Antipsychotics: Effects and Experience

Many people now know how antidepressants are overprescribed. Studies have shown that most taking them receive no benefit at all. Besides that, there are many negative side effects, including suicidality. But what few are aware of is how widely prescribed also are antipsychotics. They aren’t only used for severe cases such as schizophrenia. Often, they are given for treatment of conditions that have nothing to do with psychosis. Depression and personality disorders are other examples. Worse still, it is regularly given to children in foster care to make them more manageable.

That was the case with me, in treating my depression. Along with the antidepressant Paxil, I was put on the antipsychotic Risperdal. I don’t recall being given an explanation at the time and I wasn’t in the mindset back then to interrogate the doctors. Antipsychotics are powerful tranquilizers that shut down the mind and increase sleep. Basically, it’s an attempt to solve the problem by making the individual utterly useless to the world, entirely disconnected, calmed into mindlessness and numbness. That is a rather extreme strategy. Rather than seeking healing, it treats the person suffering as the problem to be solved.

For those on them, they can find themselves sleeping all the time, have a hard time concentrating, and many of them unable to work. It can make them inert and immobile, often gaining weight in the process. But if you try to get off of them, there can be serious withdrawl symptoms. The problems is that prescribers rarely tell patients about the side effects or the long term consequences to antipsychotic use, as seen with what some experience as permanent impairment of mental ability. This is partly because drug companies have suppressed the information on the negatives and promoted them as a miracle drug.

Be highly cautious with any psychiatric medications, including antidepressants but especially antipsychotics. These are potent chemicals only to be used in the most desperate of cases, not to be used so cavalierly as they are now. As with diet, always question a healthcare professional recommending any kind of psychiatric medications for you or a loved one. And most important, research these drugs in immense detail before taking them. Know what you’re dealing with and learn of the experiences of others.

Here is an interesting anecdote. Ketogenic diets have been used to medically treat diverse neurocognitive disorders, originally epileptic seizures, but they are also used to treat weight loss. There was an older lady, maybe in her 70s. She had been diagnosed with schizophrenia since she was a teenager. The long-term use of antipsychotics had caused her to become overweight.

She went to Dr. Eric Westman who trained under Dr. Robert Atkins. She was put on the keto diet and did lose weight but she was surprised to find here schizophrenic symptoms also reduce, to such an extent she was able to stop taking the antipsychotics. So, how many doctors recommend a ketogenic diet before prescribing dangerous drugs? The answer is next to zero. There simply is no incentive for doctors to do so within our present medical system and many incentives to continue with the overprescription of drugs.

No doctor ever suggested to me that I try the keto diet or anything similar, despite the fact that none of the prescribed drugs helped. Yet I too had the odd experience of going on the keto diet to lose weight only to find that I had also lost decades of depression in the process. The depressive funks, irritability and brooding simply disappeared. That is great news for the patient but a bad business model. Drug companies can’t make any profit from diets. And doctors that step out of line with non-standard practices open themselves up to liability and punishment by medical boards, sometimes having their license removed.

So, psychiatric medications continue to be handed out like candy. The young generation right now is on more prescribed drugs than ever before. They are guinea pigs for the drug companies. Who is going to be held accountable when this mass experiment on the public inevitably goes horribly wrong when we discover the long-term consequences on the developing brains and bodies of children and young adults?

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Largest Survey of Antipsychotic Experiences Reveals Negative Results
By Ayurdhi Dhar, PhD

While studies have attributed cognitive decline and stunted recovery to antipsychotic use, less attention has been paid to patients’ first-person experiences on these drugs. In one case where a psychiatrist tried the drugs and documented his experience, he wrote:

“I can’t believe I have patients walking around on 800mg of this stuff. There’s no way in good conscience I could dose this BID (sic) unless a patient consented to 20 hours of sleep a day. I’m sure there’s a niche market for this med though. There has to be a patient population that doesn’t want to feel emotions, work, have sex, take care of their homes, read, drive, go do things, and want to drop their IQ by 100 points.”

Other adverse effects of antipsychotics include poor heart health, brain atrophy, and increased mortality. Only recently have researchers started exploring patient experiences on antipsychotic medication. There is some evidence to suggest that some service users believe that they undermine recovery. However, these first-person reports do not play a significant part in how these drugs are evaluated. […]

Read and Sacia found that only 14.3% reported that their experience on antipsychotics was purely positive, 27.9% of the participants had mixed experiences, and the majority of participants (57.7%) only reported negative results.

Around 22% of participants reported drug effects as more positive than negative on the Overall Antipsychotic Rating scale, with nearly 6% calling their experience “extremely positive.” Most participants had difficulty articulating what was positive about their experience, but around 14 people noted a reduction in symptoms, and 14 others noted it helped them sleep.

Of those who stated they had adverse effects, 65% reported withdrawal symptoms, and 58% reported suicidality. In total, 316 participants complained about adverse effects from the drugs. These included weight gain, akathisia, emotional numbing, cognitive difficulties, and relationship problems. […]

Similar results were reported in a recent review, which found that while some patients reported a reduction in symptoms on antipsychotics, others stated that they caused sedation, emotional blunting, loss of autonomy, and a sense of resignation. Participants in the current survey also complained of the lingering adverse effects of antipsychotics, long after they had discontinued their use.

Importantly, these negative themes also included negative interactions with prescribers of the medication. Participants reported a lack of information about side-effects and withdrawal effects, lack of support from prescribers, and lack of knowledge around alternatives; some noted that they were misdiagnosed, and the antipsychotics made matters worse.

One participant said: “I was not warned about the permanent/semi-permanent effects of antipsychotics which I got.” Another noted: “Most doctors do not have a clue. They turn their backs on suffering patients, denying the existence of withdrawal damage.”

This is an important finding as previous research has shown that positive relationships with one’s mental health provider are considered essential to recovery by many patients experiencing first-episode psychosis.

Physical Health, Mental Health

There is a growing field focused on the relationship between diet, nutrition, neurocognition, and psychiatry. I’ve written about this previously (The Agricultural Mind; Ketogenic Diet and Neurocognitive Health; & Fasting, Calorie Restriction, and Ketosis). It is sometimes referred to as nutritional psychiatry or orthomolecular psychiatry, and it is a fast growing field. But there aren’t many well known experts in this area. Most people turn to diet and nutrition for physical health reasons, typically for metabolic issues: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. Interestingly, there is emerging evidence from research on the close link between the metabolic and the psychiatric.

One of the better known figures in this convergence of fields is Dr. Georgia Ede, a psychiatrist with a medical degree and a B.A. in Biology. She has completed a graduate course in nutrition at Harvard where she also completed her residency. Besides psychiatry, her employment includes as laboratory research assistant, psychopharmacologist, and nutrition consultant. Her writings regularly appear in Psychology Today. She has had immense influence on many others, one of the rare psychiatrists heard outside of psychiatry.

Another major expert is Dr. Ann Childers. She is a psychiatric physician for children and adults. Besides being a lecturer and podcaster, she has written chapters for textbooks. She is a member of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, the Nutrition and Metabolism Society, Obesity Medicine Association, and Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

There is yet another influential authority in this area, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. She holds a degree in Medicine and Postgraduate degrees in both Neurology and Human Nutrition. After years working as a neurologist and neurosurgeon, she now practices as a nutritionist and used to run the Cambridge Nutrition Clinic. She is the founder of the widely used Gut and Psychology (GAPS) Diet. There are several books she has authored, one of which is specifically about mental health as part of physical health, Gut and Psychology Syndrome.

One more that has come to our attention is Felice Jacka: Professor of Nutritional Psychiatry, Director of the Food & Mood Centre at Deakin University, and founder and president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research. She is known for her work with the SMILES trial: A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial); and The SMILES trial: an important first step. Also, she has authored a book about the topic, Brain Changer: How Diet Can Save Your Mental Health – Cutting-edge Science from an Expert. The dietary intervention she studied and promotes is not ketogenic, but as a modified Mediterranean diet — restricting sugar and refined grains — it does end up being much lower carb.

I’ll mention some other names. Carol Simontacchi was a certified clinical nutritionist and hosted a nationally syndicated radio show. She was also a writer, including a book on this topic, The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry Is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children. Last but not least, there is L. Amber O’Hearn. By education, she is a data scientist. In dealing with her own physical and mental health issues, she tried a ketogenic diet and then a carnivore diet. She is a major figure and speaker in the low-carb community.

An up-and-comer is Dr. Paul Saladino, a convert to the carnivore diet and emphasizes the importance of nutrition. He has a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a Master of Health Science and Physician Assistant degree. He worked as a PA in cardiology, but got frustrated with the inadequacies of conventional medicine. He went back to school to get his MD with a focus on integrative and functional medicine, during which time he studied under the famous Dr. Andrew Weil. At this time, he also got certified as a functional medicine practitioner. He recently completed his residency in psychiatry and has had a private practice for a while. Besides being a popular video maker, he has his own website and an animal-based supplement company, Heart & Soil. Also, he has one book, The Carnivore Code, although unfortunately it isn’t about psychiatry.

Anther psychiatrist is Dr. Christopher M. Palmer. He “received his medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine. His internship and psychiatry residency were at McLean Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School. He’s currently the director of the Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education at McLean Hospital. In addition he is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.” He does many talks and interviews. In a discussion with Dr. Saladino, they explored the connection of metabolic health and mental psychiatric conditions (Paradigm shiftng treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar with Ketogenic diets. Chris Palmer, MD). Along with published papers, he writes for Psychology Today and he is just now publishing his first book, Brain Energy: A Revolutionary Breakthrough in Understanding Mental Health–and Improving Treatment for Anxiety, Depression, OCD, PTSD, and More.

Heck, while I’m at it, I’ll also give honorable mention to some others: registered dietitian nutritionist Vicky Newman, psychiatrist Drew Ramsey (Eat To Beat Depression and Anxiety), and psychiatrist Rachel Brown (Metabolic Madness: Understand Why Metabolic Health Is Key to Mental Health). Then there is the research psychologist Bonnie Kaplan and the clinical psychologist Julia Rucklidge, co-authors of a new book, The Better Brain: Overcome Anxiety, Combat Depression, and Reduce ADHD and Stress with Nutrition. All of these support their views with scientific evidence. Newman basically recommends a low-carb diet without ever explicitly calling it that. She also takes a fairly holistic approach with more knowledge that is common in alternative health, such as the importance of pastured and grassfed livestock. Ramsey, on his website, has info on ketosis, animal-based nutrition, etc. Brown advocates low-carb/high-fat (LCHF), but personally practices a carnivore diet.

Kaplan and Rucklidge seem to be somewhat more conventional in their recommending a Mediterranean diet, an almost meaningless category (a traditional Mediterranean diet is lower-carb, higher-fat, and animal-based; but in research it’s often formulated as the complete opposite). From what I can tell, they aren’t necessarily conversant in-depth about functional medicine, traditional foods, paleo, low-carb, keto, carnivore, etc; if they do briefly mention in passing a few of these in their book. On the other hand, they get extra credit points for talking about how good nutrition improves the psychological and behavioral outcomes among depressives, autistic children, ADHD adults, trauma patients, prisoners, etc; not to mention having done their own scientific research in the area.

For good measure, let me also recommend Dr. Eric Berg, a chiropractor. He has no particular specialty in psychology, psychiatry, or anything similar. But for the average person, he is is one of the better presenters on useful knowledge for diet and health. His talks are always clear and concise and he occasionally focuses on neurocognitive health.

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Ketogenic Diets for Mental Health: A Guide to Resources
by Georgia Ede

Your Brain on Plants: Micronutrients and Mental Health
by Georgia Ede

Affects of Diet and Mental Health
by Georgia Ede

Schizophrenia, Depression, and the Little-Known “Mental Heatlh”/DietaryLink
interview with Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride

A Carnivore Diet for Physical and Mental Health
interview with L. Amber O’Hearn

Social Disorder, Mental Disorder

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”
~ Johann Harri

On Staying Sane in a Suicidal Culture
by Dahr Jamail

Our situation so often feels hopeless. So much has spun out of control, and pathology surrounds us. At least one in five Americans are taking psychiatric medications, and the number of children taking adult psychiatric drugs is soaring.

From the perspective of Macy’s teachings, it seems hard to argue that this isn’t, at least in part, active denial of what is happening to the world and how challenging it is for both adults and children to deal with it emotionally, spiritually and psychologically.

These disturbing trends, which are increasing, are something she is very mindful of. As she wrote in World as Lover, World as Self, “The loss of certainty that there will be a future is, I believe, the pivotal psychological reality of our time.”

What does depression feel like? Trust me – you really don’t want to know
by Tim Lott

Admittedly, severely depressed people can connect only tenuously with reality, but repeated studies have shown that mild to moderate depressives have a more realistic take on life than most “normal” people, a phenomenon known as “depressive realism”. As Neel Burton, author of The Meaning of Madness, put it, this is “the healthy suspicion that modern life has no meaning and that modern society is absurd and alienating”. In a goal-driven, work-oriented culture, this is deeply threatening.

This viewpoint can have a paralysing grip on depressives, sometimes to a psychotic extent – but perhaps it haunts everyone. And therefore the bulk of the unafflicted population may never really understand depression. Not only because they (understandably) lack the imagination, and (unforgivably) fail to trust in the experience of the sufferer – but because, when push comes to shove, they don’t want to understand. It’s just too … well, depressing.

The Mental Disease of Late-Stage Capitalism
by Joe Brewer

A great irony of this deeply corrupt system of wealth hoarding is that the “weapon of choice” is how we feel about ourselves as we interact with our friends. The elites don’t have to silence us. We do that ourselves by refusing to talk about what is happening to us. Fake it until you make it. That’s the advice we are given by the already successful who have pigeon-holed themselves into the tiny number of real opportunities society had to offer. Hold yourself accountable for the crushing political system that was designed to divide us against ourselves.

This great lie that we whisper to ourselves is how they control us. Our fear that other impoverished people (which is most of us now) will look down on us for being impoverished too. This is how we give them the power to keep humiliating us.

I say no more of this emotional racket. If I am going to be responsible for my fate in life, let it be because I chose to stand up and fight — that I helped dismantle the global architecture of wealth extraction that created this systemic corruption of our economic and political systems.

Now more than ever, we need spiritual healing. As this capitalist system destroys itself, we can step aside and find healing by living honestly and without fear. They don’t get to tell us how to live. We can share our pain with family and friends. We can post it on social media. Shout it from the rooftops if we feel like it. The pain we feel is capitalism dying. It hurts us because we are still in it.

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems
by George Monbiot

So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.

Among the results, as Paul Verhaeghe documents in his book What About Me? are epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Britain, in which neoliberal ideology has been most rigorously applied, is the loneliness capital of Europe. We are all neoliberals now.

Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us
by Paul Verhaeghe

We tend to perceive our identities as stable and largely separate from outside forces. But over decades of research and therapeutic practice, I have become convinced that economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatisation have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative. If you’re reading this sceptically, I put this simple statement to you: meritocratic neoliberalism favours certain personality traits and penalises others.

There are certain ideal characteristics needed to make a career today. The first is articulateness, the aim being to win over as many people as possible. Contact can be superficial, but since this applies to most human interaction nowadays, this won’t really be noticed.

It’s important to be able to talk up your own capacities as much as you can – you know a lot of people, you’ve got plenty of experience under your belt and you recently completed a major project. Later, people will find out that this was mostly hot air, but the fact that they were initially fooled is down to another personality trait: you can lie convincingly and feel little guilt. That’s why you never take responsibility for your own behaviour.

On top of all this, you are flexible and impulsive, always on the lookout for new stimuli and challenges. In practice, this leads to risky behaviour, but never mind, it won’t be you who has to pick up the pieces. The source of inspiration for this list? The psychopathy checklist by Robert Hare, the best-known specialist on psychopathy today.

What About Me?: The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society
by Paul Verhaeghe
Kindle Locations 2357-2428

Hypotheses such as these, however plausible, are not scientific. If we want to demonstrate the link between a neo-liberal society and, say, mental disorders, we need two things. First, we need a yardstick that indicates the extent to which a society is neo-liberal. Second, we need to develop criteria to measure the increase or decrease of psychosocial wellbeing in society. Combine these two, and you would indeed be able to see whether such a connection existed. And by that I don’t mean a causal connection, but a striking pattern; a rise in one being reflected in the other, or vice versa.

This was exactly the approach used by Richard Wilkinson, a British social epidemiologist, in two pioneering studies (the second carried out with Kate Pickett). The gauge they used was eminently quantifiable: the extent of income inequality within individual countries. This is indeed a good yardstick, as neo-liberal policy is known to cause a spectacular rise in such inequality. Their findings were unequivocal: an increase of this kind has far-reaching consequences for nearly all health criteria. Its impact on mental health (and consequently also mental disorders) is by no means an isolated phenomenon. This finding is just as significant as the discovery that mental disorders are increasing.

As social epidemiologists, Wilkinson and Pickett studied the connection between society and health in the broad sense of the word. Stress proves to be a key factor here. Research has revealed its impact, both on our immune systems and our cardiovascular systems. Tracing the causes of stress is difficult, though, especially given that we live in the prosperous and peaceful West. If we take a somewhat broader view, most academics agree on the five factors that determine our health: early childhood; the fears and cares we experience; the quality of our social relationships; the extent to which we have control over our lives; and, finally, our social status. The worse you score in these areas, the worse your health and the shorter your life expectancy are likely to be.

In his first book, The Impact of Inequality: how to make sick societies healthier, Wilkinson scrutinises the various factors involved, rapidly coming to what would be the central theme of his second book — that is, income inequality. A very striking conclusion is that in a country, or even a city, with high income inequality, the quality of social relationships is noticeably diminished: there is more aggression, less trust, more fear, and less participation in the life of the community. As a psychoanalyst, I was particularly interested in his quest for the factors that play a role at individual level. Low social status proves to have a determining effect on health. Lack of control over one’s work is a prominent stress factor. A low sense of control is associated with poor relationships with colleagues and greater anger and hostility — a phenomenon that Richard Sennett had already described (the infantilisation of adult workers). Wilkinson discovered that this all has a clear impact on health, and even on life expectancy. Which in turn ties in with a classic finding of clinical psychology: powerlessness and helplessness are among the most toxic emotions.

Too much inequality is bad for your health

A number of conclusions are forced upon us. In a prosperous part of the world like Western Europe, it isn’t the quality of health care (the number of doctors and hospitals) that determines the health of the population, but the nature of social and economic life. The better social relationships are, the better the level of health. Excessive inequality is more injurious to health than any other factor, though this is not simply a question of differences between social classes. If anything, it seems to be more of a problem within groups that are presumed to be equal (for example, civil servants and academics). This finding conflicts with the general assumption that income inequality only hurts the underclass — the losers — while those higher up the social ladder invariably benefit. That’s not the case: its negative effects are statistically visible in all sectors of the population, hence the subtitle of Wilkinson’s second work: why more equal societies almost always do better.

In that book, Wilkinson and Pickett adopt a fairly simple approach. Using official statistics, they analyse the connection between income inequality and a host of other criteria. The conclusions are astounding, almost leaping off the page in table after table: the greater the level of inequality in a country or even region, the more mental disorders, teenage pregnancies, child mortality, domestic and street violence, crime, drug abuse, and medication. And the greater the inequality is, the worse physical health and educational performance are, the more social mobility declines, along with feelings of security, and the unhappier people are.

Both books, especially the latter, provoked quite a response in the Anglo-Saxon world. Many saw in them proof of what they already suspected. Many others were more negative, questioning everything from the collation of data to the statistical methods used to reach conclusions. Both authors refuted the bulk of the criticism — which, given the quality of their work, was not a very difficult task. Much of it targeted what was not in the books: the authors were not urging a return to some kind of ‘all animals are equal’ Eastern-bloc state. What critics tended to forget was that their analysis was of relative differences in income, with negative effects becoming most manifest in the case of extreme inequality. Moreover, it is not income inequality itself that produces these effects, but the stress factors associated with it.

Roughly the same inferences can be drawn from Sennett’s study, though it is more theoretical and less underpinned with figures. His conclusion is fairly simple, and can be summed up in the title of what I regard as his best book: Respect in a World of Inequality. Too much inequality leads to a loss of respect, including self-respect — and, in psychosocial terms, this is about the worst thing that can happen to anyone.

This emerges very powerfully from a single study of the social determinants of health, which is still in progress. Nineteen eighty-six saw the start of the second ‘Whitehall Study’ that systematically monitored over 10,000 British civil servants, to establish whether there was a link between their health and their work situations. At first sight, this would seem to be a relatively homogenous group, and one that definitely did not fall in the lowest social class. The study’s most striking finding is that the lower the rank and status of someone within that group, the lower their life expectancy, even when taking account of such factors as smoking, diet, and physical exercise. The most obvious explanation is that the lowest-ranked people experienced the most stress. Medical studies confirm this: individuals in this category have higher cortisol levels (increased stress) and more coagulation-factor deficiencies (and thus are at greater risk of heart attacks).

My initial question was, ‘Is there a demonstrable connection between today’s society and the huge rise in mental disorders?’ As all these studies show, the answer is yes. Even more important is the finding that this link goes beyond mental health. The same studies show highly negative effects on other health parameters. As so often is the case, a parallel can be found in fiction — in this instance, in Alan Lightman’s novel The Diagnosis. During an interview, the author posed the following rhetorical question: ‘Who, experiencing for years the daily toll of intense corporate pressure, could truly escape severe anxiety?’* (I think it may justifiably be called rhetorical, when you think how many have had to find out its answer for themselves.)

A study by a research group at Heidelberg University very recently came to similar conclusions, finding that people’s brains respond differently to stress according to whether they have had an urban or rural upbringing. 3 What’s more, people in the former category prove more susceptible to phobias and even schizophrenia. So our brains are differently shaped by the environment in which we grow up, making us potentially more susceptible to mental disorders. Another interesting finding emerged from the way the researchers elicited stress. While the subjects of the experiment were wrestling with the complex calculations they had been asked to solve, some of them were told (falsely) that their scores were lagging behind those of the others, and asked to hurry up because the experiments were expensive. All the neo-liberal factors were in place: emphasis on productivity, evaluation, competition, and cost reduction.

Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?
by Mark Fisher
pp. 19-22

Mental health, in fact, is a paradigm case of how capitalist realism operates. Capitalist realism insists on treating mental health as if it were a natural fact, like weather (but, then again, weather is no longer a natural fact so much as a political-economic effect). In the 1960s and 1970s, radical theory and politics (Laing, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, etc.) coalesced around extreme mental conditions such as schizophrenia, arguing, for instance, that madness was not a natural, but a political, category. But what is needed now is a politicization of much more common disorders. Indeed, it is their very commonness which is the issue: in Britain, depression is now the condition that is most treated by the NHS. In his book The Selfish Capitalist, Oliver James has convincingly posited a correlation between rising rates of mental distress and the neoliberal mode of capitalism practiced in countries like Britain, the USA and Australia. In line with James’s claims, I want to argue that it is necessary to reframe the growing problem of stress (and distress) in capitalist societies. Instead of treating it as incumbent on individuals to resolve their own psychological distress, instead, that is, of accepting the vast privatization of stress that has taken place over the last thirty years, we need to ask: how has it become acceptable that so many people, and especially so many young people, are ill? The ‘mental health plague’ in capitalist societies would suggest that, instead of being the only social system that works, capitalism is inherently dysfunctional, and that the cost of it appearing to work is very high. […]

By contrast with their forebears in the 1960s and 1970s, British students today appear to be politically disengaged. While French students can still be found on the streets protesting against neoliberalism, British students, whose situation is incomparably worse, seem resigned to their fate. But this, I want to argue, is a matter not of apathy, nor of cynicism, but of reflexive impotence. They know things are bad, but more than that, they know they can’t do anything about it. But that ‘knowledge’, that reflexivity, is not a passive observation of an already existing state of affairs. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Reflexive impotence amounts to an unstated worldview amongst the British young, and it has its correlate in widespread pathologies. Many of the teenagers I worked with had mental health problems or learning difficulties. Depression is endemic. It is the condition most dealt with by the National Health Service, and is afflicting people at increasingly younger ages. The number of students who have some variant of dyslexia is astonishing. It is not an exaggeration to say that being a teenager in late capitalist Britain is now close to being reclassified as a sickness. This pathologization already forecloses any possibility of politicization. By privatizing these problems – treating them as if they were caused only by chemical imbalances in the individual’s neurology and/ or by their family background – any question of social systemic causation is ruled out.

Many of the teenage students I encountered seemed to be in a state of what I would call depressive hedonia. Depression is usually characterized as a state of anhedonia, but the condition I’m referring to is constituted not by an inability to get pleasure so much as it by an inability to do anything else except pursue pleasure. There is a sense that ‘something is missing’ – but no appreciation that this mysterious, missing enjoyment can only be accessed beyond the pleasure principle. In large part this is a consequence of students’ ambiguous structural position, stranded between their old role as subjects of disciplinary institutions and their new status as consumers of services. In his crucial essay ‘Postscript on Societies of Control’, Deleuze distinguishes between the disciplinary societies described by Foucault, which were organized around the enclosed spaces of the factory, the school and the prison, and the new control societies, in which all institutions are embedded in a dispersed corporation.

pp. 32-38

The ethos espoused by McCauley is the one which Richard Sennett examines in The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism, a landmark study of the affective changes that the post-Fordist reorganization of work has brought about. The slogan which sums up the new conditions is ‘no long term’. Where formerly workers could acquire a single set of skills and expect to progress upwards through a rigid organizational hierarchy, now they are required to periodically re-skill as they move from institution to institution, from role to role. As the organization of work is decentralized, with lateral networks replacing pyramidal hierarchies, a premium is put on ‘flexibility’. Echoing McCauley’s mockery of Hanna in Heat (‘ How do you expect to keep a marriage?’), Sennett emphasizes the intolerable stresses that these conditions of permanent instability put on family life. The values that family life depends upon – obligation, trustworthiness, commitment – are precisely those which are held to be obsolete in the new capitalism. Yet, with the public sphere under attack and the safety nets that a ‘Nanny State’ used to provide being dismantled, the family becomes an increasingly important place of respite from the pressures of a world in which instability is a constant. The situation of the family in post-Fordist capitalism is contradictory, in precisely the way that traditional Marxism expected: capitalism requires the family (as an essential means of reproducing and caring for labor power; as a salve for the psychic wounds inflicted by anarchic social-economic conditions), even as it undermines it (denying parents time with children, putting intolerable stress on couples as they become the exclusive source of affective consolation for each other). […]

The psychological conflict raging within individuals cannot but have casualties. Marazzi is researching the link between the increase in bi-polar disorder and post-Fordism and, if, as Deleuze and Guattari argue, schizophrenia is the condition that marks the outer edges of capitalism, then bi-polar disorder is the mental illness proper to the ‘interior’ of capitalism. With its ceaseless boom and bust cycles, capitalism is itself fundamentally and irreducibly bi-polar, periodically lurching between hyped-up mania (the irrational exuberance of ‘bubble thinking’) and depressive come-down. (The term ‘economic depression’ is no accident, of course). To a degree unprecedented in any other social system, capitalism both feeds on and reproduces the moods of populations. Without delirium and confidence, capital could not function.

It seems that with post-Fordism, the ‘invisible plague’ of psychiatric and affective disorders that has spread, silently and stealthily, since around 1750 (i.e. the very onset of industrial capitalism) has reached a new level of acuteness. Here, Oliver James’s work is important. In The Selfish Capitalist, James points to significant rises in the rates of ‘mental distress’ over the last 25 years. ‘By most criteria’, James reports,

rates of distress almost doubled between people born in 1946 (aged thirty-six in 1982) and 1970 (aged thirty in 2000). For example, 16 per cent of thirty-six-year-old women in 1982 reported having ‘trouble with nerves, feeling low, depressed or sad’, whereas 29 per cent of thirty year-olds reported this in 2000 (for men it was 8 per cent in 1982, 13 per cent in 2000).

Another British study James cites compared levels of psychiatric morbidity (which includes neurotic symptoms, phobias and depression) in samples of people in 1977 and 1985. ‘Whereas 22 per cent of the 1977 sample reported psychiatric morbidity, this had risen to almost a third of the population (31 per cent) by 1986’. Since these rates are much higher in countries that have implemented what James calls ‘selfish’ capitalism than in other capitalist nations, James hypothesizes that it is selfish (i.e. neoliberalized) capitalist policies and culture that are to blame. […]

James’s conjectures about aspirations, expectations and fantasy fit with my own observations of what I have called ‘hedonic depression’ in British youth.

It is telling, in this context of rising rates of mental illness, that New Labour committed itself, early in its third term in government, to removing people from Incapacity Benefit, implying that many, if not most, claimants are malingerers. In contrast with this assumption, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to infer that most of the people claiming Incapacity Benefit – and there are well in excess of two million of them – are casualties of Capital. A significant proportion of claimants, for instance, are people psychologically damaged as a consequence of the capitalist realist insistence that industries such as mining are no longer economically viable. (Even considered in brute economic terms, though, the arguments about ‘viability’ seem rather less than convincing, especially once you factor in the cost to taxpayers of incapacity and other benefits.) Many have simply buckled under the terrifyingly unstable conditions of post-Fordism.

The current ruling ontology denies any possibility of a social causation of mental illness. The chemico-biologization of mental illness is of course strictly commensurate with its de-politicization. Considering mental illness an individual chemico-biological problem has enormous benefits for capitalism. First, it reinforces Capital’s drive towards atomistic individualization (you are sick because of your brain chemistry). Second, it provides an enormously lucrative market in which multinational pharmaceutical companies can peddle their pharmaceuticals (we can cure you with our SSRIs). It goes without saying that all mental illnesses are neurologically instantiated, but this says nothing about their causation. If it is true, for instance, that depression is constituted by low serotonin levels, what still needs to be explained is why particular individuals have low levels of serotonin. This requires a social and political explanation; and the task of repoliticizing mental illness is an urgent one if the left wants to challenge capitalist realism.

It does not seem fanciful to see parallels between the rising incidence of mental distress and new patterns of assessing workers’ performance. We will now take a closer look at this ‘new bureaucracy’.

The Opposite of Addiction is Connection
by Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

Not for Alexander. He was bothered by the fact that the cages in which the rats were isolated were small, with no potential for stimulation beyond the heroin. Alexander thought: Of course they all got high. What else were they supposed to do? In response to this perceived shortcoming, Alexander created what we now call “the rat park,” a cage approximately 200 times larger than the typical isolation cage, with Hamster wheels and multi-colored balls to play with, plenty of tasty food to eat, and spaces for mating and raising litters.[ii] And he put not one rat, but 20 rats (of both genders) into the cage. Then, and only then, did he mirror the old experiments, offering one bottle of pure water and one bottle of heroin water. And guess what? The rats ignored the heroin. They were much more interested in typical communal rat activities such as playing, fighting, eating, and mating. Essentially, with a little bit of social stimulation and connection, addiction disappeared. Heck, even rats who’d previously been isolated and sucking on the heroin water left it alone once they were introduced to the rat park.

The Human Rat Park

One of the reasons that rats are routinely used in psychological experiments is that they are social creatures in many of the same ways that humans are social creatures. They need stimulation, company, play, drama, sex, and interaction to stay happy. Humans, however, add an extra layer to this equation. We need to be able to trust and to emotionally attach.

This human need for trust and attachment was initially studied and developed as a psychological construct in the 1950s, when John Bowlby tracked the reactions of small children when they were separated from their parents.[iii] In a nutshell, he found that infants, toddlers, and young children have an extensive need for safe and reliable caregivers. If children have that, they tend to be happy in childhood and well-adjusted (emotionally healthy) later in life. If children don’t have that, it’s a very different story. In other words, it is clear from Bowlby’s work and the work of later researchers that the level and caliber of trust and connection experienced in early childhood carries forth into adulthood. Those who experience secure attachment as infants, toddlers, and small children nearly always carry that with them into adulthood, and they are naturally able to trust and connect in healthy ways. Meanwhile, those who don’t experience secure early-life attachment tend to struggle with trust and connection later in life. In other words, securely attached individuals tend to feel comfortable in and to enjoy the human rat park, while insecurely attached people typically struggle to fit in and connect.

The Opposite Of Addiction is Connection
By Jonathan Davis

If connection is the opposite of addiction, then an examination of the neuroscience of human connection is in order. Published in 2000, A General Theory Of Love is a collaboration between three professors of psychiatry at the University of California in San Francisco. A General Theory Of Love reveals that humans require social connection for optimal brain development, and that babies cared for in a loving environment are psychological and neurologically ‘immunised’ by love. When things get difficult in adult life, the neural wiring developed from a love-filled childhood leads to increased emotional resilience in adult life. Conversely, those who grow up in an environment where loving care is unstable or absent are less likely to be resilient in the face of emotional distress.

How does this relate to addiction? Gabor Maté observes an extremely high rate of childhood trauma in the addicts he works with and trauma is the extreme opposite of growing up in a consistently safe and loving environment. He asserts that it is extremely common for people with addictions to have a reduced capacity for dealing with emotional distress, hence an increased risk of drug-dependence.

How Our Ability To Connect Is Impaired By Trauma

Trauma is well-known to cause interruption to healthy neural wiring, in both the developing and mature brain. A deeper issue here is that people who have suffered trauma, particularly children, can be left with an underlying sense that the world is no longer safe, or that people can no longer be trusted. This erosion (or complete destruction) of a sense of trust, that our family, community and society will keep us safe, results in isolation – leading to the very lack of connection Johann Harri suggests is the opposite of addiction. People who use drugs compulsively do so to avoid the pain of past trauma and to replace the absence of connection in their life.

Social Solutions To Addiction

The solution to the problem of addiction on a societal level is both simple and fairly easy to implement. If a person is born into a life that is lacking in love and support on a family level, or if due to some other trauma they have become isolated and suffer from addiction, there must be a cultural response to make sure that person knows that they are valued by their society (even if they don’t feel valued by their family). Portugal has demonstrated this with a 50% drop in addiction thanks to programs that are specifically designed to re-create connection between the addict and their community.

The real cause of addiction has been discovered – and it’s not what you think
by Johann Hari

This has huge implications for the one hundred year old war on drugs. This massive war – which, as I saw, kills people from the malls of Mexico to the streets of Liverpool – is based on the claim that we need to physically eradicate a whole array of chemicals because they hijack people’s brains and cause addiction. But if drugs aren’t the driver of addiction – if, in fact, it is disconnection that drives addiction – then this makes no sense.

Ironically, the war on drugs actually increases all those larger drivers of addiction: for example, I went to a prison in Arizona – ‘Tent City’ – where inmates are detained in tiny stone isolation cages (“The Hole”) for weeks and weeks on end, to punish them for drug use. It is as close to a human recreation of the cages that guaranteed deadly addiction in rats as I can imagine. And when those prisoners get out, they will be unemployable because of their criminal record – guaranteeing they with be cut off ever more. I watched this playing out in the human stories I met across the world.

There is an alternative. You can build a system that is designed to help drug addicts to reconnect with the world – and so leave behind their addictions.

This isn’t theoretical. It is happening. I have seen it. Nearly fifteen years ago, Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe, with 1 percent of the population addicted to heroin. They had tried a drug war, and the problem just kept getting worse. So they decided to do something radically different. They resolved to decriminalize all drugs, and transfer all the money they used to spend on arresting and jailing drug addicts, and spend it instead on reconnecting them – to their own feelings, and to the wider society. The most crucial step is to get them secure housing, and subsidized jobs – so they have a purpose in life, and something to get out of bed for. I watched as they are helped, in warm and welcoming clinics, to learn how to reconnect with their feelings, after years of trauma and stunning them into silence with drugs.

One example I learned about was a group of addicts who were given a loan to set up a removals firm. Suddenly, they were a group, all bonded to each other, and to the society, and responsible for each other’s care.

The results of all this are now in. An independent study by the British Journal of Criminology found that since total decriminalization, addiction has fallen, and injecting drug use is down by 50 percent. I’ll repeat that: injecting drug use is down by 50 percent. Decriminalization has been such a manifest success that very few people in Portugal want to go back to the old system. The main campaigner against the decriminalization back in 2000 was Joao Figueira – the country’s top drug cop. He offered all the dire warnings that we would expect from the Daily Mail or Fox News. But when we sat together in Lisbon, he told me that everything he predicted had not come to pass – and he now hopes the whole world will follow Portugal’s example.

This isn’t only relevant to addicts. It is relevant to all of us, because it forces us to think differently about ourselves. Human beings are bonding animals. We need to connect and love. The wisest sentence of the twentieth century was E.M. Forster’s: “only connect.” But we have created an environment and a culture that cut us off from connection, or offer only the parody of it offered by the Internet. The rise of addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live–constantly directing our gaze towards the next shiny object we should buy, rather than the human beings all around us.

The writer George Monbiot has called this “the age of loneliness.” We have created human societies where it is easier for people to become cut off from all human connections than ever before. Bruce Alexander, the creator of Rat Park, told me that for too long, we have talked exclusively about individual recovery from addiction. We need now to talk about social recovery—how we all recover, together, from the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us like a thick fog.

But this new evidence isn’t just a challenge to us politically. It doesn’t just force us to change our minds. It forces us to change our hearts.

* * *

Social Conditions of an Individual’s Condition

Society and Dysfunction

It’s All Your Fault, You Fat Loser!

Liberal-mindedness, Empathetic Imagination, and Capitalist Realism

Ideological Realism & Scarcity of Imagination

The Unimagined: Capitalism and Crappiness

To Put the Rat Back in the Rat Park

Rationalizing the Rat Race, Imagining the Rat Park

The Desperate Acting Desperately

To Grow Up Fast

Morality-Punishment Link

An Invisible Debt Made Visible

Trends in Depression and Suicide Rates

From Bad to Worse: Trends Across Generations

Republicans: Party of Despair

Rate And Duration of Despair

Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?


Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

mikeS said Oct 12, 2008, 12:57 PM:             

  I recently posted this on my blog because I thought it a bit long for a thread. However, on second thought, maybe it might initiate some discussion. My thanks to Nicole.It seems fundamentally evident that, in order to aspire to a career in politics, one must eventually seek ‘votes’ to advance one’s career to ever higher office. Seeking votes means essentially being liked and to be elected to political office means being liked by more people than others seeking the same office.  This requires the acute and finely detailed tailoring of one’s ‘self’ in order to be liked, as opposed to NOT liked. This process easily eliminates those who are unable, for whatever reason, to tailor the ‘self’ in a way that generates votes through ‘likability.’ This tailoring process seems so deeply inherent to a political career, that the political aspirant may need to compromise his or her longstanding values and standards to achieve votes. A career in politics is not necessarily compatible with higher values like integrity (maybe this is why so much corruption exists in the field).   In fact, if standards and values are not to some degree compromised in order to increase ‘likability’ and collect votes, then the politician will eventually be eliminated from the field or at the least stuck in less esteemed positions. This elimination process, particularly in seeking the highest offices in which more votes are required, tends to produce a specific character type that, in many cases, may be inclined toward personality or character dysfunction almost to the point of a full-blown personality disorder.    I have found that the specific character disorder frequently exhibited by political aspirants is labeled Narcissistic Personality Disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, APA, (In fact, the spiritual philosopher, Ken Wilber, believes that “narcissism” is one of the most significant impediments to Deep Spirit, although his “narcissism” is a bit more complicated that the APA’s definition).       The APA has never, to my knowledge, made any psychological classification of politicians. However, I believe it is warranted. The problem is that in the field of politics it can be very difficult or almost impossible to identify those politicians with the disorder, since we all realize and tend to accept that politics is often a personality competition of celebrity proportions. Therefore, we could be witnessing a full-blown Narcissistic disordered personality right before our eyes, yet fail to recognize the symptoms of the disorder due to the very nature of politics in this postmodern age.          My point in this essay is in relation to the appearance of Deep Spirit and not necessarily, the appearance of narcissistic symptoms. However, Narcissism impedes Deep Spirit, particularly in those exhibiting symptoms of the disorder, and is generated primarily from fear. More specifically, in politics the fear is of not attaining votes because more voters dislike the political candidate. This is the fear of un-likability, that we all on some level experience. Yet my being disliked by many people may not result in the need to tailor my personality in order to be more liked so as to enhance my career, but for the politician this tailoring is crucial to career enhancement.             

Narcissism is a personality or “character” disorder actually diagnosable through the psychiatric model of mental disorders as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). The officially accepted criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder according to the DSM-IV is as follows :             

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:




recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)  to be(1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects          



with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love   is preoccupied(2)         


(3) believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)    



(4) requires excessive admiration       



(5) has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations          



(6) is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends             

(7) lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others             

(8) is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her             

(9) shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes             

Although Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a classification of the psychiatric model of mental disorders, the condition is pervasive to the personality or ‘self’ and is essentially impervious to medications, and most psychotherapies. In other words, if you are afflicted with this ‘disorder,’ narcissistic personality is what you ARE and you most likely can be NO different since the core ‘self’ IS the disorder and will not change (at least, not in this lifetime, anyway). This is different from psychiatric mental disorders which are primarily due to brain or neurochemicals imbalances and can be treated through medications             

As the symptoms reveal, there is an almost complete self-absorption with little regard for others or the suffering of others. In fact, others are seen as only means to greater enhancement, or advancement, of the ‘self.’ Therefore, any spiritual perspective of ‘oneness,’ any unity of perception or converging of perspectives to include the collective as opposed to the Narcissistic individual, is essentially absent or at the least, greatly minimized.             

I contend that many of our national leaders meet, if not all the criteria, many of the symptoms of this character disorder (notice that only 5 of the 9 symptoms need be met for the diagnosis to be applied).             

Based on the limited research available regarding Narcissistic Personality Disorder it appears to be the result of early childhood deprivation or neglect in terms of building healthy psychological ego-self structures. Based on current statistics, only a very small percentage of the U.S. population is afflicted with this disorder (many medical statistics claim only 1% of the population, however, since narcissists rarely admit to the symptoms of this disorder they rarely attend treatment and thus fail to be statistically counted).             


Due to the grandiose nature of politics, individual politicians must be predisposed to acquiring high public esteem and self-glorification through the acquisition of ‘votes’ related to election and re-election. This election process tends to funnel, collect and lump together those who may be prone to narcissistic personality disorder, particularly at the highest political levels. This is a bit different then celebrity status, although certainly there are many narcissistic personalities in that field as well. Yet, since celebrities tend to be esteemed based on some artistic talent and exist primarily to entertain, politicians need not exhibit any specific talent other than that of tailoring the personality so as to attain the greatest number of votes thereby beating opposition. In addition, a movie or rock star can enhance their celebrity status through controversy, while a politician’s career can be completely derailed through anything less than a perfect personality and a stellar past. Therefore, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, though evident in other careers, is abundantly manifest in politics at the highest or national level.             

However, this is not to assume that all politicians exhibit the full-fledged disorder with most of the symptoms. It may be more indicative of a greater possibility of manifesting the “traits” or “styles” of the disorder. Some politicians will be more narcissistically disordered, while others may be less afflicted. But I contend that due to the nature of the career, most will exhibit symptoms even those who seem to appear the most “honest” (I hate to say it, but George Bush tends to conform quite adequately to this model of narcissism)             

One thing is certain however, the higher the office the greater the likelihood that those elected will exhibit symptoms of the disorder as opposed to merely traits or styles. Therefore, we will suffer, more or less, dependent on the degree of Narcissistic Personality symptoms the elected office holder is afflicted by.             

Based on this, and my strong belief that regardless of one’s professed religion, seekers of Deep Inner Spirit tend to be more inclined to a more generous “worldcentric” perspective and a vision that integrates all levels of our evolving global society. This vision is completely opposite of narcissism and actually demands the clearing of narcissistic symptoms (traits and styles) in order for others, as opposed to ‘self,’ to be even considered, let alone considered through a correspondence with a deeper Spirit within.             

However, Narcissistic individuals are very adept at “lip-service” or telling us what they believe we want to hear regardless of the truth factor (this is why outright ‘lies’ are referred to “mis-stating” the facts) in order to enhance likability and acquire votes . Due to this magnified self-absorption, they tend to lack a “worldcentric” perspective and are terminally ‘stuck’ in an egocentric view of the world and others. In fact, they tend NOT to be capable of considering any other perspective but their own (unless, of course, other perspectives are similar). The Narcissistic personality is dysfunctionally self-absorbed and wholly self-oriented and obviously not amenable to the progress of an evolutionary collective consciousness that seeks to encompass all perspectives, all the time.             

So, when you cast your vote this November, stop to consider which of the politicians seeking office seem to meet the above psychiatric criteria. This may help to insure that you are not voting for a candidate who is Narcissistic Personality Disordered having one chief value in mind above all others and that is the glorification of self. If this is the primary perspective they hold, then most likely they should not hold public office.             

Clearly, we are approaching difficult times ahead and the leaders we choose will need a foundation of Deep Spirit in order to help us seek that same foundation within ourselves. If we elect officials, no matter what party, who are personality/character disordered, we have no one to blame but ourselves for the disorder and corresponding symptoms we will no doubt experience. Of course, this statement may initiate an examination of the two-term election of George Bush and the question:
Can a large segment of a national population be Narcissistic Personality Disordered? I’ll leave that to brighter minds than mine, but the implications are bone-chilling.             

Peace Angels,
mike S              


Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Alan said Oct 12, 2008, 3:01 PM:             

  A narcissist is simple a man or woman who’s ego is so out of control that even in this egoic age they’re out of balance.  

I have had up close personal views of narcissists.  Of course, power draws people who live solely for themselves and  to please their self-image.  As does wealth.  These are the flames the intensely ego-centric flock to, like moths, only to burn.
This is why we have this pain-filled world, I agree.  
Time to declare war on greed.  (for money, power, pleasure, whathaveyou)
Time to stop declaring war on eachother.  Every time we do, we lose sight of the real enemy
as surely as Iraq had little to do with bin laden.





Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Nicole said Oct 13, 2008, 9:36 AM:             

  Alan and Mike, thanks.Mike, I am very grateful for you beginning the discussion with this marvelous blog of yours. It’s interesting, I just read a blog by Marmalade which is an in-depth personality analysis and comparison of the current candidates and past presidents, with a lot of detail of what leads to success in presidency, including the ability to lie well and being impulsive and passionate rather than collegial. It’s a very detailed blog though and I can’t do it justice so I hope you will check it out yourselves – Politics, Personality, and Character  I would love to hear what Marmalade and others think about this thread.    Alan, you’re so right about losing track of the real enemy. It has never been other people.    Light and peace,       Nicole          




Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 13, 2008, 2:20 PM:             

  Thanks for the advertisement of my blog, dear Nicole.  As you know, I have a strong interest in personality.  Its quite fascinating all of the info that is out there.I noticed this thread when it was first posted.  I don’t know that I have much to add.  I can see the perspective of leadership roles attracting narcissists.  The one thing I would question is the issue of personality disorder.  If narcissism has offered survival value to the human species, then its not fair to call it a personality disorder.  Similarly, I’ve heard the theory that Attention Deficity Disorder may simply be a type of personality that no longer has a place in our society and such people are unfairly medicated.  The problem is that the world now is different than it was when humans evolved personality traits.  Narcissism may be quite benificial in a leader of a tribe but maybe dangerous on the largscale of international politics.  Also, maybe traditional cultures had ways of controlling narcissism from going out of control.   Marmalade   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Alan said Oct 13, 2008, 2:46 PM:             


Having lived with a narcissist, while I disagree with the very idea of ‘personality disorders’ a great deal, I can say that if the definition of personality disorders includes maladaptation, eg a state of being that causes extreme harm to the self or others, Narcissism must be a personality disorder.  We probably disagree about the idea that this state of being is or has ever been helpful.  Narcissism ruins everything it touches.  The story of King Midas is a very good myth about it.
In leaders, it is the most dangerous thing in the world…. whether tribe or nation.  These are just my .02 though…
Also, I’d be interested in reading a study about narcissism cross-culturally.  In Japanese culture, for example, as far as I know the children are so asked to empathize with each other that an individual who seemingly has no empathy at all (eg, a narccisist) is probably less of a likely phenomenon.  In fact, this set of behaviors, to me, is no more than a symptom of the larger imbalance of this particular society.  





Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 13, 2008, 3:20 PM:             

  Alan,I haven’t ever studied it much, but from my meager research it seems that narcissism is a broad category.  I guess its important to know whether this thread is about narcissism in general or only narcissism as a personality disorder.  Here is something from the Wikipedia article:  Johnson [9] discusses Narcissism as constituting a spectrum, from a severe disorder with much in common with borderline personality disorder, to a much less severe, high-functioning form he calls “the narcissistic style.”   
“People who have a narcissistic
personality style rather than narcissistic personality disorder are relatively psychologically healthy, but may at times be arrogant, proud, shrewd, confident, self-centered and determined to be at the top. They may not, however, have an unrealistic image of their skills and worth and are not so strongly dependent on praise to sustain a healthy self-esteem.” [10]
As there are different types of Narcissism, I’d guess there are probably different causes of it also.  As an example I noticed acquired situational narcissism:    Acquired Situational Narcissism is a form of narcissism that develops in late adolescence or adulthood, brought on by wealth, fame and the other trappings of celebrity     





disorder.  pesonalityI was wondering about the social components to narcissism in our culture.  Maybe narcissistic personality style is common, but maybe narcissistic personality disorder isn’t.  Furthermore, maybe they exist on a gradient and maybe there is something about our society that turns the personality style into a          



, but this leads people to an even greater focus on their own personal problems because they have no one else to turn to.   is discouragedA cross-cultural study would be interesting.  I’ve read something about Japanese culture that relates to your comment.  The author was saying that Japanese culture has the opposite effect from what would be expected.  Individual expression         


I liked your last point.  Is Narcissism a personality disorder or a societal disorder?    











Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

mikeS said Oct 13, 2008, 3:48 PM:             

  I realize the title of this post was rather pejorative and exaggerated. Nevertheless, I was not addressing “leadership roles” per say since clearly in many industries and fields leadership does not rely as heavily or at all on ‘likability’ or attractiveness. Many leaders rose to leadership positions meritoriously or through talent and there is not the need to tailor the personality so acutely as with politics.If narcissism has offered survival value to the human species, then its not fair to call it a personality disorder.   That would be an interesting discussion as to whether personality disorders have survival value. As Alan points out, they are maladaptive to the person and society and do tend to impair the individual or others in some way. There are many different personality disorders and I’m mostly familiar with antisocial (sociopathic) and narcissistic from 8 yrs of work in a prison.
Actually, it seems to me that Narcissism would have little survival value since it is not amenable to leadership roles beneficial to the tribe.
In addition, although I use psychiatric diagnoses in my work, I am also very suspect of the criteria. Rarely do individuals meet even the minimum requirments and personality disorders often overlap with mood disorders. This is why I mentioned “traits” and “styles” in my initial post. Attention Deficit is a mood disorder and treatable through drugs and personality disorders are frequently untreatable since it involves impaired ego development usually traced to childhood parenting in combination with genetic predispositions   My  point was  that diagnosable “narcissistic personality disorder” may be more observable through the political arena than in any other public realm. In addition, due to the postmodern politics, and the cult of celebrity, this may be more true than in previous times. In that sense it would be a societal problem particularly if the society is narcissistic, but that would also make it less visible TO the society. A good book on sociel narcissism would be “Culture of Narcissism” by Christopher Lasch, which is quite an indictment of American society.    Thanks : )
mike S       

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 14, 2008, 1:16 AM:             

  Hey Mike!  I’m not really in disagreement with you.  I just like to complicate
things. I was reading that research shows that Japanese are more self-critical. 
Self-criticalness intuitively seems quite opposite from Narcissism.  But I also
noticed that in an articleabout narcissism that strong self-criticism is
sometimes seen in relationship to strong self-regard.  I came across the view
that it might be helpful to separate two types of narcissism.  One more overt
and what is typically thought of as narcissism, but the other more hidden. 
Here is a paper that speaks about narcissism amongst Japanese being more
of the latter type:          

That paper also points out how narcissism relates to dependence.  Its not 
that  narcissists think only about themselves but that they think too much
about how others think about them.  They need confirmation of their own
self-regard.  Its the need for social acceptance that can lead to the
self-criticalness when they don’t live up to those externalized expectations.            

Of course, narcissism is very different in various populations.  The narcissism
of politicians is probably quite different than narcissism of prisoners, and the
narcissism of both of those populations probably would be quite different than 
narcissism amongst more average people.            

As a different perspective, here is an book excerpt about the relationship
between personality traits and narcissism:    

p. 234: One of the facets of FFM antagonism is arrogance, the central
trait of NPD (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, Millon et al., 1996). 
An advantage of the FFM dimensional classification of personaity disorder
though is the ability to distinguish between arrogant persons who are high
versus low in neuroticism. A longstanding concern within the clinical
literature on narcissism is the distinction between narcissistic
persons who
are consistently self-confident, arrogant, andconceited (what
Ronningstam, 2005, describes as the “arrogant narcissit”) versus the
narcissistic person who is quite insecure and self-conscious (the
“shy narcissist”; Ronningstam, 2005). The dimensional perspective of the
FFM would not create subtypes of a diagnostic category to address the
considerable variation that does occur, but would simply describe the
extent to which a person high in arrogance is also low in the anxiousness,
self-consciousness, and vulnerability facets of neuroticism. Further
distinctions would be provided by the extent to which the person is low in
extraversion (the shy narcissist) versus high in extraversion (the outgoing,
interpersonally engaging narcissist), or high in conscientiousness
(the narcissist who is relatively successful in school, college, and career).

And here is narcissistic personality disorder translated into FFM traits:    

High Neuroticism
Chronic negative affects, including anxiety, fearfulness, tension,
irritability, anger, dejection, hopelessness, guilt, shame; difficulty in inhibiting
impulses: for example, to eat, drink, or spend money; irrational beliefs: for
example, unrealistic expectations,perfectionistic demands on self,
unwarranted pessimism; unfounded somatic concerns; helplessness and
dependence on others for emotional support and decision making.             

High Extraversion
Excessive talking, leading to inappropriate self-disclosure and social
friction; inability to spend time alone; attention seeking and overly dramatic
expression of emotions; reckless excitement seeking; inappropriate attempts to
dominate and control others.        

Low Openness
Difficulty adapting to social or personal change; low tolerance or
understanding of different points of view or lifestyles; emotional blandness and
inability to understand and verbalize own feelings; alexythymia; constricted range
of interests; insensitivity to art and beauty; excessive conformity to authority.             

Low Agreeableness
Cynicism and paranoid thinking; inability to trust even friends or family;
quarrelsomeness; too ready to pick fights; exploitive and manipulative; lying; rude
and inconsiderate manner alienates friends, limits social support; lack of respect for
social conventions can lead to troubles with the law; inflated and grandiose sense of
self; arrogance.             

Low Conscientiousness
Underachievement: not fulfilling intellectual or artistic potential; poor
performance relative to ability; disregard of rules and responsibilities can
lead to
trouble with the law; unable to discipline self (e.g., stick to diet, exercise plan)
even when required for medical reasons; personal and occupational aimlessness.


Here are some other links that interested me:         …-a070739740             



Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

mikeS said Oct 14, 2008, 5:39 AM:             

  Whoa! Marm,You are ‘researcher extraordinaire’!  In addition, I did not necessarily perceive you as disagreeing or agreeing. The point is achieving synthesis through the ongoing dialogue. I only feel disappointed if my posts stimulate NO discussion (I think you have said as much before).The point of ALL my posts, blog and threads, is to either initiate discussion, for OR against, and continue it possibly toward such a synthesis. I have not cornered the market on knowledge, nor am I narcissistically certain of anything (neat how I slid that in!)   You seem to have deconstructed the DSM-IV Narcissistic classification. I love deconstructing accepted beliefs and although I have not heard of FFM It certainly looks credible (although i do take issue with the old freudian term “neuroticism” which is rarely used in clinical circles due to its being so nebulous).    

The narcissism of politicians is probably quite different than narcissism of prisoners, and the narcissism of both of those populations probably would be quite different than narcissism amongst more average people.




disorder shine brightly as the prison environment lends itself to that presentation.  narcississtichis disorder in politics, but as soon as we put him behind bars we would see his  demonstrateon environmental factors. In other words, the same narcissist would covertly  be dependent psychosocial environment. To say that one type is overt and another covert, I believe, would the thebased on  be differentI disagree in that the “narcissism” would be the same, however, the behaviors would          



japanese narcissism, but could we posit then a further contrast in that  the narcissism of Japanese culture is much more covert than American? Yet, the narcissism is the same psychological phenomenon, only tailored to the cultural norms?   regardingI have not yet read the link you provided         


I will look over the links you have provided since they seem highly informative.    



However, my general point from the previous posts was that we could see, if we know what to look for, Narcissism (based on the DSM, but maybe even more adequately based of FFM) in the highest level of politics. My hypothesis was that at the highest level of political functioning, those most deeply afflicted by this disordered personality could be seen. But, again, only if we know what we are looking for and thus, I used the DSM criteria as model. I do feel we need to differentiate between average everyday narcissism, or selfishness, and the narcissism of a disordered personality.       



My suggestion that the disorder is “destroying the world” is related to the idea that if you place a conglomeration of Narcissistically disordered personalities in one big room, say the U.S. Congress for instance, with the intent of making decisions beneficial to the world, most likely nothing will get done and thus the world will gradually devolve into some form of self-destruction. Quite a leap, I know, but that’s my general thesis.
Sometimes I wonder if, in our politically correct society, we have a tendency to water down what are truly dysfunctional personalities. I feel this neither serves well the person nor the society.          



believe me when I say that I genuinely look forward to your complicating things further!! : )             

Peace Angels,
mike S             


Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Nicole said Oct 14, 2008, 9:11 AM:             

  Mike, I too am very pleased at the level of discourse this has generated, with Marmalade and Alan’s input! You guys all rock!I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into that link about the Japanese, seems particularly relevant this week as I’m in the midst of arrangements for the pre-conference activities in early December with my colleagues in Tokyo and surroundings 🙂  Light and peace,   Nicole   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 14, 2008, 3:11 PM:             

  Mike, this comment of yours stood out to me.My suggestion that the disorder is “destroying the world” is related to the idea that if you place a conglomeration of Narcissistically disordered personalities in one big room, say the U.S. Congress for instance, with the intent of making decisions beneficial to the world, most likely nothing will get done and thus the world will gradually devolve into some form of self-destruction. Quite a leap, I know, but that’s my general thesis.

Its always a strange experiment when you stick a bunch of similar people together.  The similarities become magnified.  I first noticed this when visitng type forums.  Put the same type in a single forum and you get weird social dynamics.  Its an educational experience because you quickly discover what distinguishes people amidst their similarities.  I wonder what the social dynamics are in a group of narcissists?  I wouldn’t want to be the observer.  It could get ugly.   Marmalade    

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 14, 2008, 2:13 PM:             

  I just thought of something amusing.I learned about FFM through studying MBTI.  FFM is a popular topic on MBTI forums and there has been correlations made between the two systems.  Both models have been researched on their own, but also some research has been done on how well they correlate.  Here is a paper about this:   FFM Extraversion correlates to MBTI Extraversion
FFM Openness correlates to MBTI Intuition
FFM Agreeableness correlates to MBTI Feeling
FFM Conscientiousness correlates to MBTI Judging    The fifth FFM factor of Neuroticism doesn’t correlate as strongly but does have some correlation to MBTI Introversion.        So, the fun part is if we take the FFM correlation to MBTI (ignoring Neuroticism) and add it to the FFM correlation to Narcissism.  What we get is that the ESTP type correlates to a Narcissistic personality.   The real fun part is looking at the MBTI analysis of politicians.  I’ve looked around at various blogs, articles and forum discussions.  There seems to be a consensus that McCain is an ESTP.          Of course, MBTI focuses on the positive and isn’t designed to understand psychiatric disorders.  But its a fun game to play.  Here is a humorous page about negative descriptions of MBTI types:             

ESTP: The Conman
As an ESTP, you are driven to succeed and to win. Your personality is dominated by your drive to test yourself and to triumph over your fellow man.
This generally expresses itself as an overwhelming urge to prove your self worth (and fatten your wallet) by taking advantage of the suckers, marks, and dupes who surround you–after all, isn’t that what they’re there for? It’s not your fault that their stupidity and gullibility lets them believe you when you say that Hershey’s Kissesses exposed to your patented psychic amplifier rays will let them fly! As your hero and fellow ESTP, P. T. Barnum, once said, “it is morally wrong to let a sucker keep his money.”
As an ESTP, your greatest fear is failure. Under no circumstances will you permit yourself that kind of weakness, which makes you ideally suited for a job at Enron, where your natural talents can be recognized and rewarded.
RECREATION: ESTPs enjoy recreational activities such as card sharking, pool sharking, and conning little old women out of their lives’ savings. They’re often fond of polo as well.          




Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 14, 2008, 2:46 PM:             

  Related to FFM is the SLOAN model that takes the traits and describes all of the possible combinations.  This makes it more of a typology system like the MBTI.  MBTI ESTP translates into 2 SLOAN types:  SCUEN 
(2.9% of women; 3.2% of men) 

not easily hurt, spends more time in group activities than solitary activities, comes alive at parties and in crowds, not very religious, would not want to give up drinking or smoking, not mystical, not big on science fiction, does not care if people think poorly of them, not very introspective, fits in most places, does not like to go days without speaking to people, likes change, trusting, not very intellectual, underachiever, not easily moved to tears, thrill seeker, does not like to compromise, not apologetic, avoids difficult reading material, relaxed most of the time, likes danger, not punctual, impatient, not upset by the misfortunes of strangers, believes in an eye for an eye, not detail oriented, uninterested in the needs of others, avoids responsibilities, not known for generosity, more dominant than submissive, underachiever, likes crowds, aggressive, willing to take risks, not embarrassed easily, not passionate about improving the world, show off, socially comfortable, acts as they please, not bothered by disorder             

(4.5% of women; 2.1% of men)       

quick tempered, thinks winning is no fun unless people know you have one, does not keep emotions under control, prefers to do things with others, emotional, not very intellectual, prone to envy, comes alive in night life activities and crowds, vain, would not be happy if poor, prefers instant gratification, easily hurt, not very introspective, wants to be famous, seductive, does not readily admit mistakes, more comfortable when things are imperfect, would rather spend than save, feels best when others find them physically attractive, materialistic, finds ordinary tasks draining, wants things done their way, overwhelmed by unpleasant feelings frequently, spontaneous, easily frustrated, impatient, low self confidence, prone to jealousy, misbehaves, improper, acts out frustrations on others, opinionated, non known for generosity, more pleasure seeking than responsible, ambivalent regarding the suffering of others, hard to reason with, does not accept what others say, does not value solitude, unpredictable

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Nicole said Oct 15, 2008, 8:26 AM:             

  Thanks, Marmalade, I really enjoyed that link with all the twisted MBTI characters! LOLOL!Thanks too for the SLOAN model, that’s an approach that was new to me. You are a veritable wealth of fascinating information.  Love,   Nicole      

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 15, 2008, 12:50 PM:             

  Yeah, I love that site.  I wonder if it was written by a disgruntled INFP.  The INFP description is not entirely unflattering.  Its good that the INFP population is kept from outgrowing its niche.There are few things that interest me more than personality.  Its researching personality that got me interested in the world wide web.  Its the web is a veritable wealth of fascinating information.  Marmalade   



Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Nicole said Oct 16, 2008, 9:05 AM:             

  I think it’s quite likely that it was a disgruntled INFP, LOL! I especially enjoyed “The Cult Leader”, as an ENFJ :):)Love,  Nicole   

Psychedelic Drugs Medical Treatments

I was surprised to see this video from the mainstream media. It’s a news report about an important topic and they even discuss actual scientific research. Scientists have been researching the effects, uses and benefits of psychedelics off and on for about a half century now, but it’s nice to see the mainstream media finally catching up.

Antidepressants and Placebos

I’ve been diagnosed with depression close to 15 years.  Like anything my mind becomes focused on, I’ve studied to a fair extent the subject of depression and the issues related to it.

Depression is a rather odd phenomena.  In some ways, it’s a socially acceptable mental disease.  Severely depressed people often look and act completely normal.  Unless someone is bi-polar, they won’t have any extremely noticable shifts in mood or behavior.  I know that I’m extremely capable of hiding my depression and no one would know if I didn’t tell them.  And yet it can be severely debilitating.  Because a depressed person may appear completely normal it makes it all the more challenging.  The depressed person can hide their illness which will just make them feel more isolated.  It’s extremely common for people to kill themselves, and afterwards their friends and family didn’t even know the person was unhappy.

It’s in ways just like life in general except magnified.  Depression has become a very popular disease considering how many people are on antidepressants.  In the past, people suffered and that was the way it was.  But I suppose such things as school shootings have made many people realize that private problems easily turn into public problems.  Depression is probably over-diagnosed and it makes sense.  Everyone wants to be happy.

Unfortunately, there is no effective happy pill.  Here are some links about research, analysis, and commentary on the effectiveness of antidepressants:,8599,1717306,00.html

Basically, antidepressants are only significantly effective for the severely depressed and even then it’s questionable.  They help some people, but not most.  Most people taking antidepressants probably might as well be taking sugar pills.

Research, however, is complex.  It’s hard for even research scientists to determine effectiveness.  Simply being involved in research causes a placebo effect.  The doctor is a placebo effect.  The hospital is a placebo effect.  The drug companies themselves are a placebo effect.  Generally speaking, new drugs are the most effective not because of better research but simply because they’re new and their effectiveness lessens the longer they’re on the market.  I’m not saying drugs are useless, but all of this is particularly true for antidepressants.  The drug companies have had a hard time finding antidepressants that work much better than a placebo.  Even considering the best antidepressants, most of the effectiveness comes from the simple placebo effect of being given a pill by a doctor.

This leads to a moral conundrum.  A placebo is probably most effective when someone doesn’t know it’s a placebo (although there is research that shows that even when a doctor tells a patient they gave them a placebo they can still sometimes gain benefit from it, but research also shows that the effect of a placebo goes down after the patient is informed).

Anyways, antidepressants are big business.  If I remember correctly, they are the most widely prescribed of the mental health drugs.  But I doubt doctors tell their patients about the questionable effectiveness of antidepressants before prescribing them.  They do work at least as placebos and so what is the harm?  It’s a moral question and depends on what are your moral values.  Does a doctor have the moral responsibility to always tell the truth?  There are plenty of cases, for example, where someone health quickly diminishes after getting a negative prognosis.  The relationship between doctor and patient isn’t an objective reality.  Most of the help a doctor can offer is simply himself, his presence and authority.

Nonetheless, one of my biggest moral values is truth.  To me, this has more to do with authenticity than honesty per se, but it’s hard to be authentic if you’re not telling the truth.  Can a doctor be authentic in caring about a patient while lying to them?  Is deception appropriate as long as it’s done with paternalistic good intentions?  Basically, should a doctor treat a patient like an equal human being or like a child?

Many people would say it doesn’t matter.  A doctor should do whatever helps.  The problem is that it isn’t always clear.  Deception can have negative effects if, for instance, a patient discovers the deception.  If the patient loses faith in the doctor or in doctors in general, then the whole placebo effect goes out the window.

Even this post brings up a moral issue.  Any person who reads this, will likely have an increase in doubts towards the effectiveness of drugs.  Placebos are given to patients all of the time without the patients knowing.  How do you actually know anything your doctor prescribes for you is actually an active drug?  You don’t.  And even if you’re taking a real anti-depressant, it might be no different from a sugar pill.  A depressed person who learns of these facts will probably experience less effective treatment by being prescribed antidepressants.  This post itself is a nocebo.