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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 9/30/15

10 of the Worst Abuses of the Psychiatric and Psychological Professions in American History

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Even among those employed in careers that they have desired, bureaucratic oppression often makes their jobs dissatisfying. A 2012 survey among physicians [27] revealed that nine out of 10 doctors would not recommend health care as a profession to their friends and family.

Inattention, anger, substance abuse, anxiety, and depression can be quite normal reactions to an alienating and oppressive job, but mental health professionals routinely label these reactions as symptoms of mental illness to be medicated; and so psychiatry and psychology are used to depoliticize Americans from rebelling against their dehumanizing work life.

9. Medicating Noncompliance and Marginalizing Anti-Authoritarians

Mental health professionals pathologize noncompliance. Rebellious children and teenagers, for example, are routinely diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), the symptoms include "often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules" and "often argues with adults." ODD is one of several "disruptive behavior disorders," and a 2012 study reported [28] that disruptive behavior disorders were the most common diagnoses in children medicated with antipsychotic drugs, accounting for 63% of those medicated.

Many people diagnosed with anxiety, depression, substance abuse disorders, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder are essentially anti-authoritarians [29] who fear that their contempt for illegitimate authorities will make it difficult for them to survive. A potentially large army of anti-authoritarian activists are being kept off democracy battlefields by mental health professionals who prevent the development of political consciousness by pathologizing--and thus depoliticizing--normal defiant reactions.

10. Controlling Uncared about and Discarded Populations

By 2011, antipsychotic drugs grossed over $18 billion a year [30] in the United States, making antipsychotics the highest grossing class of drugs [31]. Much of this growth is attributable to the prescribing of antipsychotics to non-psychotic people who are so uncared about that society permits them to be controlled as inexpensively as possible. These discarded populations include foster children [32], the elderly in nursing homes [33], and inmates in prisons and jails [34], where antipsychotic drugs are an inexpensive way to subdue and manage.

Among U.S. veterans, a 2014 study [35] revealed 1.85 million veterans are using at least one psychiatric drug with 30 percent of them having no psychiatric diagnosis. Instead of devoting resources to help veterans heal from trauma, reintegrate into their families, and find meaningful work, the quick and cheap way to get troubled veterans out the clinic door is a psychiatric drug prescription.

For unhappy and potentially rebellious women in the 1960s and 1970s, rather than taking seriously their societal oppression, millions were prescribed Valium [36] ("mother's little helper"). Currently, 23 percent of women ages 40-59 are taking antidepressant [37] (compared to 11 percent for all American adults). Also in assembly-line medicine, rather than taking the time to make a difficult organic diagnosis, physicians refer many Americans--especially women (see Chloe Atkins' 2010 book My Imaginary Illness [38]) --to psychiatrists where they are labeled with some kind of "head case" diagnosis (such as "somatic pain" and "somatoform") resulting in their physical complaints not being taken seriously.

In recent years, a new huge group of Americans has been thrown overboard: millions of student-loan debtors with huge monthly debt payments. Their normal reactions of depression, anxiety, and anger have been pathologized, medicated, and thus depoliticized--subverting organizing for political action to abolish debt oppression.

To summarize, the mainstream media has reported on sensational political abuses of psychiatry such as MKUltra, the American Psychological Association torture scandal, as well as the abuses of well-known figures (such as the use of psychiatry to discredit Barry Goldwater and Martha Mitchell). However, the mainstream media has routinely neglected the ordinary and everyday political use and abuse of U.S. psychiatry and psychology to stigmatize and disempower groups, enable dehumanizing institutions, compel compliance, marginalize dissent, depoliticize, and maintain the status quo.

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