Revisioning Mental Health Treatment

In 2016, The University of California San Diego invited me to be the keynote speaker for May’s Mental Health Awareness Month lighting ceremony. Little did they know, my journey involved seeking effective mental illness treatment not involving psychiatric medication. Perhaps they’d seen my success and assumed I was on medication. I wasn’t. The eyes of the psychiatrist behind me say it all at that point in my presentation.

It’s now been 34 months medication free. It’s a constant learning experience. I am ever grateful I met Dr. Humiston in January of 2017 when I was ready to give in to Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome and go back on meds. He understood the underlying biological condition surrounding why not only was my body requiring higher and higher dosages of micronutrients to support clinical stability, he also understood the underlying cause of my illness–Toxic Encephalopathy from systemic candida (Semon, B. A., 2014). He’s healed my gut to the point that now, with correct food choices and continued antifungal treatment, my life is no longer controlled by symptoms before misattributed to Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar Type with Catatonia.

Moods, delusions, psychosis, anxiety, insomnia, mixed mania no longer come out of the blue. They only occur when I deviate from my diet or have exposure to blood-borne biotoxins. It’s taken since January of last year to rein in the worst misdiagnosis ever. I finally have control of my brain.

Complicating the matter was the iatrogenic injury* caused by 17 years of five classes of psychiatric medications and more than 100 shock treatments (ECT). I will forever be grateful for infused NeuroRecover for facilitating central nervous system healing. No longer does akathisia or sensory processing disorder have my life gripped by the throat. However to this day I am healing from the iatrogenic injury to my blood-brain-barrier from hypertensive surges during ECT, manifesting as neuroleptic induced parkinsonism and tardive dystonia. Bizarrely, these symptoms only surface when exposed to pathogens (molds, bacteria, etc) in the air or in my own body. I am slowly healing from mold toxicity! It’s been quite a recovery journey.

I am so grateful for the many people who could see beyond the misdiagnosed label and treat me as a valuable human being worthy of having an opinion, voice, choice in treatment. Bottom line: be willing to explore treatment options. If one fails, try something different. (I think 37 different combinations of five classes of psychiatric medications over 17 years qualifies as having done more than my part in psychiatry’s grand experiment).

There are too many people misdiagnosed like myself. There are no simple answers as to the cause of mental illness despite humanity’s inclination to desire simplistic quick fixes as demonstrated by mainstream psychiatry’s Pharmacological Model suggest. True mental health is only achieved when addressing the health of the entire body and spirit. It’s not all in your head.

Treating psychiatric symptoms with the primary goal of regulating neurotransmitter imbalances is as grossly negligent as taking the batteries out of a fire alarm because it makes too much noise–without extinguishing a raging fire. It’s akin to thinking you successfully broke a fever with Tylenol, only to discover the person is fighting meningitis.

The problem is too many mental health professionals are all too willing to blame genetics, weak minds, or not taking medication without a willingness to dig deeper to understand how medicine impacts lives while taking time to identify the underlying biological and or psychosocial symptom cause. Here’s a hint: There are no chemical imbalances (Breggin, P., 2012). Researchers have yet to discover a person is deficient in Prozac, Ativan, Depakote, Ritalin, Haldol or Ambien.

In fact, they’ve discovered the opposite. Psychiatric meds cause akathisia, enlarged ventricles (Murray, R. M., 2016), tardive dyskinesia (Jeste, D. V., & Caligiuri, M. P., 1993), alterations in neurotransmitter receptors (Benmansour, S. et al., 2004),  activation syndrome (Amitai, M., Chen, A., Weizman, A., & Apter, A., 2015), dystonia (Angelis, M. V., Giacomo, R., Muzio, A., Onofrj, M., & Bonanni, L., 2016),  and a host of frightening issues yet to be recognized by the doctors prescribing medications.

This year for Mental Health Awareness Month, why not break stigma by taking a stand against established psychiatric care? Instead research the following causes of altered mental status:

  • Gut-Brain-Liver Axis and psychosocial stress (de Sousa Rodrigues, M. et al., 2017)
  • Candida (Semon, B. A., 2014)
  • Inflammation (Smith, C. L., & O’Malley, B. W., 2004)
  • Thyroid (Bathla, M., Singh, M., & Relan, P., 2016)
  • Stress/Adrenal issues (Slavich, G. M., & Irwin, M. R., 2014)
  • Allergies (Wamboldt, M. Z., et al., 2000)
  • Toxic Mold Exposure (Gordon, W. A., et al., 2004)
  • Imbalanced hormones (Monteagudo, P. T., Falcão, A. A., Verreschi, I. T. N., & Zanella, M.-T., 2016)
  • Heavy metals and a host of blood-born biotoxins.

In 2018, let’s accept that experiencing mental illness results from a cumulative effect of multiple factors, rather than further perpetuating the debunked myth of the biochemical imbalance (Breggin, P., 2012). Recognize that forcing the brain to work in a way other than designed creates not only a gradual worsening of symptoms, but leads to an increase in the type of symptoms experienced  over the course of time (Whitaker, R., 2005).

This year, let’s diffuse the tidal wave known as a “Mental Health Crisis” by actually healing people.  It will take time. It will take patience. It will take trial and error. Finding proper support requires doctors, counselors, family members, friends, and associates willing to act as collaborative partners in figuring out the mystery of mental health.

There are no easy answers; the effort is totally worth it. Promise! I am the evidence.

* Iatrogenic injury is an injury caused by medication or medical treatment prescribed by a physician.

Works Cited

Amitai, M., Chen, A., Weizman, A., & Apter, A. (2015). SSRI-Induced Activation Syndrome in Children and Adolescents—What Is Next? Current Treatment Options in Psychiatry, 2(1), 28–37. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40501-015-0034-9

Angelis, M. V., Giacomo, R., Muzio, A., Onofrj, M., & Bonanni, L. (2016). A subtle mimicker in emergency department: Illustrated case reports of acute drug-induced dystonia. Medicine, 95(41), e5137. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000005137

Bathla, M., Singh, M., & Relan, P. (2016). Prevalence of anxiety and depressive symptoms among patients with hypothyroidism. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 20(4), 468–474. https://doi.org/10.4103/2230-8210.183476

Benmansour, S., Altamirano, A. V, Jones, D. J., Sanchez, T. A., Gould, G. G., Pardon, M.-C., … Frazer, A. (2004). Regulation of the norepinephrine transporter by chronic administration of antidepressants. Biological Psychiatry, 55(3), 313–316. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3223(03)00676-0

Breggin, P. (2012). “Do You Have a Biochemical Imbalance? – Dr. Breggin’s Simple Truths.” YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARZ2Wv2BoFs

de Sousa Rodrigues, M. E., Bekhbat, M., Houser, M. C., Chang, J., Walker, D. I., Jones, D. P., … Tansey, M. G. (2017). Chronic psychological stress and high-fat high-fructose diet disrupt metabolic and inflammatory gene networks in the brain, liver, and gut and promote behavioral deficits in mice. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 59, 158–172. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.BBI.2016.08.021

Gordon, W. A., Cantor, J. B., Johanning, E., Charatz, H. J., Ashman, T. A., Breeze, J. L., … Abramowitz, S. (2004). Cognitive Impairment Associated With Toxigenic Fungal Exposure: A Replication and Extension of Previous Findings. Applied Neuropsychology, 11(2), 65–74. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15324826an1102_1

Jeste, D. V., & Caligiuri, M. P. (1993). Tardive Dyskinesia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 19(2), 303–315. https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/19.2.303

Monteagudo, P. T., Falcão, A. A., Verreschi, I. T. N., & Zanella, M.-T. (2016). The imbalance of sex-hormones related to depressive symptoms in obese men. The Aging Male, 19(1), 20–26. https://doi.org/10.3109/13685538.2015.1084500

Murray, R. M. (2016). Mistakes I Have Made in My Research Career. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 43(2), sbw165. https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sbw165

Semon, B. A. (2014). Dietary cyclic dipeptides, apoptosis and psychiatric disorders: A hypothesis. Medical Hypotheses, 82, 740–743. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2014.03.016

Slavich, G. M., & Irwin, M. R. (2014). From stress to inflammation and major depressive disorder: a social signal transduction theory of depression. Psychological Bulletin, 140(3), 774–815. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035302

Smith, C. L., & O’Malley, B. W. (2004). Coregulator function: a key to understanding tissue specificity of selective receptor modulators. Endocrine Reviews, 25(1), 45–71. https://doi.org/10.1210/er.2003-0023

Whitaker, R. (2005). Anatomy of an Epidemic: Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America. Ethical Human Sciences and Services, 7(1), 23–35. Retrieved from http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/springer/ehss/2005/00000007/00000001/art00003

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