Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Man Unable to Remember Is Reunited With Fiancée

Dissociative fugue states are rare, rare enough so that diagnosing a case is reported in the New York Times. If you want to learn about an "epidemic" of this disorder, read Ian Haking's Mad Travelers: Reflections on the Reality of Transient Mental Illnesses. Hacking does more than describe a cluster of cases. He also suggests a way of understanding why certain psychiatric disorders are frequent at certain times and in certain places and then disappear.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Living With Love, Chaos and Haley

This is a moving article which shows that while there are many treatments for serious mental illness, there is often not much help. It is refreshing to read a front page article in the New York Times that neither demonizes psychiatry or suggests that it has much to offer. The history of psychiatry could be written as a series of oversold panaceas --from moral treatment through psychoanalysis and now to the new psychopharmacology--followed by periods of disillusionment. This article is more evidence--along with all the news about antidepressants and suicide and the metabolic syndrome--that we are well into a period of disillusionment.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Famine: the distant shadow over French psychiatry

Reading about French anti-psychiatry I ran into a reference to a book by Max Lafont titled l'Extermination douce. It is an account of conditions in psychiatric hospitals in Vichy France, where it is estimated that some 48,000 mental patients starved to death. There is apparently no book on this subject in English, but the article "Famine: the distant shadow over French psychiatry" give a chilling summary of what is known and also asks why, when so much attention has been paid to German atrocities, there has been nothing written in English about this tragic story.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Changing Minds: Area 25

I saw this piece on 60 minutes. It struck me as another expensive partial treatment, like vagus nerve stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation. When these genies get out of the box they will probably proliferate in our market economy and who knows how many desperate people will seek them out. Even without doubting that they provide significant help for a core group of people, in the way that pre-frontal lobotomy did [according to Jack Pressman's account], they are likely to be advocated and sought after for many other desperate people. Having researched the history of treatments for General Paresis of the Insane, I am reminded of the many invasive and problematic partial treatments that were advocated for it before penicillin was found to kill the organism that caused the disease....And then I happened to watch a 1966 documentary called Schizophernia: the Broken Mirror, produced by the NIH, where we were shown schizophrenics being given deep brain stimulation with electrodes and encouraged to think that the cure for schizophrenia was around the corner. Around and around it would seem.