Debunking Denialism

Defending science against the forces of irrationality.

Responding to Incoherent Anti-Psychiatry Drivel

crank comment

A person going by the name of Alan David Anderson decided to post a few comments loaded with anti-psychiatry drivel on an older blog post I wrote. It is a garbled mix of assertions, such as that I am stupid and an ignorant fool, that psychiatrists have worthless educations, that anti-psychotics and anti-depressants are used to euthanize elderly that lack a balanced diet and that people with mental conditions are just obese.

Normally, I would have responded in the comment section of that blog post or just deleted his crap. However, it is the holiday season, I am feeling particularly charitable. Not that I think this will change his mind, but hopefully will give my readers something informative and perhaps something to chuckle at. Also, it is free blogging material for me at a time when I have more important things to do. Therefore, I will give his assertions a fair hearing in a new blog post. As we will see, they do not fare well.

The first comment

Mr. Anderson started his objections to psychiatry by posting the following:

wonderful sight thanks for leting me clear up the fact that you have no education that is legit it in this subject. psychiatrists have worthless educations. psychiatrists drugs are not needed under any circumstances. they give synthetic drugs that resemble things that are naturally produced. why would we need them? you simply do not need them at all. you ignorant fool. you cannot win an argment with me. you HAVE NO EDUCATION ON THE SUBJECT.

Mr. Anderson is correct in that I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist or psychotherapist. I have no formal training in any of these subjects. However, that says nothing about the credibility of the arguments I put forward. Arguments stand on their own evidential and logical merit and their truth does not depend on who puts them forward.

Throughout his three comments, Mr. Anderson makes no effort to engage in the arguments I actually do put forward. This shows an unwillingness to have an honest discussion about the reasonableness of those arguments. Mr. Anderson does not appear interested in a reasoned debate, but rather to spread his bare assertions. Nowhere in his comments does he provide any empirical evidence for his assertions or links to any sources.

Contrary to what Mr. Anderson claims, psychiatrists do not have a worthless education. In the United States, a psychiatrist must first complete an M. D. and then spend four years as a psychiatric resident (American Psychiatric Association, 2012). Thus, psychiatry is like any other medical specialty in terms of educational requirements. This is hardly a “worthless education”.

While mental conditions are not quite as simple as “chemical imbalance”, treatments that modify neurochemistry in individuals with some mental conditions has shown to be very effective. I have written at length about this in other blog posts, such as here and here.

Mr. Anderson calls me an ignorant fool, yet provides no evidence to why we should believe him. He repeats his claim that I have no education on the subject and triumphantly claim that I cannot win an argument with him. Actually trying to convince someone who has sunken so deep into pseudoscience as Mr. Anderson has is very difficult and largely a waste of time. However, my goal here is not to convince him that he is wrong, but to convince fence sitters of the rationality of scientific skepticism and science-based medicine as well as giving supporters of these two concepts useful things to read.

The second comment

In his second comment, Mr. Anderson continues his character assassination of me, but at least he makes claims about psychiatry and mental illness that we can pick apart. He starts off by the following tirade:

I’m really sorry your stupid and or not educated. You are obviously not educated. I went to college for seven years.

I find the fake sincerity of Mr. Anderson amusing. Typically, attacking the intelligence and education of opponents instead of being factual is a sign that the person does not have any substantive arguments to put forward. I am happy that Mr. Anderson went to college, but perhaps it was not quite as useful as one could have hoped for.

There is no debate or argument that psychiatrists are stupid and or ignorant.

While this is strictly true, it is not true in the way Mr. Anderson imagines. There is no debate or argument concerning the claim that psychiatrists as a group are stupid or ignorant. It is a flawed and unsubstantiated generalization that holds no intellectual merit.

If they believe they are helping people they are ignorant. Psychiatrists do nothing but KILL. ITS NOT A DEBATE.

Clearly, Mr. Anderson has not taken a close look at the mountain of studies showing that psychiatric medication as well as cognitive behavioral therapy is effective for many different kinds of mental conditions. Although compiling a comprehensive list would take far too long, Turner et. al. (2008) meta-analysis on the efficacy of antidepressants and Roth and Fonagy (2005) for the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy are two good places to enter the literature.

serotonin, melatonin, and every other hormone your glands make are produced naturally FROM EXERCISE AND A BALANCED DIET AND VITAMINS.

Actually, serotonin is produced inside nerve cells, not by a hormone gland. While it is true that there is a natural production of serotonin in humans, it is possible to have problems with the serotonin neurotransmitter system (and other similar systems) that affects synthesis and transport. This is what occurs in some mental conditions. Thus, it is not as simple as saying that if you only eat a balanced diet, exercise and take some vitamins, you will be cured of a mental illness.

If psychiatrists give a drug it is synthetic, and it most likely resembles serotonin.

First of all, there are psychiatric drugs that affect other neurotransmitter systems besides serotonin.

Second, most antidepressants are not functional analogs to serotonin. Most of them inhibits enzymes that degrade neurotransmitters (MAOIs) or selectively block the re-uptake of serotonin and norepinephrine (most TCAs, SSRIs, SNRIs).

We don’t use human bodies to farm their hormones. This is why drugs are bad.

Wait, is Mr. Anderson actually claiming that the reason that psychiatric medications are bad is because we do not farm them from human bodies? First of all, SSRIs are a form of psychiatric medication that was discovered using a rational drug design. They cannot be isolated from humans. Second, even if it was possible to isolate SSRIs from humans, it would most likely be widely unethical and practically very difficult.

synthetic drugs send a signal to the gland. The signal says I don’t need it at this time. The gland will quit making it and also shrink and rott. If the gland does not make the hormone we need it will stop making it and your life will end early.

Continuing with SSRIs, they inhibit the re-uptake of serotonin from the synaptic cleft by serotonin transporters in the pre-synaptic neuron. They do not “send a signal to the glad” (which gland is Mr. Anderson talking about? There are many glands in the human body).

Generally speaking, this is not how the regulation of hormone synthesis and release works. There are negative feedback mechanisms, but once those hormones are degraded, this negative feedback relaxes. Otherwise, if the negative feedback was permanent, a gland could only produce hormones once in a lifetime (a clearly absurd notion).

The drugs psychiatrists use are not natural and are naturally rejected.

Just because something is natural does not mean it is beneficial to your health. Cyanide, strychnine, botulinum toxin etc. are perfectly natural, yet very lethal.

Mr. Anderson also makes what appears to be a curious contradiction. First he says that psychiatric medications are serotonin analogs (which would mean they would be treated mostly the same way as serotonin produced by the body), then that they would be “naturally rejected”.

This is why there are so many negative side effects you can google for geodon, seroquel, haldol loxapine, resperadol, thorazine, and zyprexa.

No, the side effects does not come from the psychiatric medications being “naturally rejected” but because, as with most other forms of medications, affects other parts of the body and not just the specific function that has therapeutic benefit.

These drugs are used in geriatrics to euthanize elderly that have not practiced a balanced diet and or abused alcohol or other illegal drugs.

Is Mr. Anderson actually claiming that psychiatric medications is used to kill elderly that do not have a balanced diet? What evidence does Mr. Anderson have for this outrageous claim? Surely, if there was a program for mass euthanasia of elderly people, something would have leaked and the people responsible would have gotten the death penalty in the United States.

A similar claim was made by the person that I was responding to in that blog post. Here is what I wrote about that claim:

Psychiatric medications are not part of a eugenics program

After a little while, the user Alyss enters to conversation and makes the claim that psychiatric medication has eugenics-like properties. I kid you not! The justification for this claim is that these medications reduce sex drive and makes people infertile. No evidence is presented for the claim that psychiatric medication makes people infertile, and I have not been able to find any such information on high-quality medical websites like the NHS or Mayo Clinic. It is true that some e. g. antidepressants may have side effects that include reduced sex drive, this can be handled by telling your doctor and having the doctor switching your over to a medication with less sexual side effects. In any case, the psychiatric-medications-have-eugenics-like-properties conspiracy theory does not even make internal sense. Why would the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies are perpetrating a global eugenics program on individuals with mental conditions? Most mental conditions have some degree of genetic influence, so eugenics would mean that these individuals would not reproduce, and thus there would be much fewer individuals with mental conditions in the next generation, thereby making the profit for these companies much less.

Here comes a few more classic anti-psychiatry tactic:

These drugs cause death and suicide.

Psychiatric medications actually prevent deaths from e. g. suicide and the emergent suicidality is about the same for individuals on antidepressants and individuals receiving psychotherapy. Finally, mental conditions themselves can lead to suicide and this risk is presumably much higher than the risk from treatment.

Most people given these drugs abuse illegal drugs. John Nash was an alcoholic in a beautiful mind.

How does Mr. Anderson know that most people on psychiatric drugs abuse illegal drugs? His N = 1 appeal to John Nash is unpersuasive.

Its not rocket science. If this does not clear things up for You. YOU ARE STUPID.

For the final personal attack in that comment, Mr. Anderson even used all caps. Should I feel honored?

The third comment

Maybe we will see actual arguments instead of bare assertions and personal attacks from Mr. Anderson? Predictably, no. Here, Mr. Anderson reveals his core belief with regards to psychiatric conditions: it is all about diet and exercise:

In my country, the people labeled falsely with mental illness are primarily drug addicts.

How does Mr. Anderson know? He does not provide any evidence for this claim, whatsoever. Also, there is a central contradiction in what he writes: drug addiction is classified as a mental condition.

over 50 percent of the people in the USA are also overweight and obese.

The WHO definition of overweight is having a BMI over or equal to 25. For obesity, is is a BMI of over or equal to 30 (WHO, 2012). Data from the CDC indicate that roughly 36% of people in the U. S. are obese and one third are overweight without being obese (CDC, 2012).

This is the one of the few claims that Mr. Anderson put forward that actually turns out to be true.

They do not have mental illness at all. Its because they are not exercising and not eating a balanced diet.

The reasoning of Mr. Anderson seems confused. Is he saying that obesity is not a mental condition because it is due to not exercising and not eating a balanced diet? What does this have to do with the topic under discussion?

Some people in my country will live way past 100 possibly 200 I suspect simply because we have vitamins on the shelf.

Some people will probably live past 100, but probably not 200. The average lifespan has been increasing, but that is because the probability of becoming older has increased. This is due to, for instance, the decline in childhood illnesses and clean water (not vitamins). The probability of becoming 100 given that you are 90 may have been similar now as it was before. So one cannot naively extrapolate the trend.

allergies are also a problem. Some people can afford to get allergy tested, exercise vigorously, and avoid psychiatrists who will kill early.

Yes, some people can have problems with allergies. What does this have to do with psychiatry?

you obviously can not debate me with science you have no clue what you are taking about.

As was explained to Mr. Anderson above, the merits of a claim does not rest on who puts it forward.

You need to look at what food in the mainly used in your country. In the USA people eat wheat for most of their diet. This does not qualify as a balanced diet. They also eat at fast food places like McDonalds, sonic, wendy’s, and bugar king. This means they are eating wheat mostly with meat. Meat is high in dopamine. They are eating large amounts of dopamine and not expending it through exercise so they are problems with sleep. Sleep problems lead to insomnia not mental illness. people who do not exercise when they have insomnia are sent to worthless psychiatrists.

Mr. Anderson seems to be suggesting that what psychiatrists label as mental illness is really just insomnia because get too much dopamine from meat. This convoluted models fails in several respects: (1) mental illness exists even in countries that do not have an overconsumption of meat and (2) diagnosis of mental conditions rests on more than the mere observation that a person has insomnia.

I suspect, but I am ignorant on your countries situation. I am very fond of sweden. I do not care for USA and their politics.

Well, good for you?

I suspect people in your country are not fat as much like mine, and I suspect that your country has labeled people falsely who are drug addicts. Detoxic, exercise, balanced diet, and vitamins are needed in drug addicts. The more naturally detoxic is for the drug addicts the sooner they recover. Their are many people In USA in their 60s that still look thirty. Tom Cruise is a wonderful example. I am 30 and honestly cant tell if some 60 year olds are older.

Vitamins and detox works for drug addicts because some old people still look young? A quick look at the treatment options for drug addiction at the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) reveals that treatments in use include medications and various types of therapies, not vitamins or detox (NIDA, 2009). I have written previously about the futility and pseudoscientific nature of detox regimes, which can be found by going here.

Conclusion

Mr. Anderson primarily uses personal attacks, not rational arguments. He also does not bother to cite any sources or references for his claims.

Psychiatrists require an impressive formal education including an M. D. and several years as a psychiatric resident.

Both psychiatric medications and cognitive behavioral therapy are often effective for treating various mental conditions. Mr. Anderson falsely believes that neurotransmitters are synthesized by glands, rather than nerve cells.

Mr. Anderson also subscribes to the belief that natural is good. Cyanide is natural, yet hardly beneficial for one’s health.

References and further reading

American Psychiatric Association. (2012). About Psychiatry. Accessed: 2012-12-28.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). FATSTATS: Obesity and Overweight. Accessed: 2012-12-28.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2009). DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction. Accessed: 2012-12-28.

Roth, A. & Fonagy, P. (2005). What Works for Whom?, Second Edition: A Critical Review of Psychotherapy Research. New York: The Guilford Press.

Turner, Erick H., Matthews, Annette M., Linardatos, Eftihia, Tell, Robert A., & Rosenthal, Robert. (2008). Selective Publication of Antidepressant Trials and Its Influence on Apparent Efficacy. New England Journal of Medicine, 358(3), 252-260. doi: doi:10.1056/NEJMsa065779

World Health Organization. (2012). WHO: Obesity and overweight. Accessed: 2012-12-28.

3 responses to “Responding to Incoherent Anti-Psychiatry Drivel

  1. The Dave January 2, 2013 at 22:33

    7 years of college but no mention of degree. Most Bachelor’s can be attained in 4, and a Master’s 2 years after that. SO it sounds like he spent more time at college than most people with a post-graduate degree, with nothing to show for it. Yep, he must really know what he’s talking about…

  2. ladyportia27 January 17, 2013 at 21:16

    Having been to Uni for years, may I say the real learning comes in the Uni of Life, not the brainwashed rubbish we were forced to swallow and vomit back for exams.

    As for psychiatrists……highest suicide rate??

    Most are no different to the dark priests of old.

    I love the way the ECT is used on abused children in Eire to burn out all memories and protect the perpetrators…….now that is what I call business.

    • Emil Karlsson January 17, 2013 at 21:52

      This is the second time you post comments on this blog without actually addressing any of the arguments. Why?

      You claim that psychiatrists have the highest suicide rate. What scientific study are you basing this on?

      You also claim that most psychiatrists are no different from “dark priests”. How do you know this? What is your evidence?

      ECT is not used as a way of removing the memories of abused children. It is used for severe, treatment resistant depression when no other option is available.

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