While having the same basic ideological base as vaccine rejectionism, anti-psychiatry has received considerably less attention in the skeptical community, some even going so far as to embrace it. It is hard to explain, but maybe it is the combination of the stigma associated with mental conditions, the complex and interdisciplinary nature of the area and political ideology, although like vaccine rejectionism, anti-psychiatry is not associated with any particular politics, but smeared out over many different groups.
A fairy standard tactic of anti-psychiatry is to outright deny the existence of mental conditions by claiming that there is no biological basis for their existence. They may preface their rejection of modern psychiatry by stating that, of course, they do not deny the suffering of the individuals, but that it is really no basis for psychiatry. While it is true that psychiatry is not as evidence-based as, say, physics or cardiology, it is still an area we should not neglect or dismiss out of hand. To be sure, there are improvements to be made, but don’t let us throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Anyways, the equally standard rebuttal by proponents of science-based medicine is to point to evidence of the biological basis of many of these conditions as well as discussing other conditions such as Huntington’s or Alzheimer’s that produce real psychological symptoms and detailing the biological background. Surely, we think, this would be enough to disprove their position.
Alas, this is where things start getting even more bizarre than normal: the response we get from proponents of anti-psychiatry is that all mental conditions, or diseases that have a clear neurological basis and feature significant mental symptoms, are not really mental disorders at all, but merely “brain diseases”. While this is strictly true, it shows how anti-psychiatry has become unfalsifiable. Because the moment anyone produced evidence of a biological basis or biological influence for a specific mental condition, then this does not disprove anti-psychiatry, since this mental condition is just relabeled as “brain disease” and the psychiatry rejectionists can go on to claim that there is no scientific evidence for the existence of mental disorders.
The real problem here is that these particular proponents of anti-psychiatry is implicitly presupposing some form of substance dualism. A mental condition, whether we know the precise etiology or not, is at some level related to the brain. In modern neuroscience, there is no real separating between the mind and the brain. While there is a genuine debate on how exactly how brain activity makes up the mind, there is no real opposition to the notion that the brain and mind are one and the same.
So in this context, these promoters of anti-psychiatry not only performs the fallacy of No true Scotsman, but actually assumes a backward and deprecated view on the science of the mind/brain.