Mental Illness is ‘impossible to define’

Failure to disclose business relationships, badly performed tests and invented illness carried psychiatry to the edge of the cliff.

By Gary Greenberg

Every so often Al Frances says something that seems to surprise even him. Just now, for instance, in the predawn darkness of his comfortable, rambling home in Carmel, California, he has broken off his exercise routine to declare that “there is no definition of a mental disorder. It’s bullshit. I mean, you just can’t define it.” Then an odd, reflective look crosses his face, as if he’s taking in the strangeness of this scene: Allen Frances, lead editor of the fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (universally known as the DSM-IV), the guy who wrote the book on mental illness, confessing that “these concepts are virtually impossible to define precisely with bright lines at the boundaries.” For the first time in two days, the conversation comes to an awkward halt.

Allen Frances, lead editor of the fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders


But he recovers quickly, and back in the living room he finishes explaining why he came out of a seemingly contented retirement to launch a bitter and protracted battle with the people, some of them friends, who are creating the next edition of the DSM. And to criticize them not just once, and not in professional mumbo jumbo that would keep the fight inside the professional family, but repeatedly and in plain English, in newspapers and magazines and blogs. And to accuse his colleagues not just of bad science but of bad faith, hubris, and blindness, of making diseases out of everyday suffering and, as a result, padding the bottom lines of drug companies. These aren’t new accusations to level at psychiatry, but Frances used to be their target, not their source. He’s hurling grenades into the bunker where he spent his entire career.

As a practicing psychotherapist myself, I can attest that this is a startling turn. But when Frances tries to explain it, he resists the kinds of reasons that mental health professionals usually give each other, the ones about character traits or personality quirks formed in childhood. He says he doesn’t want to give ammunition to his enemies, who have already shown their willingness to “shoot the messenger.” It’s not an unfounded concern. In its first official response to Frances, the APA diagnosed him with “pride of authorship” and pointed out that his royalty payments would end once the new edition was published—a fact that “should be considered when evaluating his critique and its timing.”

Frances, who claims he doesn’t care about the royalties (which amount, he says, to just 10 grand a year), also claims not to mind if the APA cites his faults. He just wishes they’d go after the right ones—the serious errors in the DSM-IV. “We made mistakes that had terrible consequences,” he says. Diagnoses of autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and bipolar disorder skyrocketed, and Frances thinks his manual inadvertently facilitated these epidemics—and, in the bargain, fostered an increasing tendency to chalk up life’s difficulties to mental illness and then treat them with psychiatric drugs.

The insurgency against the DSM-5 (the APA has decided to shed the Roman numerals) has now spread far beyond just Allen Frances. Psychiatrists at the top of their specialties, clinicians at prominent hospitals, and even some contributors to the new edition have expressed deep reservations about it. Dissidents complain that the revision process is in disarray and that the preliminary results, made public for the first time in February 2010, are filled with potential clinical and public relations nightmares. Although most of the dissenters are squeamish about making their concerns public—especially because of a surprisingly restrictive nondisclosure agreement that all insiders were required to sign—they are becoming increasingly restive, and some are beginning to agree with Frances that public pressure may be the only way to derail a train that he fears will “take psychiatry off a cliff.”

At stake in the fight between Frances and the APA is more than professional turf, more than careers and reputations, more than the $6.5 million in sales that the DSM averages each year. The book is the basis of psychiatrists’ authority to pronounce upon our mental health, to command health care dollars from insurance companies for treatment and from government agencies for research. It is as important to psychiatrists as the Constitution is to the US government or the Bible is to Christians. Outside the profession, too, the DSM rules, serving as the authoritative text for psychologists, social workers, and other mental health workers; it is invoked by lawyers in arguing over the culpability of criminal defendants and by parents seeking school services for their children.

If, as Frances warns, the new volume is an “absolute disaster,” it could cause a seismic shift in the way mental health care is practiced in this country. It could cause the APA to lose its franchise on our psychic suffering, the naming rights to our pain.

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About Luis Miranda
The Real Agenda is an independent publication. It does not take money from Corporations, Foundations or Non-Governmental Organizations. It provides news reports in three languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese to reach a larger group of readers. Our news are not guided by any ideological, political or religious interest, which allows us to keep our integrity towards the readers.

2 Responses to Mental Illness is ‘impossible to define’

  1. Psychiatry is atheism masquerading as science. They claim that mental illness is caused by chemical imbalances, but this is a lie to sell drugs. The bible says it is caused by demonic oppression, & the solution is prayer in jesus name. Jesus cast out demons and gave his followers authority to do it. I have done it; it works.

    All drugs are openings for demonic oppressionm, including caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, pot, lsd, etc and all psych meds. This is why the psych meds cause rather than cure mental illness.

    The drug hand books admit that the anti-psychotics and anti-depressants often cause psychosis, and they do. They cause mania, depression, suicide & a host of side effects that are torture, in addition to brain liver & kidney damage & other problems.

    Robert Whitaker’s new book Anatomy of an Epidemic documents this & says as drug treatment has gone up, so have the rates of mental illness.

    My witness is that psychiatric definitions of illness are premised on an atheistic non-spiritual worldview. They regard spiritual experiences and beliefs as symptoms of psychosis. For 50 years, they have been slandering Christians, calling them schizophrenic. 90% of patients in psych hospitals are not ill; they are Christians. 90% of shrinks are atheists. The problem is theological, not biological. They are spiritual ignoramuses, unqualified to judge mental illness. I have always said in court that they are NOT experts but ignoramuses.

    Dr’s 2nd question is always; “do you hear voices”. Anyone who says yes they hear God or demons, is thought, by them to have auditory hallucinations, which they say is a symptom of psychosis.

    The right answer is, EVERYONE hears voices, as thoughts in our heads; thoughts come to us from the spiritual realm. The word “inspiration” means “a spirit goes into it”. It is normal Christian theology to hear voices. Jesus said “my sheep hear my voice”John 10:27. James ch 3 (NT) says there is wisdom from above and wisdom from below.

    Christians get called schizoprenic, schizoaffective and now bipolar as well, since they claim that someone who prays a lot and preaches is “hyperreligious” which they define as a symptom of mania, half of manic-depressive disorder, now called bipolar. It is nonsense, lies.

    God sent me into the psych system to be a witness against the atheism and sorcery, which is what HE regards the drugs to be. (it is forbidden in Deut 18); it is mind control, as is the brainwashing they do on patients to try to persuade them that they have a life long illness & need the drugs for the rest of their lives, so they will have permanent consumers for their expensive drugs. I spent several years as a direct witness & experienced their “Treatment” firsthand. The drugs are torture.

    Psychiatry is unconstitutional; it violates the first amendment for religious freedom, the anti-slavery amendment since they use patients as medical guinea pigs involuntarily, which is involuntary servitude, or slavery, and it violates the law against cruel & unusual punishment, since the drugs are torture.

    The nazis were behind psychiatry & all the drug co’s come from IG FARBEN in Germany who made the gas for the jews. They did medical experiments and torture there; then Operation Paperclip brought those scientists to the US where they were in the CIA, continuing their mind control & torture through MKULTRA, drugging people involuntarily in hospitals & other places.

    The nazis invented mass medication of the population through water fluoridation to make the prisoners in the camps docile. They have continued it here; all the anti-psychotics and anti-depressants have fluorine, and the drugs do the same thing; stupfiy people to hypnotize them and control them. And 65% of the US has fluoridated water. Calcium fluoride helps teeth, but they use Sodium fluoride, which is a toxic waste & a poison. Sodium fluoride is the ingredient in rat poison. Toothpastes SAY to call poison control if swallowed.

    They are dumbing down the population. Areas where the water is fluoridated have IQs 20 points lower.

    You can read articles on my website about fluoridated water, Psychiatry & nazis & an interview with Jim Marrs about his book THe Rise of the Fourth Reich, which says Nazism has been operating covertly in the US (through big pharma and operation paperclip) & other things. I got a witness from the Holy SPIrit that his book is true. And my experience confirms it. Psychiatry and healthcare, with their toxic vaccines, are their instruments for genocide , continuing what Hitler started.

    Planned parenthood with their abortion & sterilization is continuing the eugenics that was behind Nazism, which originated in the US and ENgland. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned parenthood, was a eugenicist. She inspired Hitler.

    God had me write a book about atheistic psychiatry, their toxic drugs and how to heal mental and physical illness through prayer. It is FREE on my website; MANUAL FOR TRANSFORMATIONAL HEALING-GOD’S ANSWER TO PSYCHIATRY. 1PROPHETSPEAKS.COM

    • Thank God for your direction in speaking out on psychiatry and the drugs thereof. I am a retired nurse turned author to help others with my hindsight as foresight. I was married to a doctor who was diagnosed with severe Bipolar Disorder in 1984/85.
      When he first began to take lithium, he said he felt as though his head was detached from his body. He hated the drugs he was compelled to take to keep practicing as a doctor. He made it for 10 years. Then, everything nstarted to fall apart; our 27 year marriage, his practice, registration with the medical board and finally suicide in 2009 at the age of 55. We have 4 children. The emotional damage in un-immagineable! I would love to hear your opinion on my theories so that I can correct it in my next book. My website has links to purchase and room for comment. A Butterfly Landed An Eagle. I surely did as an overcoming Christian Eagle and landed a chnristian Eagle in my 2nd husband. Still transforming in the power of Jesus Name. God bless your fight with victory in Jesus name, Amen.