Toxic Psychiatry – A little light reading

It’s that time of year… spooky days… so a horror book is in order, don’t cha think?

Cue scary music…

Allow me to introduce one of the scariest books I’ve ever read…

Toxic Psychiatry by Peter R. Reggin, M.D.

Actually, there are two ways to look at it. One is – yes! – scary as all get-out! The other is to remember that Breggin offers an antidote to “the scary”… therapy, empathy, and love.

But – of course, you knew this – I’m gonna start with the scary part. It is, after all, the first 370 pages of the book.

Boulder, meet stomach. <<< That’s how this book made me feel.

What you need to know: I am an eclectic person who listens to all kinds of music and watches all kinds of videos on YouTube. And so, one night, I found myself watching this:

Of course, I knew OF the Kennedy story but I never knew the DETAILS. What a FREAKING HORRIFYING story it is! OMG, there is SO MUCH WRONG with this situation, not the least of which is that a beautiful girl had some of her brain removed and turned into a shadow of her former self.

I totally believe in synchronicity, as you know. Was it any coincidence that I went to my bookshelf and this book screamed out to me?


So yeah, I was primed and ready for a book about psychiatry written in 1991 and still as viable today.

In order to get to the therapy, empathy, and love, one must slog through the “drugs, electroshock, and biochemical theories” that fill the first chapters of this book.

A little light reading, indeed!

This could be used as a textbook. It reads *almost* like one… a little more engaging and conversational… but still… it’s so jam-packed with information that (at one point, while reading) I started sweating.

Or maybe it’s because I saw my-medicated self (and a few people I know and love) among its pages. And not in the good part – you know, the end, with the empathy and love and stuff.

If I haven’t yet made this clear: THIS BOOK WILL HORRIFY you.

Did you know, for example, that the effect of Lithium on the brain is very similar to that of lobotomy? (pg 177)

^^^^^ And that’s just one very small remembered observation after reading this book ^^^^^

How about this: Long-term use of minor tranquilizers may lead to brain atrophy. (pg 249)

Minor? You mean like Ativan? I’ve taken Ativan!

Yes, like Ativan.

This book makes me sick.


It’s not the book that makes me sick. It’s the contents.

And, Lord knows, we NEED to know this stuff… especially if we or anyone we love takes medications for our mental health.

Oh dear, our old friend Mental Health has joined the party. Of course, they were invited … in fact, the first on the list!

Of course, this brings up the crux of the matter that is discussed throughout the book: What is our understanding of Mental Health? How will we treat it?


This hit particularly close to home…

What of attention disorders and the medications used to treat the “passion of children” like Ritalin? Yep, it’s discussed, too.

Barf. <<< And I mean that literally, as I doped-up my son per doctor’s (and the school’s) orders. And, yeah… there was more than just Ritalin.

Can I just say that much of what I read in this book (and other places throughout the years) brings me to one conclusion?

It’s all one big fustercluck!

This brings something else to mind. The book was published in 1991, right around the time I was dealing with my son’s disabilities and the whole education system sitch. NOT good memories, I’ll tell ya! This is why I began an advocacy business – it was called We CAN: Children’s Advocacy Network. I had big plans. But I digress.

It is now 2021. What more do we know? Not much.


And just when you thought the book couldn’t get any more horrifying… we enter…


For eff’s sake!


Yes, seriously.

The subject of “Women and Madness” gets a whole chapter. It doesn’t disappoint, with stories like this:

“In 1860, for example, Elizabeth Packard’s husband incarcerated her in a mental hospital because she engaged in free religious inquiry.” (pg. 322)

… and …

“In medical psychiatry… women appear to be the prime subjects of shock treatment, psychosurgery, and psychotropic drugs.” – Elaine Showalter (1985)


The last part of the book – really, only about 25 pages – is devoted to therapy, empathy, and love, although these subjects are also touched on throughout the book.

While there are discussions on therapists, ministers, and doctors, what I appreciate most is the power of self-help.

I have often said that YOU know YOU better than anyone else.

I do not for one second suggest that we don’t need doctors and diagnoses. Obviously, there are times when medication is necessary, and nobody should ever feel bad about needing it.


There are those of us (me, definitely included!) that are generally well enough to make some of our own decisions on which medications – or if any at all – are needed now or in the future.

We have left far too much to the medical professionals in our lives. It isn’t THEIR lives that are in crisis or hurting, or confused. It’s US – you and me.

I am reminded of the story my doctor told the surgeon while operating on my hand. He asked her what she did for my anxiety and she answered (without a moment’s hesitation)…

I give her pills.

That tells me everything I need to know. Don’t you think?

Once again, I’m reminded…


I may need the pills. I might NOT, too. Guess who gets to decide? Yep, it’s ME.

You are too!

Books like this give you knowledge and power. I say that’s a VERY GOOD THING!


  1. Have you heard of the story based on the movie the changling it had Angelina Jolie in it. That is an abuse of power and how women were and are treated for supposed mental illnesses

    Liked by 1 person

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