To the editors:
Despite the overwhelming preponderance in modern medical literature of valid and reliable studies to the contrary, John Friedberg ["Is Psychiatry Going Insane?" May 1] claims to believe no scientific evidence exists to suggest a genetic factor in the etiology of mental illnesses. Similarly, he also claims to believe sufferers of these brain diseases do not improve dramatically and at times almost miraculously when given medical treatments (including electroconvulsive therapy). One possible explanation for these eccentric and bizarre beliefs of his is that he suffers from an untreated mental illness himself, probably schizoaffective disorder with an Axis II paranoid personality disorder. If so, it is unfortunate that his delusions prevent him from seeking the psychopharmacological interventions from which he could benefit, since his ability to competently perform the duties of his alleged profession of neurologist is severely compromised (to say the least) by his inability to correctly perceive reality.
On the other hand, his use of outdated psychiatric terminology (e.g., "manic-depressive") and his apparent ignorance of the efficacy of the most commonly prescribed pharmaceutical in our country today suggest he may be either an unwitting agent-of-influence or a paid propagandist for an antipsychiatry cabal such as the Church of Scientology.
But another likely possibility is that Friedberg is simply a quack.
Robert E. Rogoff
Timothy Beneke replies:
John Friedberg is a respected and successful neurologist who provides a genuine and courageous service by pointing out that biopsychiatry has not yet proved its case. Most biopsychiatric treatments are shots in the dark that only sometimes hit their mark, for reasons that are at best speculative and hypothetical. It may be that we will someday know for sure that mental illness is primarily caused by "brain diseases"; we certainly do not know it now. And the fact that the best psychiatry can offer our most desperately unhappy people is a shock to the brain is an indictment of both psychiatry and American society itself.
When human suffering confuses and frightens us, we often take refuge in biological explanations as a way of avoiding confronting what is painful and unjust in our own lives. This must be kept in mind as biopsychiatry weaves its spell around us.