The real story of psychiatry
No causes, no cures
This is an examination of a subject that began around 150 years ago and promoted itself as the solution to mental health and yet in all that time psychiatry has found no causes for any mental illness and offered no cures for any mental illness – lack of science or a dedicated fraud?
The real, simple story of psychiatry
The real, simple story of psychiatry could be said to be:
More and more persons are being diagnosed as mentally ill. More and more possible diagnoses are being created. None of the diagnosis types are based on any scientific discovery of the cause of any mental illness, they are merely lists of agreed-upon opinions about symptoms.
More and more psychiatric drugs are being prescribed as the primary treatment for the diagnoses. The treatments being used are all designed to only suppress symptoms, leaving people on often damaging treatments for years or more, and coming off them can be extremely difficult.
No psychiatric treatments have ever been based on any scientific discovery of the cause of any mental illness and no causes have ever been found.
No actual cures for any single mental illness have been found. No one is ever cured, when treatments work at all.
Psychiatry did not evolve, an unscientific mix of ‘strange cults and theories’ was stage managed into existence and foisted upon Medicine by the Rockefeller Foundation in the first half of the 20th century. That this attempt to transform psychiatry into a vaguely valid science, even in the Foundation’s view of mental illness being entirely biological, failed and had become obvious to all, including the public.
The lack of scientific foundation for psychiatry was then obscured by the introduction of psychotropic drugs beginning in the 1950s – drugs that were developed by chance by chemists. Pharmaceutical companies and psychiatry then colluded to get these drugs sold and used as their primary and extremely profitable solution to ‘mental health’.
Commercial interests have dominated the subject of mental health and the promise of cures for mental illness has been hijacked by this partnership with only more and more drugs as a solution. All attempts to provide a scientific basis for psychiatry or an alternate science of mental health that would actually produce cures are either ignored or suppressed.
If the actual causes of mental illness were found and people were cured, then the billions of dollars of profits for pharmaceutical companies and payments to induce support, including to psychiatry itself, would disappear.
The United States, 1918 Statistical Manual for the Use of Institutions for the Insane contained 22 diagnosis categories. Its successor, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) when first released in 1952 had 102 diagnosis categories. Edition II had 182, edition III rocketed up to 265, and edition IV had 297 diagnosis categories with Edition V (2013) 298. The size of DSM has gone from 130 pages with the first edition to currently 995 pages for version V. 1
The World Health Organization claimed that in 2019, 1 in every 8 people, or 970 million people around the world were living with a mental disorder. 2
Studies into the use of psychiatric drugs in the US found that in the 1988 -1994 period the use of psychotropic drugs occurred in 6.1% of the population. In the 1999 to 2002 period that had shifted upward to 11.1% 3 A study using data from 2013 found that figures had gone up to 16.7% or roughly 1 in 6 Americans were using psychiatric drugs. 4
For Australia in the 2019 – 2020 period, 4.4 million patients (17.2% of the Australian population) filled a prescription for a mental health-related medication. 5
At the same time, the number of suicides for both the USA and Australia, as representative countries, are soaring upward on 20-year statistical trends. 6
The consumption of antidepressant drugs doubled in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries between 2000 and 2017. 7
In 2021 the global sales of antipsychotic drugs were estimated at $14.54 billion and predicted to grow at a yearly rate of 6.9%. 8
The global sales of psychiatric drugs for things such as depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder have been estimated at more than $27 billion in 2020 and growing at an annual rate of 8.4%. 9
Background and beginnings of psychiatry
While there were dozens of personalities, hundreds of thousands of words written, and often pretentious complexities on the subject of psychiatry in the 19th and 20th centuries, we are going to concentrate on just a few that are particularly relevant to the state of psychiatry today.
Segregation in asylums
For more than 1,000 years the primary solution for the mentally ill, when not cared for within the family, was to segregate them from the rest of the population into lunatic asylums. These asylums were often attached to hospitals or churches.
In the 18th century, privately run asylums began to appear as commercially run facilities – or what was called ‘the trade in lunacy.’ By the end of the 19th century, large state-run asylums were being built to house increasing numbers of mentally ill.
At times often appalling conditions in asylums were improved however any such improvements were never matched by a science of mental health that would provide cures.
Two opposing schools of thought
In a practical sense, two schools of what was to become psychiatry were emerging at the end of the 19th century. One of these was psychoanalysis originating with Sigmund Freud, Josef Breuer, and others which involved addressing the mind and dealing with the various thought behaviors, and personality forces that meld into a person. Another was ‘biological psychiatry’ which involved the idea of all psychiatric conditions being due to biological causes, which originated primarily with Emil Kraepelin, influenced by Wilhelm Wundt.
While psychoanalysis gained popularity after World War II, particularly in the United States, the ‘biological psychiatry’ of Kraepelin has, for the most part, dominated the subject and currently does.
Neither psychoanalysis nor biological psychiatry has ever found the cause of any mental illness nor cured anyone.
Wilhelm Wundt and physiological psychology
Originally trained in physiology, Wundt is considered to be the “father of experimental psychology” and established the world’s first Laboratory of Experimental Psychology in 1879, at the University of Leipzig. Apart from his laboratory, Wundt laid claim to being a philosopher. He was intent on separating his opinions on mankind from the existing subjects and traditions of both philosophy and physiology and so created a subject called ‘physiological psychology’.
Having no evidence other than his opinions, Wundt proclaimed man to merely be a body with a brain and nervous system, denying cultural understanding and knowledge going back millennia. For Wundt, anything such as the mind, consciousness, will, ethics, creativity, and indeed mankind’s spirituality simply didn’t exist beyond the brain and nervous responses. Following on from this assertion, any mental illness could only be due to biological factors only found in the brain and nervous system. 10 11 12
No matter one’s views on Wundt’s redefinition and debasement of the essence of mankind, one of the greatest criticisms of his theory is that it has not provided any result in terms of finding a specific cause for any mental illness or any cure.
Wundt’s works were not considered of great value by contemporaries, were found to contain inaccuracies, and would have probably passed into obscurity had it not been for one of his students, Emil Kraepelin.
Emil Kraepelin and the beginnings of biological psychiatry
Of those who came to Leipzig to become psychologists under Wundt, probably the most influential is Emil Kraepelin. Kraepelin spent 1877 as a medical student studying under Wundt. He was so enamored by Wundt’s opinions that he spent 1882 and 1883 in post-doctorate studies at Wundt’s Laboratory of Experimental Psychology. 5
For context, neither Wundt nor Kraepelin were presenting any great scientific advances in physiology, psychology or psychiatry. Kraepelin, under Wundt’s supervision, was merely doing drug research consisting of testing the effect of various drugs (including coffee, tea, strychnine, and hashish) on human reaction times, while studying Wundt’s book ‘Principles of physiological psychology’.
Some would consider Kraepelin to be the ‘father of psychopharmacology ‘ 13 however, neither he nor others of his time had any idea of what actually caused mental illness and his random drug experiments were more based on searching for serendipity, addressing symptoms, than an expression of any scientific theory. 14
It is from these and later studies that Kraepelin formulated the basis of ‘biological psychiatry’; that all mental illness is due to entirely physical, biological causes and involved diagnosing and treating symptoms of biological diseases (with the mind irrelevant if it existed at all). A theory that dominates psychiatry and yet what better justification for the pill-pushing fraud that is occurring? 15
Kraepelin would never find any validation of his theory in his lifetime, i.e. he never found any piece of evidence of any biological cause of mental illness and there are suggestions he gave up looking. At the same time, Kraepelin was an ardent eugenicist whose view on the degeneration of the race would go on to form the basis of the NAZI racial hygiene policies. A view that included the impossibility of curing an individual of mental illness and with the only ‘cure’ to breed them out of the race or simply murder them.
By 1903, Kraepelin moved to Munich to take up a professorial position there. And as some indication of the popularity of his theories in psychiatric circles, he was elected the head of the German Association for Psychiatry, a position he held from 1906 to 1920.
A chance meeting with the wealthy American banker James Leob (a referral from Sigmund Freud) resulted in Leob becoming Kraepelin’s patient. What followed was the funding and establishment of Kraepelin’s German Institute for Psychiatric Research in 1917- one of few research facilities in what was a rather bleak and dispersed subject of conflicting theories and ideas.
- Surís A, Holliday R, North CS. The Evolution of the Classification of Psychiatric Disorders. Behav Sci (Basel). 2016
- World Health Organization. Mental disorders
- Paulose-Ram R, Safran MA, Jonas BS, Gu Q, Orwig D. Trends in … medication use among U.S. adults. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2007.
- Thomas J. Moore, Donald R. Mattison. Adult Utilization of Psychiatric Drugs and Differences by Sex, Age, and Race JAMA Intern Med. 2017
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Mental health services in Australia
- Per Lanterna And just how is psychiatry improving mental health?
- OECD Library. Pharmaceutical consumption
- Fortune Business Insights. Antipsychotics drug market.
- Global Data. Global sales of psychiatric drugs could reach more than $40bn by 2025 due to coronavirus, says GlobalData
- P Ziche. Neuroscience in its context. Neuroscience and psychology in the work of Wilhelm Wundt. 1999.
- Wilhelm Wundt. Principles of physiological psychology
- Wilhelm Wundt. An Introduction to Psychology
- the study and supposed therapeutic use of psychotropic medication
- Müller U, Fletcher PC, Steinberg H. The origin of pharmacopsychology: Emil Kraepelin’s experiments in Leipzig, Dorpat and Heidelberg (1882-1892). Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2006.
- van Praag HM. Kraepelin, biological psychiatry, and beyond. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2008