The following has been adapted from the wikipedia.org website.
Anti-psychiatry refers to approaches which fundamentally challenge the theory or practice of mainstream psychiatry in general, and biological psychiatry in particular. Anti-psychiatric criticisms of mainstream psychiatry include that it uses medical concepts
and tools inappropriately, that it treats patients against their will or inappropriately dominates other approaches to mental health, that its medical and ethical integrity are compromised by its financial and professional links with pharmaceutical companies,
and that it uses a system of categorical diagnosis that is stigmatizing (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and is perceived by too many of its patients as demeaning and controlling.
A significant minority of mental health professionals and academics profess anti-psychiatry views, and even some psychiatrists hold such views in regard to mainstream (biological) psychiatry.
Psychiatrists generally view anti-psychiatry as a fringe movement with little or no scientific validity, although it is difficult to quantify the proportion of the general public or professionals involved, or the range of views held.
Despite its name, the movement is often seen as promoting a type of psychiatry itself, albeit one that is in stark contrast to current mainstream thinking. Thus many so-called "anti-psychiatrists", including psychiatrists
with non-mainstream beliefs, are keen to dissociate themselves from the term and the pejorative associations it has attracted.
Origins of anti-psychiatry
There was opposition to psychiatry from its origins and as it became more professionally established during the 19th century. Disputes often concerned custodial rights over those seen as “mad”,
including in the expanding lunatic asylums, and divergent theoretical interpretations of mental problems.
In the 1920s surrealist opposition to psychiatry was expressed in a number of surrealist publications. In the 1930s several controversial medical practices were introduced including inducing seizures (by electroshock, insulin or other
drugs) or cutting parts of the brain apart (leucotomy or lobotomy). Both came into widespread use by psychiatry, but there were grave concerns and much opposition on grounds of basic morality, harmful effects, or misuse. In the 1950s new psychiatric drugs,
notably the antipsychotic chlorpromazine, were designed in laboratories and slowly came into preferred use. Although often accepted as an advance in some ways, there was some opposition, due to serious adverse effects such as tardive dyskinesia. Patients
often opposed psychiatry and refused or stopped taking the drugs when not subject to psychiatric control. There was also increasing opposition to the use of psychiatric hospitals, and attempts to move people back into the community on a collaborative
user-led group approach ("therapeutic communities") not controlled by psychiatry.
Coming to the fore in the 1960s, "anti-psychiatry" (a term first used by David Cooper in 1967) defined a movement that vocally challenged the fundamental claims and practices
of mainstream psychiatry. Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz argued that "mental illness" is an inherently incoherent combination of a medical and a psychological concept, but popular because it legitimizes
the use of psychiatric force to control and limit deviance from societal norms. Adherents of this view referred to "the myth of mental illness" after Szasz's controversial book of that name.
In addition, Holocaust documenters argued that the medicalization of social problems and systematic euthanasia of people in German mental institutions in the 1930s provided the institutional, procedural, and doctrinal origins of the
mass murder of the 1940s. The Nuremberg Trials convicted a number of psychiatrists who held key positions in Nazi regimes. Observation of the abuses of psychiatry in the Soviet Union in the so-called Psikhushka hospitals also led to questioning the validity
of the practice of psychiatry in the West. In particular, the diagnosis of many political dissidents with schizophrenia led some to question the general diagnosis and punitive usage of the label schizophrenia. This raised questions as to whether the schizophrenia
label and resulting involuntary psychiatric treatment could not have been similarly used in the West to subdue rebellious, though basically sane, young people during family conflicts.
New professional approaches were developed as an alternative, or complement, to psychiatry. Social work, humanistic or existentialist therapies, counseling and self-help developed and
often opposed psychiatry.
Additionally, and largely separately, some contemporary cults or new religious movements, most notably Scientology, began challenging aspects of psychiatric theory or practice.
Normality and illness judgments
Critics of psychiatry generally do not dispute the notion that some people have emotional or psychological problems, or that some psychotherapies do not work for a given problem. They do usually disagree
with psychiatry on the source of these problems; the appropriateness of characterizing these problems as illness; and on what the proper management options are. For instance, a primary concern of anti-psychiatry
is that an individual's degree of adherence to communally, or majority, held values may be used to determine that person's level of mental health.
There are recognized problems regarding the diagnostic reliability and validity of mainstream psychiatric diagnoses, both in ideal controlled circumstances (Williams et al. 1992) and even more so in routine
clinical practice (McGorry et al. 1995). Criteria in the principal diagnostic manuals, the DSM and ICD, are inconsistent (van Os et al. 1999). Some psychiatrists who criticize their own profession say that
comorbidity, when an individual meets criteria for two or more disorders, is the rule rather than the exception. There is much overlap and vaguely-defined or changeable boundaries between what psychiatrists
claim are distinct illness states. There are also problems with using standard diagnostic criteria in different countries, cultures, genders or ethnic groups. Critics often allege that Westernized, white,
male-dominated psychiatric practices and diagnoses disadvantage and misunderstand those from other groups.
Psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry
Stern concerns about how disease is managed in large populations for financial purposes alone appear constantly in the literature critical of the medical profession and the industry.
Psychiatrists prescribe drugs for adults and children. Administration of the drugs can be undertaken voluntarily or, in certain situations, involuntarily. Psychiatrists claim that a number of medications have a proven efficacy for improving
or managing a number of mental health disorders. This includes ranges of different drugs referred to as antidepressants, tranquilizers and neuroleptics (antipsychotics).
On the other hand, organizations with thousands of members such as MindFreedom International and World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry maintain that psychiatrists exaggerate
the evidence of medication and minimize the evidence of adverse drug reaction. They and other activists also complain that individuals are not given sufficient balanced information or truly informed consent,
that current psychiatric medications do not appear to be specific to particular disorders in the way mainstream psychiatry asserts; and psychiatric drugs not only don't correct measurable chemical imbalances
in the brain, but also induce undesirable side effects.
The influence of pharmaceutical companies is another major issue for the antipsychiatry movement. The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most profitable and powerful in existence,
and there are many financial and professional links between psychiatry, regulators, and pharmaceutical companies. Drug companies routinely fund much of the research conducted by psychiatrists, advertise
medication in psychiatric journals and conferences, fund psychiatric and healthcare organizations and health promotion campaigns, and send representatives to lobby general physicians and politicians.
Peter Breggin, Sharkey, and other investigators of the psycho-pharmaceutical industry maintain that many psychiatrists are members, shareholders or special advisors to pharmaceutical
or associated regulatory organizations. There is evidence that research findings and the prescribing of drugs are influenced as a result. A United Kingdom cross-party parliamentary inquiry into the influence
of the pharmaceutical industry in 2005 concludes: "The influence of the pharmaceutical industry is such that it dominates clinical practice" and that there are serious regulatory failings resulting
in "the unsafe use of drugs; and the increasing medicalization of society".
The number of psychiatric drug prescriptions have been increasing at an extremely high rate since the 1950s and show no sign of abating. In the United States antidepressants and tranquilizers
are now the top selling class of prescription drugs, and neuroleptics and other psychiatric drugs also rank near the top, all with expanding sales.
Psychiatry and the Law
Psychiatrists often give testimony in competence hearings. These hearings seek to determine whether an individual is mentally fit to face trial. They also often testify in trials in which the insanity defense
is used. Some mental health professionals dispute the right of psychiatrists and the judicial system to do this or the way in which they do it.
While the insanity defense is the subject of controversy as a viable excuse for wrong-doing, other critics contend that being committed in a psychiatric hospital is often much worse than
criminal imprisonment, since it involves the risk of compulsory medication with neuroleptics or the use of electroshock treatment.