Psychiatry as Pseudoscience

Not only psychiatry itself but also the values reflected in its statistical definition of “normalcy” serve to condition men to habitual, unthinking, conformist behavior.

– Benjamin R. Barber



Moral Bias and Politics in Psychiatry


Unrecognized Facts About Modern Psychiatric Practice (PDF)

  • There are no known biological causes for any of the psychiatric disorders apart from dementia and some rare chromosomal disorders. Consequently, there are no biological tests such as blood tests or brain scans that can be used to provide independent objective data in support of any psychiatric diagnosis.
  • Psychiatric drugs have often been prescribed to patients on the basis that they cure a ‘chemical imbalance’. However, no chemical imbalances have been proven to exist in relation to any mental health disorder. There is also no method available to test for the presence or absence of these chemical imbalances.
  • Psychiatric diagnostic manuals such as the DSM and ICD (chapter 5) are not works of objective science, but rather works of culture since they have largely been developed through clinical consensus and voting. Their validity and clinical utility is therefore highly questionable, yet their influence has contributed to an expansive medicalisation of human experience.
  • Just like other substances that affect brain chemistry (such as illicit drugs), psychiatric drugs produce altered mental states. They do not ‘cure‘ diseases, and in many cases their mechanism of action is not properly understood.
  • Studies have found that antidepressants have no clinically significant benefit over placebo pills (inert pills) in the treatment of mild to moderate depression, while they provide some benefit for severe depression, at least in the short term. Recent research also suggests that antidepressants may be associated with a risk of increased mortality, at least among the elderly.
  • There has been little research on the long-term outcomes of people taking psychiatric drugs. The available studies suggest that all the major classes of psychiatric drugs add little additional long-term benefit, and for some patients they may lead to significantly worse long-term outcomes.
  • Psychiatric drugs can have long-lasting effects on the brain and central nervous system, particularly when taken long term, which can lead to physical, emotional and cognitive difficulties.
  • Psychiatric drugs can have effects that include mental disturbance, suicide, violence, and withdrawal syndromes. These can be misdiagnosed as new psychiatric presentations, for which additional drugs may be prescribed, sometimes leading to long-term use of multiple different psychiatric drugs in the same person
  • Withdrawal from psychiatric drugs can be disabling and can cause a range of severe physical and psychological effects which often last for months and sometimes years; in some cases, withdrawal charities report, it may lead to suicide.
  • Use of psychiatric drugs in children and adolescents has been rapidly expanding across the developed world. The potential long-term damage these drugs can have on developing brains has not been properly assessed. Furthermore, there is now evidence that increased use of medication within this age group may lead to worse long-term outcomes.
  • The UK regulator of psychiatric drugs (the MHRA) is entirely funded by the pharmaceutical industry, and employs ex-industry professionals in key leadership positions. Such conflicts of interest could lead to lenient regulation that places commercial interests above patient protection.
  • Ties between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry are particularly widespread in psychiatry. In the UK psychiatrists do not have to report to any agency or authority how much industry income they receive each year.
  • The majority of psychiatric drug trials are conducted and commissioned by the pharmaceutical industry or those who have extensive ties with them. This industry has a long history burying negative results, and of manipulating research to highlight positive outcomes.

myth of mental illness

The Myth of Mental Illness

Macbeth: How does your patient, doctor?

Doctor: Not so sick, my lord, as she is troubled with thick-coming fancies that keep her from rest.

Macbeth: Cure her of that! Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased, pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, raze out the written troubles of the brain, and with some sweet oblivious antidote cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff which weighs upon her heart?

Doctor: Therein the patient must minister to himself.

– William Shakespeare

Quantum Mysticism

Our bodies are like a radio device. They have the unique ability to serve as the suitable instrument to allow the soul to flow through us, animate us, and receive expression through us. Each of our distinct bodies possesses a unique frequency which is perfectly set to ‘pick up’ the waves of only our soul. My body is set to a frequency to serve as the home to my soul, and your body is set to a frequency to serve as the home to your soul.

This concept contains profound meaning when we consider death. When someone dies, we all ask the question, “Where did the soul go?” The real answer to this is that the soul didn’t go anywhere. It already exists everywhere. The only thing that ‘went somewhere’ was the body.

But in addition to teaching a lesson about death, this concept teaches an even greater lesson about life. Our life’s perfection can only be accomplished if and when our bodies are precisely in sync with the frequency of our soul. Only then can our soul be fully integrated within us, and can our bodies serve as perfect conduits to give expression to our soul’s desires, passions and destiny. Only then can we exist completely ‘in our element’, in perfect harmony and inner peace.

– Rabbi Eliezer Wolf

niels bohr quote

Quantum Mysticism

Quantum mysticism is a set of metaphysical beliefs and associated practices that seek to relate consciousness, intelligence, spirituality, or mystical world-views to the ideas of quantum mechanics and its interpretations. Quantum mysticism is considered by most scientists and philosophers to be pseudoscience or “quackery”.

Early Controversy and Resolution

Quantum mysticism in the sense of consciousness playing a role in quantum theory first appeared in Germany during the 1920s when some of the leading quantum physicists, such as Erwin Schrödinger and Werner Heisenberg, leaned toward such interpretations of their theories. Others, such as Albert Einstein and Max Planck, objected to these interpretations. Despite the accusation of mysticism from Einstein, Niels Bohr denied the charge, attributing it to misunderstandings. By the second half of the twentieth century the controversy had run its course—Schrödinger’s 1958 lectures are said to “mark the last of a generation that lived with the mysticism controversy”—and today most physicists are realists who do not believe that quantum theory is involved with consciousness.


In 1961 Eugene Wigner wrote a paper, titled Remarks on the mind–body question, suggesting that a conscious observer played a fundamental role in quantum mechanics. A part of the Von Neumann–Wigner interpretation. While his paper would serve as inspiration for later mystical works by others, Wigner’s ideas were primarily philosophical in nature and are not considered “in the same ballpark” as the mysticism that would follow.

Appropriation by New Age Thought

In the early 1970s New Age culture began to incorporate ideas from quantum physics, beginning with books by Arthur Koestler, Lawrence LeShan and others which suggested that purported parapsychological phenomena could be explained by quantum mechanics. In this decade the Fundamental Fysiks Group emerged, a group of physicists who embraced quantum mysticism while engaging in parapsychology, Transcendental Meditation, and various New Age and Eastern mystical practices. Inspired in part by Wigner, Fritjof Capra, a member of the Fundamental Fysiks Group, wrote The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism (1975), a book espousing New Age quantum physics that gained popularity among the non-scientific public. In 1979 came the publication of The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav, a non-scientist and “the most successful of Capra’s followers”. The Fundamental Fysiks Group is said to be one of the agents responsible for the “huge amount of pseudoscientific nonsense” surrounding interpretations of quantum mechanics.

Modern Usage and Examples

In contrast to the mysticism of Schrödinger and Heisenberg, today quantum mysticism typically refers to its New Age incarnation that combines ancient mysticism with quantum mechanics. Called a pseudoscience and a “hijacking” of quantum physics, it draws upon “coincidental similarities of language rather than genuine connections” to quantum mechanics. Physicist Murray Gell-Mann coined the phrase “quantum flapdoodle” to refer to the misuse and misapplication of quantum physics to other topics.

An example of such misuse is New Age guru Deepak Chopra’s “quantum theory” that aging is caused by the mind, expounded in his books Quantum Healing (1989) and Ageless Body, Timeless Mind (1993). In 1998 Chopra was awarded the parody Ig Nobel Prize in the physics category for “his unique interpretation of quantum physics as it applies to life, liberty, and the pursuit of economic happiness”.

The 2004 film What the Bleep Do We Know!? dealt with a range of New Age ideas in relation to physics. It was produced by the Ramtha School of Enlightenment which was founded by J.Z. Knight, a channeler who said that her teachings were based on a discourse with a 35,000-year-old disembodied entity named Ramtha. Featuring Fundamental Fysiks Group member Fred Alan Wolf, the film misused some aspects of quantum mechanics—including the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the observer effect—as well as biology and medicine. Numerous critics dismissed the film for its use of pseudoscience.

I love that in quantum physics for some reason it’s become an excuse to mock all of science. See it’s nothing real, nothing true and whatever you think, that’s how the world is. So if you think positively you remake the world positively according to this pseudo scientist explanation.

 – Barbara Ehrenreich, Royal Society of Arts


Further reading: Quantum Approaches to Consciousness