Cutting Edge Psychology

Understanding psychosis

Posted on March 25, 2015 at 12:05 AM

Conventional psychiatric wisdom suggests that experiences covered under the term psychosis (eg. hearing voices and other hallucinations, appearing out of touch with 'consensus reality', experiencing things in different ways, etc) result from brain disorders- genetically determined aberrations in various brain chemicals. This has been a hypothesis for many decades, and despite vigorous efforts to find either a 'mental illness gene' or any guilty neurotransmitter, even just one reliable biological marker of psychosis has remained elusive.

This inconvenient fact has not stopped psychiatry (ably assisted by the big pharma) from marketing a range of powerful 'anti-psychotic' drugs as the main treatment approach to psychosis. These drugs are more appropriately called major tranquilisers, and are effective in simply stopping the brain from functioning, depending on dosage levels. This has been effective in controlling 'positive symptoms' of psychosis (eg. agitation, acting on delusions, etc), but does nothing for the much more common 'negative symptoms' of psychosis, such as fear and anxiety, social withdrawal and isolation, loneliness, etc. In addition, the drugs have been demosntrated to cause permanent brain damage, with Parkinson-type symptoms as well as general brain dysfunction- called Tardive Dyskenesia. Unfortunately, these damaging effects are inflicted upon people (most likely to be poorer than wealthier people) due to a social need to control unsettling behaviour in others, and on the basis of hypothesis which have no support in evidence. There are also thousands of Australian primary school aged children who are placed on these drugs each year.

A recent report from the UK argues that the psychiatric model for making sense of psychosis (ie. gene and biochemical theories, and associated labels and drugs) actually gets in the way of effectively helping people who are struggling with these types of problems. What causes these problems to begin with? Trauma has been demonstrated as a major factor, but for any particular individual, the key is to sit down and ask them. That is, to treat such people as human beings. I am reminded of some other British research which showed that successful interventions with 'psychotics' followed from asking "What are we going to do with you?" in a friendly manner- and then listening to their answers.

Another corner-stone of the psychiatric treatment of psychosis is that the person should develop good 'insight'- this simply means that s/he should come to view him/herself as 'sick' and requiring psychiatric treatment. Again, the evidence suggests that no such submission to psychiatric opinion is required for a person to get better. I have worked with many people over the years who have been given just about every possible psychiatric label- only to find when i met them that they were just a human being. And being treated as a human being (rather than as a fallicious disease entity) appears to be required to get better.

read the report at:-


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