Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Abuses of the Public by Psychiatry

Dr. Paul McHugh delivered a terrific lecture last night on the subject of "Abuses of the Public by Psychiatry," in honor of Notre Dame's Schmitt Fellows in the colleges of science and engineering. He recounted the rise of multiple personality disorder diagnoses, and the accompanying fad of repressed memories emerging in middle age of childhood sexual abuse. The phenomenon in psychiatry was at its peak in the late 1980's and early 1990's, and he said it affected over a million Americans, tearing apart families with false accusations. Dr. McHugh was careful to point out that child sexual abuse is a travesty and happens all too often, and that certainly in many cases such abuse is forgotten or repressed until the memories return later in life. The cases he dismissed as fabrications and inducements by psychiatrists to remember events that never happened are cases in which the memories were wildly improbable, such as remembering abuse as an infant. Psychiatrists have been recklessly irresponsible in encouraging this fad and creating discord in once harmonious families. He wrote a book on the subject, called Try to Remember: Psychiatry's Clash over Meaning, Memory and Mind.

His more devastating charge against psychiatry, however, is that it has gotten mired in an excessive concern for classification and description, embodied in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which acts as a sort of field guide for psychiatry while failing to systematically explore the causes and cures for mental ill health. He believes psychiatry has hit a dead end as it prepares to publish the fifth edition of the DSM, and a reversal of course is needed.

Look for the video of Dr. McHugh's lecture on our homepage soon!

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