Category: Biomedical Psychiatry

The “Trauma-Focused Turn” in Critical Psychology

A Review of: De-Medicalizing Misery II: Society, Politics and the Mental Health Industry Edited by Ewen Speed, Joanna Moncrieff and Mark Rapley Click on title to read the review (downloads as Word document or contact me for a pdf copy): The “Trauma-Focused Turn” in Critical Psychology First published with PsycCRITIQUES, June 1, 2015, Vol. 60, No. …

What is the function of the brain?

Photo: Sculpture of hands holding each other.

Based on her ethnographic study of psychiatric residency programs, anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann concluded psychiatry is “of two minds”: one “mind” emphasizes the role of neurochemistry, while the other “mind” places more importance on the context of our suffering, including relationships past and present. Identifying the origins of mental illness likely depends on both interpretations. There …

Want to reduce mental illness? Address trauma. Want to save the world? Address trauma.

Different explanations have been given for the increased number of people suffering from mental illness. Some have claimed the increase is the result of ever-expanding diagnostic criteria and syndromes that risk medicalizing normal emotional reactions. Others argue the increase is the result of the pharmaceutical industry financially courting the medical establishment as well as using …

Trauma-informed psychotherapy puts the body – and love – back in mental healthcare

Painting of the word "Love".

For the past 50 years, psychotherapy has taken a back seat to biomedical psychiatry, largely due to reliance on medications for the treatment of mental disorders. Yet clinical evidence increasingly points to chronic, unresolved traumatic stress as the source of many — if not most — mental disorders. Furthermore, longitudinal analyses show continued use of psychotropic medications …

Trauma nation?

Medicine is where hope is alive and well in America. During the past fifty years, due to rapid advances in microbiology, many persons who once might have died prematurely, or suffered debilitating diseases or disorders, instead enjoy productive lives, albeit often with chronic illnesses to manage. Through its near-miracle successes, the field has engendered the …

The mental health field has a branding problem

For over two centuries, the mental health field, and psychiatry in particular, has actively cultivated a “brand,” distinguishing itself as a remedy for societal ills, largely by adapting its philosophy and methods to the dominant social agenda. In 1793, when Dr. Philippe Pinel initiated reforms in the Salpêtriere and Bicêtre Hospitals in Paris where the …

How I practice psychotherapy with minimal intrusion from the DSM

Photo: Shed with "Freedom From Religion" painted on one side.

I started critiquing the DSM about sixteen years ago. At that time, I was conducting research for my dissertation on mood disorders as well as team teaching an advanced graduate seminar on the phenomenology of madness. Back then, mood disorders were called depression and manic depression. Both terms resonated with what it felt like to suffer …

ADHD: When meds (and genes) become a failure to act

Photo of mural in San Francisco's Mission District.

While reading a 2007 press release from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), I became unusually hopeful for youths diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A study performed jointly by the NIMH and the National Institute of Health revealed the brains of youths with ADHD develop normally but at different rates. In the prefrontal …

Does globalization 3.0 need DSM V?

The slated 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) wobbles like jello. It can’t tell the difference between psychopathology, normal misery, or bad habits. When you know there is something definitely wrong and need help, it won’t necessarily confirm your problem. Allen Frances, MD gives a good breakdown of some …

When psychiatry retraumatizes

Before I became a psychotherapist, I often wrote, lectured, and blogged about damaging aspects of psychiatry. I am more hopeful now — not about psychiatry improving, but about truly helpful mental healthcare for people who might otherwise be labeled “chronically” mentally ill and forever take medications to tranquillize their internal demons. Since I began combining …

Research on traumatic stress supports paradigm shift

In the mental health system, the biomedical model is the dominant paradigm. It depicts mental disorders as chronic diseases requiring lifelong treatment with medication (like diabetes or high blood pressure). This model of mental illness has been under attack in the US, where an estimated 20 percent of the population regularly takes psychiatric medications. Arguments …

What good is there in remembering trauma?

Would you erase devastating memories if given the chance? By blocking a memory-sustaining enzyme, scientists in America and Israel have successfully eliminated long-term memories in rats. Until now, long-term memories were thought to develop with structural changes in the synaptic connections between neurons, making it difficult to imagine removing painful memories without damaging the brain. …

Listening to schizophrenia

The National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) website makes it seem the mystery of schizophrenia is resolved: “Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that affects about 1.1 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. People with schizophrenia sometimes hear voices others don’t hear, believe that others …

Biological ≠ Medical

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published a review (2008) that concluded articles submitted to journals by pharmaceutical companies and psychiatric researchers about the effectiveness of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors—SSRI antidepressants—gave a rosier picture of this class of drugs than the studies actually show. By mainly publishing studies that tout SSRIs success and …

Foretelling extinction?

Mental illness has reached epidemic proportions. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates eighteen percent of American adults suffer from a mental disorder each year. The World Health Organization (WHO) claims depression is the leading cause of disability in the world. These numbers, however, do not do justice to the burden of mental illness in our …

Can we let children outgrow their ‘mental disorders’?

From 1994 to 2003, there was a forty-fold increase in the treatment of youths for bipolar disorder — from 20,000 to 800,000 young people in the United States alone. In almost all cases, these children were treated with medications that had not been extensively tested for use in the very young. Thus, nearly one million children and adolescents …