The Real Alternative


Today’s Top Tweets – At one time considered part of psychiatry’s dark history, ECT is on the rise again

English: Portrait of Mary Shelley

Portrait of Mary Shelley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was an undergrad student taking psychology courses in the mid 1980s, ECT was portrayed as something from one of the dark chapters in psychiatric history.

“We know better now” was the general message put out by psychology textbooks.

So when I recently heard that ECT was on the rise again, I was truly surprised.

Actually, ECT never entirely went away, despite what those psychology textbooks claimed.

I understand that only those who are severely depressed undergo treatment. But surely there’s a better way.

Scientists don’t even know why it works. Some theorize that it temporarily blunts the emotions by decreasing blood flow to a region of the brain.

Critics say that ECT usually causes disorientation and memory loss and when the treatment wears off, things are even worse.

To me, the whole thing sounds like something frightening out of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle era or perhaps further back to Mary Shelley.

Sociologically, statistics show that late middle aged women receive this treatment significantly more than men.

No wonder I abandoned psychology as my undergrad major and switched to sociology. As one sociology professor put it while I was contemplating the change, “psychology is hindering your intellectual development.”

Of course, sociology fell short too. As did philosophy and, as you may have read yesterday, the academic study of religion.

That’s why I like to talk about the issues. Nobody has everything all figured out. And anyone who emphatically thinks they have are probably insane, naïve, brainwashed or fanatical.


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Today’s Top Tweets – Great but missing the proverbial top floor

These are all great stories but they seem to overlook one important factor: The spiritual. For me, human beings are a mix of biological, psychological, social and spiritual elements. Why some people are not attuned to the spiritual dimension is a bit of a mystery to me. I used to be like that when I was a kid. But life changed me. And it still is.

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Should you get the flu shot?

One problem with the data is that some people, like myself, may get the flu – after having the flu shot – but not go to the doctor. In my case, I preferred to just rest and sleep it off. It took a while. A nasty flu last year. So I am wondering, according to what the story in this tweet says (especially the blue and gold highlighting), if I should get it this year. My gut is saying no. But is my gut always right? Hmmm.

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Sexism and the impressionable human being

The above tweet points to some obvious cases where men are victims of sexism. But discrimination occurs on many levels, in many different ways. Men can perpetuate sexism against men, just as women can perpetuate sexism against women. Sexism isn’t only about one gender disrespecting and oppressing another. And what about “pretty” people discriminating against the “ugly.” Or that thin against the obese? The tall against the short? The “normal” against the “weird”?

The unfortunate dynamic of discrimination occurs because, well, people are impressionable. So a situation often arises where we are sort of brainwashed, I guess, into believing in things and acting in certain ways that are not based in reality nor good for humanity as a whole.

Another routinely overlooked example of believing in things that may not be good for us, I would suggest, is found in some of the darker corners of psychiatry. Some people abuse psychiatric drugs, or perhaps their doctors are incompetent and abusive in prescribing drugs when they shouldn’t be.

Instead of dealing with all the causes of depression, for example, some take pills because that seems to help. I am not sure how much of that help is due to the well documented placebo effect and how much is actual. But the problem with taking pills that affect your brain is that, over time, the brain will likely try to compensate for whatever is altering its systems.

The brain is not a fixed, metal machine but a living organ. So when strange chemicals enter into its everyday workings, it grows new receptors or makes other changes to try to compensate. Now, down the line, if someone wants to go off their pills, they may find that their brain has actually changed. And whatever those pills were once “fixing” may now be even worse because the brain changes (as a result of taking the pills) have made the brain more sensitive to whatever was contributing to the issue in the first place.

Doctors realize this. So what do they do? Many prescribe a new set of pills to fix the new problem. They do this knowing that over time, even more biochemical issues will likely arise. So it’s sort of playing “patch up” the problem, knowing that in doing so there’s a high probability that they will be contributing to a whole new set of problems. But it’s no game. It’s your brain.

This may seem like a bit of a diversion from the tweet about sexism, but I think it’s a good example where people believe in something that in the long run may not be good for them. I write about scientism a fair amount at earthpages. I guess some think I’m just a nut with my eyes closed to the wonders of science. But in reality, not all science is pure. In fact, much of it is politically, ideologically and economically driven. But that’s a topic for another day!

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Today’s Top Tweets

Today’s another day where I won’t have time to comment on these stories until later. So I thought I’d just list my favs for now:

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Fluoride and sketchy science – Dental chemical in drinking water may have serious negative side effects

Many so-called developed countries make the choice for us. We drink fluoride in our tap water whether we like it or not. The scientific evidence of any benefit is sketchy at best, junk science at worst. Also, there are possible long term negative effects due to drinking fluoride every day, all our lives. Read more:

And a slightly more media friendly article:

If you think that buying bottled water will save solve the problem, think again. Many companies around the world have been called out for merely rebranding or for selling water that is less safe than tap water.

So what can we do? Big Brother and more recently Big Sister might have been putting our health at risk based on scientific claims that even a high school student should be able to recognize as invalid.

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So I guess I’m “uneducated” for believing in spiritual powers?

I usually don’t like the Huffington Post too much. The articles often seem sort of safe, mainstream and politically correct. But this article, well, I don’t know where to begin. Maybe it’s mostly about promoting a film, I’m not sure. If so, it’s a film I admittedly haven’t seen. So my comments are based solely on the article.

When I read articles like this I usually think skip it, it would take too long to critique. Too many reservations. And how much good will it do to write down my opinions, anyhow?

English: A Roman Catholic priest baptizes an i...

A Roman Catholic priest baptizes an infant as his parents look on. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So maybe I’ll just leave it at that. And if anyone wants to discuss this through the comments area, please feel free to do so. Every now and then I get tired of trying to dismantle a thick, brick wall.

If people want to believe that mental unwellness is predominantly some kind of medical ailment, let it be. I wonder, however, how many folks adhering to that belief will really get better. As one Catholic priest I discussed this with once said, “Satan likes to use psychiatry.”

Not that I want to get caught up in a polarized discussion between materialist psychology on the other hand, and uncritical Catholic orthodoxy, on the other hand. I think both perspectives could learn from each other. But unless I have totally misunderstood the intent of this Huff article, it seems to give emphasis to one side of the debate, which for me is inadequate.