Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rethinking madness

I recently finished reading Rethinking Madness: Towards a Paradigm Shift in Our Understanding and Treatment of Psychosis (Sky’s Edge Publishing, 2012), a book that speaks about the cause and treatment of psychosis, mostly in people with schizophrenia. Author and psychologist Paris Williams, Ph.D, claims that, with the right support, full recovery from this disease is possible and even common. 

This book's views are out of the box, promising to be controversial amongst many, especially the psychiatric establishment. In fact, it is anti-psychiatry.

As you read this, please realize these are not my views, but the conclusions of the author. Never discontinue taking medications without consulting your doctor.

Williams’ research led him to believe that psychosis is not a brain disease as has been thought. Rather, he came to see it as a natural process “initiated by the psyche and…closely associated with a profound reorganization of one’s understanding and experience of the world and of oneself – one’s personal paradigm, in other words.” (Page 132)

The author tells us that there is abundant hope for recovery, a view not supported by the medical establishment. Psychiatry has always claimed that schizophrenia is a chronic disorder that requires life-long treatment with antipsychotic medication. Yet Williams says that long-term use of these medications do not help. The person with psychosis needs a chance to work through things in order to recover. Antipsychotics, when used in the long-term, actually hinder this recovery process.

This book had two effects on me:

As a piece of work that challenges the status quo of psychiatric medicine it excites me. It offers hope where psychiatry says there is no hope. I like revolutionary approaches, especially when tired old approaches haven’t worked. A fresh look at things, whether in medicine, science, or religion, can be healthy. And, in this case, it would be good if we could use fewer psychiatric drugs. Side effects are often worse than the benefits.

But the book also instils fear in me:
  • There could be a serious danger if people who are on medications were to read this book and, as a result of what they read, decide to suddenly stop taking them. The results could be tragic.
  • Have I been wrong all these years when I’ve encouraged people to listen to their psychiatrist and take their meds?
  • Should the wisdom of our psychiatrists be questioned more?  
  •  Are some of our mental illnesses not biochemical in nature after all? And what does that mean to our treatment?

  • Is the very posting of this review on my blog going to have an adverse effect on people who might not be wise about how they manage their medication? Would they stop trusting their psychiatrist’s care? (I know how important it is to trust the person who is treating you.)
  • On the other hand, would suppressing this information, information which could lead to radical change for sufferers, be irresponsible?

Yes, I need to let you know about this book.

Having lived with psychosis in the past, I appreciate Williams’ description of it, especially through the accounts of the six research subjects he features. I could identify with some of them and their stories helped me see what might have caused my own breaks with reality. I can also see why I have recovered from psychosis, though I continue to struggle off and on with moodswings.

Not having been educated in this field, I found the author’s more technical descriptions of the source of psychosis a bit beyond me, but that didn’t take away from the book's usefulness.

I would very much recommend this book, especially to open-minded and free-thinking doctors. Why not give a copy to your psychiatrist?


marja said...
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marja said...

Paris Williams was kind enough to email me with a response to this post. He has given me permission to share it here:

I think you did a great job with this review. I completely understand your mixed feelings about the contents of my book, and I appreciate your open-minded approach to reviewing it.

I too was both very disturbed and very hopeful as this vision unfolded during the many years I spent poring over all of this research in the early stages of my doctoral dissertation (on which Rethinking Madness is closely based). One thing to keep in mind is that this book is not just a one-man production, but all of its contents (in the form of my dissertation) had to pass through the rigorous format of formal review by a doctoral dissertation committee--which consisted of three highly esteemed university professors whose reputations and even jobs are on the line every time they formally approve a student's dissertation. So you can be sure that in spite of the vast disparity between the mainstream understanding and what's presented in the book, the contents within it are highly credible.

Here's a link to my actual dissertation, in case you're interested (you will probably find that the book is actually a much more user friendly version of this material):

Thanks for your passionate exploration of this complex topic and for the gift of your wonderful blog :-)