The Truth About Mental Illness (And The Scary Truth About Psychiatry)
Back in the 1970s I helped introduced the concept of `stress' to the general public in a book which was called Stress Control. I argued that stress was, in whole or in part, responsible for 90% of all modern disease. And then a few years ago I wrote a book called Toxic Stress in which I argued that we now live in a world in which much of the stress which harms our bodies and minds is beyond our control. I have long believed that stress is an underestimated cause of physical and mental illness. I have also long believed that the effects of stress depend upon two things: the stress itself and the way we react to it. The human's response to stress is crucial and is, of course, the reason why some people fall ill when exposed to small amounts of stress while others seem able to cope with unending amounts of stress. (This may sound very obvious now but when I first suggested this in the 1970s I was attacked viciously by members of the medical establishment who laughed at the idea that stress could be responsible for illness.)
We can, of course, control some of the things that happen to us. We can avoid people who annoy us. We can resign from jobs which we find exhausting or too difficult.
But we live in a world where we are surrounded by stress. It comes at us from all sorts of directions. I called this unavoidable stress `toxic stress'.
After years of studying the effects of stress on the human body and mind I am now convinced that all mental illness that isn't caused by maldevelopment or physical damage (a bleed, a clot, an injury, a tumour etc.) is caused by stress; all mental illness is a response to stress.
I repeat: all the diseases which we describe as types of mental illness are caused by one of two things: physical damage (as caused by poor development, injury, malformation, and the sort of damage produced by vaccination) and stress. This is true for schizophrenia, autism, compulsive obsessional disorder and every other psychiatric disorder you can think of. The more sensitive you are the more vulnerable you are, and the more likely you are to become ill in some way - whether it be depression, a phobia or some other labelled disorder. All mental illness is, therefore, a result of a combination of unavoidable stress and an inborn, irreparable sensitivity. Paranoia is an extension of normality. Schizophrenia is a confusion created by an inability to cope with what is going on without and within. Depression is an inevitable consequence of a susceptible organism struggling to survive in an increasingly toxic world. The people who cope best with our toxic world are the individuals who are least sensitive: the people whom we usually describe as psychopaths. Because they have little or no emotional response to stress, they are able to ignore moral and ethical issues and sail painlessly upwards to the very top of our society.
Our foibles and neuroticisms are what make us what we are. To dissect them and remove them (or to attempt to remove them) through pseudoscience such as psychotherapy is as wicked and as clumsy and as destructive, in its slower bloodless way, as psychosurgery. To blunder clumsily, and without direction, through the forest of half hidden fears and hopes which are our psyche leaves wreckage and confusion behind. To attempt to treat them with drugs is as irrational and counter-productive as it would to attempt to treat a malfunctioning motor car by pouring porridge or treacle into the petrol tank. Kurt Vonnegut saw a psychiatrist and was afraid that therapy might make him normal and well-adjusted, and that would be the end of his writing. His son, a doctor and a wise man, assured the writer that psychiatrists weren't nearly that good.
Psychiatrists and general practitioners have become increasingly enthusiastic about drug therapy in recent decades. They claim that they can treat a wide range of disorders with psychotropic drugs and so a goodly portion of the nation now regularly gulps down happy tablets. Here's the evidence that psychiatry isn't a science at all. It isn't even an art. It’s more of a confidence trick; a collegiate confidence trick with pretensions of grandeur. The simple fact is that there is no evidence that there is any such thing as `chemical imbalance'. Ask any psychiatrist about this and he will agree that I'm right: `chemical imbalance' is a still an unproven theory. It's never even been properly tested so how could it ever be proven? So how can psychiatrists and drug companies possibly treat the problems which they claim are caused by `chemical imbalance'?
You may be surprised to learn that psychotropic drugs (widely promoted by doctors who have close links with the companies making them) have no provable, useful effects. They do, on the other hand, have massive and provable serious bad effects (such as death). How are these drugs supposed to work? That's not exactly known. It is, however, known that they flatten the emotions and cause a numbing and dullness of the mind which make patients taking the drugs less aware of their problems. Patients become so numb that they don't notice the nasty world around them. These drugs don't cure mental symptoms; they simply cover them up. The best patients can hope for is that the side effects aren't too bad.
Psychiatrists do not, and will not, agree with any of this, of course. They have a rapidly growing dictionary of labels which they can apply to their patients. The big problem with their labels (I'm talking about diseases such as ADHD and schizophrenia) is that none of these diseases (none) actually exists. Not in the way that pneumonia and tuberculosis exist, with real signs and symptoms. Psychiatric disorders are created and agreed upon by groups of psychiatrists who meet together and think up new disorders. I'm not making this up. There is proof that diabetes exists. There is scientific evidence to show that heart disease is real. But there is no proof to show that any psychiatric disorders really exist. They are labels which are often created merely to find a market for a newly invented drug. Diagnoses are made, and treatment begun, without any evidence that a patient has anything wrong that can be treated. Drugs are prescribed in the vague hope that they will produce an improvement. Most of the time they produce a change - but the change is more likely to be a deterioration than an improvement. A vast variety of entirely non-existent diseases is becoming forever commoner, taking up a constantly increasing part of a constantly decreasing health service budget. Many psychiatrists claim (apparently meaning it) that we are all mentally ill and that we all need treatment. This is not a social comment so much as an excuse to hand out prescription drugs which do more harm than good. (My own experience of medical colleagues who are psychiatrists is that they are all barking. Psychiatrists are pretty screwed up people; deviants and neurotics. That's why they become psychiatrists. A few of the students I studied medicine with became psychiatrists. They were all barking. All the psychiatrists I knew at medical school were as mad as hatters. By anyone's standards they were potty. They became psychiatrists because they couldn't deal with the logical science of real medicine. They chose, instead, to drift into the world of psychiatry where nothing is written down in black and white, and where judgements are made subjectively rather than objectively.)
Many psychiatrists have such close links with drug companies that they promote drug therapy for all with missionary zeal. Whenever psychiatrists make a suggestion one only has to ask `Who benefits?' to see what is going on. In 2010, a proposal to screen the entire population of Britain for depression was abandoned, possibly because it was realised that a virtually bankrupt nation could not afford to conduct an inefficient but incredibly expensive survey into mental health, possibly because a civil servant somewhere realised that the cost of providing anti-depressants would push the nation further into bankruptcy and possibly because someone realised that the nation was so despairing that a survey would probably show that the whole country was depressed. (That, I am sure, was the plan. Just think of the profits to be made out of prescribing anti-depressants for everyone in the country.
Drug companies concentrate on me-too drugs, the money-makers, ignoring diseases that affect the Third World and ignoring rare diseases. They want long-term medications for long-term problems, and psychiatric drugs are the most profitable. Drug companies love mental illnesses. Patients don't die from them. They live long, healthy lives and so, once diagnosed, can be given drugs for decades. Patients never get better and so the drug therapy is eternal. These disorders are self-reinforcing. When told they are `mentally ill', people tend to become anxious, introspective, less interested in the outside world and more self-obsessed. Doctors talk about exogenous and endogenous depressions but the only real difference between the two is that in one the cause has been found and in the other it hasn't. The two varieties of depression are basically identical. Both are caused by stress.)
The sad truth is psychiatry is a nonsensical speciality. And all its treatments are unproven rubbish. Aversion therapy, behaviour therapy and hormonal rebalancing are nonsense. Drug therapy is as dangerous, in its way, as psychosurgery. Diagnoses are made without evidence existing. Treatment is prescribed in a purely subjective way. And the diagnostic symptomology is so vague and far reaching that I could, without much difficulty, find some definable mental illness in every person in the UK.
Some people make friends when they travel. I have an acquaintance who can't pop into the local supermarket without finding new chums to add to his formidable Christmas card mailing list. If he goes for a walk in a deserted park he will somehow come back with half a dozen new chums. I'm not good at making friends. Too shy, I suppose. But this means that I am suffering from quite a number of mental disorders. According to the official definitions and symptom lists I reckon I am suffering from autism, ADHD, ODD, obsessive compulsive disorder and several dozen other psychiatric disorders. And I don't mind betting that you are too. Today just about every human emotion or behavioural pattern is a psychiatric disease; an official medical diagnoses. Shyness, homesickness, suspicion, having ups and downs and distractibility are all diseases. Women who have small breasts are suffering from micromastia. There are special drugs for all these disorders. New diseases soon likely to be classified include: `apathy disorder', `compulsive shopping disorder’ and `Internet addiction disorder'. If your doctor says you have one of these then you're officially mentally ill. Lack of self-control and impatience are now officially recognised as diseases. Welcome to the worldwide club. There's a drug with your name on it. And a long-term sick note just a scrawl away. Many of the new diseases relate to children. There's a good reason for this. Once a child is started on a drug there are likely to be decades of prescribing (and profits) ahead.
How do psychiatrists define new diseases? Easy. A bunch of 27 of them (most of them with links to drug companies) simply decide what is officially a disease. Psychiatrists actually have meetings to vote on whether diseases exist or not. Homosexuality used to be a disease, but political correctness pressures resulted in a vote deciding it was not. That's what psychiatrists call `science'. Thanks to their efforts, everyone can be diagnosed as mentally ill and everyone diagnosed will be treated. Providing drugs for mental illness is an industry worth a third of a trillion dollars a year. It's hardly surprising that new mental diseases come thick and fast. There is no evidence that any of the drugs prescribed can `cure' anything (partly because none of the diseases being treated can be properly diagnosed or specifically identified) but there is plenty of evidence showing that the drugs being used produce a huge variety of known, and sometimes deadly, side effects.
There are now nearly 400 psychiatric medical diagnoses in the official lists. There are specialists and drugs for all these diagnoses. And not one of the 400 has been tested or proven to exist. If you ever have a dull moment in your life get yourself a copy of the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and flick through it looking for the daftest diseases. It's hardly surprising that no one is now truly normal. These diseases aren't found in a laboratory or identified by epidemiological studies: they are created in marketing departments. And why not? Drug companies can make 500,000% profit on the drugs they sell.
Drug companies use marketing experts to persuade well people they are ill and need to take a pill, preferably permanently. Patients groups are set up and funded. In the UK, one of the big groups catering to autism sufferers takes drug company money. Journalists are bought and diseases created. In the business this is called disease mongering. It's big business. Research is funded by drug companies and not surprisingly, the research with embarrassing or inconvenient results never gets published. Medical journals (which rely on drug company advertising) are bent as are journalists. The medical community is corrupt and up to its eyes in drug company money. When TV programmes want to speak to a doctor about drugs they invariably contact one of the `hired hands' recommended by the drug companies. Doctors who tell the truth are banned and marginalised. Governments say they can’t find any doctors without conflict of interest to sit on committees assessing drugs. (Well, I'm here. An acknowledged expert on drugs and iatrogenesis and a licensed, registered medical practitioner. But, surprise, surprise, they never approach me.) Doctors go to conferences run and or paid for by drug companies. No doctor who is likely to oppose or question drug therapy will be invited to speak. (The last time I was invited to speak to NHS personnel I was quickly uninvited when drug companies found my name on the list.)
Many of the commonest problems are behavioural conditions associated with children and which are diagnosed subjectively and increasingly diagnosed by nurses and teachers rather than by psychiatrists. The doctors are too busy signing the prescriptions to bother with actually seeing patients. ADHD, autism and Asperger's syndrome will all become default condition soon. Their incidence is increasing so absurdly fast that children without one of these conditions will be regarded as abnormal and will, of course, need treatment. Autism became popular because it’s a damned sight more convenient for drug companies to create a new disease than it is to accept that children can be brain damaged by vaccines (another drug company product). For drug companies it is a double whammy. They avoid the vaccine lawsuits. And the new diagnosis enables them to sell treatments for a newly created and non-existent disease. Parents are often enthusiastic and don't seem to care that the evidence shows that a walk in the park is better than drugs for children with ADHD. Pushy, expectant parents with not very bright children temper their disappointment by accepting that their children have a new and fashionable disorder. A doctor’s note showing that a child has ADHD enables him and the family to jump to the front of the queue at theme parks, and to jump the queue for school lunch. It's hardly surprising that 1 in 20 in Britain has ADHD. And yet the symptoms are so vague that I doubt if there is a child in Britain who doesn't have it. The more intelligent doctors who prescribe drugs for ADHD and other entirely imaginary diseases know damned well that the whole thing is a scam: useless products for imaginary disorders; non-existent solutions for non-existent problems. I suspect that many patients know its emperors new clothes stuff; the intelligent ones anyway. They go along with the con because it is easier to accept (and to tell their friends and relatives) that their child is rude and badly behaved because he has got a brain disease, rather than because he is, well, rude and badly behaved. And poorly brought up. And they get extras too. Sympathy, care, even extra money. A disabled sticker for the car. No need ever to wait in queues. Only the stupidest doctors, together with social workers and school teachers of course, are unaware that it is all a scam; an expensive, dangerous but massively profitable scam.
New diseases are being invented almost daily. There's another exciting disease around now. It’s ODD (Opposition Defiant Disorder). The symptoms are an absence of respect for authority and anger management issues. Those with ODD are surly, defiant, uncooperative and hostile towards authority figures. Psychiatrists believe that ODD affects between 1 and 16 per cent of all school age children (nice of them to be so precise).
I've no doubt that many of these children need help. But some need help to deal with real problems (deafness, low IQ etc.) and most need help to deal with the overwhelming stress and pressure in their lives.
I can’t prove my theory. But they can’t prove any of theirs either. And I have two advantages. First, my theory is not based on commercial expediency. I profit not at all from it. The psychiatric profession cannot say the same. Second, I am prepared to match my track record at spotting dishonesties and medical trickery against that of any ten psychiatrists the medical profession wishes to offer.
So, what the hell is really going on? Is all this just about profits?
Well, here's an interesting quote from the National Association for Mental Health: `Principles of mental health cannot be successfully furthered in any society unless there is progressive acceptance of the concept of world citizenship. World citizenship can be widely extended among all peoples through applications of the principles of mental health.'
And here's a quote from Dr G. Brock Chisholm, psychiatrist and co-founder of the World Federation of Mental Health: `To achieve world government, it is necessary to remove from the minds of men their individualism, loyalty to family traditions, national patriotism and religious dogmas.'
Ah yes, of course.
The bottom line, of course, is that since the psychiatrists and the drug companies decide what mental illness is and is not, the incidence of mental illnesses will continue to soar. The lunatics have truly taken over the asylum.
Copyright Vernon Coleman 2011