The dictatorship of the science of psychiatry

Author: Spiros Kakos

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Religion-Science Philosophy articles series


If you talk to God, you are praying; If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.

Thomas S. Szasz, The Second Sin, Anchor/Doubleday, Garden City, NY. 1973, Page 113.

Science as a Dogma

Many people argue that religion is dogmatic while science is not. My goal is to show that science can be as dogmatic as religion and that free-thinking people should be always careful not to believe everything “official” science says without analyzing it first with their own logic. Unfortunately societies use both religion and science to promote a specific agenda and that is what is happening in our civilization with psychiatry. What we call “official” science today could be laughed by tommorow. Our duty as thinking human beings is to think independently and try to make our own mind at least for the things we can.

Science, like Religion, can be dogmatic if practiced incorrectly. Nowadays many scientists dogmatically believe that the soul does not exist, that sciencecan answer everything (even though Godel has proven otherwise – see my knol Limitations of Science), that we are programmed by our instincts like every animal. Although not every scientist thinks that way, the fact that some professions or scientists’ groups (like medicine or psychiatry) are dominated by materialistic narrow-thinking people has some peculiar effects that I will analyze below. If science is the art of doubting everything and not being dogmatic, then modern medicine and psychiatry should change how they think…

Brain MRI image

Important note: As I mention in body of the article, the purpose of this Knol is not to give medical advice. I am not a professional trained doctor and do not hold any degree in medicine whatsoever. I am a thinking person and chemical engineer though and can understand a valid argument what I see it.

The purpose of this article is to arise public awareness on the way mental illness is regarged today and the critiques of that “way of thought”. All things written here have supporting bibliography. I am not telling anyone not to go to the doctor. In case of trouble or indications of any illness everyone should go to the doctor (I do the same as well). And it should be clear to everyone that one should always trust his/her doctor than an online article. However, as the things some known psychiatrists (e.g. professor Szasz) say suggest, asking more than one doctor could prove useful sometimes…

Paid Medicine

During the last years we have witnessed a vast increase in the expenses for medicine worldwide. More and more people feel “sick” and seek the help of a specific drug. That is something that is – up to a great point – driven by pharmaceutical companies. All normal values for various human body parameters (like for example the cholesterol) are getting smaller and smaller each year, thus leading many of us to medication that we would not need if based on the previous’ year values!

One may argue that new researched indicate those new values and that we should listen to our doctors. I agree that one should listen to his/her doctor!I also listen to my doctor! The reason is simple: the doctors are the only professionals who have the right training so as to advise you on medical matters!

But what happens when you see that most doctor’s medical conferences are paid by pharmaceutical companies? What should we think when we realize that most research on the proper values of cholesterol are also supported financially by the pharmaceutical companies which produce the drugs our doctor says we should get? Recently Harvard Medical school pinpointed the problem and asked for more transparency in its dealings with pharmaceuticals[1]. Is paid science “free” science? And more importantly, does paid science pose any danger – whatsoever – to our health? What if the one doctor you visit is paid by a pharmaceutical company to promote a new drug, while the drug that best fits your case is another one? And – even worse, what if you don’t even need a drug to get well?

Are you feeling anxious about a deadline at your work, or an exam? Do you feel worried about an interview or an upcoming important date? If yes, the “official” psychiatry says that you suffer from a disease called “disturbance of general social worry” and even recommends a drug you must take! So worrying about something in your sociallife has been “defined” as “not-normal” by the psychiatric society (it is important to note that what is a disease and what is not is defined via democratic processes and voting and not by hard scientific data!). [2] Should everyone worrying for his first date take drugs? Listen to your doctor, but be careful not to fall into the trap of what is called “scientism”. Maybe it would be nice if you also asked the opinion of other 2-3 doctors who are paid / related to different pharmaceutical companies or even someone who is not paid by any such company.

Thomas Szasz, Schizophrenia: The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry (1979) [3]

Mad people or Annoying people?

Scientific dogmatism is more intense in the field of psychiatry, as it will be illustrated below.

The notion of “mental illness” is a very common notion among people. We all think that mentally ill people exist and that we should treat these people as sick people needing attention. One would be very surprised to know that there are professors of psychiatry who deny the idea of “mental illness”.

In particular, some leading psychiatrists argue that the so common notion of “mental illness” is nothing more than a fantastic (i.e. “not real”) idea invented by societies in order to control their members inside some specific boundaries. All those people who think and act differently are simply named “mad” and in that way society controls unwanted ways of thinking.

Take for example a person who kills himself. Most psychiatrists would say that a man who commits suicide is crazy or, to put it more politely, “mentally ill”. Why would they say such a thing? Why is everyone so sure that some kind of mental disorder and are not willing to even discuss an alternative? The answer is that the neat and clean and organized materialistic society of today would be very much startled if it realized that something beyond our material body exists. Most Darwin-fans would have a hard time accepting the fact that we are not just animals struggling for survival, but that we could give our life here for something “else” (see Russel Wallace , the founder of the evolution theory, for more on that). So the verdict is simple: the person who killed himself is crazy and we can all go back to our materialistic void lifes with no regrets…But is the case so simple as that? Is for example a noble warrior who chooses to die instead of getting away with his life a “mad” man? Generalizing is the most easy thing, but not the most correct all the times…

READ ALSO:  Freud. Imagination. Dead Polar Star…

Another example is the case of drug addicts or criminals. Modern societies cannot accept that a person may be self-destructive, in the same way that they cannot accept the fact that a person may actually choose to commit a crime. Accepting something like that would lead to the conclusion that evil may be an integral part of human nature after all and the society cannot let people think something like that. The solution is again simple: they name those cases as cases of mental illness…

“There is no psychology; there is only biography and autobiography”

Thomas Szasz

Mind over Body?

If we do not characterize the above-mentioned people as “crazy”, then the foundations of our today’s materialistic societies will have a major problem.

The “official” dogmaof today’s physics is that everything that exists in the world is matter abiding to natural laws and nothing else. Accepting that people have free will with which they choose to harm themselfs for example, would have a devastating impact on that axiom.

The objectionsto that dogma are many: How and why do we feel that we actually choose our actions? Why and how can we be held responsible for everything “good” we do, but we are characterized as “mentally ill” when we do something bad?Do we have free will or not after all?

The “official” dogmaof medicine is that the brain cells are responsible for all mental activity. Since most medical researchers today are narrow-minded and cannot (do not want to) accept the existence of a soul in the human body, it is very natural for them to reach to the conclusion that commiting suicide can only be a result of a disorder in the brain.

The objections again are many: If everything is material-based, then why can’t we cure schizophrenia with a simple medication as other biological diseases?

The anti-psychiatric movement

Psychiatric professor Thomas Szasz (Professor of Psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse) is a leading figure in the anti-psychiatric movement. He advocates against the idea of what we call “mental illness”. He thinks that people who we call crazy are actually people illustrating things the society does not want to “see” and that psychiatry plays the role the Holy Inquisition played in the past: to punish the ones who are unorthodox.

The only difference is that in the old days “orthodoxy” was defined by religion while now orthodoxy is defined by science…

Szasz critique

Many people critisize Szasz for having founded the Citizens Commission of Human Rights with the Church of Scientology in 1969. Although this is true, it does not mean – at least according to the official Szasz site ( http://www.szasz.com ) – that Szasz is a scientologist. An anti-Scientology website calls Szasz a “useful idiot” and suggests that he played right into the hands of the Scientologist anti-medicine agenda. The Szasz.com website though, paints a rather different picture:

The following statement is intended as response to requests for clarification regarding Dr. Szasz’s co-founding of the Citizens Commission for Human Rights (CCHR). Thomas Szasz is not now nor has he ever been a Scientologist or a member of the Church of Scientology.

Dr. Szasz co-founded CCHR in the same spirit as he had co-founded — with sociologist Erving Goffman and law professor George Alexander — The American Association for the Abolition for Involuntary Mental Hospitalization.

Scientologists have joined Szasz’s battle against institutional psychiatry. Dr. Szasz welcomes the support of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and any other religious or atheist group committed to the struggle against the Therapeutic State. Sharing this battle does not mean that Dr. Szasz supports the unrelated principles and causes of any religious or non-religious organization. This is explicit and implicit in Dr. Szasz’s work. Everyone and anyone is welcome to join in the struggle for individual liberty and personal responsibility — especially as these values are threatened by psychiatric ideas and interventions.

So Szasz isn’t a Scientologist, even if he does pose for photos with Tom Cruise. I guess this goes in the whole “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” category. All in all, it’s a very sticky situation to untangle, which we could look at in any number of ways. [4]

It is interesting that even though many people agree with the opinions postulated by Szasz, they position themselfs against him simply because he found himself working with a group of religious people (who have their own agenda on a whole spectrum of issues completely alien to psychiatry). Asa blog on Szasz suggests: “

Instead of asking why Scientology endorses Thomas Szasz’s ideas, we should be asking why other religions do not.” Another in a long chain of interesting questions surrounding this issue…

Conslusion

Drawing conclusions in matters related to human mind is not easy. But the more one thinks about it, the more things seem more unclear than clear. If you hear voices then the official psychiatry might decide you are insane. If you manage to harness those voices and transform them into classical music then you might be called “genious musician”. As Lou Marinoff correctly states, one must remember that he should be considered sane until proved insane and not the opposite. [2] Search your self and listen to doctors, but try to examine the opinion of more than one before reaching to easy conslusions. If we let the majority decide upon what is sane and what is insane, then we would never have such “insane” theories like “a body in space instantly creates an invisible field which exerts power over any other body which is placed in it”…

Bibliography – Links

The purpose of the article is to stimulate thought. I am a chemical engineer researcher and not a doctor.One should listen to the medical professionals in order to learn more on what is mentioned in this article. Some interesting sources from where you could start your personal search for the “truth” (is such a thing as an “ultimate truth” actually exists) are listed below:

1.The Thomas S. Szasz Cybercenter for Liberty and Responsibility [ http://www.szasz.com/ ].

2. Ideologie et Folie, Thomas Szasz, P.U.F., 1976.

3. La Loi, la liberte et la psychiatrie, Thomas Szasz, Payot, 1977.

4. L’Age de la folie: L’Histoire de l’hospitalisation psychiatrique involuntaire, Thomas Szasz, P.U.F., 1978.

5. Theologie de la medecine, Thomas Szasz, Payot, 1980.

6.Psychiatry: The Science of Lies, Syracuse University Press, 2008.

7. Le Mythe de la psychotherapie, Thomas Szasz, Payot, 1981.

8. Lou Marinoff [Wikipedia article]

9. Le Mythe de la maladie mentale, Thomas Szasz, Payot, 1986.

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  12. William F. Hogg MD

    Psychiatry is NOT a science! — I admire Dr. Kakos’ brilliance and versatility, but, in the spirit of Platonic dialogue, he might reevaluate some of his more arbitrary assertions. With all respect, please consider:Psychiatry is far from being a science. It is a clinical speciality within medicine that attempts to make use of the sciences of biology, psychology and sociology. Chemistry and physics are within its purview. The ‘best’ psychiatrists will instruct themselves in great literature, art, music and philosophy. And they try to be acquainted with the belief systems of law and religion. Then they apply whatever art, science or humanitarian belief that helps them to understand and thereby comfort hurt people. The basic tenet of Hippocratic medicine is to ‘do no harm’ and, in this regard, good psychiatrists guard themselves—and their often vulnerable patients—very carefully against any ‘power’ (government, religion, business) that attempts to control individuals or groups of people./William Hogg (retired child psychiatrist)

    1. Spiros Kakos

      Untitled — Thanks for the comment. I do not claim to be a doctor, I just posted views held my people who know the field (my sources are mentioned in the bibliography section). However as a scientist myself I can tell a valid argument when I see it. And I think Dr. Szasz has some valid arguments.I could use some of your feedback concerning psychiatry and maybe help in the formulation of a definition that I will incorporate in the Knol.

  13. William F. Hogg MD

    Addendum, in all fairness to Dr. Kakos… — Psychiatrists that do act on behalf of an outside source of power (eg, warehousing ‘deviant’ people in government-run institutions, testing drugs ‘for’ big pharma, acting as ‘kept’ consultants to various children’s agencies with ‘axes to grind’) tread a narrow path of potential harm (to society at large as well as to individual patients and families). They should be aware of their precarious position!

    1. Spiros Kakos

      Untitled — I agree with that. Having to go to 2-3 doctors to be sure that the opinions they give you is the “right” one is something which is becoming more and more a “plague” of our times.

  14. Gary Pilarchik

    Hmmm. — Have you ever seen someone suffering from psychotic symptoms, severe depression or mania? I think not. We are not talking about people that say “I just like living in tree” versus a house? That might be a choice.Psychiatry doesnt define a way to think. It looks at how true illnesses affect a way a person thinks. Its about an individual’s quality of life and how it is harmed by illness.You can’t cure schizophrenia like you can’t cure diabetes. You treat the symptoms.

    1. Gary Pilarchik

      Untitled — Hello,Well I would argue “culture” also dictates what is normal and from that behaviors follow as normal or abnormal in a society. Im looking at a narrow band within your knol which is mental health and psychiatry and the illnesses I treat in therapy. For me it depends on how the argument you present is used within psychiatry. There are major illness/syndromes such as schizophrenia which is by far anything but a person choosing odd behaviors. So there are many syndromes in mental health. Actually because of a lack of root cause this could on the surface support your argument. I would just pick a specific syndrome or collection of behaviors for your argument. Your knol read to me as a blanketing statement over psychiatry.Homosexuality was dropped from the DSM-IV. This change I would agree was dictation of normal or abnormal behavior by Doc’s. They fixed it. If homosexuality was still in the DSM, I would fully agree it is Docs dictating normal behavior. Many major disorders are classified as syndromes vs an illness with a root cause. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression really destroy people lives. There illnesses in need of cures.However if you remove schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression (as examples) and look at people that dont come in for these major illness… you could get into behavior.Sexual preferences, dress style, beliefs, and many other things that one might argue are dictated as being tagged normal or abnormal behaviors/beliefs by the treating psychiatrist or therapist. But you have to look at it this way… why did the person seek out treatment? Usually because of conflict. The conflict is often a conflict between their behavior and what is culturally accepted as normal. Now who defines cultural behaviors and normal or problematic? That is an interesting question.Right now a primary treatment in psychiatry is not to create a cure but to remove or reduce symptoms. I wish there were cures.Symptoms like:Seeing imaginary cats talk to you. Counting steps over and over. Checking the door lock 63 times. Washing your hands 31 times daily. Believing you are demonic. Inability to get out of bed. Panic attacks when you step out of the house.These things aren’t being done out of choice but out of an illness. To me these aren’t behaviors that are wanted.A man that wants to wear a clown suit and live under a bridge by choice is one thing. He maybe be called crazy but it is his choice.A man that wears a clown suit that he lined with foil to protect his thoughts from being read by aliens and lives under a bridge for the messages that are thrown to him in the disguise of trash from passing cars… is ill. He needs to be treated humanely.Ill try an read some of you biblo’s as I get time. Enjoy my point of view.

    2. Spiros Kakos

      Untitled — Thanks for the feedback! It is really useful to me. As I say in other comments, I do not claim to be a doctor and that is why I have specific references to backup my writtings (see the bibliography section). However as an active scientist myself I can tell a valid argument when I see it. And I think Dr. Szasz has some valid arguments.I could use some of your feedback concerning psychiatry. However I must tell you that the phrase “You can’t cure A like you can’t cure B” needs some elaboration: you mean “you can’t now but you will be able to cure it someday” or “you can’t and will never can”? Waiting for more of your comments!

  15. Anonymous

    Untitled — The field of psychiatry does indeed need a good cleaning but when you source Thomas Szasz you lost me entirely.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_SzaszCheck out his connection to CCHR – a scientology front group who believe that evil psychiatrist started WWII and are behind 9-11 *eyeroll*I wonder if Mr. Szasa would agree with the way scientologists go about treating people in crisis. Their vitamin/sauna therapy certainly did stop Jeremy Perkins from stabbing his mother 77 times.http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/JeremyPerkins/

    1. Spiros Kakos

      Untitled — Well, I certainly did not cite Szasz because of his religious beliefs. I admin I was not aware of what you say, so I will look into it as soon as possible. However his opinion about psychiatry seem quite interesting, despite of his possible mistakes / wrong opinions on other things. Thanks for the comment~!Update (03-04-2009): I added a new part called “Szasz critique” to the article dealing with the issues you state (Szasz and Scientology). Thanks again!

  16. gaby de wilde

    How to cure pschatrists — The quick way to cure a psychiatrist works as follows.First you tell him or her that going to a psychiatrist is really a sign of weakness, you have given up on yourself.The psychiatrist will then jump out of his chair and cry out all kinds of childish remarks. Something like: “it’s all true, it says so in the book!”You then use some trigger words slowly waving your hand from your plexus. “Personalty disorder”, “aggressive outburst”.. etc… then finish with question tone bending forwards: “schizophrenia?”He or she then drops back into the chair with open mouth.This is where you say: “that will be 100 dollar sir/miss”You get up, breath in really deep “as if” absorbing someone’s soul and say: “I feel great, thanks!”Then leave.We are not after the money after all.

    1. Spiros Kakos

      Untitled — Sounds interesting…

  17. George Krieger

    The difficulty with mental illness — Mental Illness continues to be hard to effectively treat due to the fact that brain mechanisms are still not as well understood as mechanisms in the rest of the body. Science continues to make great leaps and bounds, but the result is that psychiatry is, on the whole, a “trial and error” science.Szasz and the Scientologists are certainly not reliable sources of information. However, I do agree that in many cases, people are treated with psychiatric drugs who should not be. Part if the difficulty is that, in the past, psychiatrists were also the psychotherapists, and met with patients for long periods of psychotherapy over time while determining what medications to prescribe. Now, the psychiatric visit is a ten-minute process which results in a prescription, and the patient may not even be receiving any psychotherapy at all.I work with severely emotionally disturbed children, many of whom have parents who have been influenced by the anti-psychiatry movement. “No drugs for my kid!” they say, “I saw Tom Cruise on Oprah!” I have worked such children for over 15 years, and the sad thing is that they are unable to control their behaviors on their own because they cannot control their emotions. With medication, they are able to become happy and productive members of society. Without medication to stabilize their moods, these children become fearful and then physical aggressive to those around them, and as adults, they end up in jail or dead.The problem is worse with the “crazy” people, the ones with thought disorders, such as schizophrenia. Those who are lucky to find the right medication generally take it for a while, until deciding that they don’t need it anymore and end up in a hospital. At the beginning of my career, I worked with a psychiatrist who was schizophrenic, and suffered with this conflict all of his life. He related to me that the worst thing that could happen to him would be to be hospitalized at the very hospital where he worked as a psychatrist, and to be on a unit with his own patients! Nonetheless, the illness was greater than he was, and he continued to struggle with it.Are psychiatric medications over-prescribed? Probably, especially to children who are supposedly “hyperactive”, but in reality have simply not had good parenting, so they have not learned social skills to interact with the general public. Those children do not need such medication, they need good parenting. The reality remains that psychiatry is a necessarily field of medicine, without which many people would not be able to have happy, meaningful lives.

    1. Anonymous

      Untitled — Thanks for your insightful comment George. As for ‘gaby’, well, the weird ones certainly do come out on the internet…

    2. George Krieger

      Untitled — I am afraid I don’t understand what you are saying. Could you elaborate?

    3. gaby de wilde

      Untitled — you wrote: “I have worked such children for over 15 years, and the sad thing is that they are unable to control their behaviors on their own because they cannot control their emotions. With medication, they are able to become happy and productive members of society. Without medication to stabilize their moods, these children become fearful and then physical aggressive to those around them, and as adults, they end up in jail or dead.”I think without the believe you are helping those children you become verbally aggressive to those who tell you you aren’t, you will become fearful, physical aggressive to everyone around you, then you will then destroy the world then and the rest of the solar system.I bet reading this you already want to blame me for telling this to you, this while it is so obviously true and I’m not even billing you? What sad world….

    4. Spiros Kakos

      Untitled — Thanks for your comment. It is really into the point. Due to your comment and other similar ones concerning the connection of Szasz to Scientology, I added a small part that deals with that critique (“Szasz critique”) to the article.

  18. Zia Shah

    Curing Freud’s atheism — Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and his colleagues defined man as a purely ‘Psychological man’ driven by his past experiences and memories as opposed to ‘Religious man’ who has a constant attraction and a drive towards his Creator and Protector, the God of monotheism. Freud theorized that personality is developed by the person’s childhood experiences. He was not vague about his claims for atheism. He actually predicted that as the masses of people become more educated, they would ‘turn away’ from the ‘fairy tales of religion.’ We will examine how his views were shaped by the anti-Semitism of his time.Carl Jung, a contemporary of Freud took an exception, he wrote, “Freud has unfor­tunately overlooked the fact that man has never yet been able single‑handed to hold his own against the powers of darkness — that is, of the unconscious. Man has always stood in need of the spiritual help which each individual’s own religion held out to him.” Totally on the opposite pole of Freud in matter of religion, Carl Jung explained at length, in the chapter, ‘Psychotherapists or clergy’ of his book, Modern Man in Search of a Soul:”During the past thirty years, people from all the civilized countries of the earth have consulted me. I have treated many hundreds of patients. … Among all my patients in the second half of life — to say, over thirty‑five — there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given to their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook.” Sigmund Freud wrote in a letter to Carl Jung, dated January 17, 1909, “The more the fruits of knowledge become accessible to men, the more widespread is the decline of religious belief.” In his essay on war & death, he wrote, “Religion is an illusion, and it derives its strength from its readiness to fit in with our instinctual wishful impulses.”Both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were psychologists of great repute. So, are we to believe in ‘Psychological man” of Freud or the “Religious man’ of Carl Jung?For rest of the story and additional links go to:http://knol.google.com/k/zia-shah/curing-sigmund-freud-s-atheism/1qhnnhcumbuyp/44#

  19. Zia Shah

    Al Salam God of Abrahamic Faiths: the source of personal peace — This article is about the role that religion has in saving humans from anxiety and depression. This article was originally published in Ahmadiyya USA Gazette volume of February 2007: http://www.alislam.org/library/periodicals/index.phpTo read the article online go to:http://knol.google.com/k/zia-shah/al-salam-god-the-source-of-personal/1qhnnhcumbuyp/49#

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