Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bruce Levine - a better way to see psychosis

Here is an excerpt from Bruce Levine's most recent Mad in America post. This view of psychosis is comforting to me. Psychosis has always struck me as an odd way to rebel because it actually makes people dependent on those they rebel against, and seems to retard their lives. A socially acceptable form of rebellion is to leave home at an early age, tell your parents you are sick of their interference, and get on with your own version of your life, independent of others' financial support or judgements. And yet, we all must rebel in some way if we are to grow. So, if psychosis is rebellion, wish the person Godspeed.

Many people with severe anxiety and/or depression are also anti-authoritarians. Often a major pain of their lives that fuels their anxiety and/or depression is fear that their contempt for illegitimate authorities will cause them to be financially and socially marginalized; but they fear that compliance with such illegitimate authorities will cause them existential death.

I have also spent a great deal of time with people who had at one time in their lives had thoughts and behavior that were so bizarre that they were extremely frightening for their families and even themselves; they were diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychoses, but have fully recovered and have been, for many years, leading productive lives. Among this population, I have not met one person whom I would not consider a major anti-authoritarian. Once recovered, they have learned to channel their anti-authoritarianism into more constructive political ends, including reforming mental health treatment.

Many anti-authoritarians who earlier in their lives were diagnosed with mental illness tell me that once they were labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis, they got caught in a dilemma. Authoritarians, by definition, demand unquestioning obedience, and so any resistance to their diagnosis and treatment created enormous anxiety for authoritarian mental health professionals; and professionals, feeling out of control, labeled them “noncompliant with treatment,” increased the severity of their diagnosis, and jacked up their medications. This was enraging for these anti-authoritarians, sometimes so much so that they reacted in ways that made them appear even more frightening to their families.


  1. Rossa,

    I've heard Bruce Levine mention this before, and it's a fascinating take on "schizophrenia."

    What a high price to pay for rebellion.
    Ironically, the more socially accepted way leads to some healthy independence from family of origin, and finances to manage ones life.

    The less socially accepted way leads to dependence.

    As you know, I think there are oftentimes underlying physical conditions that lead to these diagnoses, but I do see a lot of truth in what he has to say.

    I've met some really brilliant people along the way, who seem to have an axe to pick with authority, who seemed to have gotten caught up in the anger, the rage and turned it inward, to the point where they become non-functional. So, there must be some truth in what he has to say.

    I find it very sad that people who get caught up in this mental health system of ours and become (at least for a while) hardly able to function (oftentimes from the psych drugs) would have been great entrepeneurs or found niches in providing a service of some kind.

    Instead, they often become so down on capitalism, free market systems, that they become dependent on government assistance, which sadly can be taken away as easy as it can be dolled out.


    That's my conclusion with all of this.
    Very sad.


  2. Hi, Duane,
    Thanks for your comment. BTW, I sent a message to your Discover and Recover website, because Adinah Caro-Greene was trying to get in touch with you. So, please get in touch with her through Facebook, I assume.

  3. Rossa,

    Thanks for the heads-up. I don't use Facebook, but I'm gonna try to email her through a mutual acquaintance. I hope that works.


  4. i had phycosis for 4 years it was the worst time of my life i wouldnt wish it on any1, it is worst than any physical illness anyway 1 day all the things going on in my mind cleared the illness had gone and its been over 1 year now since i had fully recoverd i have 2 jobs and my life is alot better than when i was ill i was very lucky i thort i would share my story there is hope it just takes time.

    1. I'm glad to hear you are through it. To what do you attribute your sudden recovery?


I am no longer approving comments. All I ask is that you be respectful of others and refrain from using profanity.