What is the Paranoia Network?

Introduction

The Paranoia Network, founded in November 2003, is a self-help user-run organisation in Sheffield, England, for people who have paranoid or delusional beliefs.

Background

In contrast to mainstream psychiatry, that tends to see such beliefs as signs of psychopathology, the Paranoia Network promotes a philosophy of living with unusual and compelling beliefs, without necessarily pathologising them as signs of mental illness. It was partly inspired by the Hearing Voices Network’s approach to auditory hallucinations.

What would otherwise seem to be a relatively minor disagreement over theory is complicated by the fact that people diagnosed as delusional can often be detained under mental health law and treated without their consent. Therefore, many of the criticisms of the diagnosis or definition have important ethical and political implications, which often leads to heated public debate.

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Who was Philippe Pinel?

Introduction

Philippe Pinel (20 April 1745 to 25 October 1826) was a French physician, precursor of psychiatry and incidentally a zoologist.

He was instrumental in the development of a more humane psychological approach to the custody and care of psychiatric patients, referred to today as moral therapy. He worked for the abolition of the shackling of mental patients by chains and, more generally, for the humanisation of their treatment. He also made notable contributions to the classification of mental disorders and has been described by some as “the father of modern psychiatry”.

After the French Revolution, Dr. Pinel changed the way we look at the crazy (or “aliénés”, “alienated” in English) by claiming that they can be understood and cured. An 1809 description of a case that Pinel recorded in the second edition of his textbook on insanity is regarded by some as the earliest evidence for the existence of the form of mental disorder later known as dementia praecox or schizophrenia, although Emil Kraepelin is generally accredited with its first conceptualisation.

“Father of modern psychiatry”, he was credited with the first classification of mental illnesses. He had a great influence on psychiatry and the treatment of the alienated in Europe and the United States.

Early Life

Pinel was born in Jonquières, the South of France, in the modern department of Tarn. He was the son and nephew of physicians. After receiving a degree from the faculty of medicine in Toulouse, he studied an additional four years at the Faculty of Medicine of Montpellier. He arrived in Paris in 1778.

He spent fifteen years earning his living as a writer, translator, and editor because the restrictive regulations of the old regime prevented him from practicing medicine in Paris. The faculty did not recognize a degree from a provincial university like Toulouse. He failed twice in a competition which would have awarded him funds to continue his studies. In the second competition, the jury stressed his ‘painful’ mediocrity in all areas of medical knowledge, an assessment seemingly so grossly incompatible with his later intellectual accomplishments that political motives have been suggested. Discouraged, Pinel considered emigrating to America. In 1784 he became editor of the medical journal the Gazette de santé, a four-page weekly. He was also known among natural scientists as a regular contributor to the Journal de physique. He studied mathematics, translated medical works into French, and undertook botanical expeditions.

At about this time he began to develop an intense interest in the study of mental illness. The incentive was a personal one. A friend had developed a ‘nervous melancholy’ that had ‘degenerated into mania’ and resulted in suicide. What Pinel regarded as an unnecessary tragedy due to gross mismanagement seems to have haunted him. It led him to seek employment at one of the best-known private sanatoria for the treatment of insanity in Paris. He remained there for five years prior to the Revolution, gathering observations on insanity and beginning to formulate his views on its nature and treatment.

Pinel was an Ideologue, a disciple of the abbé de Condillac. He was also a clinician who believed that medical truth was derived from clinical experience. Hippocrates was his model.

During the 1780s, Pinel was invited to join the salon of Madame Helvétius. He was in sympathy with the French Revolution. After the revolution, friends he had met at Madame Helvétius’ salon came to power. In August 1793 Pinel was appointed “physician of the infirmeries” at Bicêtre Hospital. At the time it housed about four thousand imprisoned men – criminals, petty offenders, syphilitics, pensioners and about two hundred mental patients. Pinel’s patrons hoped that his appointment would lead to therapeutic initiatives. His experience at the private sanatoria made him a good candidate for the job.

The Bicêtre and Salpêtrière

Soon after his appointment to Bicêtre Hospital, Pinel became interested in the seventh ward where 200 mentally ill men were housed. He asked for a report on these inmates. A few days later, he received a table with comments from the “governor” Jean-Baptiste Pussin. In the 1770s Pussin had been successfully treated for scrofula at Bicêtre; and, following a familiar pattern, he was eventually recruited, along with his wife, Marguerite Jubline, on to the staff of the hospice.

Appreciating Pussin’s outstanding talent, Pinel virtually apprenticed himself to that unschooled but experienced custodian of the insane. His purpose in doing this was to “enrich the medical theory of mental illness with all the insights that the empirical approach affords”. What he observed was a strict nonviolent, nonmedical management of mental patients that came to be called moral treatment or moral management, though psychological might be a more accurate term.

Although Pinel always gave Pussin the credit he deserved, a legend grew up about Pinel single-handedly liberating the insane from their chains at Bicetre. This legend has been commemorated in paintings and prints, and has lived on for 200 years and is repeated in textbooks. In fact, it was Pussin who removed the iron shackles (but sometimes using straitjackets) at Bicêtre in 1797, after Pinel had left for the Salpêtrière. Pinel did remove the chains from patients at the Salpêtrière three years later, after Pussin joined him there. There is some suggestion that the Bicetre myth was actually deliberately fabricated by Pinel’s son, Dr Scipion Pinel, along with Pinel’s foremost pupil, Dr Esquirol. The argument is that they were ‘solidists’, which meant then something akin to biological psychiatry with a focus on brain disease, and were embarrassed by Pinel’s focus on psychological processes. In addition, unlike Philippe, they were both royalists.

While at Bicêtre, Pinel did away with bleeding, purging, and blistering in favour of a therapy that involved close contact with and careful observation of patients. Pinel visited each patient, often several times a day, and took careful notes over two years. He engaged them in lengthy conversations. His objective was to assemble a detailed case history and a natural history of the patient’s illness.

In 1795, Pinel became chief physician of the Hospice de la Salpêtrière, a post that he retained for the rest of his life. The Salpêtrière was, at the time, like a large village, with seven thousand elderly indigent and ailing women, an entrenched bureaucracy, a teeming market and huge infirmaries. Pinel missed Pussin and in 1802 secured his transfer to the Salpêtrière. It has also been noted that a Catholic nursing order actually undertook most of the day to day care and understanding of the patients at Salpêtrière, and there were sometimes power struggles between Pinel and the nurses.

Pinel created an inoculation clinic in his service at the Salpêtrière in 1799, and the first vaccination in Paris was given there in April 1800.

In 1795 Pinel had also been appointed as a professor of medical pathology, a chair that he held for twenty years. He was briefly dismissed from this position in 1822, with ten other professors, suspected of political liberalism, but reinstated as an honorary professor shortly thereafter.

A statue in honour of Pinel now stands outside the Salpêtrière.

Publications

In 1794 Pinel made public his essay ‘Memoir on Madness’, recently called a fundamental text of modern psychiatry. In it Pinel makes the case for the careful psychological study of individuals over time, points out that insanity is not always continuous, and calls for more humanitarian asylum practices.

In 1798 Pinel published an authoritative classification of diseases in his Nosographie philosophique ou méthode de l’analyse appliquée à la médecine. Although he is properly considered one of the founders of psychiatry, this book also establishes him as the last great nosologist of the eighteenth century. While the Nosographie appears completely dated today, it was so popular in its time that it went through six editions between its initial publication and 1818. Pinel based his nosology on ideas of William Cullen, employing the same biologically-inspired terminology of ‘genera’ and ‘species’ of disorder. Pinel’s classification of mental disorder simplified Cullen’s ‘neuroses’ down to four basic types of mental disorder: melancholia, mania (insanity), dementia, and idiotism. Later editions added forms of ‘partial insanity’ where only that of feelings which seem to be affected rather than reasoning ability.

The first mental derangement is called melancholia. The symptoms are described as “taciturnity, a thoughtful pensive air, gloomy suspicions, and a love of solitude.” It is noted that Tiberius and Louis XI were subjected to this temperament. Louis was characterised by the imbalance between the state of bitterness and passion, gloom, love of solitude, and the embarrassment of artistic talents. However, Louis and Tiberius were similar in that they both were deceitful and planned a delusional trip to military sites. Eventually both were exiled, one to the Isle of Rhodes and the other to a province of Belgium. People with melancholia are often immersed with one idea that their whole attention is fixated on. On one hand they stay reserved for many years, withholding friendships and affection while on the other, there are some who make reasonable judgment and overcome the gloomy state.  Melancholia can also express itself in polar opposite forms. The first is distinguished by an exalted sense of self-importance and unrealistic expectations such as attaining riches and power. The second form is marked by deep despair and great depression.  Overall individuals with melancholia generally do not display acts of violence, though they may find it wildly fanciful. Depression and anxiety occurs habitually as well as frequent moroseness of character.  Pinel remarks that melancholia can be explained by drunkenness, abnormalities in the structure of the skull, trauma in the skull, conditions of the skin, various psychological causes such as household disasters and religious extremism, and in women, menstruation and menopause. 

The second mental derangement is called mania without delirium. It is described as madness independent of a disorder that impairs the intellectual faculties. The symptoms are described as perverse and disobedient.  An instance where this type of species of mental derangement occurs where a mechanic, who was confined at the Asylum de Bicetre, experienced violent outbursts of maniacal fury. The paroxysms consisted of a burning sensation located in the abdominal area that was accompanied by constipation and thirst. The symptom spread to the chest, neck, and face area. When it reached the temples, the pulsation of the arteries increased in those areas. The brain was affected to some length but nonetheless, the patient was able to reason and cohere to his ideas. One time the mechanic experienced furious paroxysm at his own house where he warned his wife to flee to avoid death. He also experienced the same periodical fury at the asylum where he plotted against the governor.  The specific character of mania without delirium is that it can either be perpetual or sporadic. However, there was no reasonable change in the cognitive functions of the brain; only pervasive thoughts of fury and a blind tendency to acts of violence.

The third mental derangement is called mania with delirium. It is mainly characterised by indulgence and fury, and affects cognitive functions. Sometimes it may be distinguished by a carefree, gay humour that can venture off path in incoherent and absurd suggestions. Other times it can be distinguished by prideful and imaginary claims to grandeur. Prisoners of this species are highly delusional. For example, they would proclaim having fought an important battle, or witness the prophet Mohammad conjuring wrath in the name of the Almighty. Some declaim ceaselessly with no evidence of things seen or heard while others saw illusions of objects in various forms and colours. Delirium sometimes persists with some degree of frenzied uproar for a period of years, but it can also be constant and the paroxysm of fury repeat at different intervals. The specific character of mania with delirium is the same as mania without delirium in the sense that it can either be continued or cyclical with regular or irregular paroxysms. It is marked by strong nervous excitement, accompanied by a deficit of one or more of the functions of the cognitive abilities with feelings of liveliness, depression or fury.

The fourth mental derangement is called dementia, or otherwise known as the abolition of thinking. The characteristics include thoughtlessness, extreme incorrectness, and wild abnormalities. For instance, a man who had been educated on the ancient nobility was marching on about the beginning of the revolution. He moved restlessly about the house, talking endlessly and shouting passionately on insignificant reasons. Dementia is usually accompanied by raging and rebellious movement, by a quick succession of ideas formed in the mind, and by passionate feelings that are felt and forgotten without attributing it to objects.  Those who are in captive of dementia have lost their memory, even those attributed to their loved ones. Their only memory consists of those in the past. They forget instantaneously things in the present – seen heard or done. Many are irrational because the ideas do not flow coherently.  The characteristic properties of dementia are that there is no judgment value and the ideas are spontaneous with no connection.  The specific character of dementia contains a rapid progression or continual succession of isolated ideas, forgetfulness of previous condition, repetitive acts of exaggeration, decreased responsiveness to external influence, and complete lack of judgement.

The fifth and last mental derangement is called idiotism, or otherwise known as “obliteration of the intellectual faculties and affections.”  This disorder is derived from a variety of causes, such as extravagant and debilitating delight, alcohol abuse, deep sorrow, diligent study, aggressive blows to the head, tumours in the brain, and loss of consciousness due to blockage in vein or artery. Idiotism embodies a variety of forms. One such form is called Cretinism, which is a kind of idiotism that is relative to personal abnormalities. It is well known in the Valais and in parts of Switzerland.   Most people who belong in this group are either deficient in speech or limited to the inarticulate utterances of sounds. Their expressions are emotionless, senses are dazed and motions are mechanical. Idiots also constitute the largest number of patients at hospitals. Individuals who have acute responsiveness can experience a violent shock to the extreme that all the activities of the brain can either be arrested in an action or eradicated completely. Unexpected happiness and exaggerated fear may likely occur as a result of a violent shock.  As mentioned previously, idiotism is the most common among hospital patients and is incurable. At the Bicetre asylum, these patients constitute one fourth of the entire population. Many die after a few days of arrival, having been reduced to states of stupor and weakness. However, some who recover with the progressive regeneration of their strength also regain their intellectual capabilities. Many of the young people that have remained in the state of idiotism for several months or years are attacked by a spasm of active mania between twenty and thirty days.  The specific character of idiotism includes partial or complete extermination of the intellect and affections, apathy, disconnected, inarticulate sounds or impairment of speech, and nonsensical outbursts of passion.

In his book Traité médico-philosophique sur l’aliénation mentale; ou la manie, published in 1801, Pinel discusses his psychologically oriented approach. This book was translated into English by D.D. Davis as a Treatise on Insanity in 1806, although Davis substituted Pinel’s introduction for his own, leaving out among other things Pinel’s strong praise for Alexander Crichton. Pinel’s book had an enormous influence on both French and Anglo-American psychiatrists during the nineteenth century. He meant by alienation that the patient feels like a stranger (alienus) to the world of the ‘sane’. A sympathetic therapist living in that world might be able to journey into the patient’s experience, understand the ‘alienated’, their language, and possibly lead them back into society.

In 1802 Pinel published La Médecine Clinique which was based on his experiences at the Salpêtrière and in which he extended his previous book on classification and disease.

Pinel was elected to the Académie des Sciences in 1804 and was a member of the Académie de Médecine from its founding in 1820. He died in Paris on 25 October 1826.

Clinical Approach

Psychological Understanding

The central and ubiquitous theme of Pinel’s approach to aetiology (causation) and treatment was “moral,” meaning the emotional or the psychological not ethical. He observed and documented the subtleties and nuances of human experience and behaviour, conceiving of people as social animals with imagination.

Pinel noted, for example, that:

“being held in esteem, having honor, dignity, wealth, fame, which though they may be factitious, always distressing and rarely fully satisfied, often give way to the overturning of reason”.

He spoke of avarice, pride, friendship, bigotry, the desire for reputation, for conquest, and vanity. He noted that a state of love could turn to fury and desperation, and that sudden severe reversals in life, such as “from the pleasure of success to an overwhelming idea of failure, from a dignified state—or the belief that one occupies one—to a state of disgrace and being forgotten” can cause mania or ‘mental alienation’. He identified other predisposing psychosocial factors such as an unhappy love affair, domestic grief, devotion to a cause carried to the point of fanaticism, religious fear, the events of the revolution, violent and unhappy passions, exalted ambitions of glory, financial reverses, religious ecstasy, and outbursts of patriotic fervour.

Treatments

Pinel developed specific practical techniques, rather than general concepts and assumptions. He engaged in therapeutic conversations to dissuade patients from delusions. He offered benevolent support and encouragement, although patients who persistently resisted or caused trouble might be threatened with incarceration or punishment if they were not able to control themselves.

Pinel argued that psychological intervention must be tailored to each individual rather than be based solely on the diagnostic category, and that it must be grounded in an understanding of the person’s own perspective and history. He noted that “the treatment of insanity (l’aliénation mentale) without considering the differentiating characteristics of the patients [la distinction des espèces] has been at times superfluous, rarely useful, and often harmful”, describing the partial or complete failures of some psychological approaches, as well as the harm that the usual cruel and harsh treatments caused to patients before they came to his hospital. He saw improvement as often resulting from natural forces within the patient, an improvement that treatment could at best facilitate and at worst interfere with.

Pinel’s approach to medical treatments has been described as ambiguous, complex, and ambivalent. He insisted that psychological techniques should always be tried first, for example:

“even where a violent and destructive maniac could be calmed by a single dose of an antispasmodic [he referred to opium], observation teaches that in a great number of cases, one can obtain a sure and permanent cure by the sole method of expectation, leaving the insane man to his tumultuous excitement… …and [furthermore] seeing, again and again, the unexpected resources of nature left to itself or wisely guided, has rendered me more and more cautious with regard to the use of medications, which I no longer employ—except when the insufficiencies of psychological means have been proven.”

For those cases regarded as psychologically incurable, Pinel would employ baths, showers, opium, camphor and other antispasmodics, as well as vesicants, cauterisation, and bloodletting in certain limited cases only. He also recommended the use of laxatives for the prevention of nervous excitement and relapse.

Pinel often traced mental states to physiological states of the body, and in fact could be said to have practiced psychosomatic medicine. In general, Pinel traced organic causes to the gastrointestinal system and peripheral nervous system more often than to brain dysfunction. This was consistent with his rarely finding gross brain pathology in his post-mortem examinations of psychiatric patients, and his view that such findings that were reported could be correlational rather than causative

Management

Pinel was concerned with a balance between control by authority and individual liberty. He believed in “the art of subjugating and taming the insane” and the effectiveness of “a type of apparatus of fear, of firm and consistent opposition to their dominating and stubbornly held ideas”, but that it must be proportional and motivated only by a desire to keep order and to bring people back to themselves. The straitjacket and a period of seclusion were the only sanctioned punishments. Based on his observations, he believed that those who were considered most dangerous and carried away by their ideas had often been made so by the blows and bad treatment they had received, and that it could be ameliorated by providing space, kindness, consolation, hope, and humour.

Because of the dangers and frustrations that attendants experienced in their work, Pinel put great emphasis on the selection and supervision of attendants in order to establish a custodial setting dedicated to norms of constraint and liberty that would facilitate psychological work. He recommended that recovered patients be employed, arguing that “They are the ones who are most likely to refrain from all inhumane treatment, who will not strike even in retaliation, who can stand up to pleading, menaces, repetitive complaining, etc. and retain their inflexible firmness.” Pinel also emphasized the necessity for leadership that was “thoughtful, philanthropic, courageous, physically imposing, and inventive in the development of manoeuvres or tactics to distract, mollify, and impress” and “devoted to the concept of order without violence”, so that patients are “led most often with kindness, but always with an inflexible firmness.” He noted that his ex-patient and superintendent Pussin had showed him the way in this regard, and had also often been better placed to work with patients and develop techniques due to his greater experience and detailed knowledge of the patients as individuals.

Moral Judgements

Pinel generally expressed warm feelings and respect for his patients, as exemplified by: “I cannot but give enthusiastic witness to their moral qualities. Never, except in romances, have I seen spouses more worthy to be cherished, more tender fathers, passionate lovers, purer or more magnanimous patriots, than I have seen in hospitals for the insane, in their intervals of reasonableness and calm; a man of sensibility may go there any day and take pleasure in scenes of compassion and tenderness”. He argued that otherwise positive character traits could cause a person to be vulnerable to the distressing vicissitudes of life, for example “those persons endowed with a warmth of imagination and a depth of sensitivity, who are capable of experiencing powerful and intense emotions, [since it is they] who are most predisposed to mania”.

Pinel distanced himself from religious views, and in fact considered that excessive religiosity could be harmful.

However, he sometimes took a moral stance himself as to what he considered to be mentally healthy and socially appropriate. Moreover, he sometimes showed a condemnatory tone toward what he considered personal failings or vice, for example noting in 1809: “On one side one sees families which thrive over a course of many years, in the bosom of order and concord, on the other one sees many others, especially in the lower social classes, who offend the eye with the repulsive picture of debauchery, arguments, and shameful distress!”. He goes on to describe this as the most prolific source of alienation needing treatment, adding that while some such examples were a credit to the human race many others are “a disgrace to humanity!”

Influence

Pinel is generally seen as the physician who more than any other transformed the concept of ‘the mad’ into that of patients needing care and understanding, establishing a field that would eventually be called psychiatry. His legacy included improvement of asylum conditions; broadly psychosocial (incl. milieu) therapeutic approaches; history-taking; nosography (the science of the description of syndromes); broadly-numerical assessments of courses of illness and treatment responses; and a record of clinical teaching.

Pinel’s actions took place in the context of the Enlightenment, and a number of others were also reforming asylums along humanitarian lines. For example, Vincenzo Chiarugi, in the 1780s in Italy, removed metal chains from patients but did not enjoy the same renown bestowed on the more explicitly humanitarian Pinel who was so visible from late 18th century revolutionary France. In France, Joseph D’Aquin in Chambéry permitted patients to move about freely and published a book in 1791 urging humanitarian reforms, dedicating the second edition in 1804 to Pinel. The movement as a whole become known as moral treatment or moral management, and influenced asylum development and psychological approaches throughout the Western world.

Pinel’s most important contribution may have been the observation and conviction that there could be sanity and rationality even in cases that seemed on the surface impossible to understand, and that this could appear for periods in response to surrounding events (and not just because of such things as the phase of the moon, a still common assumption and the origin of the term lunatic). The influential philosopher Hegel praised Pinel for this approach.

The right psychical treatment therefore keeps in view the truth that insanity is not an abstract loss of reason (neither in the point of intelligence nor of will and its responsibility), but only derangement, only a contradiction in a still subsisting reason; – just as physical disease is not an abstract, i.e. mere and total, loss of health (if it were that, it would be death), but a contradiction in it. This humane treatment, no less benevolent than reasonable (the services of Pinel towards which deserve the highest acknowledgement), presupposes the patient’s rationality, and in that assumption has the sound basis for dealing with him on this side – just as in the case of bodily disease the physician bases his treatment on the vitality which as such still contains health.

Pinel also started a trend for diagnosing forms of insanity that seemed to occur ‘without delerium’ (confusion, delusions or hallucinations). Pinel called this Manie sans délire, folie raisonnante or folie lucide raisonnante. He described cases who seemed to be overwhelmed by instinctive furious passions but still seemed sane. This was influential in leading to the concept of moral insanity, which became an accepted diagnosis through the second half of the 19th century. Pinel’s main psychiatric heir, Esquirol, built on Pinel’s work and popularised various concepts of monomania.

However, Pinel was also criticised and rejected in some quarters. A new generation favoured pathological anatomy, seeking to locate mental disorders in brain lesions. Pinel undertook comparisons of skull sizes, and considered possible physiological substrates, but he was criticised for his emphasis on psychology and the social environment. Opponents were bolstered by the discovery of tertiary syphilis as the cause of some mental disorder. Pinel’s humanitarian achievements were emphasized and mythologised instead.

With increasing industrialisation, asylums generally became overcrowded, misused, isolated and run-down. The moral treatment principles were often neglected along with the patients. There was recurrent debate over the use of psychological-social oppression even if some physical forces were removed. By the mid-19th century in England, the Alleged Lunatics’ Friend Society was proclaiming the moral treatment approach was achieved “by mildness and coaxing, and by solitary confinement”, treating people like children without rights to make their own decisions.

Similarly in the mid-20th century, Foucault’s influential book, Madness and Civilisation: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, also known as History of Madness, focused on Pinel, along with Tuke, as the driving force behind a shift from physical to mental oppression. Foucault argued that the approach simply meant that patients were ignored and verbally isolated, and were worse off than before. They were made to see madness in others and then in themselves until they felt guilt and remorse. The doctor, despite his lack of medical knowledge about the underlying processes, had all powers of authority, and defined insanity. Foucault also suggested that a focus on the rights of patients at Bicetre was partly due to revolutionary concerns that it housed and chained victims of arbitrary or political power, or alternatively that it might be enabling refuge for anti-revolutionary suspects, as well as just ‘the mad’.

Scull argues that the “…manipulations and ambiguous ‘kindness’ of Tuke and Pinel…” may nevertheless have been preferable to the harsh coercion and physical “treatments” of previous generations, though he does recognise its “…less benevolent aspects and its latent potential … for deterioration into a repressive form….” Some have criticised the process of deinstitutionalisation that took place in the 20th century and called for a return to Pinel’s approach, so as not to underestimate the needs that mentally ill people might have for protection and care.

What is the Myth of Mental Illness (Book)

Introduction

The Myth of Mental Illness 1961
The Myth of Mental Illness 1961.

The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct is a 1961 book by the psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, in which the author criticises psychiatry and argues against the concept of mental illness.

It received much publicity, and has become a classic, well known as an argument that “mentally ill” is a label which psychiatrists have used against people “disabled by living” rather than truly having a disease.

Refer to:

  • Game theory: For Szasz, mental illness is best understood through the lens of game theory
  • Neurodiversity: A belief of promoting the acceptance of numerous different brain types typically considered to be mental disorders or illnesses by the scientific community

Background

Szasz writes that he became interested in writing The Myth of Mental Illness in approximately 1950, when, having become established as a psychiatrist, he became convinced that the concept of mental illness was vague and unsatisfactory. He began work on the book in 1954, when he was relieved of the burdens of a full-time psychiatric practice by being called to active duty in the navy. Later in the 1950s, it was rejected by the first publisher to whom Szasz submitted the manuscript. Szasz next sent the manuscript to Paul Hoeber, director of the medical division of Harper & Brothers, who arranged for it to be published.

Summary

Szasz argues that it does not make sense to classify psychological problems as diseases or illnesses, and that speaking of “mental illness” involves a logical or conceptual error. In his view, the term “mental illness” is an inappropriate metaphor and there are no true illnesses of the mind. His position has been characterised as involving a rigid distinction between the physical and the mental.

The legitimacy of psychiatry is questioned by Szasz, who compares it to alchemy and astrology, and argues that it offends the values of autonomy and liberty. Szasz believes that the concept of mental illness is not only logically absurd but has harmful consequences: instead of treating cases of ethical or legal deviation as occasions when a person should be taught personal responsibility, attempts are made to “cure” the deviants, for example by giving them tranquilisers. Psychotherapy is regarded by Szasz as useful not to help people recover from illnesses, but to help them “learn about themselves, others, and life.” Discussing Jean-Martin Charcot and hysteria, Szasz argues that hysteria is an emotional problem and that Charcot’s patients were not really ill.

Reception

The Myth of Mental Illness received much publicity, quickly became a classic, and made Szasz a prominent figure. The book was reviewed in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Psychosomatic Medicine, Archives of General Psychiatry, Clinical Psychology Review, and Psychologies. Published at a vulnerable moment for psychiatry, when Freudian theorizing was just beginning to fall out of favour and the field was trying to become more medically oriented and empirically based, the book provided an intellectual foundation for mental patient advocates and anti-psychiatry activists. It became well known in the mental health professions and was favourably received by those sceptical of modern psychiatry, but placed Szasz in conflict with many doctors. Soon after The Myth of Mental Illness was published, the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene demanded, in a letter citing the book, that Szasz be dismissed from his university position because he did not accept the concept of mental illness.

The philosopher Karl Popper, in a 1961 letter to Szasz, called the book admirable and fascinating, adding that, “It is a most important book, and it marks a real revolution.” The psychiatrist David Cooper wrote that The Myth of Mental Illness, like the psychiatrist R.D. Laing’s The Divided Self (1960), proved stimulating in the development of anti-psychiatry, though he noted that neither book is itself an anti-psychiatric work. He described Szasz’s work as “a decisive, carefully documented demystification of psychiatric diagnostic labelling in general.” Socialist author Peter Sedgwick, writing in 1982, commented that in The Myth of Mental Illness, Szasz expounded a “game-playing model of social interaction” which is “zestful and insightful” but “neither particularly uncommon nor particularly iconoclastic by the standards of recent social-psychological theorising.” Sedgwick argued that many of Szasz’s observations are valuable regardless of the validity of Szasz’s rejection of the concept of mental illness, and could easily be accepted by psychotherapists. Although agreeing with Szasz that the assignation of mental illness could undermine individual responsibility, he noted that this did not constitute an objection to the concept itself.

The philosopher Michael Ruse called Szasz the most forceful proponent of the thesis that mental illness is a myth. However, while sympathetic to Szasz, he considered his case over-stated. Ruse criticized Szasz’s arguments on several grounds, maintaining that while the concepts of disease and illness were originally applied only to the physiological realm, they can properly be extended to the mind, and there is no logical absurdity involved in doing so. Kenneth Lewes wrote that The Myth of Mental Illness is the most notable example of the “critique of the institutions of psychiatry and psychoanalysis” that occurred as part of the “general upheaval of values in the 1960s”, though he saw the work as less profound than Michel Foucault’s Madness and Civilization (1961).

The psychiatrist Peter Breggin called The Myth of Mental Illness a seminal work. The author Richard Webster described the book as a well known argument against the tendency of psychiatrists to label people who are “disabled by living” as mentally ill. He observed that while some of Szasz’s arguments are similar to his, he disagreed with Szasz’s view that hysteria was an emotional problem and that Charcot’s patients were not genuinely mentally ill. The lawyer Linda Hirshman wrote that while few psychiatrists adopted the views Szasz expounded in The Myth of Mental Illness, the book helped to encourage a revision of their diagnostic and therapeutic claims. The historian Lillian Faderman called the book the most notable attack on psychiatry published in the 1960s, adding that “Szasz’s insights and critiques would prove invaluable to the homophile movement.”

What is GROW (Support Group)?

Introduction

GROW is a peer support and mutual-aid organisation for recovery from, and prevention of, serious mental illness. GROW was founded in Sydney, Australia in 1957 by Father Cornelius B. “Con” Keogh, a Roman Catholic priest, and psychiatric patients who sought help with their mental illness in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

Consequently, GROW adapted many of AA’s principles and practices. As the organisation matured, GROW members learned of Recovery International, an organisation also created to help people with serious mental illness, and integrated pieces of its will-training methods. As of 2005 there were more than 800 GROW groups active worldwide. GROW groups are open to anyone who would like to join, though they specifically seek out those who have a history of psychiatric hospitalisation or are socioeconomically disadvantaged. Despite the capitalisation, GROW is not an acronym. Much of GROW’s initial development was made possible with support from Orval Hobart Mowrer, Reuben F. Scarf, W. Clement Stone and Lions Clubs International.

Processes

GROW’s literature includes the Twelve Stages of Decline, which indicate that emotional illness begins with self-centeredness, and the Twelve Steps of Personal Growth, a blend of AA’s Twelve Steps and will-training methods from Recovery International. GROW members view recovery as an ongoing life process rather than an outcome and are expected to continue following the Steps after completing them in order to maintain their mental health.

The Twelve Stages of Decline

  1. We gave too much importance to ourselves and our feelings.
  2. We grew inattentive to God’s presence and providence and God’s natural order in our lives.
  3. We let competitive motives, in our dealings with others, prevail over our common personal welfare.
  4. We expressed our suppressed certain feelings against the better judgement of conscience or sound advice.
  5. We began thinking in isolation from others, following feelings and imagination instead of reason.
  6. We neglected the care and control of our bodies.
  7. We avoided recognising our personal decline and shrank from the task of changing.
  8. We systematically disguised in our imaginations the real nature of our unhealthy conduct.
  9. We became a prey to obsessions, delusions and hallucinations.
  10. We practised irrational habits, under elated feelings of irresponsibility or despairing feelings of inability or compulsion.
  11. We rejected advice and refused to co-operate with help.
  12. We lost all insight into our condition.

The Twelve Steps of Recovery and Personal Growth

  1. We admitted to personal disorder in our lives.
  2. We firmly resolved to restore order in our lives and co-operated with the help that we needed.
  3. We surrendered to the healing power God or We surrendered to the healing power of truth.
  4. We made personal inventory and accepted ourselves.
  5. We made moral inventory and cleaned out our hearts.
  6. We endured until ‘cured’.
  7. We took care and control of our bodies.
  8. We learned to think by reason rather than by feelings and imagination.
  9. We trained our wills to regulate our feelings.
  10. We took our responsible and caring place in the wider community.
  11. We grew daily closer to maturity.
  12. We carried GROW’s hopeful, healing, and transforming message to others in need.

GROW suggests atheists and agnostics use “We became inattentive to objective natural order in our lives” and “We trusted in a health-giving power in our lives as a whole” for the Second Stage of Decline and Third Step of Personal Growth, respectively.

Results of Qualitative Analysis

Statistical evaluations of interviews with GROW members found they identified self-reliance, industriousness, peer support, and gaining a sense of personal value or self-esteem as the essential ingredients of recovery. Similar evaluations of GROW’s literature revealed thirteen core principles of GROW’s program. They are reproduced in the list below by order of relevance, with a quote from GROW’s literature, explaining the principle.

  1. Be Reasonable: “We learned to think by reason rather than by feelings and imagination.”
  2. Decentralize, participate in community: “…decentralization from self and participation in a community of persons is the very process of recovery or personal growth.”
  3. Surrender to the Healing Power of a wise and loving God: “God, who made me and everything connected with me, can overcome any and every evil that affects my life.”
  4. Grow Closer to Maturity: “Maturity is a coming to terms with oneself, with others, and with life as a whole.”
  5. Activate One’s Self to Recover and Grow “Take your fingers off your pulse and start living.”
  6. Become Hopeful: “I can, and ultimately will, become completely well; God who made me can restore me and enable me to do my part. The best in life and love and happiness is ahead of me.”
  7. Settle for Disorder: “Settle for disorder in lesser things for the sake of order in greater things; and therefore be content to be discontent in many things.”
  8. Be Ordinary: “I can do whatever ordinary good people do, and avoid whatever ordinary good people avoid. My special abilities will develop in harmony only if my foremost aim is to be a good ordinary human being.”
  9. Help Others: We carried the GROW message to others in need.
  10. Accept One’s Personal Value: “No matter how bad my physical, mental, social or spiritual condition I am always a human person, loved by God and a connecting link between persons; I am still valuable, my life has a purpose, and I have my unique place and my unique part in my Creator’s own saving, healing and transforming work.”
  11. Use GROW: “Use the hopeful and cheerful language of GROW.”
  12. Gain Insight: “We made moral inventory and cleaned out our hearts.”
  13. Accept Help: “We firmly resolved to get well and co-operated with the help that we needed.”

Effectiveness

Participation in GROW has been shown to decrease the number of hospitalisations per member as well as the duration of hospitalisations when they occur. Members report an increased sense of security and self-esteem, and decreased anxiety. A longitudinal study of GROW membership found time involved in the programme correlated with increased autonomy, environmental mastery, personal growth, self-acceptance and social skills. Women in particular experience positive identity transformation, build friendships and find a sense of community in GROW groups.

Literature

The Programme of Growth to Maturity, generally referred to as the ‘Blue Book’, is the principal literature used in GROW groups. The book is divided into three sections based on the developmental stages of members: ‘Beginning Growers’, ‘Progressing Growers’ and ‘Seasoned Growers’. Additionally, there are three related books written by Cornelius B. Keogh, and one by Anne Waters, used in conjunction with the Blue Book.

  • GROW (1983). GROW: World Community Mental Health Movement: The Program of Growth to Maturity (the “Blue Book”). Sydney, Australia: GROW Publications. OCLC 66288113.
  • Keogh, Cornelius B. (1975). Readings for mental health (the “Brown Book”). Sydney, Australia: GROW Publications. ISBN 0-909114-00-5. OCLC 47699449.
  • Keogh, Cornelius B.; GROW (Australia) (1967). Readings for recovery (the “Red Book”). Sydney Australia: GROW. OCLC 154602570.
  • Keogh, Cornelius B. (1967). Recovery. Sydney, Australia. OCLC 57499165.
  • Waters, Anne (2005). GROWing to Maturity: A Potpourri of Readings for Mental Health (the “Lavender Book”). GROW in Ireland Ltd. ISBN 0-9529198-2-6.

What is Stilted Speech?

Introduction

In psychiatry, stilted speech or pedantic speech is communication characterised by situationally-inappropriate formality (refer to Communication Deviance). This formality can be expressed both through abnormal prosody as well as speech content that is “inappropriately pompous, legalistic, philosophical, or quaint”. Often, such speech can act as evidence for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or a thought disorder, a common symptom in schizophrenia or schizotypal personality disorder.

To diagnose stilted speech, researchers have previously looked for the following characteristics:

  • Speech conveying more information than necessary.
  • Vocabulary and grammar expected from formal writing rather than conversational speech.
  • Unneeded repetition or corrections.

While literal and long-winded word content is often the most identifiable feature of stilted speech, such speech often displays irregular prosody, especially in resonance. Often, the loudness, pitch, rate, and nasality of pedantic speech vary from normal speech, resulting in the perception of pedantic or stilted speaking. For example, overly loud or high-pitched speech can come across to listeners as overly forceful while slow or nasal speech creates an impression of condescension.

These attributions, which are commonly found in patients with ASD, partially account for why stilted speech has been considered a diagnostic criterion for the disorder. Stilted speech, along with atypical intonation, semantic drift, terseness, and perseveration, are all qualities known to be commonly impaired during conversation with adolescents on the autistic spectrum. Often, stilted speech found in children with ASD will also be especially stereotypic or rehearsed.

Patients with schizophrenia are also known to experience stilted speech. This symptom is attributed to both an inability to access more commonly used words and a difficulty understanding pragmatics – the relationship between language and context. However, stilted speech appears as a less common symptom compared to a certain number of other symptoms of the psychosis. This element of cognitive disorder is also exhibited as a symptom in the narcissistic personality disorder.

There is disagreement on the definition of psychophenomenology within the discipline of psychiatry, e.g. published sources provide definitions that are “various and sometimes conflicting (Rule 2005)”.

What are the Research Diagnostic Criteria (RDC)?

Introduction

The Research Diagnostic Criteria (RDC) are a collection of influential psychiatric diagnostic criteria published in late 1970s under auspices of Statistics Section NY Psychiatric Institute, authors were Spitzer, R L; Endicott J; Robins E. PMID 1153649; As psychiatric diagnoses widely varied especially between the USA and Europe, the purpose of the criteria was to allow diagnoses to be consistent in psychiatric research.

Some of the criteria were based on the earlier Feighner Criteria, although many new disorders were included; “The historical record shows that the small group of individuals who created the Feighner criteria instigated a paradigm shift that has had profound effects on the course of American and, ultimately, world psychiatry.”

The RDC is important in the history of psychiatric diagnostic criteria as the DSM-III was based on many of the RDC descriptions, head of DSM III Edition was R L Spitzer.

What is the Chinese Society of Psychiatry?

Introduction

The Chinese Society of Psychiatry (CSP; Chinese: 中华医学会精神病学分会; lit. ‘Chinese Medical Association Psychiatry Branch’) is the largest organisation for psychiatrists in China.

It publishes the Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders (“CCMD”), first published in 1985. The CSP also publishes clinical practice guidelines; promotes psychiatric practice, research and communication; trains new professionals; and holds academic conferences.

Origins and Organisation

The organisation developed out of the Chinese Society of Neuro-Psychiatry, which was founded in 1951. This separated into the Chinese Society of Psychiatry and Chinese Society of Neurology in 1994. Since then, successive committees have run the organisation, currently the 3rd Committee, which started in 2003, whose president is Dongfeng Zhou. The CCMD is now on its third revision.

The official journal of the CSP is the Chinese Journal of Psychiatry (中华精神科杂志).[2] The Society held its seventh annual academic conference in 2006. The Society is a member of the World Psychiatric Association.

As of 2005, the CSP had 800 members.

Brief History

In 2001, the CSP declassified homosexuality and bisexuality as a mental disorder. However, the organization specified that, “although homosexuality was not a disease, a person could be conflicted or suffering from mental illness because of their sexuality, and that condition could be treated”, according to Damien Lu, founder of the Information Clearing House for Chinese Gays and Lesbians. Reportedly, this loophole is used to promote conversion therapy in China.

Beginning in 2014, the CSP began collaborating with the McLean Hospital. The purpose of the programme is to share research cross-culturally between specialists in psychotic and mood disorders.

Controversy

The Chinese Society of Psychiatrists (CSP) has been criticised for alleged complicity in the government’s political abuse of psychiatry towards Falun Gong practitioners – including by detaining individuals via diagnosing adherents as “political maniacs” or with “Qi Gong psychosis”. Antipsychotic drugs were wrongly prescribed to practitioners.

In 2004, the CSP agreed on a joint response with the World Psychiatric Association to the allegations. According to the CSP, certain psychiatrists had “failed to distinguish between spiritual-cultural beliefs and delusions” due to “lack of training and professional skills”, and this led to misdiagnoses. However, they claimed this was not a systematic issue and invited the WPA to correct the problem.

The WPA stated, “What has become clear… has been the need to assist Chinese colleagues in matters concerning forensic psychiatry, medical ethics, patients’ rights, mental health legislation, diagnosis and classification, to help them improve the care of mentally ill in China and prevent future abuses.” Arthur Kleinman, a psychiatrist at Harvard University, said he believed the claims about systematic abuse of psychiatry were exaggerated, while acknowledging that it did occur in some cases. Abraham Halpern, a psychiatrist at New York Medical College and board member of the Friends of Falun Gong, USA, criticised the WPA for not demanding an investigative mission in China.

A follow-up review of the controversy was written by Alan A. Stone, a professor of psychiatry and president of the American Psychiatric Association, and published in the Psychiatric Times. Stone determined that psychiatrists in China were generally poorly trained and did not receive the sort of medical training which was standard in the West. Stone said this was cause for the misdiagnoses.

What is Haltlose Personality Disorder?

Introduction

Haltlose personality disorder is a personality disorder in which affected individuals possess psychopathic traits built upon short-sighted selfishness and irresponsible hedonism, combined with an inability to anchor one’s identity to a future or past. The symptoms of Haltlose are characterised by a lack of inhibition.

Refer to Hysteroid Dysphoria. Other names have included Willenloser Psychopath, Unstable Psychopath, Unstable Drifter, and Disinhibited Personality.

Described by Emil Kraepelin and Gustav Aschaffenburg in the early twentieth century, and further distinguished by Karl Jaspers, Eugen and Manfred Bleuler, it has been colloquially dubbed psychopathy with an “absence of intent or lack of will”.

With other hyperthymics, Haltlose personalities were considered to make up “the main component of serious crime”, and are studied as one of the strains of psychopathy relevant to criminology as they are “very easily involved in the criminal history” and may become aggressors or homicidal. Their psychopathy is difficult to identify as a shallow sense of conformity is always present. A 2020 characterisation of mental illnesses noted of the Haltlose that “these people constantly need vigilant control, leadership, authoritarian mentor, encouragement and behavior correction” to avoid an idle lifestyle, involvement in antisocial groups, crime and substance abuse. The marked tendencies towards suggestibility are off-set by demonstrations of “abnormal rigidity and intransigence and firmness”.

After discovering a guilty conscience due to some act or omission they have committed, “they then live under constant fear of the consequences of their action or inaction, fear of something bad that might strike them” in stark opposition to their apparent carelessness or hyperthymic temperament, which is itself frequently a subconscious reaction to overwhelming fear. They frequently withdraw from society. Given their tendency to “exaggerate, to embroider their narratives, to picture themselves in ideal situations, to invent stories”, this fear then manifests as being “apt to blame others for their offences, frequently seeking to avoid responsibility for their actions”. They do not hold themselves responsible for their failed life, instead identifying as an ill-treated martyr.

They were characterised as Dégénérés supérieurs, demonstrating normal or heightened intellect but degraded moral standards. Of the ten types of psychopaths defined by Schneider, only the Gemütlose (compassionless) and the Haltlose “had high levels of criminal behavior” without external influence, and thus made up the minority of psychopaths who are “virtually doomed to commit crimes” by virtue only of their own constitution. Frequently changing their determined goals, a haltlose psychopath is “constantly looking for an external hold, it doesn’t really matter whether they join occult or fascist movements”. The ability to moderate external influence was considered one of three characteristics necessary to form an overall personality, thus leaving Haltlose patients without a functional personality of their own. A study of those with haltlose personality disorder concludes “In all of those cases, the result was a continuous social decline that ended in asocial-parasitic existence or an antisocial-criminal life”.

Haltlose has one of the most unfavourable prognoses of psychopathies. To exist safely, such a psychopath requires “a harsh lifestyle” and constant supervision.

Etymology and Criticism

“Haltlos” is a German word that contextually refers to a floundering, aimless, irresponsible lifestyle, and the diagnosis is named “Haltlose” using the feminine variation on the word. They are commonly clinically termed an “unstable psychopath”, which is differentiated from emotionally unstable personality disorder (an alternative name for borderline personality disorder). It was remarked in early studies that England, the United States and northern European countries did not use the same typology, not distinguishing between those psychopaths who were unstable and those who were “Unstable Psychopaths”.

It has been dubbed a part of “German-speaking psychiatry”. The term “Haltlose” is more common in the study of psychiatry, while “Willenlose” is preferred in sociology. Some like Karl Birnbaum prefer the term “Haltlose”, while others like Kurt Schneider prefer “Willenlos” shifting focus off their lack of self-control and opposed to the moralist tones of those like Birnbaum who had described the Haltlose as unable to grasp “important ideal values such as honor and morality, duty and responsibility, as well as material ones such as prosperity and health”. In 1928, Eugen Kahn argued Willenlose was a misnomer, as the patients demonstrated plenty of “will” and simply lacked the ability to translate it into action. Historically, researchers such as Schneider argued that instability is the symptom, whereas lack of volition is the underlying cause. It is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), possibly due to a modern belief that the concept of volition is outdated and overshadowed by the concepts of motivation and arousal or drive.

In 1963, Karl Jaspers defined the term as “those who have no willpower at all, the drifters, simply echoing any influence that impinges on them”. However, in 1976, the Government of Canada listed the alternate term “Unstable drifter” in a psychiatric criminology context as a problematic term for which they could not readily offer a French translation in accordance with their bilingualism laws. Similar issues have arisen trying to translate it to other languages, including Turkish. Ultimately the diagnosis was handicapped by the issues of translation, leading to criticism of “the impoverishment of psychiatric vocabulary” that led to declining research and use.

In the early 20th century, Aschaffenburg distanced himself from accusations that the diagnosis was intended to protect criminals from punishment, emphasizing instead that those with Haltlose personality disorder “generally cannot be exculpated”.

Dr. Friedrich Stumpfl cautioned against what he saw as a trend of diagnosing haltlose personality disorder without investigating comorbidities that may be even more pronounced. In condemning the idea of personality disorders generally, Joachim-Ernst Meyer suggested in 1976 that Schneider’s early description of the Haltlose personality disorder, as a lack of determination in aspects of life including parenting, could just as easily be described as an example of a neurosis rather than a psychopathy if studied only by its aetiology rather than its symptoms, and used it as an example of the nature versus nurture debate that surrounded all personality disorders. Critics ceded that the term “Haltlose” remained of value in educational and therapeutic contexts, while suggesting future collaboration between psychiatric research and sociologists would allow further definition.

Recently, it has been criticised as a “diagnosis of convenience [that] avoids all further deliberations about a psychopathic personality”. Dr. DM Svrakic and Dr. M Divac-Jovanovic suggested the ICD-10 explanations of Haltlose, Immature and Psychoneurotic personality disorders appeared “dubious”, and sociologist James Cosgrave found psychiatric use to represent a “fringe figure”. A graduate student at Bochumer Stadt & Studierendenzeitung condemned the historical diagnosis from an LGBT perspective, opining that “incredibly oppressive language” had been used by the psychiatrists studying it such as “pathological femininity”.

It may be that the evolution of test-batteries have minimised diagnoses of Haltlosen, differentiating it from some newer models in psychiatry.

Physiology

Described as bearing a “pronounced heredity burden”, the propensity for Haltlose has also been suggested to be passed only through the maternal genes. Only able to offer “primitive reactions” and “poor and immature judgement”, they are noted to display an absolute lack of purpose in their lives “except for the simple biological need to continue living”.

Gustav von Bergmann, a specialist in internal medicine rather than psychiatry, wrote in 1936 that Haltlose personality disorder was entirely biological rather than fostered through psychological experiences. Indeed, Dr. Hans Luxenburger proposed in 1939 that a toxin in the metabolism, when present with Haltlose personality disorder, might be responsible for asthenic difficulties such as shortness of breath, nausea, and cluster headaches. Dr. E.H. Hughes noted that two-thirds of Huntington’s disease patients had previously been diagnosed as Haltlose or Gemütlose psychopaths.

A study in 1949 of different psychopathies under examination by electroencephalography recordings showed that borderline personalities and haltlose personalities had increased levels of dysrhythmia, whereas other subtypes of psychopathy did not show variation. An individual in 1931 was noted as having initially improved but relapsed “because of encephalitis”. As with other personality disorders, a 1923 article suggests it can also be acquired through encephalitis. In 2006, an Essex warehouse employee who suffered head injuries was awarded £3 million compensation on the basis it had caused him to develop Haltlose personality disorder, seeking out prostitutes and pornography which destroyed his marriage.

Mistakes cannot be fully avoided when placing children under care. even an experienced specialist often cannot distinguish between a blossoming hebephrenia and a Gemutlose or Haltlose personality disorder. Even with weeks of institutional observation, the certainty of our diagnostic aids can remain doubtful…under certain circumstances a doctor will advise medical care even at the risk of learning the patient cannot improve as a result of mental illness and will end up in a madhouse. Kurt Schneider.

Dr. W. Blankenburg posited in 1968 that those with haltlose personality disorder exhibited less categorical orientation than those patients who were simply unstable. By 1962, lobotomy was being tested as a possible means to limit the chaotic thinking of the Haltlose personality.

Kraepelin, in noting “an increased risk of criminal behavior”, estimated that 64% of men and 20% of women with Haltlose descended into alcoholism in the early twentieth century. The frequent intersection between HLPD and alcoholism means modern clinical researchers may use “haltlose” as a grouping when separating subjects by disposition. Research in 1915 noted an increased propensity for lavish spending, and overconsumption of coffee, tea and medication.

One 1954 study suggested female Haltlose patients may experience “manic excitement” during their menses. According to 1949 research, they have a higher rate of homosexuality, and 1939 evidence suggested that masturbation is more prevalent in Haltlose and Gemütlose (compassionless) psychopaths than in other disorders, and Haltlose erethics leave them “usually very sexually excited” and seeking out “atypical, irregular and unusual” debauchery whether in brothels, adultery or destroying marriages.

They demonstrate similarities to hysteroid dysphoria. In 1928, it was proposed that Fantasy prone personality was likely a subset of Haltlose personalities, suffering from maladaptive daydreaming and Absorption.

The eugenicist Verners Kraulis of the University of Latvia noted it was frequently comorbid with Histrionic personality disorder.

Symptoms

According to 1968 research, haltlose personality disorder is frequently comorbid with other mental health diagnoses, and rarely appears isolated on its own. Hans Heinze focused on his belief that Haltlose ultimately stemmed from a sense of inferiority, while Kramer held there was a battling inferiority complex and superiority complex.

The Haltlose were said to have a dynamic instinctual drive to “cling” to others, to avoid a horrible loneliness they fear – but they will always represent a “lurking danger” because they were unable to actually maintain the necessary relationship and were in a class with the “forever abandoned”. According to 1926 research, they view all interaction as a means of winning “indulgence from some people, help from other people”.

One early study indicated that 7.5% of psychopaths were Haltlose, and Kraepelin estimated that his own practice determined fewer than 20% of psychopaths he saw were Haltlose. However more recent studies, after differentiating out newer diagnoses, have suggested that it may be fewer than 1% of psychopaths who are truly Haltlose.

Described in 1922 as both “moody” and “passive”, they quickly switch from over-confidence in victory to sullen defiance.

Their emotional lability means they alternate between projecting an optimistic and competent image claiming they are “destined to do great things”, and a more honest cynicism and depression. Research in 1925 indicates they display “great emotional irritability, which may result in violent loss of temper…and interpret every limitation as an undeserved insult” and have a “pronounced lust for argument”. The symptoms are considered to worsen if patients are granted greater independence “in the home and in their work”.

Their self schema only encompasses the immediate present. They are described as “living in a random location and moment”. A common pitfall in therapy is that they proved in 1917 to be “very superficial, they easily acquire knowledge but do not apply it in any way and soon forget it”.

The essence of these people…playthings of external influences, allowing themselves to be carried away by events like a leaf in the wind! …Impermanence is everything. In one hour, they are happy and excited with the whole world lying open for them in the splendor of the joy of life, but the next hour casts aside this optimism and the future now seems bleak, gray on gray…sympathies and antipathies quickly replace each other, what was worshipped yesterday is burned today, and despite all oaths of eternal loyalty, the best friend is transformed into the deeply-loathed enemy overnight.” Dr. L. Scholz, Anomale Kinder, Berlin, 1919.

Those with HLPD display “a number of endearing qualities, charming with an apparent emotional warmth, but also an enhanced suggestibility and a superficiality of affect”, which can lead to unrealistic optimism. and “wandering through life without ever taking firm root”. They are also noted as “absolutely indifferent to others…likes to live for [their] pleasure today, does not make plans not only for the future but even for tomorrow, studying and working are not for them”. Persons with HLPD typically lack any deep knowledge, and “look for easy life and pleasures”. They have been described as “conquerers with an appearance of emotional warmth”.

Persons with HLPD were noted as struggling with hypochondria in 1907. They also struggle with alcoholism, and identify with antisocial personality disorder.

Kraepelin said they were “apt to take senseless journeys, perhaps even becoming vagabonds”. Kraepelin argued only lifelong wanderlust was tied to Haltlose, whereas Kahn argued that the Haltlose often lost their wanderlust as they aged and preferred to settle into mediocrity. Some make their fortune, but the disappearance of less fortunate travelers is not mentioned by their families who considered them to have been burdensome.

To early twentieth-century researchers, they appeared amiable, well-spoken, self-confident and to be making strong efforts to improve their weaknesses, thus making a misleading first impression and endearing themselves to superiors. The lack of a sense of identity, or internal support, was thought to a lack of resistance to both external and internal impulses in 1927. Their “gradual deterioration in the swamp of neediness and immorality” still does not make a lasting impression on the patients. Thus Haltlose patients who recognize their shortcomings were thought to possibly be overwhelmed by a subconscious fear about participating in the world without restraints in a 1924 account. Similarly, researchers in the early twentieth-century believed that the inauthenticity of their projected self and superficiality of knowledge means that when “someone who is really superior to [them]”, after a period of stiffly asserting themselves hoping to avoid submission, will ultimately and without explanation fully embrace the position of the other.

Pathological lying is closely linked to Haltlose personality disorder, with Arthur Kielholz noting “They lie like children…this activity always remains just a game which never satisfies them and leaves them with a guilty conscious because neither the super ego nor the Id get their due…Since they are offering such a daydream as a gift, they consider themselves entitled to extract some symbolic gift in return through fraud or theft”. Adler maintained “Memory is usually poor and untrustworthy…often they seem to have no realization of the truth”, while Homburger felt they held “no sense of objectivity, no need for truth or consistency”.

According to early accounts, choices are made, often in mirroring others around them, but “do not leave even a passing imprint on the person’s identity”. Thus, they can “behave properly for a while under good leadership”, and are not to be trusted in leadership positions themselves. Gannushkin noted they must be urged, scolded or encouraged “with a stick, as they say”. They demonstrate poor mood control and “react quickly to immediate circumstances” since “mood variation can be extreme and fluctuate wildly”, which led to the denotation “unstable psychopath”.

They have been described as “cold-blooded”, but must be differentiated from dependent personality disorder, as the two can appear similar, due to the artifice of the Haltlose patient, despite having starkly opposing foundations. Persons with Dependent Personality Disorder are defined by a tendency to embarrassment, and submissiveness which are not genuine facets of those with Haltlose even if they mimic such. Haltlose was thus deemed the “more troublesome” personality in 1955.

Childhood Origins, and Later Role of Family

“Whomever is abandoned in youth to the inexorable misery of existence, and at the same time is exposed to all manner of seductions, will find it very difficult to curb their constantly incited desires, and to instead force themselves through to the lofty vantage of moral self-assertion. Kraepelin speaking about the Haltlose, 1915.

It has been proposed that haltlose personality disorder may arise from “traumatization through maternal indolence” or institutionalisation in early life, although without definite conclusion. It may present in childhood simply as a hypomanic reaction to the loss of a parent or incest object. They often display a fear of abandonment that appeared in childhood, a common borderline personality disorder symptom. Male Haltlose personalities may come out of families with a pampering, over-protective and domineering mother with a weak father. Homburger noted the “childhood and youth of the Haltlose are extraordinarily sad”. It is possible, but rare, for Haltlose personalities to develop within healthy family structures.

Gerhardt Nissen referenced the possibility of intrauterine factors in the shaping of anti-social behaviours in Haltlose psychopaths, while noting the concept of psychopathy had been so weakened in modern psychopathology as to be indistinguishable from other conditions. Others have suggested there is a strong heredity correlation, as the parents often also display Haltlose personality disorder, especially the mother. Raising a haltlose child can, in some cases, destroy the family structure by forcing relatives to take opposing positions, provoking disagreement and creating an atmosphere of bitterness and dejection. They have been clinically described as disappointments to their families, and are unable to feel actual love for their parents and are indifferent to the hardships of relatives – since all relationships are seen only as potential means towards acquiring pleasure.

Care must be taken in making Haltlose diagnoses of children, since “the traits of instability of purpose, lack of forethought, suggestibility, egoism and superficiality of affect…are to some extent normal in childhood”. Children with haltlose personality disorder demonstrate a marked milieu dependency, which may be a cause rather than effect of the Haltlose. It is of great importance that only children with Haltlose have peers and friends to surround themselves to try and learn associations and behaviours. They often become sexually active at a young age but delayed sexual maturity, and as adults retain a psychophysical infantilism. Regressive addictions amongst Haltlose psychopaths typically are infantile, and seek to replace the lost “dual union” arising from their parents’ rejection, and later morph into a focus on subjects including vengeance or sado-masochism.

The Russian storybook character Dunno has been noted as an example of a child with Haltlose personality disorder.

The age at which parents or professionals exhibited concern about psychopathy ranged; rarely even at a preschool age. Haltlose children confusingly tend to appear very strong-willed and ambitious, it is only as they age and the lack of perseverance becomes manifest that caretakers become puzzled by their “naughtiness” as it contradicts what had earlier appeared. This arises principally due to their rigid demands for short-term wishes being mistakenly interpreted as having a fixed purpose and persistence. Some patients later shown to be Haltlose, had shown neuropathic traits in childhood such as bedwetting and stuttering. They were also more likely to run away from their home, begin drinking before the socially acceptable age, and were afraid of punishment. Although struggling to make friends in young childhood, they find it easier as they age.

Kraepelin contended the disorder was “based on a biological predisposition” but also affected by factors such as childrearing practises, social position and state of the parental home. His analysis showed that 49% of diagnosed Haltlose had obvious parental issues such as alcoholism or personality disorders. A 1944 study of children produced by incest by Dr. Alfred Aschenbrenner found a high rate of Haltlose personality disorder, which he suggested might be explained as inherited from overly suggestive mothers. It is possible, although difficult, to diagnose from the age of five and presents one of the stronger psychiatric difficulties if present at such young age. It may be possible to prevent social failure “through welfare measures” akin to early intervention. Italian courts stressed mimicry of positive role models as a means to combat Haltlose youth who had fallen afoul of the law.

Schooling

Haltlose can cause educational difficulties, and if parents do not understand the peculiarities of their haltlose child, they may try to through good intentions to force the child into an educational regimen inappropriate for them, which then creates a feeling of isolation in the child which grows into a rebellious tendencies, “which turns out to be disastrous for further development”. Students with Haltlose personalities may prefer the arts over the sciences, since the former does not require a consistent sense of truth and entails less disciplined study. Given their inability to anchor a self-schema and tendency to play-act roles, the theatre and film have great attraction and influence over them.

With proper leadership and controls from teachers, they are able to become “model pupils” in terms of behaviour, although Schneider opined that it was worthless to educate an inability to learn from mistakes prevented actual education, and bemoaned that the late onset of anti-social behaviours kept the Haltlose in school when they might otherwise be removed. Walter Moos believed that Haltlose personality disorder and hyperthymia had shown itself to be contagious in rare cases, wherein classmates developed the same disorder from interaction with patients. Homburger argued for removing a Haltlose child from their family of origin as soon as the disorder was confirmed, to resettle in a rural educational centre.

Adolescence, Young Adulthood and Efforts to Intervene

When required to live independently, they “soon lose interest, become distracted and absent-minded, and commit gross errors and negligence”. Ruth von der Leyen noted that “every care provider, teacher and doctor knows the Haltlose Psychopath from their practice”, and remarked that caring for such a patient was made more difficult because of the need to lecture and intervene to enlist the psychopath’s cooperation in short-term improvements, despite being aware the psychiatric reports have determined such efforts are ultimately useless but should be practised regardless.

The tendency to accumulate debts while seeking pleasure or escaping responsibility is often the attributed cause for their descent into crime, although Kramer noted those who displayed “extreme dexterity, sufficient talent for imagination, and a tendency towards dishonesty” were able to find alternative sources of income without necessarily becoming criminal, although warned that “again and again, their debts have to be paid until the parents no longer can, or want to, do this and leave them to their selves”.

Gannushkin noted “Such people involuntarily evoke sympathy and a desire to help them, but the assistance rendered to them rarely lasts, so it is worth abandoning such people for a short while”. The wasted good intentions resulted in the summary:

“probably the most important function of the psychiatrist when dealing with these patients is to protect their relatives and friends from ruining themselves in hopeless attempts at reclamation. With most of these patients a time comes when the relatives will be best advised…to allow the patient to go to prison, or otherwise suffer unsheltered the consequences of his deeds.”

By contrast, others have advanced the “rather optimistic” belief that “a suitable [spouse]” or similar “strong-willed” relative could drastically improve the outcome of Haltlosen patients. This was echoed by Andrey Yevgenyevich Lichko who, while preferring the term “accentuation of character” to describe the psychopathy rather than “personality disorder”, noted “if they fall into the hands of a person with a strong will, for example a wife or husband, they can they live quite happily…but the guardianship must be permanent.”

Criminology

While some Haltlose have risen to the level of dangerous offenders multiple times over, it is more frequent that they attract attention early from their “vagabond” nature.

Heinrich Schulte, a wartime medical judge and consulting psychiatrist for the military, continued advocating for the sterilization of Haltlose and other “Schwachsinnigen” after the war’s end. In 1979, the Neue Anthropologie publication referred to a need to sterilize those like alcoholics, “who are often Haltlose psychopaths”, from bearing children, to reduce crime.

Although Kraepelin believed those with Haltlose personality disorder represented the antithesis of morality, there is not necessarily a tendency towards deliberate amorality among the demographic despite its frequent criminal violations since they may lack the ability to premeditate. But their demonstrated lack of self-control is “especially manifested in the sphere of morality”.

In 1935, it was estimated that 58% of recidivist criminals were diagnosed with Haltlose personality disorder, higher than any other personality disorder. More recently, Haltlose and Histrionic were the most common personality disorders found in female juvenile delinquents by forensic psychologists in Russia in the year 2000.

Domestic Violence, Incest and Molestation of Children

[Patients resembling Haltlose] as a rule show little insight into the peculiarities of their conduct. They do not understand how they could have done these things, or they blame their relatives, neighbors and so forth”. Dr. Herman Morris Adler, 1917.

Although they enter relationships easily, Andrey Yevgenyevich Lichko contends they are not capable of actual loyalty or selfless love, and sex is treated as a form of entertainment rather than intimacy. They are therefore described as acting as “family tyrants”.

Although they may not qualify as “true” pedophiles, Haltlose personalities demonstrate an increased risk of sexually molesting children, since other potential victims would require the realisation of greater planning, but children are suggestible and easily overwhelmed.

A 1967 German study had suggested over 90% of adult-child incest offenders were diagnosed with Haltlose Personality Disorder. Female patients may also live vicariously through encouraging and directing the sexual lives of their daughters.

Drunk Driving, Hit-and-Run

Some Haltlose personalities are drawn towards dangerous driving habits “as a source of almost hedonist pleasure”. In 1949 the Automobil Revue proposed that additional tests should be necessary for Haltlose personalities to obtain a driver’s license. They have been known to steal cars to joyride at high speeds if they are not otherwise able to find satisfy their urge.

The American Journal of Psychiatry published a study of hit and run drivers in 1941, which showed 40% of drivers who fled the scene of a traffic accident tested positive for haltlose personality disorder. This was consistent with the earlier finding that Haltlose Personalities were among the most likely to attempt to flee if caught in commission of any crime.

Suicidality and Murder-Suicide

Research in the early twentieth century on suicidality among the Haltlose indicated several things: they chafe at the notion of any religion as it introduces unwanted inhibitions, especially against parasuicidal demonstrations; women Haltlose most frequently indicated suicidality was based upon fear of punishment or reproach, as well as the “excitement” of being institutionalised; and although frequently planning or attempting suicide, including through suicide pacts or murder suicide, Haltlose typically do not succeed since they lacked courage and were easily distracted.

Institutionalisation

Haltlose patients respond very well to institutionalization where their influences can be controlled, becoming “model inmates” of sanitariums even within hours of first arriving despite a chaotic life outside of the regimen, “but if you leave them, through good intentions, to their own devices – they don’t last long before collapsing their current state and being seduced back onto the wrong track”. Schneider recommended warning them “through punishing them” as it was the only control on their action. Bleuler said the court system needed to understand such persons were in “urgent need of inhibitions”.

Pyotr Gannushkin noted they joined military service due to peer pressure but given the lack of alcohol and stern, hard work required of them were able to function without their normal impairment. A 1942 study of the Wehrmacht found that only Haltlose and Schizoid were not measurable among soldiers despite their presence in the civilian population. A 1976 Soviet naval study came to similar conclusions.

Roth and Slater concluded “the treatment of such a personality is almost hopeless under the present ordering of society. Any treatment would…present difficulties…beyond the powers of these patients. The prospects of psychotherapy are forlorn and the best that can be obtained will be reached through social control.”

Some researchers suggest their moods and insufficient motivation will lead them to “vague feelings of fear and calamity…turning every little thing into big things, excitement, misinterpreting every harmless word, criticizing everything and commiting hostile acts”, and in some cases they look back with hindsight and regret the injustices they did. However Kramer held that when caught in wrongdoing, “we find them contrite, self-accusing and assuring that they will improve – but on closer inspection it is feigned and not sincere”.

Upon being confronted with their misdeeds, the Haltlose respond “with more or less superficial reasons to excuse them, they claim that their parents treated them incorrectly, that they were the victim of adverse circumstances, seduced by other people and misled. Other Haltlose, especially those with a strong intellect, make up a theoretical schema that would justify their actions.”

Examples

  • Kielholz, Arthur, Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse XIX 1933 Heft 4, “Weh’dem der lugt! Beitrag zum problem der pseudologia phantastica”, an article on pathological lying in the Haltlose patients Max Specke, a Swiss charlatan with a penchant for melodramatic flair and Emil Schuldling, a habitual criminal with childhood sexual perversions
  • Story of Robert Wenger, who was diagnosed Haltlose and spent 54 years between institutions and prison for minor crimes until the documentary series Quer exposed his case, leading to an apology from politician Samuel Bhend in 1999.
  • Karl Hager, a habitual criminal diagnosed Haltlose who was frequently jailed for homosexual acts and was ultimately killed in Sachsenhausen concentration camp (in German)
  • Biography of a man diagnosed Haltlose in 1936 (in German)
  • Berlit, Berthold (December 1931). “Erblichkeitsuntersuchungen bei Psychopathen”. Zeitschrift für die gesamte Neurologie und Psychiatrie. 134(1), pp.382-498.
  • Article referencing Hermann Lederman, discharged from the Wehrmacht in 1940 having been diagnosed with Haltlose personality disorder and sent to Wehrmachtgefängnis Torgau
  • Article about Karl Sieger, a chronic drunkard diagnosed with Haltlose personality disorder in 1936 by Dr. Ferdinand Rechberg of Konstanz
  • Thomas Leveritt’s novel “The Exchange-Rate Between Love and Money” contains a character, Frito, who has Haltlose personality disorder.

Book: Dialogical Psychiatry: A Handbook For The Teaching And Practice Of Open Dialogue

Book Title:

Dialogical Psychiatry: A Handbook For The Teaching And Practice Of Open Dialogue.

Author(s): Russell Razzaque.

Year: 2019.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: Omni House Books.

Type(s): Paperback and Kindle.

Synopsis:

This book is written for all of those who are searching for a more client driven, compassionate and relational approach to mental health services. Consultant Psychiatrist, Professor Russell Razzaque combines his experience as practitioner, trainer and researcher of Open Dialogue in this accessible guide to a more dialogical psychiatry.

Both thoughtful and eminently practical, this book outlines the operational changes and the cultural shift needed to deliver this promising approach which could fundamentally transform the way mental health services are delivered. If you’ve ever wondered what the future of mental health services can, and hopefully will, look like I encourage you to read this book and be inspired to be part of that change.

Book: Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good

Book Title:

Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good.

Author(s): James Davies

Year: 2014.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: Icon Books.

Type(s): Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook, and Kindle.

Synopsis:

Controversial and powerful – a shocking indictment of the pseudo-science at the heart of modern psychiatry.