The Pseudoscience of Schizophrenia

The Pseudoscience of Schizophrenia looks in detail at the theory that schizophrenia is primarily an iatrogenic problem which is worsened by the current disease model in psychiatry.

The term “schizophrenia” was coined by a Swiss psychiatry professor named Bleuler who declared that the young people whom his rival the German psychiatry professor Emil Kraepelin had classified as “suffering from dementia praecox” had, in fact, a “split mind”. This was later discussed ad nauseum – was there, in fact, a split between “thought” and “affect” as the Eugen Bleuler has postulated in 1911, or is it a misnomer but still a valid label?

When I studied medicine at the University of Queensland in the early 1980s we were taught that though the term “schizophrenia” is a misnomer, it is, in fact, a “real illness”. This was said to be a developmental disorder that was partly inherited and characterized by “chemical imbalances” in the brains of people, many young people, who heard voices, had hallucinations, and held delusional beliefs. These beliefs, we were told, included such things as belief in magic, UFOs and that thoughts can be put into ones head by remote means (with no mention of the TV’s potential to do so).

This book questions this and associated jargon and doctrines of the medical branch of the mind sciences – the doctors who profess to have expertise in “mind treatment” (psyche+iatros=psychiatry) rather than “mind knowledge” (psyche+logos=psychology).

Talk therapies and words that are used in therapy (and by the media and wider society) have profound effects on the health of individuals and nations. The use of pseudo-scientific terms that rapidly become terms of abuse has a long history in medicine – take the terms idiot, moron, cretin and mongol, for example.

Nowadays people are abused as “schizos” and “being mental”. Yet the entire focus for what passes as “mental health promotion” is centred on convincing more people that they are mentally unhealthy and need to consult their doctor. The doctors themselves are groomed to prescribe at the drop of a hat.

Though there is a growing market in “antipsychotic” drugs the biggest money-spinners are the “anti-depressants”, especially the SSRI drugs. Depression is also amenable to talk therapies and non-drug approaches such as music, creative activity, building interests and social activity. Strategies for promotion of mental health without the use of drugs (or ECT) are explored in later chapters of this book.


My 1995 Theory of Motivation

This is the diagram I drew when I was trying to explain my theory of motivation to Rajan Thomas in March 1995, shortly before I was first “sectioned” (as Thomas called it). BG stands for basal ganglia, and my theory was that satisfaction of instincts for communication, curiosity and play resulted in release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the midbrain. This is now accepted to be the case in the ‘pleasure circuits’ and dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens.

At the time I had not heard of the nucleus accumbens, but was developing integrative theories about the neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline (NA in the diagram) and serotonin and the function of the reticular activating system (RAS) which is a noradrenergic network involved in sleep and consciousness. I postulated that our motivation is a balance between not just instincts and conditioning as I had learned at medical school, but by free will, which I regarded important both psychologically and legally as well as spiritually. I suggested to Rajan Thomas that free will is influenced by our memories and experiences. I also acknowledged drives for food, shelter and sex, but was more interested in developing theories about the instincts that could be used to promote mental health, like communication, curiosity and play. I subsequently presented my theory of motivation at the physiology department of Monash University (October 1995), Theosophical Society (1996) and the Australian College of Mind-Body Medicine (1998) to a much more receptive response.

Rajan Thomas gathered only that my theory of motivation was that “movement causes improvement in mental health”. The theory evidently went over his head, and I realised this at the time when I asked him what he thought motivated people.

1995 theory of motivation explanation to Rajan Thomas