I saw The Stanford Prison Experiment today, an IFC films film. It’s been out for a while I believe, but it barely came to my town on July 31st.
If you’ve ever taken a psychology class, you probably know what I’m talking about. If you’ve taken a social psychology class, you definitely know what I’m talking about. It’s one of the most famous experiments in psychology, but just in case you have absolutely no clue what I’m talking about, I’ll sum it up pretty quickly: Dr. Phil Zimbardo at Stanford in the 1970’s wanted to study the effects of incarceration on human behavior so he gathered willing male college volunteers to partake in a prison simulation. He and his graduate staff flipped a coin to see which students would be guards and which would be prisoners. They turned Jordan Hall at Stanford University into a prison and shit went south real quick. The guards got physically and mentally abusive to the prisoners who lost sense of reality and identity. Some were allowed to leave. The study meant to last two weeks lasted six days. Here’s an awesome documentary with raw footage. It’s a long one.
It’s always been one of the most interesting studies to me, along with the Milgram Experiment (Link to it if you don’t know what it is: http://www.simplypsychology.org/milgram.html). Anything with studying obedience and the influence of authority interests me. Maybe it’s because I have a problem with authority. Don’t get me wrong, I respect everyone even when they don’t deserve respect, but the moment someone abuses their power and involves me in their escapade . . . let’s just say it doesn’t end pretty for them. It’s really a contradiction, especially with my social anxiety. I guess you could say I’m one of the reasons why people say “don’t trust the quiet ones”. I’m fired up on the inside. I’d be the most talkative person in the class getting sent to the desk facing the wall or the wildest person at the party doing “the sprinkler” on top of the table spilling my beer on everyone’s head if I weren’t so damn terrified of everything.
But the moment someone in an authority position tries to dismiss me as “unworthy”, most of my anxiety is squashed by an insatiable desire to rub these people’s faces in the dirt. But I also find it easier to talk with authority figures. For example, whenever I speak with an officer or anyone at all who carries a gun that can easily blow my brains out I automatically know I just need to tell the truth. If all I have to do is state facts, whether it be to a cop, a security guard, or a teacher in front of fifty students, my anxiety is non-existent because I know I’m right. Any social anxiety sufferer knows the bulk of the anxiety revolves around being wrong about something in front of people.
Doctors, however, are another story. I will argue with them day and night, whether they be General Practitioner, Psychiatrist, Psychologist–hell, I’d argue with a chiropractor if I knew anything about backs. At fifteen I started reading medical papers, research journals, and other books (instead of doing my shitty high school homework; can you believe state standards these days? Do they think we’re dumb?) so I knew when they were lying to me. I knew about atypical and typical (neuroleptics) anti-psychotics, Anti-depressants, stimulants, mood stabilizers, benzos, opiates and other pain medications, and even Trycyclics and MAO inhibitors. I learned anatomy, some physiology, and a lot about publication bias, and the APA’s consistent, intimate affairs with insurance companies. Call it paranoid, whatever; it’s justified. Doctors these days don’t control themselves, the pharmaceutical companies control them, especially if you visit one who isn’t private practice.
If you didn’t already know, their businesses and offices benefit with each prescription they write when they’re endorsed by an insurance company. It’s something that pisses me off and something that makes my anxiety fly out the window. Now, my father has an addictive personality. He’s battling alcoholism but he’s had addictions to other things in the past with the alcohol, including pills. I took him to a doctor’s appointment once and all of a sudden he started getting a “back ache” in the waiting room. When we got in the doctor’s office he was milking it real good and I soon learned it was because his doctor was a complete moron. He didn’t care about whether or not his patient told the truth, he cared about writing that nice, fat prescription page. He talked about prescribing him pain pills. I said no; he has a past history of being addicted to pain medication and sleeping medication. The doctor gave me one of those sly “where’s your degree?” smiles and continued on with the appointment. Halfway through, he started talking about the pain medication again. I said, “did you not hear me a second ago? He gets addicted to those.” He gave me his patented bullshit smile again and started talking about the dosage of the pills. I interrupted him: “if you’re going to give him the pills, make the dosage lower than that. If you don’t do that, I swear we’re walking out right now. Because you’re trying to screw us.” He agreed. We continued with the appointment. When he started talking about the medication again, he restated his previous, high dosage and I just about let my eager fist lay one on his arrogant face. I told him he wasn’t prescribing any medication and that he had no right to disregard what I was saying; I had first hand experience on his client’s mental state and addiction history, who the fuck was he to tell me I was wrong?
We eventually settled on a one time shot. My father was furious, but I wasn’t going to let some idiot ruin his body anymore than he already ruined it. I can’t control what my father puts in his body but I can control what a doctor does.
I’ve had doctors try to tell me symptoms I told them of a psychiatric medication I took was wrong. Really? What I experienced was wrong? So I’m hallucinating now? Yeah, that’s probably a side effect of your bullshit too.
I’m not a hater because of all the stuff that’s happened to me, instead I’m thankful it did, it helped me find my passion. But a piece of paper with a signature on it from a dean of some university doesn’t give doctors power, nor do the insurance companies or pharmaceutical companies. We give them power. An important line I’ll always remember both from the Stanford experiment film and from raw footage of the actual experiment and analysis is when one of the men who was assigned a guard position mentioned “no one ever told me to stop” (in regards to violence and mental abuse). I fear that’s what happened to this medical industry. Not enough people they consider “worthy” have told them to stop. Everyone thinks my interest in psychiatry stems from my own “disorders” but nothing is more inspiring for me (much to my anxieties dismay) than battling with people whose heads have grown larger than our solar system.