The Dangers of Antipsychiatry — My Latest for Paste Magazine


If you spend as much time as I do on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the meme that shows a picture of a forest with the words, “This is an antidepressant” and a picture of Prozac with the words, “This is shit.” The meme comes to us from the folks at TruthTheory.com, which “offers alternative news, documentaries and much more.” It sounds interesting at first, until you look at some of their other memes, which include 9/11 conspiraciesanti-GMO memes and a claim that the government is using Snapchat filters to create a database. Naturally the anti-Prozac meme met with a large amount of backlash, and for a good reason: claiming psychiatry is a “pseudoscience” is deadly.

But where did this idea come from? The main source is psychiatrist Thomas Szasz’s 1961 book The Myth of Mental Illness, where he argued mental illness is just a “metaphor,” and that psychiatry is no more legitimate than alchemy. The book became an instant classic, and the American Humanist Association named Szasz Humanist of the Year in 1973. And to be fair, Szasz was right about a few things, like the overuse of electroshock therapy. However, his main argument—that mental illness is just a metaphor—is just plain wrong.

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Comments

  1. says

    _”When we are talking about mental illness we are therefore talking about a brain disorder”_

    …including brain disorders that you can’t observe, but infer from behavior.

  2. secondtofirstworld says

    Actually the “honor” goes to Robert Whitaker, not Szasz. Szasz was a practicing psychiatrist, who had intended to evoke reform with his controversial writings, but Whitaker isn’t even from the field.

    I had the “fortune” to debate some of Whitaker’s fans, and none could give me a reasonable explanation on how Big Pharma comes up with these symptoms (which they claim is caused by the drugs, and don’t occur naturally) for several illnesses, yet the symptoms stay the same in universal healthcare, where the same or similar drugs are subsidized. In other words, it’s an American problem, much like the anti-vaccination loony bin.

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