My experience deviates from the experience of the depressed and psychotic people in Anatomy of an Epidemic. I would argue against Robert Whitaker (antipsychiatrists) by making the following points:
- Robert Whitaker said that depression used to be thought of as cyclic and a limiting illness. My experience is that it is more chronic and that chronicity wasn’t due to medications . My depression was chronic for about eleven years prior to taking any medication. They don’t acknowledge atypical depression which is more chronic and less severe.
- Whitaker believes that medication causes a more severe type of illness. This isn’t the case with me. The way depression expresses itself has changed over the years but I would necessarily say that medications made it more severe. Depression tends to be more atypical in younger people and more typical in older individuals.
- Whitaker believes that psychosis is a fairly limited condition and consequently can be dealt with without medication. I experienced psychosis about four years ago and didn’t take medication until about a year ago. The psychotic episode didn’t seem to be resolving on it’s own.
- Whitaker believes that most mental illness is resolved by time and alternative medicine such as diet, exercise and psychotherapy. Prior to experimenting with antidepressants and antipsychotics I tried quite a few natural therapies without much luck.
- He believes that mental illness isn’t real, much like Thomas Szasz, due to a lack of pathology. There isn’t any test that doctors can run to diagnose someone as “mentally ill”. While this is true migraines don’t have any particular pathology either and yet are accepted as quite real. Why do antipsychiatrists assume that scientists know everything there is to know regarding mental illness. Antipsychiatrists seem to exist just in the present.
- In many of his comparisons of nonmedicated vs medicated patients he never seems to discuss why the nonmedicated patients were nonmedicated. Did they possibly have a more limited illness or a less severe one?
- Whitaker believes that medication interferes with people taking responsibility for their “illness”. Why is there a need to blame the patient with mental illness. Whitaker would like to take us back to the middle ages where mental illness was seen in the context of religion. It was seen primarily as a moral failing and not a physical one.
I agree with Whitaker that antidepressants aren’t particularly effective and many people are diagnosed incorrectly however there is still much that I don’t agree with him on.