigmund Freud revolutionized psychiatry by breaking down the barrier between mental illness and normal behavior. In The Psychopathology of Everyday Life,Freud, S. (1901/1991). The psychopathology of everyday life. New York: Penguin Freud argued that commonplace behaviors — slips of the tongue, what people find humorous, what they forget and the mistakes they make — indicate repressed sexual feelings that lurk beneath the surface of normal behavior.

By linking everyday behavior with mental illness, Freud and his followers released psychiatry from the asylum. Between 1917 and 1970, as psychiatrists cultivated clients with a broad range of problems, the number of psychiatrists practicing outside institutions swelled from eight percent to 66 percent.Shorter, E. (1997). A history of psychiatry: From the era of the asylum to the age of Prozac. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

The social movements of the 1960’s opposed psychiatry’s focus on inner conflict and emphasized the social sources of sickness instead. Dr. Alvin Poussaint recalls the 1969 convention of the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

“After multiple racist killings during the civil rights movement, a group of black psychiatrists sought to have murderous bigotry based on race classified as a mental disorder. The APA’s officials rejected that recommendation, arguing that since so many Americans are racist, racism in this country is normative.”Poussaint, A.F. & Alexander, A. (2000). Lay my burden down: Suicide and the mental health crisis among African-Americans. Boston: Beacon Press, p.125.

Growing the industry

In 1980, the APA overhauled the DSM. The Task Force established to create the new manual declared that any disorder could be included,

“If there is general agreement among clinicians, who would be expected to encounter the condition, that there are significant number of patients who have it and that its identification is important in the clinical work it is included in the classification.”Spitzer, R.L., Sheeney, M. & Endicott, J. (1977). DSM III: Guiding principles. In Psychiatric diagnosis, (Eds). Rakoff, V., Stancer, H. & Kedward, H. New York: Brunner Mazel.

In other words, the new DSM was not based on science, but on the need to maintain existing patients and include new ones who might seek help for any number of problems. A profitable and self-perpetuating industry was born. The more people could be encouraged to seek treatment, the more conditions could be entered into the DSM, and the more people could be encouraged to seek treatment for these new conditions.

By 1994, the DSM listed 400 distinct mental disorders covering a wide variety of behaviors in adults and children. Significantly, racism, homophobia (fear of homosexuality) and misogyny (hatred of women) have never been listed as mental disorders. In 1999, the chairperson of the APA’s Council on Psychiatry and the Law confirmed that racism “is not something that is designated as an illness that can be treated by mental health professionals.”Egan, T. (1999). Racist shootings test limits of health system and laws. New York Times, August 14, p.1. Homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder until activists campaigned to have it removed.“DSM and homosexuality: A cautionary tale.” in Kirk, S.A., Kutchins, H. (1992). The selling of DSM: The rhetoric of science in psychiatry. New York: Aldine De Gruyter p 81-90

The women’s liberation movement condemned labeling symptoms of oppression as mental illnesses. In They Say You’re Crazy: How the World’s Most Powerful Psychiatrists Decide Who’s Normal, Paula Caplan explains,

“In a culture that scorns and demeans lesbians and gay men, it is hard to be completely comfortable with one’s homosexuality, and so the DSM-III authors were treating as a mental disorder what was often simply a perfectly comprehensible reaction to being mocked and oppressed.”Caplan, P. (1995). They say you’re crazy: How the world’s most powerful psychiatrists decide who’s normal. New York: Addison-Wesley, pp.180-181.

Caplan describes efforts to prevent “Masochistic Personality Disorder” from being included in the DSM. This disorder assumes that women stay with abusive spouses because like to suffer, not because they lack the resources to leave. Despite protest, “Masochistic Personality Disorder” was added to the 1987 edition of the DSM, although it was later dropped.

The inclusion of “Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder” (PMDD) in the DSM also raised a protest. According to Caplan,

“The problem with PMDD is not the women who report premenstrual mood problems but the diagnosis of PMDD itself. Excellent research shows that these women are significantly more likely than other women to be in upsetting life situations, such as being battered or being mistreated at work. To label them mentally disordered — to send the message that their problems are individual, psychological ones — hides the real, external sources of their trouble.”Caplan, P.J. (2002). Expert decries diagnosis for pathologizing women. Journal of Addiction and Mental Health. September/October 2001, p.16.

As soon as PMDD was listed in the DSM, Eli Lilly repackaged its best-selling drug, Prozac, in a pink-pill format, renamed it Serafem, and promoted it as a treatment for PMDD. By creating Serafem, Lilly was able to extend its patent on the Prozac formula for another seven years.

A marketing gold mine

The DSM is a marketing gold mine for the drug industry. The FDA will approve a drug to treat a mental disorder only if that disorder is listed in the DSM. Therefore, each new listing is worth millions in potential drug sales. Most of the experts who construct the DSM have financial ties to pharmaceutical companies, and every new edition of the DSM contains more conditions than the previous one.

Once the DSM lists a new mental disorder, drugs for that disorder are heavily marketed for everyone who might fit the symptom checklist. (Doctors are also encouraged to prescribe these drugs for “off-label use,” which means to anyone they think might benefit.) Not surprisingly, the numbers of people “diagnosed” with a mental condition rise rapidly after a drug is approved to treat that condition.

In 2005, a major study announced that “About half of Americans will meet the criteria for a DSM-IV disorder sometime in their life…”Kessler, R.C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., Jin, R. & Walters, E.E. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry. Vol.62, No.6, pp.593-602. How is this possible? Has it become normal to be mentally ill, or has the definition of mental illness expanded beyond reason? Both could be true.

Capitalism damages people in many ways. It’s also true that the more people can be labeled as sick, the more profits can be made from selling them treatments. In Creating Mental Illness, Alan Horowitz warns,

“…a large proportion of behaviors that are currently regarded as mental illnesses are normal consequences of stressful social arrangements or forms of social deviance. Contrary to its general definition of mental disorder, the DSM and much research that follows from it considers all symptoms, whether internal or not, expected or not, deviant or not, as signs of disorder.”Horowitz, A.V. (2002). Creating Mental Illness. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p.37.

Most people know the difference between normal behavior (such as grief over the death of a loved one) and abnormal behavior that could indicate an internal disorder (such as prolonged grief for no apparent reason). However, the DSM does not consider what happens in people’s lives. With one exception (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), the DSM lists and categorizes symptoms outside of any social context. As a result, DSM-based surveys artificially increase the numbers of people suffering from mental disorders and, therefore, the market for drug treatments.

DSM-inflated rates of mental illness are typically accompanied by the warning that not enough people are getting treatment.Talen, J. (2005). Survey says nearly half of all Americans will be affected by a mental illness, some before adulthood. Newsday, June 7. The question of whether or not they are actually sick is never raised.

Social control

Psychiatry has a long history of medicating the oppressed, including children, for social control.Breggin, P.R. & Breggin, G. R. (1994). The war against children: How the drugs, programs, and theories of the psychiatric establishment are threatening America’s children with a medical ‘cure’ for violence. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Using DSM criteria, at least six million American children have been diagnosed with serious mental disorders, triple the number in the early 1990’s. The rate of boys aged 7 to 12 diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder more than doubled between 1995 and 2000 and continues to rise.

A 2007 survey of 8- to 15-year-olds discovered that nine percent met the DSM criteria for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The survey found that fewer than half of these children had been diagnosed or treated, “suggesting that some children with clinically significant inattention and hyperactivity may not be receiving optimal attention.” Noting that poor children were least likely to receive medication, the authors of the study recommend “further investigation and possible intervention.”Froehlich TE, (2007). Prevalence, recognition, and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in a national sample of US children. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. Vol.161, pp.857-864.

Instead of addressing the stressful social conditions that agitate children, psychiatry imposes conformity through medication. To force compliance with this oppressive system, access to insurance benefits, medical care and social services depends on “having a diagnosis.”

The psychiatric-pharmaceutical industry treats illness as strictly individual and internal — the result of faulty genes or chemical imbalances. In reality, human problems exist in a social context.

Most of the symptoms listed in the DSM describe human responses to deprivation and oppression (anxiety, agitation, aggression, depression) and the many ways that people try to manage unbearable pain (obsessions, compulsions, rage, addictions). Depression is strongly linked with poverty,Duenwald, M. (2003). “More Americans Seeking Help for Depression.” New York Times, June 18. and alleviating poverty can lift depression.Costello EJ, Compton SN, Keeler G, Angold A.(2003). Relationships between poverty and psychopathology: a natural experiment. JAMA. Oct 15, Vol.290, No. 15, pp.2023-9.

Under capitalism, addressing the social causes of misery is politically risky and unprofitable. So psychiatry extracts the individual from society, splits the brain from the body, severs the mind from the brain and drugs the brain.Ross, C.A., & Pam, A., (1995). Pseudoscience in biological psychiatry: Blaming the body. New York: Wiley.

A sick society

Capitalism is a system that requires the majority to have no control over their lives and to believe that this condition is normal. Therefore, all reactions to inequality and deprivation must be viewed as signs of personal inadequacy, biological defect, mental illness — anything other than reasonable responses to unreasonable conditions.

During slavery days, experts argued that Black people were psychologically suited for a life of slavery, so there must be something wrong with those who rebelled.Poussaint, A.F. & Alexander, A. (2000). Lay my burden down: Suicide and the mental health crisis among African Americans. Boston: Beacon Press. In 1851, the diagnosis of “drapetomania”(runaway fever) was developed to explain why slaves try to escape.Cartwright, S. (1851). Report on the diseases and physical peculiarities of the Negro race. New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal. May, p. 707. Not much has changed. Today, exploitation and oppression are considered normal, and those who rebel in any way are considered to be sick or deviant and in need of medication or incarceration.

What’s the diagnosis for a sick society? We know what’s wrong. Most people are kept in sick social conditions so that a few can maintain their wealth and power. What is the treatment? Putting human needs first would eliminate most human misery. Who will deliver the medicine? The majority must organize to take collective control of society.

I don’t expect this diagnosis to appear in the DSM anytime soon.

Susan Rosenthal is a life-long socialist, retired physician, union member, and the author of POWER and Powerlessness (2006). Sick and Sicker: Essays on Class, Health and Health Care (2010), and Rebel Minds: Class War, Mass Suffering, and the Urgent Need for Socialism (2019). She can be reached at: Read other articles by Susan.

63 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. cemmcs said on May 19th, 2008 at 5:25am #

    An excellent book relating to this is “Mad in America” by Robert Whitaker.

  2. John Wilkinson said on May 19th, 2008 at 11:33am #

    “For example, a diagnosis of pneumonia indicates a serious lung infection that can usually be cured with antibiotics.”

    not if you have viral pneumonia.

  3. David Miles said on May 19th, 2008 at 2:58pm #

    “not if you have viral pneumonia”

    I’ve had both viral and bacterial pneumonia. In the case of viral they still may give you an antibiotic to prevent a secondary bacterial infection. But really what was the point of making such a fuss over this John? It doesn’t discredit anything else said in the article.

  4. evie said on May 19th, 2008 at 3:33pm #

    While I agree with your diagnosis regarding the DSM/modern psychiatry – I seriously question whether we can trust the “collective” apparat to diagnose society any better than the evil-doer capitalists.

    Also, will those dysfunctional folks receiving SSI disability checks for kids and/or themselves with ADHD, ADD, OCD, PMDD, SAD, BP, etc. be convinced to stop drugging themselves and/or their children and give up those monthly checks?

    There are websites promising to help folks learn the strategies of getting “a lifetime of disability checks” for such illnesses as bipolar disorder – currently trendy – and obesity, another growing “illness”. After all, one cannot work/produce when suffering from permanent mood swings, mania, restlessness, and irritability, or the ailments associated with a body destroyed by fat attacks. How will these folks be convinced to be healed and give up that monthly check?

    I don’t think Americans want to admit just how many of those “people kept in sick social conditions” appreciate their “illnesses” as it allows them to nibble for nothing on the SSI crumbs of the capitalist pie. An unhealthy collusion indeed between the rulers and ruled. You can put people’s needs first – but for many folks that better include a monthly check from the US Treasury.

    How many generations will it take to become a healthy collective society, 2, 3, 4?

    You state ” Under capitalism, addressing the social causes of misery is politically risky and unprofitable.” Oh contraire Pierre, there is quite a bit of profit, collectively, for those in the industry of telling us capitalism bad/socialism good as they earn billions making lengthy lists of the sociopolitical causes of our misery. (Note, I did not say “addressing” the problems b/c they are not – they just list them.)

    And I never see any definitive concrete plans as to how this social healing will be brought about – other than rhetoric about “organizing” and advocating for social change and educating us about the collective power of the people, and training “leaders” to pick an issue and organize and educate others to train leaders and pick an issue.

    And we end up with a new crop of community activists (and I use that term loosely) and grassrooters – who grow up to be Obamas, or best-selling authors of cloned noamsters, or scholars in towers, or dipping and dancing fancy preachers, and TV pundi-leftists – all telling us to organize and advocate and train more future “leaders” to advocate for “the issues,” but under their “ism” of course.

    Going around in circles – it’s enough to make ya ill.

  5. hp said on May 19th, 2008 at 4:01pm #

    Damn, after reading that, I don’t feel very well..
    Not that it isn’t no pussy footing around, a punch to the gut true.

    p.s. evie, do you happen to have an address or two that I might send for my check by mail? I just slopped chocolate malt and chili cheese sauce on my keyboard and the buttons are stickinggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg

  6. evie said on May 19th, 2008 at 4:17pm #

    take care of those NSF bank fees and you can have that check direct deposited. Tip: Unplug keyboard before licking clean.

  7. hp said on May 19th, 2008 at 6:07pm #

    RRROOOGGGeer thAAAAAAttttttt!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Lloyd Rowsey said on May 19th, 2008 at 6:44pm #

    Absolutely a masterpiece of synthesis. Congratulations, Doctor Rosenthal – from a man who discontinued Depakote (after 10 years) and Lamictal (after 6 months) three years ago, and at the age of sixty-six has never been in better mental health.

  9. Dave Silver said on May 19th, 2008 at 6:48pm #

    Dr. Rosenthal has provided us with a poweful Marxist perspective
    sick society called capitalism provides an environment producing
    “mental illness” syndrome.

    Dave Silver

  10. evie said on May 19th, 2008 at 6:51pm #

    Congratulations Lloyd.

  11. Lloyd Rowsey said on May 19th, 2008 at 11:01pm #

    Thanks, evie. Let me ask you. Has a close family member of yours, or a husband or wife, ever committed suicide?

  12. Susan Rosenthal said on May 20th, 2008 at 4:27am #

    I should have added a section on pessimissm as a terminal illness.

    Pessimissm is associated with chronic illness and premature death.
    And because it is a contagious disease (see the above comments) it also threatens those who take it seriously.

    Pessimism is a a defense against disappointment.
    If you believe that nothing good is possible, you never have to feel disappointed.

    However, pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    When we expect nothing to change, we do nothing to create change .

    Only our rulers benefit from this massive failure of the imagination. They will rule us as long as they can convince us that capitalism is the only possible system, so that it is futile, idiotic, even reckless, to want anything else.

    In reality, no one knows the future.
    It could be horrible, or it could be better than we can imagine.
    We must choose: do we give up on humanity and do nothing, or do we have hope for the future and fight for a better world?

    I’ve made my choice.
    Which side are you on?

  13. D.R. Munro said on May 20th, 2008 at 5:06am #

    Are we talking pessimism in a philosophical sense, or a pop-psychology sense?

  14. evie said on May 20th, 2008 at 5:28am #

    No close family, but have known a couple of people who committed suicide.

    We are all terminal.

    Accusation of “pessimism” is a narcissistic response to someone who doesn’t completely support one’s opinion – hmmm … or in your own words “there must be something wrong with those” …

    It’s “futile, idiotic, even reckless” to think another set or rulers making promises under another “ism” will be the cure-all to make society happy, healthy, and wise – and all we have to do is “organize and take control.”

    I’ll agree with you on one thing – not much has changed.

  15. Susan Rosenthal said on May 20th, 2008 at 7:59am #

    My diagnosis of pessimism is medical.

    It’s well documented that the expectation of severe pain affects the perception of pain as being more severe, and that the converse is also true.

    Pessimissm is the expectation of social pain, and it makes the experience of whatever happens more painful.

    You don’t need to be a physician to know how painful it is to live without hope.

  16. evie said on May 20th, 2008 at 9:39am #

    “My diagnosis of pessimism is medical.” – Pessimism that feeds the negative evaluations and negative self-talk which leads to one’s feeling helplessness and hopelessness – the two milestones of developing depression?

    The inclination to emphasize negative aspects of any political “ism” could make one a pessimist. We’re all pessimists in some areas at some time; fixation may make it pathological.

    Capitalism is an economic system – not a social system. The method the US is economically operating is not capitalism but a perverse mixture of capitalism, socialism, and fascism.

    Actually, the “social sickness” today is little different than when physicians diagnosed and doped up society in the last century and dilaudid addiction in the century before that. Along with cocaine Coca-Cola and opium dens, hookah pipes, etc. The difference is in the number of Joe Blows who actively seek drugs – street or prescription – depending on availability. Is society more painful today than the 1800s, 1900s? I don’t think so.

    Joe Blow doesn’t need a diagnosis of the problem, he knows the problem – he needs to think and educate himself about the “isms” competing for his “hopes,” his mind, his soul.

    From extreme crushing poverty to wealth and everything in between I have been fortunate to live an interesting life in interesting times – and through the darkest moments have never lived without hope. Even in 1980 when our 2-year-old daughter was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer – I hoped, for a miracle.

  17. hp said on May 20th, 2008 at 10:02am #

    Susan, sometimes the diagnosis of pessimism is incorrectly applied to the relatively healthy state of realism.
    As we all know, mis-diagnosis and its cousin physician error is a very real and lethal part of the medical-psychological industrial complex.

  18. Susan Rosenthal said on May 20th, 2008 at 12:31pm #

    I understand discouragement and depression.
    I see it in my work every day.
    Pessimism is different, it’s a political stance.
    Pessimists offer no constructive alternatives, but they do expend great energy shooting down anyone who does.
    I understand why people would draw pessimistic conclusions about the world.
    But to advocate pessimism, to CAMPAIGN for pessimism, is beyond my understanding.

  19. hp said on May 20th, 2008 at 2:00pm #

    Fool me once, shame on me…

  20. evie said on May 20th, 2008 at 2:29pm #

    That’s a new one for me – Pessimism is a political stance. Where is that CAMPAIGN headquartered?

    Must be related to the party of “You’re Either With Us or Against Us in the Fight Against Capitalists.” – No wait, that was BushCo on terrorism.

    The American “left” gets nowhere b/c they are absolutely clueless about reality on the ground in the US. The “left” isn’t shot down – it’s laughed down.

  21. D.R. Munro said on May 20th, 2008 at 4:13pm #

    I’m sensing a terminal case of “holier than thou” coming from our good doctor.

  22. Susan Rosenthal said on May 21st, 2008 at 4:07am #

    and your solution is……?

  23. evie said on May 21st, 2008 at 4:39am #

    Education. Parenting.

  24. jamie said on May 21st, 2008 at 7:57am #

    evie,……… have a direct line with the cosmos I do believe, or, it could just very well be that I am able to comprehend the truth of your statements. You are definitely not a “pessimest” (G.O.D. I ABHOR labels!) just someone who has not been sleepwalking through life, and, therefore, a realist.

    Susan, I really feel for your position. While you state some obvious facts in your writings they are flawed because of the “seat” from which you view the world. Everything must have a label and be identified according to those who possess “authority”, and, those with a label after their names tend to claim this with absolutely no truth to back it up.

    Modern Medicine is a sham.

    Evie has the pulse of the human condition and appears to be completely aware of herself….which would allow her the ability to discern truth.

    I really think everyone is that little wooden puppet just waiting to be a “real” boy or girl. When we lie to ourselves about who we are then it is impossible to communicate the truth of anything.
    Could it be, Susan, that you are not sure of who you are without the use of your labels?

    You ask for tangible solutions to our human conundrum and yet you offer none yourself other than the collective “must organize”?
    How can you organize when in every facet of our human existence their is inequality. Organize who? Based on what criteria?
    Evie states the obvious when she says that this has never worked before and it has nothing to do with pessimism but rather keen observation skills. It really does not take a “rocket scientist” to reason this one out. If we have willfully compartmentalized ourselves into catagories with labels then how in the world can we join together as equals for 1 cause? We are not equal in any society throughout this planet except for tribal communities where only sage elders hold positions of “authority”.

    What boggles my brain is the fact that we believe that we live in an equal society and that we all share the same status. I do NOT feel equal to a man because I am not treated equally. Ask a child if they feel equal to an adult in worth and importance. Just look at our current society.
    No, I mean really look at our “society”.

    Susan, you have less wisdom than evie yet you have a PhD. By default you have more “authority” than evie and this is what the problem is.
    I am not saying this in a manner of condescension, but, merely pointing out that this is how most societies operate.

    Unite? To be united all must be equal. That you cannot even find in our “great” Constitution.

  25. jamie said on May 21st, 2008 at 8:22am #

    My apologies, Susan. Nowhere do you state that you have a PhD or give yourself a “label”.

  26. Edwin Pell said on May 21st, 2008 at 9:59am #

    A good book on the subject of society or individual in mental illness is Erich Fromm’s book “The Sane Society” (1955).

  27. hp said on May 21st, 2008 at 4:13pm #

    Kurt Vonnegut’s son, Mark Vonnegut, wrote a very educational, enthralling book about his own schizophrenia. It’s called “The Eden Express.”
    I read it way back in 1969 and to this day I sometimes am reminded of it.

  28. hp said on May 21st, 2008 at 4:23pm #

    Come to think of it, it was ’74’ or ’75’ I read “Eden Express.”
    It was “Slaughterhouse-Five” in 1969.

  29. D.R. Munro said on May 21st, 2008 at 5:02pm #

    I think the issue with abstract ideas like pessimism and depression is that doctors try and intellectualize them, and by virtue of that – they remove all humanity from it. It becomes another “disease” with a long, mechanical, sterile name.

    These things cannot be intellectualized. You can read all the books you want to about depression and the like – it will not help you. If you have not experienced it first hand, you have no possible way of helping those inflicted. This is not a medical condition, it is a human condition. Drugs cannot help it, they can only perform the same function as corrective eye glasses. That is, they can sometimes make you see better while you have them on, but when they are removed . . . the problem is still there.

    Until one can understand what it is to put a loaded gun to their head and seriously contemplate no longer existing – you will never understand your patients.

    If your first approach regarding these issues are medical approaches, you’ve failed from the start.

    A little aside, pessimists aren’t “converted” or “diagnosed” – they are created by society and situation.

    But I’m not a doctor, so I obviously know nothing.

  30. evie said on May 21st, 2008 at 6:40pm #

    I agree DR about the loaded gun/existing. I think it was Helen Keller that said something about the only way out is through.

    I knew an old man who would say, during difficult or trying times in life, “everybody gotta eat they bucket a shit.”

  31. outlaw said on May 21st, 2008 at 7:40pm #

    This is great debate based on many differing experiences and perspectives. I absolutely agree with many of Susan’s thoughts and observations. Based on my experience as a recipient of mental health services and coming from a social work back ground, I think she is correct in saying that (paraphrase) our mental health system ignores the social context of ‘mental illness,’ placing the ‘blame’ resolutely on the individual and, to a limited extended, the ‘sick’ person’s family.

    My most recent work experience as a Peer Support Specialist on an ACTT team really opened my eyes to the reality of clinicians diagnosing people’s symptoms, caterogizing them as ‘seriously mentally illness,’ medicated them and convincing themselves and their ‘clients’ that they are sick for life. Despite my absolute passion for my work in this role, I reached a point where I just got sick of working within this medical mindset. I will add that I do agree with my own diagnosis (bipolar) and could never achieve a satisfactory level of stability until I accepted my need for medication.

    A major problem I have with the current mental health system is the fact that it does not even acknowledge that alternative views and treatments do exist. They insist on medicating everyone who comes through the door and will not adequately, if at all, support those who seek to learn about their diagnosis and alternative views and treatments rather then immediately agree to a pill with potentially debilitating side effects. Instead, they are written off as lacking insight and guaranteed to fail.

    I’ll not keeping going on about this, but it certainly gives me a rise as does my next point. Despite agreeing with Evie on her defense of Capitalism, etc. I have to shake my head at the Disability/SSI comments. How would anyone reading this like to live on less than $600 per month. Granted, you may receive food stamps, housing subsidies, and various & sundry small handouts, but you’re standard of living is going to be extremely low. That monthly check might last 2 weeks and you’ll be scrounging for basic resources (ie. food and heating fuel) for the rest of the month. I know this b/c I’ve seen it day after day, month after month. I think it is real easy to say that someone on disability (which typically takes about 2 years to be approved for, during which time you’d better have a financially able and generous relative around, b/c you are not allowed to work) is living on easy street b/c they get a monthly check without having to work. What you don’t realize in many cases is that that person wants to be working, but SSI & Medicaid will cut you off real fast if you barely work to supplement your income.

    I do not blame these problems on Capitalism although I can see how capitalism facilitates the current state of affairs. Nor do I think there is an alternative to Capitalism that would improve things. I am hopeful that the Recovery Model will eventually be embraced at the steady efforts of dedicated and passionate peer counselors who can see the system from the inside out. It will be slow and imperfect, but change is already happening. Look at this website!


  32. evie said on May 22nd, 2008 at 4:25am #

    My support for capitalism is very limited and conditional. And like you I don’t see a viable alternative being offered at the moment – just a lot of feel good jargon.

    As for the SSI comments, there is a large segment of recipients who scam. And often there are multiple family members receiving aid – mom, dad, kids, etc. The most grievous are mothers who insist on putting little Johnny on drugs at age 2 b/c they “can’t control him.”

    Of course it’s not easy street – but for some folks I guess $600 a month free beats $120 a week parttime at Walmart.

    I call it the “trickle down” effect. As the leaders/rulers became more corrupt – so has the populace.

  33. Viktoria Vidali said on May 22nd, 2008 at 11:14am #

    I enjoyed your article very much, but was shocked by some of the comments (especially evie’s). She and others would benefit by reading your book (Power and Powerlessness). You’re not assuming you have all the answers on how to bring about change — are you expected to present them on a silver platter? — you’re making suggestions, which a priori shows that you care and are making efforts. The exchange would be much more productive if they’d come up with a few promising alternatives themselves. Change is an organic process that gains power the more people participate. Seems also that they don’t recognize their own pessimism, which is a product of the cultural hegemony they have assimilated without question (Noam Chomsky, Antonio Gramsci, and others have written about this extensively). We all have accepted things at times without thinking about them in depth, so this is not a put down, but a suggestion to look deeper before criticizing others so harshly. We can all agree that it’s easier to destroy something than to build it, but when people work together, great things happen. Keep writing. Truth has a power all its own.

  34. D.R. Munro said on May 22nd, 2008 at 8:08pm #

    Thank you for calling me ignorant, Victoria. I agree, you are a much better person than I am because you agree with Dr. Rosenthal.

    “Seems also that they don’t recognize their own pessimism”

    Could you refrain from drawing knee-jerk conclusions about other people from the two paragraphs you’ve read by them?

    I stand by everything I said, and I have thought about it deeply – not that it is any of your business. I could defend every statement I have made in this thread, without question.

    “but a suggestion to look deeper before criticizing others so harshly”

    The irony here is great. Don’t you think?

    Now please, get up off your knees. It might leave bruises.

  35. Viktoria Vidali said on May 22nd, 2008 at 9:24pm #

    D.R. Munro, set aside what you’ve written and read it again in a few weeks. It may reveal something to you about yourself.

  36. evie said on May 22nd, 2008 at 11:03pm #

    Lol. Thanks DR.

  37. D.R. Munro said on May 23rd, 2008 at 5:09am #

    Viktoria, I would like you to present an argument refuting the contentions of both Evie and myself.

    Until you do this, you are merely wasting our time by derailing what was an informative and civil debate about modern medicine and the “mental health” industry by simply using empty to words to say that you agree with the author.

    Why do you agree with author? Facts, please.

    All I hear from you is this “blah blah blah us lefties can change the world when we work together!” bullshit that’s been circulating for a thousand years.

    Idealism is dead. Get with the program. People like you lead the sheep to be sheared with their false promises of a utopia.

  38. Susan Rosenthal said on May 23rd, 2008 at 6:00am #

    A central problem with internet debate is that it can be dominated by bullies who feel free to say whatever they want, no matter how demeaning, distorted, or inaccurate, without having to reveal who they are. In particular, left-leaning sites provide an open door for bullies to bash the left.

    The personal nature of these attacks is a definite turn-off. Subsequent readers are afraid to say anything in case they are also attacked. And that’s the point – to shut down discussion, or divert it into useless side-shows.

    The internet is an open forum, so we can’t stop people from trolling sites like Dissident Voice looking for the opportunity to play whack-a-mole whenever anyone raises their head to criticize capitalism or offer any alternative.

    Fortunately, those who post disparaging comments, that offer nothing of value, are NOT a representative sample of readers. (However, it can seem like they are, because of their unrelenting determination to dominate the discussion.)

    What to do?

    More of us need to speak up. However, not everyone can stomach the venom these people unleash when they are crossed (witness D.R.’s thoroughly nasty responses to Viktoria when she offered her opinion).

    We need to build on-the-ground organizations, where those who are fighting for a better world can provide each other with real support, where actions speak louder than words, and where it is clear who is on the left and who is on the right.

    We need to return to the issues raised by my article (and others on this site). That means ignoring the commentators who would divert us from this discussion, no matter how provocative their comments.

    Human history is all about change. The defenders of capitalism want us to accept things as they are, but we deserve much better! For some encouraging arguments about how ordinary people can work together to create real change, read POWER and Powerlessness. The pdf is available at

    One final comment. Several people emailed me personally with respect to my article. They didn’t post their comments, and I don’t blame them, because they would have been attacked if they had.
    Here are two of their comments:

    “I just read your article on Dissident Voice “Mental illness or social sickness?” and I loved it. I really like the insights you have on this subject. It reminded me of Erich Fromm’s “The Sane Society”, in which he says that someone’s sickness is evidence of life and a reaction to living in a sick society.”

    “I read your article “Mental Illness or Social Sickness?” I clearly agree that the mental health industry serves capitalism and is a method of social control. Psychology/psychiatry locates pathology within the individual and thereby helps to prevent social solutions to human distress. Thanks again for the article.”

  39. evie said on May 23rd, 2008 at 6:59am #

    So, in other words, those who do not agree are venoumous trolls. And progressives, although fearful of trolls, are going to solve human distress with social solutions?

    BTW, is there a website for “International Health Workers for People Over Profit”?

  40. D.R. Munro said on May 23rd, 2008 at 8:32am #

    My real name is right up there above my posts. I’m not concealing anything.

    “Those who do not agree are venoumous trolls.”

    And yes, you just said in one sentence what it took Dr. Rosenthal to say in a few paragraphs, if in an ever so subtle way.

    “The defenders of capitalism want us to accept things as they are, but we deserve much better! For some encouraging arguments about how ordinary people can work together to create real change, read POWER and Powerlessness.”

    I like how you talk about how capitalism needs to be destroyed, and at the same time insert a shameless plug for your own book. Brilliant, really.

    I did notice that Dr. Rosenthal decided to avoid addressing points that we have made, Evie, and instead opted to make character judgements and value calls on our persons.

    Same goes for you as does Viktoria, Dr. Rosenthal – present an argument against our points or stop wasting our time. And, not everyone who disagrees with you (however aggressve my rhetorical style may appear to be) is a troll.

    Unless, of course, you can’t come up with an argument.

  41. hp said on May 23rd, 2008 at 8:35am #

    Realists of the world unite!

  42. hp said on May 23rd, 2008 at 9:04am #

    (not to be confused with those pesky pessimists)

  43. Susan Rosenthal said on May 24th, 2008 at 3:48am #

    To return to the discussion:
    Check out this article from the BBC on how the hormone oxytocin can elicit feelings of trust in situations where people have evidence that they should not trust.

    We already know that feelings can be manipulated so that people will accept the unacceptable. Witness initial support for war against Iraq.

    Fortunately, experience trumps feelings (in real life if not in lab experiments). In time, we return to our experience to guide us in what (and who) can be trusted and what (or who) cannot. And in organizations, this experience is accumulated much more quickly. Which is another reason to build organizations.

    As the saying goes: you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time. But you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Thank goodness for that!

  44. hp said on May 25th, 2008 at 2:54pm #

    Substitute alcohol for oxy and you have 5000 years of testimony to that same trusting scenario. That’s nothing new, just rehashed media hype junk science which supports a lot of otherwise pretty useless college graduates who otherwise can barely find their ass with both hands let alone make a living without the scientific welfare state. The military/industry only needs so many “scientists.”

    As for the psychological “professions,” well, P.T. Barnum had that figured out a long long time ago.
    “There’s one born every minute, and two to take him” and “always leave them wanting more” are perhaps more fitting for Americans in this society of cheaters and the cheated.

  45. Susan Rosenthal said on May 25th, 2008 at 3:43pm #

    Basically, I agree. However, labeling fearful people as “social phobics” and then prescribing a hormone (oxytocin) to “treat” them lends scientific validity to the process of blaming the victim, that is, treating as “sick” those who feel fear in a world that is truly frightening. This is what pseudoscience is designed to do, and psychiatry does it extremely very well.

  46. Lloyd Rowsey said on May 25th, 2008 at 9:32pm #

    hp. Thanks for the The Eden Express recommend. Kurt Vonnegut was one of the last in a period of original, very powerful, and very socially aware authors. I’ll never forget Mother Night, my first Vonnegut read. And Slaughterhouse Five, and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. In fact KV got me reading science fiction in the 70’s, although nowhere did I find his blast-you-in-the-face beginnings — like the Glass Bead Game, or Allen Ginsberg — which turn into pure love for humanity. I feel certain schizophrenics can produce literature — but a more more astounding feat along these lines, I think, was John Nash’s conquering his own schizoid symptoms.

    Since one good recommendation deserves another, I suggest you look for “Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory” (2002) by Ian Hacking. The author is a philosopher with a special interest in the history of psychiatry, and the book’s main topic is how from the late 19th century the psychological sciences of memory came to be surrogates for the spiritual and spiritualistic concepts to the soul. It treats the “recovered memory syndrome” in one chapter.

  47. The Snork Who Hunts the Hunters of the Snork said on May 25th, 2008 at 10:41pm #

    Well, I think it’s clear that Susan Rosenthal and evie both made good points. Having survived multiple institutional attempts to medicate me based on hasty, sloppy diagnoses, everything she said more or less rang true. Additionally, I have family inside the medical profession, and I have worked within it.

    But I must agree with evie that it is not capitalism per se that contributes to mental illness. Every social system creates a hierarchy. Within each hierarchy, one must contend with the reality that many at the top deserve to be closer to the bottom, and that many at the bottom, in fact, many many more, deserve to be closer to the top. Yet people at the bottom must except the falsehood that they do not deserve the best life has to offer, and the people at the top know their position rests on deception and coercion, so they spend their lives looking over their shoulders.

    In political science, there is something known as the “Iron Law of Oligarchy,” which says that no matter what type of system is put into place, all theoretical frameworks aside, the practical reality will be government by an oligarchy, that is, the few. Decisions ultimately rest with individuals, no matter what types of deliberative processes are put into place.

    Anyway, life itself makes people crazy. The stress of survival, competition; these existed before modern capitalist society. In fact, historically, things have been much worse and less hopeful. What did Egyptian or Roman subjects have to hope for? What did nomadic tribes have to hope for? Mental illness has always been with us.

    It is well-documented that both capitalist, socialist, and other societies label dissidents as “insane,” or perhaps, “possessed,” or “evil.” The use of language merely changes. In a capitalist society, those who want more cooperation and less competition are called pie-in-the-sky, utopian moonbats, whereas in a communist society, those who want the freedom to rise above their peers are labeled narcissistic, egomaniacal, inhumane, dangerous imperialists.

    But I digress.

    You may not agree with Susan Rosenthal’s political views, but you cannot deny the truth of what she says with regard to the problem. And you complain about the solution of “organizing,” or engaging in the political process. Many people know that there is a large scam component to psychiatry (Does anyone remember the advertisements for Paxil after 9/11? A perfect example of taking symptoms out of a social context.) But many people don’t. The people who know have a duty to make it known to those who don’t know. Organization results in more people knowing the nature of the beast. There are less victims that way. The less victims, the weaker the beast gets.

    Personally, I think the best way to combat the excesses of our system, is to vigorously organize to the purpose of educating those who would be victimized on alternatives that deprive the victimizers of their victims. People should be channeled away from alienating, wealth-sucking, soul-less institutions like bars and clubs, where sober fraternization is frustrated by loud music and drugs, and into intimate areas people can get to know one another and do healthy, constructive things.

    I think we’re already seeing a lot of that through the internet. People are learning of new alternatives to the old “play as work” model. It is now possible for people to meet with shared interests like never before.

    But this does not stop those who profit from the destruction of others from counter-organizing. They cannot be expected to go quietly into the night. They are probably more aware than those who seek an escape of the necessity of sustaining their cruel apparatuses of control.

  48. hp said on May 26th, 2008 at 9:56am #

    Thanks for the offer, Lloyd.
    I was once a science fiction fanatic.
    To be honest, I only read articles and basic news these days.
    Ever since I discovered Vedanta, in the 70’s, mundane reading is next to impossible for me.
    Right now, and for the foreseeable future, I’ll be absorbed in the Srimad Bhagavatam, as offered by Srila Prabhupada, the foremost Vedic authority of our time.

    I’m very fond of the ‘truth’ in that it, unlike fiction, has no limitations.

  49. CMM said on May 28th, 2008 at 7:35am #

    Susan, thanks for a wonderfully clear and concise article, one of the best I’ve read on this subject. The fact that a listing of a new “disease” in the DSM is automatically worth millions says a lot by itself, and essentially guarantees that the whole system will become corrupted.

    It’s unfortunate that the discussions at Dissident Voice are so heavy on smart-ass comments. Don’t let it get you down.

  50. Bill Odowd said on May 29th, 2008 at 9:33am #

    Psychiatry’s a pseudoscience. No diagnostic technology employed. So why the fuck are millions fucking with their brain chemistry with guesswork? Why are we fucking with kids who can’t consent? Why the elderly? Why are the risks of trusting this evil pseudoscience not known more widely. To the woman who says she is bipolar, bullshit. Prove it. It’s a social construct, nothing more. Your medication, placebos and cognitive function reducers. Enjoy getting TD or parkinsons you indoctrinated ideologue! you can’t have a foot in both camps. Fucking fence sitters in this god damn issue. It’s killing millions. Fucking holocaust of psychiatry, rampant religion that it is. Fuck anyone who seeks to push this pathetic guesswork ‘science’ on anyone. Burn in god damn hell.

  51. Peter said on June 3rd, 2008 at 12:55am #

    The following paragraph from the “Mothers betrayed” article (May 5th, 2008) doesn’t mention the probabilty that these acts followed psychiatric treatment (usually drugs).
    “Approximately one in 800 new mothers develops full-blown psychosis. In Texas, Andrea Yates suffered from hallucinations that compelled her to murder her five children. In Toronto, a family doctor jumped in front of a train, killing herself and her infant son.”
    The Pharma/Psychiatric cartel dispenses misery to countless mothers who just cried for help while the age old remedy of simply being there with the mother and just listening is forgotten and ignored.
    Why? It works. Mothers on drugs is much more profitable – even if we do destroy a few on the way.

  52. Brenda Guiled said on June 4th, 2008 at 12:37pm #

    Dr. Rosenthal wrote, “… pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    When we expect nothing to change, we do nothing to create change .”

    I think we’re nuts with change. We’re inculcated from the youngest age to be agents of change, change, change, change. Always something new, better, different … it’s the very essence of capitalism and the cornerstone of corporate success. On the pharma’ front, it’s: Try this drug; no, take that one; oh, here’s the latest; what, you have tried …?

    We’re spinning ourselves silly from an overstoked ‘need’ for constant change. My mother took all sorts of drugs, always trying to change her moment-to-moment reactions to life and some long-term troubles she didn’t want to face and learn from.

    Dr. Rosenthal, could you or someone consider writing about the insanity of excessive change in our lives, and the expectation – man, that’s marketing! – that this is normal? How can we focus on the precious few changes that matter when we’re so inundated from every direction?

  53. Marianne Vardalos said on June 4th, 2008 at 12:39pm #

    Dear Susan,

    Congratulations on a lucid, comprehensive and critical article. I hope you won’t mind me submitting a public call for testimonials from parents and teachers who used to be part of the diagnosing machine, but have since enlightened themselves.

    I would also like to invite you personally to contribute to another project I am currently working on with two other researchers regarding the promotion of mental health/illness in North American culture. If you are interested, please contact me at ac.naitnerualnull@soladravm

    Marianne Vardalos Ph.D
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Sociology
    Laurentian University @Georgian
    University Partnerships Centre
    1 Georgian Drive
    Barrie, Ontario Canada
    L4M 3X9


    I am a sociologist firmly committed to the current anti-psychiatry movement seeking to expose ADHD, ADD, and most LDs, as fraudulent diseases.

    Critics of the ADHD industry often site the ‘educator-parental-psychiatric-pharmaceutical complex’ as complicit in the drugging of normal, disease-free, children. Yet, parents and teachers participating in the diagnotistic process for these so-called diseases have the very best of intentions and are misguided and misinformed by the pro-psychiatry/pro-pharmaceutical culture they live in.

    A critical sociological perspective sees the present ‘epidemic’ levels of reporting mental disorder in children and youth to be a purely cultural shift. As we transfer from modernity to post-modernity the culture shifts away from whole-body interaction with nature, toward mind-only interaction with technology. Simply put, the new economy requires a workforce of docile bodies, immobile from the neck down but from the neck up, able to consume multiple images, monitor split screens and interact with several media at one time. Children either incapable or unwilling to comply based on nothing more than their unique character are deemed ill, disordered, diseased or otherwise. And the label is fraudulently substantiated with ‘evidence’ from biology, genetics and neurology.

    This project seeks to feature the testimonials of parents and teachers who enlightened themselves and refused to reproduce the prevalent practice of labeling kids as ill because they either can not or will not conform to the needs of the new techno-economy. This is an invitation to parents and teachers who once willingly participated in diagnosing children with ADHD-like symptoms but now that they are aware of the problems of the industry, have chosen instead to embrace those children’s special gifts and spirited personalities.

    If you, your child or your students have a story to tell, please send it to me at: ac.naitnerualnull@soladravm

    Please ensure stories are no longer than 3 pages (single spaced) in an MSword attachment or in the text of the email. You may or may not change the identity of the child if you wish.

    DEADLINE: AUGUST 15th, 2008

    Marianne Vardalos, Ph.D
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Sociology
    Laurentian University @Georgian
    University Partnerships Centre
    1 Georgian Drive
    Barrie, Ontario Canada
    L4M 3X9

    For details on the Human Condition Series please visit:

  54. Schalk Burger said on June 8th, 2008 at 11:41am #

    Dear Dr Rosenthal,
    Thank you for this illuminating history of Psychiatry, especially the creation of Bio-psychiatry and all their doings and screwings to manufacture disease to make money.
    And this is what it is about: money, therefore capitalism.
    Doctor, are you not in danger of the same thing as Psychiatry, as you put it, sever the brain from the body and then drug the brain, by “diagnosing” capitalism as the disease, then severing it from the rest of society and then what, exterminate capitalism?
    Are you not shooting the messenger?
    Does there have to be a disease called Capitalism to explain something as simplistic as greed and materialism?
    Why can’t we, as human beings and individuals not just simply reject the above behaviour, regardless of politics or social model?
    It is my belief that the reward for self centered greed, materialism etc is not necessary money, therefore (simplistically) not motivated by capitalism, but rather by ego or some other self-gratifying need. How else could one explain the doings of a Josef Mengele?
    Thank you again for the excellent article, but in my humble opinion, it is probably criminal intent that is the driving force behind Bio-psychiatry, and not capitalism, the messenger
    Yours sincerely,
    Schalk Burger

  55. Lloyd Rowsey said on June 27th, 2008 at 6:28am #

    Wednesday, June 25, 2008

    Cuba approves, makes available lung cancer treatment

    Cuban scientists said on Tuesday the first vaccine to extend lives of lung cancer patients has been approved by Cuban authorities for use and is available in the island’s hospitals. The drug, CimaVax EGF, has been shown to increase survival rates on average four to five months and much longer in some patients, they said in a news conference at Cuba’s Center of Molecular Immunology. In contrast to chemotherapy, the traditional treatment for lung cancer, they said CimaVax EGF has few side effects because it is a modified protein that attacks only cancer cells.

  56. Lloyd Rowsey said on June 27th, 2008 at 7:42am #

    hp. Even mathematics has limitations.

  57. Dan said on July 18th, 2009 at 10:35am #

    The Diagnostics and Statistical Manual (DSM), the Shrink’s bible, has been around for over 50 years. Within this manual, there are now possibly nearly 300 mental disorders.

    As a dictionary of suspected mental illnesses, many redefined diagnoses are added to this manual with each edition, and how such disorders are classified and assessed.

    On occasion, a mental disorder is deleted from the DSM, such as homosexuality in the early 1970s. Its purpose, this manual, is to assist mental health professionals to diagnose and classify mental disorders.

    How a group sponsored by for profit pharmaceutical industry corporations that promote psychotropic drugs for various mental issues that may or may not fully exist make the determinations that they do while maintaining objectivity is a phenomenon.

    Published and designed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the DSM is also used, I understand, for seeking mental diagnostic criteria to assure reimbursement.

    The DSM is organized in part by the following:

    I- Mental disorders
    II- mental conditions
    III- Physical disorders/syndromes, medical conditions (co-morbidity)
    IV- Mental disorder suspected etiology
    V- Pediatric assessments

    The APA has historically directed the creation of each edition of the DSM, and assigns selected task force members to create this manual. This situation has proven to be controversial.

    The next DSM involves 27 people. About 80 percent of these individuals are male, and only 4 members are not medical doctors. Most have had relationships with the NIH, and about 25 percent of these task force members have had relationships with the WHO.

    Historically, at least a third of task force members have had, or do, have often monetary pharmaceutical industry ties in some way.

    This makes sense, as about one third of the APAs total financing is from the pharmaceutical industry.

    The APA required this task force for the next DSM edition to sign non-disclosure agreements- which is rather absurd and pointless. Lack of transparency equals lack of credibility because of these agreements of the content of the next DSM. It opposes any recovery model necessary regarding such disorders, I believe.

    The DSM should be evaluated by another unrelated task force or a peer review of sorts to assure objectivity. This is particularly of concern presently, as many more are diagnosed with mental dysfunctions presently at a concerning rate- with very young children in particular.

    Dan Abshear

  58. Dan said on July 18th, 2009 at 10:36am #

    This Makes Me Sick

    When I was a child, I heard the phrase ‘war-monger’. I had to find out its definition, as I had no idea what that phrase meant.

    I knew others could, and were, labeled with this phrase, as I had heard it in the past directed at others whoever said these two words. So I felt a need to know what these words meant, and how they affected others who heard them.

    Finally, I found the answer: a warmonger is one who promotes war, which is undesirable or discreditable. In this case, one labeled this would have an affinity for what others are reasonably opposed to share the same views:

    Others promote other things besides war.

    Disease mongering is when a large pharmaceutical corporation implements various unethical if not illegal activities in order to sell more of their products by either creating or expanding a particular illness.

    They do this by creating the perception that others are likely ill in some way when, in fact, they are not. Those in the pharmaceutical company do not call this disease mongering, but rather conditional branding.

    Drug companies do this by seeking more of those who should be patients in need of treatment with the drug maker’s promoted medications, regardless if they are in need of such treatment or not, clinically.

    How this is done by these companies will be described soon.

    The drug makers clearly place the needs for their drugs to be for medical conditions whose treatment regimens are to be viewed by others as incomplete or unmet.

    The companies want to let the public know of the progressive increase for the disease states and how their products treat this illness better than what is available now or has been used in the past.

    How ironic it seems that drug companies, who make drugs to delay the progression of, or cure diseases with these drugs, wish for others to become as sick as possible to profit from their suffering that they create with disease mongering and sell more pills.

    This disease-mongering in fact does occur often to widen the diagnostic boundaries of an illness, disorder, or syndrome by creating awareness of such medical conditions to the public.

    The drug companies do this by utilizing in several ways the delivery of fabricated if not baseless information during this process.

    Usually, the pharmaceutical either creates or expands a disease state by deception directly to consumers, often. Then the consumer, who now believes that they are ill, go see their health care provider.

    The health care provider, due largely to the unfamiliarity of the patient’s symptoms expressed by the patient, if not the drug the patient is requesting, usually writes a prescription for the drug requested by the patient.

    First, let’s take a look at this label of disease mongering. It is inappropriate in that, unlike diseases and illnesses, mongering occurs with medical disorders and syndromes as well.

    It is accurate and authentic, however, that disease mongering does happen with deliberate intent and reckless disregard for the well-being of others by drug companies.

    There was a book written by Ray Moynihan and Allan Cassels called, “Selling Sickness” in 2005. The book thoroughly described how big pharmaceutical corporations are turning all of us into patients, and into a over-medicated society.

    Disease mongering progressively continues to create patients with illnesses, disorders, or syndromes that in fact may not exist without any intervention to discontinue this behavior.

    What the drug company implements to make sure this happens includes the following:

    1. Paying medical journals to publish fabricated clinical trials involving their promoted medications after paying those involved with such a clinical trial to create such fabricated data. That is disease mongering to the health care provider.

    2. Subjective screenings, such as those for various mood disorders. These screenings, as well as the affective disorders, which were rare until about 1995, involve leading questions often- created by the drug company. It was around this time that the United States was becoming more of a psychotropic nation.

    These screenings that involve the leading questions responded by select groups of people. They are asked these questions by certain disease state support groups who have been converted into front groups after being funded by those big pharma companies who produce drugs for particular mood disorders.

    3. Disease creations I: Social Anxiety Disorder, or social phobia: This condition is in the DSM IV which was published in 1994, and some were forced to delete the statement regarding this disorder that said, “Social Anxiety Disorder is not well-established, and requires further study.”

    Aside from what may be simply amplified introversion, social phobias are likely due to societal dysfunctions and certainly should not be labeled as a pathological condition requiring pharmacological treatment.

    4. Disease creations II: Premenstrual dysphoric disorder. I call this a mid-life crisis, yet it was entered by instruction by the APA (American Psychiatric Association) into the DSM (the psychiatrist’s bible) in 1993. Anxiety about the inevitable does not require pharmacological treatment.

    5. Direct to Consumer Advertising:. Most memorable were those commercials for erectile dysfunction. Their absurdness in creating these commercials appears to have multiple psychotic components:

    A healthy man who could probably run a marathon is having a decent time with his wife at some upper- middle class location.

    He is smiling all the time. Because now, his marriage is secure due to his ability to copulate- which was apparently absent before this wonder drug entered his system.

    Of course, it is not possible to have a happy marriage without intercourse, right?

    Then there are other conditions which are entirely natural in the human lifespan, yet have been determined to be diseases by those who can profit off of these lifespan events.

    Examples include osteoporosis and menopause, as well as erectile dysfunction. It’s insane the FDA approves pharmaceuticals for these natural events that occur normally in a human being.

    Finally, there are the required medical guidelines for various disease states, such as dyslipidemia. Drug companies that make medications to treat this disease are more than happy to support the financial needs involved in creating these guidelines.

    Dyslipidemia, for example:

    Publications such as the Lipid Letter, and Lipid Management, both offered more aggressive management of the lipid profiles of the patients of the readers.

    And both publications were funded completely by those big pharma companies that promote statins.

    Same with cholesterol screenings that occur often that are implemented by those drug companies with drugs that treat the disorder of dyslipidemia.

    A myth is something unproven. A false belief, or invented story.

    Disease Mongering is not a myth. Large pharmaceutical corporations promote illness and disease- not desired by anyone and discredited by many, and these companies do this for profit and profit only.

    I worked for three of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world for over a decade, and the disease mongering protocols were similar if not identical with all of these companies consistently,

    Dan Abshear


  59. Dan said on August 4th, 2009 at 7:22am #

    The Corporate Funded Birth Of Disease Through Unease

    Attempts to convince normally healthy people that they are in fact sick and there for require pharmacological intervention can significantly inflate the market specific to the disease state whose boundaries diagnostically are now artificially expanded through disease mongering.

    The financial cost to both the individual and the community due to disease mongering is rather high. Deliberate separation from the pharmaceutical industry- as well as a tactical plan for thorough critical analysis- are necessary to combat disease mongering.

    Furthermore, educating patients who in fact may not be patients by empowering them to make correct decisions regarding their health are of importance as well.

    Disease mongering is medicalization, which is the deliberate marketing plan of turning what are normal and common lifespan events that are far from chronic into fictional medical conditions.

    Through propaganda, disease mongering creates the perception among others that occurrences that are within normal limits are in fact concerning symptoms. This leads others to believe that risks are potentially disease states.

    This propaganda done by the pharmaceutical industry is performed through public awareness campaigns ad nauseum in mass media with the intent to strongly persuade others to seek and acquire new marketed treatments by this industry.

    In addition, the creation of support groups for these disease states that are not are provided by the pharmaceutical industry that are in reality front groups for members of this industry.

    Clinical data shared with the public is often fabricated, embellished, or misrepresented. The frequent claim that a drug provides relative risk reduction greatly of a disease state believed to exist is a manipulation by the drug company. Absolute risk reduction, however, is the true representation of the efficacy of a drug.

    For example, if drug A states that it provides a 50 percent relative risk reduction in the progression of alopecia often sounds impressive to many. In reality, this may and often means that out of, say, 100 people, two had progressive alopecia. Yet with drug A, only 1 out of 100 had alopecia.

    When the ladder, absolute risk reduction, is presented, it gives the impression that drug A really is not that efficacious after all.

    The copious amounts of advertising by the pharmaceutical industry is done so with the intent to create fear, anxiety, or sadness upon the viewer about their lack of ideal health that deceptively is far from the truth.

    As a society in the U.S., we are falsely led to believe that youth and efficacy as an individual should be acquired at any cost. Any fallacy perceived by one that prevents the acquisition of youth and efficacy ultimately leads many others to eliminate such fallacies.

    Examples of diseases simply created by drug companies include erectile dysfunction, which is a symptom often of a truly existing disease, social phobia, which is simply introversion- a normal personality component of humans, as well as male pattern baldness, which occurs naturally in about half of men due to genetic predisposition.

    The danger and consequences of disease mongering include the waste of often precious medical resources, as well as the possibly of causing iatrogenic harm to one seeking restoration of their health.

    And the pharmaceutical industry has allies with their business plans of disease mongering. These include again front groups, hired journalists, public relations companies hired by drug companies, as well as doctor groups.

    All utilize mass media to facilitate their objective. Disease Mongering is more frequent presently due to lifestyle drugs- drugs that do not delay the progression of authentic disease, or treat these diseases, but rather comfort a consumer rather than a patient.

    Lawmakers in the United States are aware of disease mongering. However through over saturated lobbying by those in the pharmaceutical industry, such government officials have chosen not to intervene to prevent this potentially dangerous marketing tactic.

    This is concerning, considering that presently the restructuring of the health care system in the United States is in its first phase. Disease mongering is not contributing, but in fact is corrupting this restructuring,

    Dan Abshear

  60. Christophe said on October 7th, 2009 at 10:22am #

    I am new to this site and am looking forward to a fruitful discussion on so many issues revolving around psychiatry at present. I am of the opinion that psychiatry does seem to help many who contractually seek out these professional services, however, so does religion. However, if the profession is to truly reform itself, it will necessarily eschew many of its pronouncements and, dispense with its cynical apologetics, as well as its disingenuous averring to its “excesses”. This would be a collective step in the right direction. Moreover, transparency- within the profession’s own ranks and, to the public-is another order of business, with far reaching implications.

  61. Christophe said on October 8th, 2009 at 6:39pm #

    “The social movements of the 1960’s opposed psychiatry’s focus on inner conflict and emphasized the social sources of sickness instead.”

    The above excerpt is pretty much the paradigmatic model that still informs most of the institutional side of psychiatry. With more psychiatrists working for the state in some capacity, the idea of contractual-consensual psychiatry seems ever more quaint a notion. Not to dialate to much, however, what does the psychiatrist-or the profession for that matter-hold its allegiance? To the state or to the individual. By examining the various laws, PUBLIC policies and, generally, the professional rhetoric, the answer is self evident. One ineluctable outcome of the push for greater social health, has resulted in appreciable erosions of civil liberties (Take the “right to treatment” law that stands to punish both physician, for failing to “treat” and, patient, for refusing coercive measures.
    As a Libertarian on most matters social and political, I cannot sit idly by without voicing my concern at those abridgements and erosions of rights, even under the aegis of “Therapeutic” measures. As long as a culture seeks such an institution to “care” for the deviants and, problematic individuals-those who have committed no crime-the state will continue its present course, along side the MH apparatus it has empowered.

  62. Christophe said on October 30th, 2009 at 11:17am #

    I started reading Dr. Rosenthals book, but only piecemeal. I am discouraged by how such scholarship only serves to further the psychiatric “agenda” (as I infer, based on the good doctor’s insistence on many mental being unquestionably(?) biological in etiology). The book was a piece of moral-double dealing and political haggling, and little on the empirical side.

  63. Christophe said on November 17th, 2009 at 12:14pm #

    In the social-semiotic critique, as proffered by the likes of Rosenthal, there is one glaring omission: The critique of this Tower of Babel, called psychiatry. I very much doubt, alas, that priestess Rosenthal means any real harm to the integrity of a profession steeped in deceit. Nor, for that matter, is her work one of needful ideological schisms.