The So-Called Mental Illnesses Are Not Illnesses

The central theme of this blog is that mental illness is a spurious and invalid concept, which is promoted and developed by the American Psychiatric Association to legitimize the use of mood-altering drugs.

It is certainly true that people display various problems in their daily lives and particularly in their interpersonal relationships.  The American Psychiatric Association claims that all such problems are caused by mental illness and their list of these so-called illnesses is so long that virtually anybody can be embraced within their coils.

It is also true that problem behavior can be the direct result of an illness.  The paradigm example of this is general paresis.  This illness, which is in fact an advanced stage of syphilis, often generates psychotic symptoms and at one time accounted for 10-20% of mental hospital admissions.  But psychotic behavior and other behavioral problems can and do occur in the absence of any underlying illness.  Indeed it is my main task in these posts to show how these kinds of behaviors can be explained in terms of the ordinary constraints of daily living.

The vast majority of mental health workers subscribe to the APA’s philosophy.  There have been voices of dissent, however.  The late George Albee, PhD, wrote this in 1999:

“Most mental/emotional problems are learned patterns of maladaptive behavior resulting from the stresses of poverty, anxiety, exploitation and abuse or neglect!”  (Sarasota Herald-Tribune June 27, 1999)

William Glasser, MD, a renowned psychiatrist, was the top speaker at the 2006 national conference of the American Psychotherapy Association.  The National Psychologist (Nov-Dec 2006) quotes him as follows:

“I’ve never identified anyone as having a DSM disorder.  …All of these are phony diagnostic categories.  The DSM was not written to help people; it was developed to help psychiatrists – to help them make money.”

The point is this:  mental illness is an explanatory concept.  It purports to explain unusual, aberrant, or troublesome behavior. So that if a person were to ask:  Why does my mother say these crazy things?  Why doesn’t she take care of herself and let us help her?”  The answer from the mental health establishment is:  “Because she has a mental illness called schizophrenia.”  We’ve discussed the circular nature of this so-called explanation in an earlier post.   And the fact is that it’s not an explanation at all.  It’s a soothing form of words – a mantra, if you will – that legitimizes medical involvement in the “treatment” of people who are experiencing problems with living.  The history of medical involvement in these kinds of problems is not edifying, and the present-day exploitation of these individuals by pharmaceutical and medical drug pushers is no exception.

Three books I’ve come across recently on these topics are well worth the read:

Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness

Christopher Lane, PhD, Yale University Press, 2007
Mad In America

Robert Whitaker, Perseus Publishing, 2002
The Myth of the Chemical Cure (Revised Edition)

Joanna Moncrieff, MD, palgrave macmillan, 2008



Next Post: More on Personality Disorders

  • heartofatum

    “Most mental/emotional problems are learned patterns of maladaptive
    behavior resulting from the stresses of poverty, anxiety, exploitation
    and abuse or neglect!” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune June 27, 1999)

    Most But Not all.