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desiree333's avatar

Psychology/Psychiatry enthusiasts: How do you feel about 'Mad Studies'?

Asked by desiree333 (3195 points ) September 11th, 2013

I’ve enrolled into a course called “Women & Madness” (currently in my third year of a psychology honours BA). My first reading is about Mad Studies and it is an article called “Introducing Mad Studies” by Robert Menzies, Brenda A. LeFrançois, and Geoffrey Reaume (it can be found on academia.edu and probably Google Scholar). Just curious to hear people’s perspectives on anti-psychiatry and mad studies, especially those coming from a psychology background. I’m not sure how I feel about this assemblage so far…

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29 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

I never heard of it, but I found the article—which appears to be an introduction to a book, a collection of readings—on Google Books. (Your link goes to a resource that you have to sign up for, so I looked elsewhere.)

I know too little of the subject to have an opinion. However, I’ll be interested to see how other more knowledgeable people respond.

drhat77's avatar

Doesn’t scientology think psychiatrists are evil? What is the ultimate goal of this movement? To recognize the rights of crazy people to be crazy? I agree the fact that the health department follows a few select crazy people and injects them with a month’s supply of schizophrenia medication at a time is the stuff conspiricay theorists just eat up, but what happens when crazy people hurt themselves or others?

ninjacolin's avatar

Wow, I don’t even know if I’m on topic here but I hope so! I’ve never heard these terms before. “Mad studies”..“lived experience”.. I saw this ted talk about a lady who seems to have learned to manage her schizophrenic behaviors and explore their subconscious meanings. Now you’re the first person since seeing that video who I’ve ever met who knows anything on the topic. It’s not something I’ve ever considered before but I’m pretty intrigued. Makes me wonder what it would be like if schizophrenia was as an adapted trait for an entire civilization.

drhat77's avatar

I read a “Evolution” By Stephen Baxter (fiction), and he suggested that schizophrenia is just our intelligence too fine tuned: our brains secret weapon is deciphering patterns, but schizophrenia sees patterns that don’t exist.
I’m a doctor so of course I can only see mental illness as a disease to be treated. I do think it’s sad that schizophrenia medications turn former artists and smart people into dull simple laborers (treated! hooray!). If schizophrenics didn’t commit suicide or sometimes even harms others, I’d say pfft!, whatevs. But making us sensitive to the beautiful word inseid their head will not make the risk of injury go away, only medical treatment.

ninjacolin's avatar

The argument Eleanor seems to put forward in that video is that chemical treatment may not be the only way in all cases. What I really get out of her discourse is that, like driving a car, schizophrenia can be a dangerous thing. But like a car’s driver, you can learn how to steer it safely. Even with driver testing and instruction cars can still be lethal to the driver and to others, but we do allow people to take that responsibility.

drhat77's avatar

part of making auto accidents less dangerous is 1) improved roads with rails and many other features such those sand barrels at forks 2) improved cars with crumple zones and airbags that protect passengars 3) a trauma system that has been very effective in quickly assessing and treating traumatic injuries, by and large from car accidents (especially out of the inner city).
In fact, the human factor is still the most dangerous part of driving, no matter how much education and red asphalt we make teens watch.
I am struggling to think of how to apply these sorts of saftey innovations to protect us for schizophrenics who do not know how to “drive”.

flutherother's avatar

“Madness” interests me and I found this personal account of madness fascinating. Don’t be put off by the title, it is very lucid and well written.

drhat77's avatar

Also no matter how many safety features are present we don’t let people drive drunk because their brain is impaired.
Likewise, schizophrenia is an impairement of the brain, so how can we reasonably trust schizophrenics to “drive” in that state.

janbb's avatar

R. D. Laing in the 1970s proposed the idea that schizophrenia was a response to a dysfunctional family system and didn’t necessarily need medicating. Thomas Szasz, I believe, another pyschologist, also felt that madness could be an adaptive behavior. I imagine that Bertha Morriset, the “madwoman in the attic” from Jane Eyre would also be discussed.

In any case, my own totally layman’s opinion is that to the extent that mental illness prevents one from functioning in society or being content, it should be remediated in some way that is useful.

Sounds like a fascinating class!

janbb's avatar

P.S. I kind of feel calling the discipline “Mad Studies” is part of the same trendy academia-speak as “Queer Studies.”

Rarebear's avatar

Psychiatry is a difficult science to study. It’s hard to do a double blinded randomized controlled trial when a lot of the time you’re measuring objective opinions. The studies have to be very carefully designed.

ninjacolin's avatar

@drhat77 said: “how can we reasonably trust schizophrenics to “drive” in that state.”

You would just do it! Just like how you just trust drivers will use their cars appropriately every year. Then we lose thousands of lives every year, dependably. But we do it anyway.

@drhat77 said: “I am struggling to think of how to apply these sorts of saftey innovations to protect us for schizophrenics who do not know how to “drive”.”

Haven’t you seen the xmen movies or read the comics? You would have to FIND ways to teach them to deal with themselves. If you just drug the problem away, you learn nothing. Intelligently invested effort and time will reveal things science has not yet uncovered.

drhat77's avatar

@ninjacolin by and large the way we dealt with auto fatalities is not by teaching people to be better drivers, but by enhancing the environment so that every auto wreck over 45 mph isn’t a death sentence. It seems it should be more cost effective to just teach people to be better drivers except for the fact that it doesn’t work. Only environmental changes have improved statistics.
The reason I’m returning to this metaphor again and again is because if we’re going to use driving safety as a model for mental health reform, we have to understand how driving was actually made safe. It was not by better drivers. It was by a better driving environment (and trauma system). Fun fact, suicide claims more lives each year now than auto fatalities.
To properly apply this model to mental health reform, we would have to put road side rails and sand barrels and crumple zones and air bags to schizophrenics. Do you have any idea what that means in terms of mental health? Because I sure don’t. The only part of the metaphor that applies is enhanced trauma systems, which I’m sure would be more regularly exercised if we de-medicalized schizophrenia.

drhat77's avatar

I can’t remember the name of the song, but this discussion has reminded me of it
“When they turned off your lights, and pumped out your guts…”
The thrust of the song was that the narrator was said that a vibrant young girl tried to kill herself, was sent away to a psych hospital, came back a zombie on meds.
Yes, very sad that she’s now a zombie and considered “cured”. But remember how she got there? She tried to kill herself! Is she better off dead? Is that the solution?

drhat77's avatar

I agree the approach currently seems like make brilliant people docile, then relegate them to the margins of society. I agree, this is not a cure. Let us consider this a method to keep them from killing themselves or ending up in jail long enough until better medicines therapies come along.
The first generation of anti psychotics had a lot of side effects, and did little for the negative symptoms of psychosis. The second generation was much better tolerated, and had a much better treatment profile for negative symptoms (withdrawal from society, etc). I feel this represents the gradual improvement in medical therapy that is common with other diseases.
Removing all medical therapy from them entirely will not help them or anyone they hurt.

ninjacolin's avatar

I do think these are important considerations, @drhat77. And I’m not opposed to the availability of medical treatments. Certainly not suggesting that all schizophrenics dump their meds and try to master their condition on their own.

I am however intrigued by the direction Intervoice is taking. I like their mission. I’m interested in knowing what their efforts will have taught us 10, 20, or 30 years from now. I imagine there’s incredible value in studying (and developing, if it works well) this brand of therapy.. just as much as there is value in studying and developing drugs with less invasive side-effects for these patients.

Btw, did you get a chance to watch that video, @drhat77? Super cool story. She’s working on her PHD now, I believe. She dealt with thoughts of suicide, she’s been abused, she’s been through the worst sides of it all and she still hears voices to date. But it’s like she’s found a way to resolve the voices in her head and make use of them instead of having them causing trouble all the time.

My question is: Can her method be used by all patients with dependable results? Or is it just something that may work under exacting circumstances? (Of course, I don’t think she has a “method” down as yet. I think she’s just studying the matter with hopes of developing a testable method)

@drhat77 I do expect that this kind of research and testing (over 30 years, for example) will have its fair share of casualties in the same way that drug research and testing has had and continues to have. Mortal risk is unavoidable, pretty much whichever way you go. The only way to find out what really works best is to be brave and give it a try. After all, attempts at “safety” are just that: attempts.

drhat77's avatar

Her story is very similar to the one portrayed in a beautiful mind. It could potentially work based on an alcoholics anonymous model.
As I recall I think there were some mentally I’ll people who went off their meds inspired by a beautiful mind. Suffice it to say none of them got Nobel prizes.

ninjacolin's avatar

great, now I have to see that movie again…
AA model is a bit sketchy, haha. But it does seem to really do it for some folks, huh? Yes, that’s an interesting comparison.

Jeruba's avatar

@flutherother, your link caught my interest and I started reading. I’ve read about 100 pages of the 300 so far. It’s astonishing and quite convincing. Again and again I’m struck by the inner logic of what would appear from the outside to be deranged thinking.

How did you come upon this work? Do you know anything about its place in the literature?

flutherother's avatar

@Jeruba I came across it by chance on the online books website. It is quite obscure which is a pity as it gives such clear insight into what it can feel like to be seriously mentally ill. I think the author may have been someone fairly well known in her day but I have failed to find out who she was.

Jeruba's avatar

@flutherother, I see that the author’s name is given as E. Thelmar. A cursory search turns up nothing. I wouldn’t be even a little bit surprised if it were a pseudonym and perhaps even an anagram or other meaningful fabrication (such as, for instance, Ethel Mar-something).

Assuming this narrative is authentic (and it certainly seems so to me), she was well educated and very well read. If it isn’t a genuine account of personal experience, it’s brilliant fiction.

I’d be interested in seeing an analysis that compares it with (or places it among) fictional works depicting madness. Uncanny similarities to certain works of Poe and Dostoevsky, for example, have more than one possible explanation.

@desiree333, do you suppose your instructor knows anything about this extraordinary work?

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I have requested a complementary e-book copy of the Text book for my evaluation.

In general the dangers of labeling people with a diagnosis often outweighs the utility of describing a cluster of observed features or symptoms. Unless the classification leads to a useful and economic treatment that benefits the individual, I am hesitant to give such diagnosis and alleged drug treatments much credibility. The bias promoted by drug companies and their representatives is indeed a cause for suspicion if not deep concern. There are syndromes where medication helps individuals better able to benefit from short-term action oriented therapy that empowers individuals to return to and remain at a higher level of functioning. Extreme viewpoints in either direction can do more harm than well supported, moderate views focused on the needs and goals of the individuals seeking help.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I am not a psych enthusiast, more like an anti-psych enthusiast but that course sounds cool, it’ll probably be about analyzing why women, throughout history, have been collapsed with emotion, madness and hysteria by men.

Jeruba's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, I don’t understand what you mean by “have been collapsed…by men.” Could you please say that another way?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Jeruba By collapsed I mean associated/connected with, as if the link is inherent, and by men I mean because it was done through fields of medicine/psychology and literature which were dominated (and continue to be so) by men that declared themselves ‘experts.’ A good books to read: For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts Advice to Women by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deidre English.

Jeruba's avatar

Thanks. It sounded like you were saying that women were collapsing (fainting, falling down) from conditions of emotion, madness, and hysteria that were being caused by men.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Jeruba Well, in an way, that happened as well but, mostly, the fainting spells of some ‘women of society’ were due to corsetry and its discontents.

Jeruba's avatar

Sure, but that wasn’t what you were saying. It wasn’t a correct reading of your statement. I understand it now.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Jeruba Yah, I know but you let my brain go into another direction. :) Thanks

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