Criticism of Psychiatry

Criticism of Psychiatry

8 months ago

Psychiatry as a sub specialty of medicine is an easy field to criticize! Despite decades of search,  we still do not know the exact molecular basis of the most psychiatric illnesses. The concept of mental illness remains elusive and at some level undefinable. Many other interventions, especially biological therapies, are easy to criticize as they have undefined targets and the mechanisms of action are not completely explainable. Psychological therapies at times appear to be versions of common sense philosophy or secularized forms of ancient wisdom from various religions. Moreover there is a flood of mid-level providers who, after short periods of training, are equipped to prescribe toxic medications for conditions that are ill defined.The current Zeitgeist of critical thinking about various processes in our society has also contributed to the reevaluating the role of psychiatric care in control and power, and its contribution to perpetuating injustice and inequality in the name of providing medical care.

The reality remains that the field still is a vibrant and relevant aspect of medicine. Attempts to alleviate the suffering of human beings from various forms of mental disorder still remains one of the most important contributions of advances in medicine. The above criticisms do nothing to help a person who is in the suicidal darkness of depression or engaging in risky behavior emanating from a manic state. Consider the devastation of a newly emerging psychosis in a 19-year-old who was enjoying the potential of a bright future but now has become an imprisoned tortured soul due to disturbances in his mind.  When faced with such crises, many of these criticisms take an on academic or intellectual significance only as addressing the problem becomes essential.

With that background, know that I love the field of psychiatry for the exact reason that it does not limit itself to a reductionistic approach to the molecular basis of disease only. To be a good healer in this field, one needs to have awareness and practical understanding of philosophy, religion, sociology, and political trends in addition to extensive knowledge of biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, physiology and critical thinking. In addition, one needs a good dose of humanity to be able to accompany a hurting person on their journey of life and offer proper interventions and therapies from a range of options.

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