Thomas Szasz / Bad Boy Psychiatrist

Thomas Szasz was a (Hungarian) psychiatrist who published The Myth of Mental Illness in 1961. In the book he questioned the legitimacy of psychiatry. It became the basis for generations of patient advocates and the antipsychiatry movement. He was/is ridiculed by many doctors. He died in 2012 at age 92.

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QUOTES

“People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.”

“The plague of mankind is the fear and rejection of diversity: monotheism, monarchy, monogamy and, in our age, monomedicine. The belief that there is only one right way to live, only one right way to regulate religious, political, sexual, medical affairs is the root cause of the greatest threat to man: members of his own species, bent on ensuring his salvation, security, and sanity. ”

“In the United States today, there is a pervasive tendency to treat children as adults, and adults as children. The options of children are thus steadily expanded, while those of adults are progressively constricted. The result is unruly children and childish adults.”

“Formerly, when religion was strong and science weak, men mistook magic for medicine; now, when science is strong and religion weak, men mistake medicine for magic.”

“Punishment is now unfashionable… because it creates moral distinctions among men, which, to the democratic mind, are odious. We prefer a meaningless collective guilt to a meaningful individual responsibility.”

“Classifying thoughts, feelings and behaviors as diseases is a logical and semantic error, like classifying whale as fish.”

“The concept of disease is fast replacing the concept of responsibility. With increasing zeal Americans use and interpret the assertion “I am sick” as equivalent to the assertion “I am not responsible”: Smokers say they are not responsible for smoking, drinkers that they are not responsible for drinking, gamblers that they are not responsible for gambling, and mothers who murder their infants that they are not responsible for killing. To prove their point — and to capitalize on their self-destructive and destructive behavior — smokers, drinkers, gamblers, and insanity acquitees are suing tobacco companies, liquor companies, gambling casinos, and physicians.”

“Is psychiatry a medical enterprise concerned with treating diseases, or a humanistic enterprise concerned with helping persons with their personal problems? Psychiatry could be one or the other, but it cannot–despite the pretensions and protestations of psychiatrists–be both.”

“Psychiatrists look for twisted molecules and defective genes as the causes of schizophrenia, because schizophrenia is the name of a disease. If Christianity or Communism were called diseases, would they then look for the chemical and genetic “causes” of these “conditions”?”

“The young and the old are defenseless against relatives who want to get rid of them by casting them in the role of mental patient, and against psychiatrists whose livelihood depends on defining them as mentally ill.”

“The term ‘deinstitutionalization’ conceals some simple truths, namely, that old, unwanted persons, formerly housed in state hospitals, are now housed in nursing homes; that young, unwanted persons, formerly also housed in state hospitals, are now housed in prisons or parapsychiatric facilities; and that both groups of inmates are systematically drugged with psychiatric medications.”

“The pressure to reduce health care costs is aimed only at the treatment of real diseases. There is no pressure to reduce the costs of treating fictitious diseases. On the contrary, there is pressure to define ever more types of undesirable behaviors as mental disorders or addictions and to spend ever more tax dollars on developing new psychiatric diagnoses and facilities for storing and treating the victims of such diseases, whose members now include alcoholics, drug abusers, smokers, overeaters, self-starvers, gamblers, etc.”

“He who does not want to understand the Other has no right to say that what the Other does or says makes no sense.”

“Parents teach children discipline for two different, indeed diametrically opposed, reasons: to render the child submissive to them and to make him independent of them. Only a self-disciplined person can be obedient; and only such a person can be autonomous.”

Thomas Stephen Szasz

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