The new president of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, has been very vocal in the past few months since he took office. He has written several articles attempting to shoot down critics of psychiatry and to promote his profession. He fails miserably on both counts, as nothing he says is based on fact or evidence, which is tantamount to psychiatry itself. As long as he is president, the field of psychiatry will continue to lose credibility and be held in disregard.
In one article, Dr. Lieberman laid out the repetitive failures of psychiatry in the history of mental health care. Mental hospitals had appalling living conditions and poor care. Community-based care did not reach all those in need of help so many wound up homeless or in jail. The first few editions of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) were basically useless as it was close to impossible for two psychiatrists to agree on the diagnosis of one patient. Dr. Lieberman himself compared making a diagnosis to flipping a coin.
When the third edition of the DSM came out in 1980 it had many more “mental disorders” and detailed descriptions of symptoms and behavior. This supposedly revolutionized diagnostic precision, but all it really did was set the stage for new psychotropic drugs like Prozac. Diagnosis was no longer flipping a coin but symptoms were easily categorized under some “mental disorder” with a prescription to match.
Despite these repetitive failures which span at least sixty years, he stated that during the past fifty years the increasing pace and momentum of scientific discovery will alter psychiatry and mental health care over the next decade. This basically means that scientific discovery has been gaining ground for fifty years but has yet to produce even one scientific test and he still foresees another ten years of this.
What scientific discovery is he talking about then? Is it that antidepressants are no more effective than placebos but violence and suicide are possible side effects? If they’ve had increasing pace and momentum of scientific discovery for fifty years, why do they need another ten? This is absurd! He doesn’t say what the scientific discovery is because there is none.
Even worse, he says the use of these psychotropic drugs has led to new “conceptions” of the causes of mental illness. A conception is merely a thought or idea, not scientific proof. This is probably why the APA refused a petition endorsed by fifty mental health associations to do an independent scientific review of the DSM-V. Instead, lots of rhetoric has been put out in hopes of looking authoritative instead of telling the truth.
To avoid any scrutiny, it is to put forth that psychiatry is a legitimate science and it is expected that people believe it. Dr. Lieberman states in one of his articles that psychiatry is on par with mainstream medicine and is no different than cardiology, orthopedics or gynecology. Let’s not forget that these fields have actual tests to locate the problem or disease and conversely, psychiatry uses no medical tests based on science to make a diagnosis.
In another article, he contradicts himself by saying that he expects future revisions of DSM-V to have lab tests to identify a physical abnormality as do the tests for infections, cardiovascular issues and cancer. So how can he expect us to believe psychiatry is on par with mainstream medicine when it has no test now and mainstream medicine does? How is it logical to have faith that psychiatry will come up with a medical test in the future but still consider it a true science right now?
Sorry, no lab test equals no science and he should get his story straight. Decade after decade has yet to yield a scientific based test, so there isn’t any reason to believe it’s a real science now or it’s going to be later. Decade after decade has only resulted in failure after failure to help anyone. It is true that they have made intensive efforts to promote their drugs as safe and effective, but without a lab test to diagnose, the question is what are they actually treating here if anything? The answer is that psychiatry is not successfully treating anything and is causing more harm than help.
One would think that Dr. Lieberman or someone else of high stature in the field of psychiatry would spell it out for us and give us some scientific facts so we can put this issue to rest. Instead, Dr. Lieberman lashes out at the growing number of people, including medical doctors and other psychiatrists that are looking for evidence and are wondering about the increasing number of patients who have been severely harmed by the psychotropic drugs.
Without proof, Dr. Lieberman again claims his field is real medicine and being against psychiatry is no different than being against cardiology, orthopedics or gynecology. He says people against psychiatry have a prejudice based on ignorance and fear! He says it’s no different than racism or society’s initial reactions to illnesses like AIDS! But don’t forget it was the APA that withdrew homosexuality from the DSM as a “mental disorder” due to public outcry. You decide who is in fear.
These are very bold statements about people who are looking for facts and have no personal gain at stake. Dr. Lieberman is the one with a lot at stake. As President of the APA, he needs psychiatry to be accepted or his cash cow will disappear along with his reputation. He and other members of the APA have had financial ties to drug companies for many years. He said these relationships have been reduced and will be without conflict of interest in the future. Just having any relationship with a drug company is a conflict of interest!
He even had the nerve to say the group that worked on DSM-V had no conflict of interest but in fact fifty-seven percent had links to drug companies. How can we trust what this man says?
Dr. Lieberman has also stated that despite the unfavorable reputations of drug companies today, psychiatry needs to re-engage with them. He points the finger at them for buying influence with doctors and suppressing information about the drugs and their dangerous side effects. Are we really supposed to believe he had no awareness or responsibility in either? Despite being on their advisory boards, are we supposed to believe he wasn’t involved in some way?
Beyond his criticisms, he says they need drug companies to sponsor their research (again a conflict of interest). They won’t be getting any grants from The National Institute of Mental Health as they have kicked the APA to the curb. Dr. Thomas Insel, its director, has found the DSM-V to lack validity and without an objective lab test they will not fund any research based on this APA publication. Frankly, without drugs psychiatry has nothing to offer, so Dr. Lieberman is just trying to make his profession survive.
Lastly, Dr. Lieberman has expressed frustration and outrage at the negative attention regarding psychiatry. He said that the recent mass shootings have focused attention on mental illness and violence but not in a constructive way. He is not pleased that there are critics of the DSM-V which are fueled by the media and spur anti-psychiatry attacks. He said this was unforeseen and is not what he signed up for. Acting like a victim isn’t going to improve psychiatry’s image. Instead of doing something causative, he rededicated himself to the Pledge of Distinguished Fellowship which he obviously did not follow the first time. It is you, Dr. Lieberman that needs your head examined.
Dr. Lieberman is good at deflecting criticism of psychiatry and sounding important and authoritative. Until he substantiates his claims with evidence, his defense of psychiatry is a failure.