Expert: Ban psych labels such as ADHD

PSYCHIATRIC labels such as schizophrenia, bipolar, ADHD and even depression must be abolished as they serve no positive purpose and may hamper long-term recovery, a conference has heard.

Renowned child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Sami Timimi has begun what he calls an evidence-based campaign to do away with labels in the field. He argues there is no scientific evidence to back up a system of ticking boxes which puts people in a “category” which then determines how they will be treated.

Dr Timini, a founding member of the International Critical Psychiatry Network, has argued that diagnosis has become an explanation for what is wrong with someone, rather than a description of what is wrong.

Speaking at UCC, Dr Timimi said services needed to treat people as individuals, as every person’s story and the reasons why they are distressed, is different.

“We have been way laid by this one size fits all approach. People want compassion, and trust and to be listened to and taken seriously,” he said.

“Sometimes part of a huge toolbox of approaches I use does include medication. But if I do use medication I am very clear why and for how long. Medication works by creating certain mental states that might help you in a particular way. For example anti-psychotics dull your emotions down, so if you have voices telling you to kill yourself that will be helpful until you work things out.”

Dr Timimi, who has long spoken out against using the label of ADHD for young people, said it was very clear that the medications prescribed do not work in the long term.

“The literature on Ritalin is increasingly very clear. There are improvements in the short term, but these improvements do not last in the long term. In fact some of those on medications end up worse off than those who did not take any.”

He said medication could be used for a maximum of one year.

Speaking earlier in the day, psychotherapist Dr Terry Lynch said medications are being used to suppress people and their feelings.

“There is no evidence to suggest emotional feelings are biologically caused. The fundamental mistake of psychiatry is that it doesn’t try to understand a person’s experience, but tells them it’s wrong and must be rectified. There is a preoccupation with biological evidence.”

Dr Lynch said doctors do not seem to be aware of how addictive the prescribed drugs can be.

“It has now been accepted that benzodiazepines are highly addictive, but that was once denied. In 20 years’ time we may very well be facing the same realisation about SSRI anti-depressants,” he said.

The conference, Medicating Human Distress, was organised by UCC’s school of nursing and midwifery and school of applied social studies, along with campaign group Critical Voices Network of Ireland.

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