To be a Psychiatric Critic

What does it mean to be a critic of the psychiatric industry? There are a couple ways we could go with this, considering there are many people who claim to be critics, who claim they recognize “there are some flaws in the system”, or that “things could be improved”.

That doesn’t tell me much about their understanding of the industry. What that tells me is that they have general knowledge that nothing in this world is perfect and that everything, theoretically, could use improvement. Why is this not a criticism? Well, because it’s well understood, it’s not unique, and it doesn’t require any real knowledge of the system to say.

I could walk into a Wells Fargo Bank, turn to the person in line behind me and say “wow, this building could really use some improvements, look at that crack in the ceiling.” You wouldn’t call that a true critique of their building, of their establishment, of their maintenance crew, would you? I made an observation a million other people have before me, and a million other people will after me, and I still know nothing about why the crack is there, what’s halting repairs, who the crew is who should be patching it, how much of a budget there is for repairs–all the things I’d need to know to really understand this situation.

There are enough cracks in the psychiatric system to ruin fifty thousand Wells Fargo Bank buildings.

 

To be a critic of something like psychiatry you need a little more gut than what it takes to have the same opinion as everyone else. You have to be willing to put in the effort it takes to read the research and understand that what isn’t being said to the public is much more powerful than what is being said to the public.

To be a critic of something like psychiatry you need the ability to put aside your personal beliefs sometimes and view the facts:

  1. Big Pharma is, well, a BIG corporation.
  2. There is no definite research that proves any mental “illness”, including schizophrenia and bipolar, are diseases. THAT is a theory.
  3. There is no definite research that proves any mental “illness”, including schizophrenia and bipolar, are a result of chemical imbalances. THAT is a theory.
  4. Know what a theory is. Know that it can never be proven, only disproven. 
  5. Know that the APA (they write the DSM), Big Pharma, and insurance companies speak with each other.
  6. Understand that none of this means you should immediately stop all of your medication. I’ve done that. It. Sucks.
  7. Understand that the only scientifically verified chemical imbalance occurs when medications are taken.
  8. Understand homeostasis in the brain and what happens when it’s disrupted.
  9. Know the history of psychiatry; know it’s a business. 
  10. Understand the politics involved in the business.

The two in bold are fairly important. They’re important because it is impossible to truly understand a system without knowing where it came from, how it started, and what philosophy drove it into existence.

Knowing about theories seems so incredibly basic, but a lot of people misunderstand it when they read about chemical imbalance. So let’s debunk this a little to further drive the point of an actual criticism.

Chemical Imbalance Theory: Things called mental disorders/diseases/illnesses, whatever, possibly caused by an imbalance of natural chemicals in the synapses during neurotransmission. The evidence consists of studies done on the brains of people who have taken medication at one point, or who are currently on it. Studies done of people during hallucinations or mania or depression. Studies done on small groups of people, once or twice, with results being generalized and any possibilities of traumas in the past being disregarded.

Let’s think scientifically here, and disregard any opinions we may or may not have about mental “illness”. Let’s also keep in mind that the neural connections within the brain are unique for each individual, like a finger print, and they change with our experiences in life.

If we are doing studies on people who are, or have been on medication, it can’t be ruled out that the experiences aren’t being worsened or created by said past/present medication.

If we are doing studies on people who have been having these experiences for years, and have never done a study on them in infancy (I’m talking 0-3 years of age), then we have no standard to hold it against: it can’t be an imbalance if there is no “balance” as a control. And for those saying they have scanned the brains of people who don’t have these experiences, how can that be considered a true control when every brain is uniquely different in their neural connections? Scientifically, that makes zero sense. To the general public, it makes a bunch of sense. We really need to start putting more funding into STEM programs if the general public is accepting sub-par experiments like this.

Because there has been such little research on how environment, trauma, and social factors play into the development and constantly changing plasticity of the brain, ignoring those key areas of life is essentially saying the brain only relies on its physical structure to know when to release chemicals. And that doesn’t make sense, considering there are external sources, like a blooming flower, that cause in some of us a rush of emotion like happiness,  a rush of dopamine. Had we not seen the flower, that dopamine may not have been released.

In a very thought-out article on Scientific American you can read here sums this up perfectly and has one of my favorite quotes by neuroscientist Joseph Coyle at Harvard: “Chemical imbalance is sort of last-century thinking. It’s much more complicated than that.”

This articles points out, in regard to depression, that although pharma makes claims that there are certain decreased or increased levels of neurotransmitters which cause depression, there are several different antidepressants that act on several different neurostransmitters, increasing or decreasing, that work for different people in different ways. Essentially, that takes the power out of what the pharma companies claim.

DR. Mark Graff, Chair of Public Affairs of the APA said simply that the theory of chemical imbalance was “probably drug industry derived”.

Psychiatrist David Kaiser touches on the exact problem I stated above when he says “Patients [have] been diagnosed with ‘chemical imbalances’ despite the fact that no test exists to support such a claim, and . . . there is no real conception of what a correct chemical balance would look like”.

Just as there are theories in physics, there are theories in psychiatry. They can’t be proven, but they can be disproven, debunked, and through true criticism of this industry that is achievable on a widespread scale.

So the next time you go to rest in that comfortable middle ground of “the system could use some improvements, but everything could”, think about what you mean and how you formed that opinion. We don’t need anymore complacency in this world, particularly not in psychiatry. We need strength and understanding and facts.

To read up further on where I got the quotes above, see this pdf.

To read up on my thoughts on the system published on Mad In America, click here.

Mental Vs. Physical: Do We Really Need To Debate?

Wording. How important is it?

If you ask a sociologist versed in symbolic interactionalism, they’ll probably put some importance on it. That’s what they spend their life studying after all: linguistics and symbols and blah, blah, blah, my God why do people choose the careers they do? What does Blah, Blah, Blah symbolize? My boredom or my complete illiteracy of symbolic interactionalism? The world may never know.

I read a story the other day off of Facebook from that website The Mighty (of whom I’ve lost any sort of respect for, see this post) about a woman with a rare disease that causes fatty tumors to grow just below the skin on several areas of the body. It’s obviously extremely painful. My explanation of this disease does not give it justice. The only relief she gets during particularly unbearable flare-ups is an unwilling but necessary trip to the E.R.

The doctors easily chalked up her “hysterics” to “just anxiety” that’s “all in her head” and refused to listen to her when she cried for pain medication. She kept telling them what she was experiencing and the nurses said “this is what the doctor wants you to try, this is what we’re trying” and handed her anxiety medications.

Eventually she had to come back to the hospital via ambulance and the doctors apologized for not believing her. Yes, her disease is rare, but let’s break down the two portions of the medical field that ultimately failed her this night.

e901926a29c2c3a58649b1f7723f63deThe ER is often flooded with people looking for a legal high. No one can deny that. It happens so often, doctor’s first suspicions go towards “Drug addict” when someone comes in begging for pain medication. My dad has conned plenty of doctors. It’s not that hard. All these people crying wolf have essentially weakened the trust on the physical side of medicine. Likewise, the overcrowding, the lack of funding, the lack of doctors, the long hours, and, as a result, the lack of compassion, weakens our trust on their judgement and level of care.

The ER is often flooded by people with anxiety. Panic attacks are huge in the ER. Other things are as well: one man started screaming they were taking his ribs and started throwing all the hospital shit around, hopped over the bed like a fucking PRO (I’m pretty sure the guy was superhuman; he probably believes that too), and started trashing the counters. A bunch of nurses ran to him, some doctors as well, and another nurse shouted across the hall for someone to get the Haldol.

They’re not not used to mental health. But they do have one job and one job only: Calm. Them. Down. And when you’re a physician in a busy ER room, that means assumptions and quick medications.

The problem here–well, there are a lot of problems. But one problem I see next to all the sociological issues (i.e, funding, hours, system of management . . .) is a problem rooted in stereotypes and the way we speak about mental health. If what you’re taught in medical school is that something like anxiety is primarily biological but still somehow just “all in their head” then when you see it, you think you know all about it. When you think you know all about it, you think you can recognize it anywhere. And when you think you can recognize it anywhere, you start confusing Dercum’s Disease with a Panic Attack.

It’s also very easy to ride off someone who has a “mental disorder” because it’s a “disorder”. They’re sick. Let them be sick, give them medication, and get them out of here. Go with the quickest fix: the motto of this era.

I said a long time ago people need to stop calling for “mental disorders” to be treated like physical problems because that already happens–and that’s not a good thing people. That’s why we have categories for people’s “broken brains” to fit into. That’s why psychiatry is a “medical” discipline. Mental health has been treated like physical sickness since the DSM 3.

x-ray-broken-leg-20147835If you snap your shin bone, a surgeon goes in, puts some plates in, some screws, you go through recovery, and you know what? The person next to you who also broke their shin bone had the same procedure. Sure, maybe theirs was a little different: their shin bone is a different size, their blood pressure was a little higher, maybe they’ll have more pain after the surgery and in recovery e.t.c. But the procedure is the same, the plates are the same material, and the reason both surgeries were generally low risk and successful were because those surgeons have done that same thing hundreds of times–you got lucky with the experienced ones.

If you have a psychotic break, and your neighbor has a psychotic break, they are going to be 99.999999999999999999% different. If not that, 100% different. The brain isn’t a shin bone people, you can’t slap the same old treatments to everyone and expect different results! That’s insanity. That’s treating mental health like physical health. So keep campaigning. You’re wasting your time, it’s already like that. 

The more mental health is medically categorized, the more it’s shoved into a tiny box of qualifications, the more disregarded we’ll be. Because that little box you get shoved into has a label on the side of it and when the top is closed, professionals don’t really get a chance to see you. You think having a mental health diagnosis gets you taken seriously? Please, spare me the bullshit. You’re not looking for someone to agree that you’re sick and broken and ill. You’re looking to have someone acknowledge what you go through is very real and painful. You’re looking for healthy validation of your feelings.

That often doesn’t come with diagnosis.

What do people say after they get told what “disorder” they have? ” I get it now. I knew something was wrong with me!” 

If having a mental health diagnosis made a difference for the better, Dercum’s disease wouldn’t have been the new word for “panic attack” so quickly.

 

 

 

 

Controversial Concept Monday

I should make that a thing.

Here’s a common misconception about my “mental illness”. It’s a disease.

#ControversialConcept coming up. Everyone, grab your mouth guards, put on your boxing gloves, run a lap around the track until your huffing and puffing results in a calf cramp because you didn’t stretch before hand, fall on the ground, and let me put my foot on your back and explain something real quick.

hqdefault

And before I go any further, I’ll start with my usual (usually unofficial) disclaimer: I do not in any way deny what we feel. The mood swings are real. The hallucinations are real. The pain is real. The anxiety is real. The panic attacks are real. The obsessive, compulsive behaviors are real. The struggle, of all things, is very, very real. They are not something we can turn off and on like a switch. They don’t just “get better” because we want them to get better. We can’t just “push through” like what we experience doesn’t exist.

What we experience does exist and it is very, very real.

What I will always, until the end of my days, fucking put on blast is how we describe what we experience. What I will always put on blast is how we act like everyone else needs to change how they view us (which they do) without addressing how we need to change how we view ourselves with the same urgency.

Just like your average child with mental health issues, I knew I was different from the other children, and I knew how, but I didn’t have a name for any of it. I knew people who were shy, but they didn’t seem to isolate themselves like I did. I knew people who were “weird”, but they didn’t seem to think of things the way I did. I knew people who did things alone but they didn’t seem to adore it in the way I did.

I knew people who didn’t trust people, but they didn’t seem to create theories around it and ruin relationships over it.

paranoia_by_ecstazy93

I knew people who were sad, but it didn’t seem to drive them to write suicide letters and self harm.

I knew people who were confident sometimes, but they didn’t seem to think they could cure a major disease by reading a textbook and scrambling down random theories like I did.

It was high school I decided to do research on myself. I started reading. I read about dopamine decreases and increases. I read about serotonin (back before the study came out that reaffirms serotonin is so complicated neither an increase or a decrease can be solely blamed for anything)  and medications for all types of disorders. I liked to ignore the symptoms of “more severe” disorders because, although I met the “Criteria”, I knew I, as a 14 year old, wasn’t qualified to diagnose myself. I could never know about me what the professional would know about me.

finding_the_right_person_for_your_job

Right?

I was 17 when I realized something major: it was rare someone with one of these apparent mental disorders was in the field of psychology. It was rare they were psychiatrists. It was rare they were clinical psychologists.

That left a large margin of people (bipolar, schizophrenia, and otherwise) at the hands of people with little to no experience but their trusty little textbook case studies. I died a little inside.

Then I pulled a Kenny McCormick and I kept dying. I died when I found out the companies researching funded their own research. I died when I learned many old medications are restructured and then sold as new medication with little or no difference for a hundred times higher of a price. I died when I learned, from experience, we don’t have a lot of say when we’re up against this system. I died when my therapist was required to recommend me for medication or else my insurance wouldn’t cover my fucking visit. I died when I heard stories of toddlers being force fed anti-psychotics for fussy behavior.

I died when I realized this was a business.

But most of all I died when I heard people referring to themselves as sick. Because when I was growing up, in my own world, absent from my peers, I understood I was different. I hated myself often for it, but I loved myself as well. And I only started seeing it all as a problem until I was told it was. And even then, at 17, I was beyond a point where I would believe their point of view.

I died when people who didn’t know one thing about biochemicals, about epigenetics, about environment, about neurotransmitters or how no one, I don’t give a fuck if they are SUPERMAN, can EVER trace ONE neurotransmitter and act like that’s the problem, agreed that a “chemical imbalance” is causing their “disease”.

71665139

I died when the studies coming out of Stanford and other such institutions disputing the evidence supposedly “found” for a chemical imbalance got shoved to the back burner.

I’m sure NAMI has told you more about your imbalance than it has about how much of a very poor theory it is.

My inspiration for this post came from this article on The Mighty: Click Here.

I respect this contributor. I respect The Mighty fully. I simply disagree with her statement here:

The brain is a physical organ, with physical components, one that resides within a physical body, and when things go awry, one that needs very physical solutions. So many people make the mistake of treating this physical problem with spiritual or emotional solutions, as I did, for decades and with little success. There may be periods of relief, yes. But the problems return.

I don’t disagree with her because she is “Wrong”, because she’s not. The brain is a physical organ, just like the heart.

Ask anyone with a member of their family diagnosed with a heart disease (my father has congestive heart failure) and you will know they are often told take this medication and reduce stress.

There’s a physical component, and an environmental component. Your heart reacts to life just as your brain does.

To act as if there is only one component to your physical health or your mental health?

fucking_92323a_1648369

It’s true, we can’t control everything we experience. I’m not disputing that. I’m disputing calling that a problem. I’m disputing the idea of that being caused by solely a physical malfunction in every human being.

Your brain is not like other organs. It harbors consciousness. It harbors personality. It integrates every ounce of information you receive, even subconsciously. It can’t be treated like the other organs. Even THEY respond positively to environmental changes. And as much as I would love to agree with all of you who say we need to start treating mental illness like physical illness . . .I can’t. Because we already have been.

We call it an illness, a sickness, a “disease” and we make you believe it because, fuck it, scientists signed that shit.

We show you the scans of the brain and tell you what it means. We don’t tell you our study was only of 30 people and only for four weeks. That’s certainly enough time to make a generalization for the whole of the mental health biological basis, am I right?

We won’t tell you the studies fell through when people tried to replicate it.

We get rid of the psychological component and any interpretations based on human common sense, and focus on the biology we don’t even understand. 

We make money off you. 

That’s treating mental health like physical health.

At 15, I thought studying psychiatry would help me reach those people who didn’t have peers in the system. I then learned I would be required to pay attention to their symptoms, not them. I would be required to do what the book said, what the insurance companies said, and that’s what I was going to 10-12 years of fucking school for, to be a zombie, when I have more experience with mental health issues than the fuckers on the DSM-V board.

If they think I’m someone known for playing by the rules, they should read my previous post.