Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Peter R. Breggin

American Psychiatrist and Author, Psychiatric Reformist, founded The International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology (ICSPP) and on the advisory board of Network Against Coercive Psychiatry, an anti-psychiatry organization whose home page asserts that the "mental health establishment has conned the American people"

"Charisma is the ability to inspire followers with devotion and enthusiasm to a cause. It encourages disciples rather than independent persons. It is a way of investing oneself with authority over other rather than vesting others with authority over themselves."

"Mental illness is in the eye of the controller."

"There is probably no direct way to get in touch with our inner selves or to seek out satisfaction and happiness. It’s best to live by sound principles – honesty, courage, liberty, and love – and then to await what unfolds. When, inevitably, we go astray for a time, we must return, once again, to living by the principles we cherish. The formula isn’t all that difficult to understand; applying it is the work of a lifetime."

"Childhood trauma and sufferings does not provide us with an excuse for our problems. It explains the origins of our problems while in no way relieving us of the responsibity to understand and improve ourselves."

"Advocates of psychiatric drugs often claim that the medications improve learning and the ability to benefit from psychotherapy, but the contrary is true. There are no drugs that improve mental function, self-understanding, or human relations. Any drug that affects mental processes does so by impairing them."

"Ritalin and amphetamine have almost identical adverse effects on the brain, mind and behavior, including the production of drug-induced behavioral disorders, psychosis, mania, drug abuse, and addiction....Ritalin can cause permanent neurological tics including Tourette's syndrome......Withdrawal from Ritalin can cause emotional suffering, including depression, exhaustion, and suicide. This can make children seem psychiatrically disturbed and lead mistakenly to increased doses of medication."

"Nothing has harmed the quality of individual life in modern society more than the misbegotten belief that human suffering is driven by biological and genetic causes and can be rectified by taking drugs or undergoing electroshock therapy. ... If I wanted to ruin someone's life, I would convince the person that that biological psychiatry is right - that relationships mean nothing, that choice is impossible, and that the mechanics of a broken brain reign over our emotions and conduct. If I wanted to impair an individual's capacity to create empathetic, loving relationships, I would prescribe psychiatric drugs, all of which blunt our highest psychological and spiritual functions."

"Few mental health professionals can recite the American Psychiatric Association diagnostic criteria as delineated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-lV (DSM-IV) (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), even for the diagnoses they routinely use. But the diagnostic standards are important in setting clinical and research trends. Their existence creates a strong, if potentially misleading, impression of validity for psychiatric diagnosing in general, as well as for the individual diagnostic categories. The prescription of medication to children, for example, is largely justified on the basis of these diagnoses. The existence of the diagnoses also influences how millions of parents and teachers view the children in their care. Most teachers and many parents of young people have heard of "hyperactivity" and, more specifically, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Many non-mental health professionals believe they can diagnose it."

"The criteria for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder focus on behaviors that adults find frustrating and disruptive. Conflicts between children and adults are redefined as diseases or disorders within the children. Treatment with stimulant drugs such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) will produce greater docility in any child (or animal) without actually improving conduct or academic performance. Parents are not informed that they are trading behavioral control for toxic drug effects. The label ADHD is attached to children who are in reality deprived of appropriate adult attention These children require improved adult attention to their basic needs."

"Children can benefit from guidance in learning to be responsible for their own conduct; but they do not gain from being blamed for the trauma and stress that they are exposed to in the environment around them. They need empowerment, not humiliating diagnoses and mind-disabling drugs. Most of all, they thrive when adults show concern and attention to their basic needs as children."

"An even more terrifying specter haunts the long-term use of minor tranquilizers - the possibility of brain atrophy."

"Contemporary ECT is more dangerous since the current doses are larger than those employed in earlier clinical and research studies. Elderly women, an especially vulnerable group, are becoming the most common target of ECT. Because of the lopsided risk/benefit ratio, because it is fundamentally traumatic in nature, because so many of the patients are vulnerable and unable to protect themselves, and because advocates of ECT fail to provide informed consent to patients - ECT should be banned."

"ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) involves the application of two electrodes to the head to pass electricity through the brain with the goal of causing an intense seizure or convulsion. The process always damages the brain, resulting each time in a temporary coma and often a flat-lining of the brain waves, which is a sign of impending brain death. After one, two or three ECTs, the trauma causes typical symptoms of severe head trauma or injury including headache, nausea, memory loss, disorientation, confusion, impaired judgment, loss of personality, and emotional instability. These harmful effects worsen and some become permanent as routine treatment progresses."

"Children don't have disorders; they live in a disordered world."

"I think that one of the things that has happened is that psychiatry has become the religion of liberalism. I come from a liberal tradition. I?m Jewish. My dad was a liberal. What I?ve found is that people who see themselves as thoughtful, caring, educated and informed have swallowed psychiatry as the way."

"Electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) is increasingly used in North America and there are attempts to promote its further use world-wide. However, most controlled studies of efficacy in depression indicate that the treatment is no better than placebo with no positive effect on the rate of suicide. ECT is closed-head electrical injury, typically producing a delirium with global mental dysfunction (an acute organic brain syndrome). Significant irreversible effects from ECT are demonstrated by many studies, including: (1) Inventories of autobiographic and current events memories before and after ECT; (2) Retrospective subjective observations on memory; (3) Autopsy studies of animals and some of humans. ECT causes severe and irreversible brain neuropathology, including cell death. It can wipe out vast amounts of retrograde memory while producing permanent cognitive dysfunction."

"I think that?s a major reason. Instead of turning in their own lives to philosophy, religion, love, family life, or nature, they think of psychiatry; and today that means the "pill" as an ultimate answer. Also, if you have a desire for social control, "benevolent" control and "benevolent" authority, then again biological psychiatry offers a tremendous opportunity. In part I?m just mystified. Here?s a woman, Hillary, who wrote a book about it takes a "village" to raise children. It wasn?t about a book about "it takes a pill." There?s a "double think" that the modern person often has. Anything that?s called "science" is accepted as an absolute and sweeps reason away."

"If ordinary medical ethics were applied to psychiatry, ECT would have been abandoned or prohibited by the late 1950s based on the original large-animal studies. Prior to trying ECT again on humans, ECT advocates would have been required to conduct newer, similar animal studies to prove that modern ECT is safer. However, the possibility that modern ECT is safer is practically nil, since the doses of electrical energy are uniformly higher today than they were in the animal experiments. Higher doses are required in order to overcome the effects of the anesthesia used to sedate the patients prior to ECT. Often the patients are using sleeping medications or daytime tranquilizers that can also raise the seizure threshold. Furthermore, as we have seen, there is an increasing tendency to advocate and to administer even larger doses of electrical energy -- up to 2.5 times the amount required to produce the seizure. ECT is not safer than it was when brain damage was originally demonstrated in elegant animal studies, and it is not going to become safer in the foreseeable future. It should be banned."

"I think the first thing parents need to start doing is absolutely refuse to cooperate with any psychological evaluation of children in school. Schools should not be mental hospitals. Parents should say that the only tests they want their children to have are those respecting their academic subjects and nothing else."

"The pharmaceutical industry and organized psychiatry act as if the greatest challenge today is to identify new psychiatric disorders, to promote the supposedly high prevalence of existing disorders, and to find new blockbuster drugs, all the while heavily promoting current moneymakers. Even the United Nations is involved in "World Mental Health Day," announcing that depression is a "global health crisis.""

"It is impossible to find words that are sufficient to communicate the tragic personal cost to many of the patients who undergo ECT. In my own experience, spanning more than thirty years, I have encountered dozens of individuals whose lives have been wrecked by the effects of ECT on their mental function. Many have been left with such devastating retrograde amnesia that they can no longer function as professional persons or homemakers. Years of professional training and other key aspects of their lives have been obliterated. Even portions of their past that they can remember may seem remote and alien as if they are watching a movie rather than recalling their own lives. Often they have been impaired in their ongoing ability to focus or pay attention, to concentrate, to make sense out of complex situations, to remember names and places, to learn anything new, to find their way around, and to read and think effectively. Frequently they have become irritable and easily frustrated, emotionally unstable, and shallow in their ability to feel. Often they feel depressed and even suicidal over the loss of their mental function. In short, they have shown all the typical signs of close-head injury, including frontal and temporal lobe dysfunction. Often their families have been irreparably damaged by their inability to function as wage earners, husbands or wives, mothers or fathers. A treatment that can cause such devastation, while producing such limited and questionable results, has no place in the practice of medicine."

"When people are not overwhelmed by oppressive life circumstances, which must be rectified, in my opinion the best forms of help for depressed people are supportive and encouraging human relationships. When professional help is needed or desired, depression is best approached through psychotherapy, counseling and other human services. Studies have documented that this works and doesn't have the adverse effects of drugs."

"When adults provide them a better environment, they tend to quickly improve their outlook and behavior. But, children and teenagers can eventually become so upset, confused and self-destructive that they internalize the pain or become compulsively rebellious. They may need the intervention of a therapeutic-unconditionally caring adult to help them overcome their inner suffering and outrage. Sometimes these children can benefit from learning how to help ease the conflicted situation. But they should never be given the idea that they are diseased or defective, as the primary cause of their conflicts with their schools and families."