Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Szasz, Cruise, and Schaler: Stop Making Sense
by John Grohol

Szasz, Cruise, and Schaler: Stop Making Sense

by John Grohol

Psych Central
Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I admire Jeffrey Schaler, a psychologist and a devout Szaszian, because I’m in agreement with many of Szasz’s views about mental illness in general.

But I disagree with the premise of his blog entry about Tom Cruise’s antics criticizing psychiatry and his dismissal of Scientology’s influence on Cruise’s carefully scripted public comments.

But so much of this is semantics. Does Schaler’s argument make as much sense if you use the much more widely-accepted term, “disorder” for these conditions, rather than the medical term, “disease”? Most of the professionals I know and have worked with in the field recognize mental disorders are not the same as medical diseases, and also recognize that we’re at the infancy of understanding them. (It’s often other, third parties that simplify these concepts to a point of blurring the lines between them, not the professionals who treat people.)

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3 Comments:

At 1:05 AM, Blogger Nicolas Martin said...

I think I understand a bit more about disorder after reading Grohol.

Grohol is "in agreement with many of Szasz’s views about mental illness in general," until "disorders" replaces "diseases," then his agreement "in general" crumbles because "[t]here are many effective, scientifically-proven methods for treating these disorders."

If the methods are "scientifically-proven," as Grohol claims, why does he then ask, "How can science (sic) argue with someone feeling better about themselves (sic)?" Science can argue? He is frankly such a muddled thinker that I can't make out what he means. On the face of it he is incoherently asserting that "science" is arguing with the "scientifically-proven."

"Should we deny people these treatments because some are philosophically opposed to them?" Grohol asks? Who does he think would do the denying? He hasn't read enough Szasz and Schaler to know that neither of them would deny treatments to anyone. They would deny to physicians the power to impose those treatments. The difference may be lost on Grohol, but who can tell?

Says Grohol: "Most of the professionals I know and have worked with in the field recognize mental disorders are not the same as medical diseases, and also recognize that we’re at the infancy of understanding them." This is one hell of a protracted infancy since, according to Grohol, "It’s not like research and science into human behavior started a decade ago. It started back in the late 1800’s! (sic)" The infant is still stuck between "disease" and "disorder," but has always known enough to impose his tortures on the weak and unwilling.

Grohol magnanimously notes, "I’m not a big advocate of psychiatric drugs, but I also don’t go around telling people they are not the answer to their problems." Does he go around telling mental health professionals that they have no right to impose their treatments on people? Does he go around telling politicians that they have no right to deprive people of access to unprescribed drugs that give them pleasure? What is the difference between a "big advocate" of psychiatric drugs and Grohol's level of advocacy? Is he a small advocate? A family-size advocate?

Of all the silly things that Grohol writes in this short polemic, none is sillier than his claim that "our understanding of human behavior has advanced significantly since" the late 1800s. We have learned nothing. In fact we have unlearned much of what we ever knew.

 
At 9:28 AM, Blogger Lee Killough said...

Several points:

I hate it when people use the phrase "scientifically proven", because nothing is proven in science. This is similar to the misunderstanding of the word theory, which comes up often in areas such as the evolution vs. creationism debate, when some say evolution is "only a theory".

Grohol writes: "Should we deny people these treatments because some are philosophically opposed to them?"

Neither Szasz nor Schaler have ever proposed "denying" people access to drugs. How can Grohol be such an "admirer" of Schaler and miss this? I suggest Grohol read Szasz's Our Right To Drugs.

There are several issues being conflated here, by Grohol and many others in the debate:

1. Whether psychiatric drugs specifically treat diseases in the proper medical sense
2. Whether psychiatric (and other) drugs can affect people's general state of happiness, for better or worse
3. Whether psychiatric drugs ought to be the first thing people turn to, to solve problems in living
4. Whether drugs should be freely available to adults without prescription
5. Whether drugs should be forced on people, even if rationalized by psychiatry
6. Whether drug use or psychiatric "diagnosis" lessens ones' moral responsibility for his actions

The Szaszian position is clear:

1. No 2. Yes 3. No 4. Yes 5. No 6. No

Grohol conflates #1 and #2, as well as #3 and #4.

Grohol writes: "Most of the professionals I know and have worked with in the field recognize mental disorders are not the same as medical diseases, and also recognize that we’re at the infancy of understanding them. (It’s often other, third parties that simplify these concepts to a point of blurring the lines between them, not the professionals who treat people.)"

What about all of the "professionals who treat people" who appear in publications and on radio and TV, legitimizing the "disease" concept, and attacking those who question it? Is Grohol implying that they're all shills for drug companies, and do not represent those who actually treat people?

No doubt some psychiatric pundits are shills, but if what Grohol implies is true, then they all are, and the whole field is built on lies, lies which are 200 years old, but which are nonetheless repeated because we're still "at the infancy", and once we learn more, we'll "grow out of it".

The title of Grohol's piece is "Szasz, Cruise, and Schaler: Stop Making Sense". Is that because Grohol feels they are making too much sense, and is worried that they might upset the status quo?

 
At 1:32 PM, Blogger Mira de Vries said...

Grohol is like somebody who has opened his door a crack to let a glimmer of light in, but he doesn't dare open it all the way for fear of being flooded with light that he wouldn't be able to bear.

Nicolas and Lee have done a fine job pointing out the flaws in Grohol's position. But logic isn't likely to impress most people. It would be a wonderful thing if all the MDs who are aware that psychiatry is a sham would join forces.

 

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