Thursday, May 20, 2010

Babies and Bathwater - I Must Be Doing Something Right.

Note: this will be the last post for the next couple of weeks, but I will be back, so don't go away.

Where is Goldilocks when we need her? I am always amazed at how people, even professionals who should know better, can take extreme positions and then argue vehemently for them (usually with a healthy dose of debate tricks and logical fallacies). Middle ground does not seem to exist for them. I must be doing something right, because I am now catching flack from both sides.

When I began writing this blog, I expected to be attacked by those folks who think that child abuse and dysfunctional family interactions are a figment of the imagination of a bunch of whining liars, and that the problem with modern psychiatry is that we are just not prescribing near enough drugs. I was waiting with baited breath to hear the phrase, "Parent Bashing." It actually took a while for me to hear from these folks, but it finally happened. Susan Resko, Executive Director of the Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation, naturally took exception to my post of May 3, 2010, Preying on Human Misery, which was highly critical of the way her organization's web site was being used and abused by the pharmaceutical companies. She accused me of posting misinformation, which I had in fact taken from other websites that I find to be reliable. In response to an e-mail, I asked her to let me know which things I had wrong, and told her that she could post an unedited rebuttal on my blog, to which I would of course respond. In a blistering e-mail back, she declined my offer.

I am also getting a few negative e-mails from folks at the other extreme: those people who believe that all mental illness is a myth and a hoax, and that any doctor who prescribes psychiatric medications for any reason is destroying the lives of their patients. And these people are not even Scientologists (whom I think have not yet come across my blog). This point of view is equally absurd in my opinion.

I have even been accused of trying to hawk my upcoming book. Ya think? Why shouldn't I? It's very informative and I think people will find it entertaining. However, just for the record, I am in fact not promoting my book, which is called HOW DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILIES SPUR MENTAL DISORDERS: A BALANCED APPROACH TO RESOLVE PROBLEMS AND RECONCILE RELATIONSHIPS, which should be available this summer from either Praeger Publishers or one of their imprints. Again, to be very clear, the book that I am NOT promoting is called HOW DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILIES SPUR MENTAL DISORDERS. Available soon!


  1. Hang on, hang on, here. To quote you "This blog covers mental health, drugs and psychotherapy with an emphasis on the role of family dysfunction in behavioral problems." A lot of what you call negative comments come from people who take issue with your opinion that schizophrenia and bipolar are "true" brain diseases. The commenters I have seen who take issue with your opinion of bipolar and SZ are people who actually believe (including me) that these conditions arise from Family Dysfunction. Many people diagnosed as bipolar and schizophrenic believe that it is family dysfunction that made them what they are and you are telling them that they are wrong? Oh, no, you have a true brain disease, you say. Take this pill and go away.

    How many ways do you want to have this, Dr. Allen? To replay one of your answers to an earlier comment of mine, you wrote "I certainly do not want the mothers of psychotic patients to blame themselves for their child's illness, as such guilt generally is toxic to everyone in the family." Hello? Your blog is about linking Family Dysfunction to Mental Health. I am linking Family Dysfunction to Schizophrenia. Your professional view of schizophrenia is a bit schizophrenic, IMO. It is weird, quite frankly, that you see schizophrenia and bipolar as brain diseases and not mental health problems. I can't help but notice that you are getting most comments from people with a bipolar or schizophrenia background. Something about your blog twigs with them, but not with other people, judging from the lack of comments. But you are dismissing them as being negative and insisting that THEY'VE got it wrong. You are getting almost no comments from anybody else, I've noticed. Where are the personality disorder people that you treat? Can't they come up with a comment or two? What about fellow psychiatrists. Where are they in the comments? I would appreciate it if you would look at the people who actually are caring enough to respond to you and think about perhaps opening your mind just a smidgen to the possibility that mental health and family dysfunction includes schizophrenia and bipolar.

  2. I think there must be both extremes, if one side is to exist.
    The fact is that psychiatric chemicals make billions of dollars a year.
    This significant amount of money biases the "science" in favour of a chemical solution.

    From my perspective most psychiatrists are attempting to keep a biological machine running, (keeping a patient on drugs for their lifetime), running for the family of the patient, the psychiatrist is not working for the patient.
    The patients true best interest is to have a fully functioning cognitive brain-mind with freewill, not be a "good" obedient robot-slave to his/her masters.

    Szasz wrote "In physics, we use the same laws to explain why airplanes fly, and why they crash. In psychiatry, we use one set of laws to explain sane behaviour, which we attribute to reasons (choices), and another set of laws to explain insane behaviour, which we attribute to causes (diseases)."

    Brain impairment and damage from the medications make sanity (insight) physically impossible, this keeps the psychiatrist the master, as it is impossible for the patient to escape.

  3. To Rossa Forbes: I used to think that schizophrenia was a functional illness caused by family dysfunction. After I had treated a couple of hundred of them, interviewed them and their families extensively, and followed a few for a couple of years, I found out I had it totally wrong.

  4. Here's the benefit of what I have learned holistically. Schizophrenia goes much deeper than what is on the surface. Some people (Peter Chadwick) think there is a paranormal element to it. The family dysfunction is often not obvious. Hellinger twigged me on to this. It has a "creepy" element, for want of a better word. To the western mind, this ancestral burden makes no sense. To the African or the Indian mind, or to those who believe in spirit ancestors, it does. A good book that explains how this kind of understanding can actually effect healing for schizophrenia is The Natural Medicine Guide to Schizophrenia, by Stephanie Marohn. Suburban parents (and I used to be one), don't get it. Life to them is all about soccer games and normality. Schizophrenia ain't normal, it has abnormal roots. Now, when I hear that so and so has a mental health issue, I wonder who in their family background going back a few generations, spent time in jail, gave up a child for adoption, died young, wandered off, etc. (We've all got something like that in our families, it's just that some people are more sensitive to the intergenerational effects.)So, looking for family dysfunction in the immediate family misses the bigger picture in schizophrenia.