How to get out of an anti-medicine rabbit hole
May 31, 2023 1:07 PM   Subscribe

I recently got pulled into unhelpful online circles that are very anti-medicine in all its forms: anti-treatment, anti-therapy, anti-medication, and anti-recovery. I understand and respect people’s own personal distrust and experiences of harm within these institutions, but this type of content is starting to make me distrust my doctor, my skilled therapist, and mainstream resources around modern medicine and mental illness. Ideas on getting out of this headspace?

CW: discussions of medical harm and anti-treatment perspectives.

(Note: I have a good therapist and will discuss this with them. Posting this anonymously because it contains personal mental health details. I’ll also humbly ask for everyone to try to be respectful to everyone’s lived experiences here—I’m aware discussions around mental illness, politics and medical institutions can, understandably, get intense. Thank you.)

I’d like to be clear that I’m not attacking anyone who has found medical practices, therapy, medication, or psychiatry harmful. I’m aware that medical harm happens much more than it should and can be incredibly traumatizing. Every person has the right to disengage from and to critique systems that have harmed them. I’m also entirely on-board with fully reforming our current medical and mental health systems to mitigate their current issues—I’m aware that there are a lot of deep problems.

All that said: I’ve been incredibly privileged in this area. My doctors have always been somewhat helpful, therapy has never seriously harmed me, psych meds didn’t work for me but I had no lasting effects, and I’ve generally found a life-saving amount of relief in mainstream and peer resources that discuss complex PTSD (which is my diagnosis) and coping with physical illness. I also have affordable access to a specialized trauma therapist. Again, I’m aware this is a huge privilege and a lot of people do not have access to this, and is mediated by where I live (I’m not from the USA), my race, class, luck, etc.

The issue is this: a few months ago, someone on reddit reached out to me after I shared an idea I’d gotten from my therapist on one of the CPTSD subreddits. This person explained how they were severely harmed in their trauma treatment and that I should not trust my current doctor nor my therapist. That it’s only a matter of time until I’m abused by them because therapy and medicine are inherently abusive. Their arguments got into my head—what if I am just brainwashed and can’t see that my doctor and therapist are actively hurting me? Just trying to make me “normal” for capitalist gain? This person sent me tumblr blogs where anti-medicine circles mix with anti-capitalist ideals of anti-institution and of supporting victims who have been harmed by them. All which aligns with many of my far-left political values.

I genuinely feel for these people’s suffering but I also feel deeply uncomfortable being in these spaces since I don’t share their traumatic experiences with medicine/therapy. Most people in these spaces are perfectly kind and friendly and just want to talk about their traumatic experiences in a safe setting without people invalidating them, and most aren’t pushy, so I’m not saying every person in these circles is so intense about this. Normally, I would’ve walked away by now, but I’ve been talking to these mutuals for a while, and feel guilty cutting ties. I feel too entangled in it all.

But I’m mistrusting everything around me now. I keep fighting the strong urge to drop out of therapy and throw away all my self-help books because it all feels unsafe and all I can hear in my head are horror stories and political danger. Can’t trust my doctor, either. It’s making me want to take back any advice I’ve given to friends seeking relief from their mental illness where I told them to give therapy, meds or self-help literature a shot. I’m also currently writing a book—the main character goes through a whole journey of helpful trauma therapy. Now I want to delete that part of the book because it could be promoting harmful institutions and abusive concepts and that feels morally wrong, even though I note within the text that therapy is only one path to recovery, not the only path.

It’s gotten really hard and emotionally crushing because I want to trust some things, sometimes. Yet I’m incredibly anxious writing this question because I feel like I’m betraying the people I've met and the people who have been harmed by these systems. Like I’m abandoning them and going along with therapy/medicine just because I’m too brainwashed and neoliberal to walk away. Clearly, my brain isn’t entirely in touch with my current life. My therapist, doctor and the mainstream mental health literature on my bookshelf are, luckily, not hurting me. But it feels like my peers are warning me about serious danger I can’t see, and it’s so hard for me to turn away from them when all my trauma-brain wants to focus on is their warnings.

All this might sound naïve and high-school—I’m in my mid-20’s and worrying about what a small subsection of online peers think about my personal medical choices? It’s ridiculous. But this sense of hidden threat is pervading everything I do now. I’m assuming getting out these online circles (e.g. deactivating my tumblr/reddit accounts, maybe) is the first step, even though that feels like a betrayal of my peers and politics.

My question is this: do you have any resources or thoughts on how to get out of this type of anti-medicine, anti-treatment thinking, especially when mentally ill and isolated and therefore more prone to anxious thinking? How to (cautiously, with an acknowledgement of the issues and my rights) trust current medicine and my therapist again? Again, it’s completely understandable if someone doesn’t want therapy/treatment or doesn’t trust medical institutions—but that experience is not one I share so any ideas in stepping away from that perspective would be helpful. Sorry for the broad question, but any thoughts at all here would be useful. Thank you very much.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I apologize if this sounds flippant, but maybe start by just... not spending time in these circles anymore? You can betray your peers (who could be bots, for all you know), or you can betray yourself. Which is worse?

The answer isn't that easy; this is how people recruit for cults, after all. But maybe reading about cult recruitment might actually help you see how this person/these people are trying to manipulate you. Without knowing the details of your mental illness, I'd hazard a guess that there's something there that makes you more susceptible to manipulation, and that's something to talk to your therapist about.

It might be helpful (or it might really be unhelpful, be warned) to read some details of cases where anti-medicine had some pretty terrible outcomes. I read a little about Christian Science recently, and it's really hard for me, as someone who tends to be fairly suspicious of medicine in general, to regard the death of a child because his parents didn't believe in going to doctors as somehow being a net positive for society.

As with most things, I think the concept of the golden mean is helpful. After all, there are real problems with western medicine. Health insurance, the pharmaceutical industry, etc. But there are real problems, well documented, with avoiding doctors and medication altogether, too. There's a balance point somewhere in the middle. The answer is never black or white. (And also, anybody who insists that it is is probably either a quack, an abuser, or both - give them a wide berth.)

Ultimately, the proof is in the proverbial pudding. Try this: eat something that upsets your stomach. Then drink some Pepto-Bismol. Which felt worse? It doesn't make you a capitalist sellout to not want to shit your pants.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:35 PM on May 31 [18 favorites]

I'm so sorry, this sounds so painful and I can tell you're trying hard to do the right thing. With love, I'd like to say that the people you've been talking to were just fine before you popped into their community. They have each other to lean on, and since they actually share a common history and beliefs, they are able to truly support each other. Their community will not be appreciably damaged if you bow out. In fact, if they knew that participating was hurting your mental health, they would absolutely support you taking a break. So, do that. Resolve to take a break for a month or two, and re-evauate after that. You can always re-engage if, once you are in a stronger place mentally, you feel you want to go back into that world.
posted by Ausamor at 1:46 PM on May 31 [10 favorites]

It sounds as if you are invalidating your experiences for the experiences and lived experiences of others, which is something that people with complex histories can easily fall into. I wonder if some of your anxiety and fear is based in something else about your past, because you are clearly articulating that your experience right now is safe but your feelings are somewhere else.

At least my experiences with trauma on line spaces are that they run in cycles with people, people tend to have pretty intense participation until they ... don't... because they find it unhelpful or distressing or they are just in a different place. This is normal. Not all places that focus on cptsd focus on medical trauma, this could be focused more in the group your in specifically.

If your ready to depart and feel there's a relationship or two that is worth keeping, reach out to them and find an alternate way to communicate.

Please put yourself first, you deserve to be in places that are supportive of you and your experience. If these people can't hold that you are having a decent time in therapy and with meds ( well not harmful) maybe this really isn't the space you need to be in.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:50 PM on May 31 [8 favorites]

Delete the accounts. Or at least pick another part of Reddit to post in.

It sounds like you have strong feelings of responsibility to these posters but you can't actually help them with the tools that you have. It doesn't sound like they even want help, more like their illness is making them yell into the void. You are just the random target who will stay still long enough to listen.
posted by kingdead at 1:51 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]

A huge part of the reason that people fall into conspiracy theories is because of the community it gives them. It sounds like that’s what’s happening here—you struggle with the ideals but have connected with the community and this is creating an internal conflict that you don’t know how to navigate. It’s a hard, crummy situation to be in and I really feel for you.

I heard somewhere once that the most dangerous lies have a little bit of truth in them. I wonder if looking at what they are saying through that lens may be helpful. It IS true that there are a lot of terrible medical professionals out there, both in mental health and non-mental health settings, that are causing real trauma to their patients. The experiences that led them down this rabbit hole are real and painful. But that is where the truth ends. You can honor that truth while recognizing that everything after that point is a lie.

The first thing you need to do is step back. These people are sucking you in with guilt-tripping and shaming, whether intentional or not. It is understandable that you would feel guilty and conflicted but please understand that their approach is manipulative and you need to step away. Secondly, I would ask yourself if there is something lacking in your life that’s causing you to seek out community elsewhere. This is a great thing to explore in therapy. Are there relationships in your life (not romantically—I mean friendships, acquaintances, etc) that you are lacking? How can you re-create that sense of community in a healthy way?

Then take it from there. Good luck!
posted by Amy93 at 2:10 PM on May 31 [9 favorites]

Again, it’s completely understandable if someone doesn’t want therapy/treatment or doesn’t trust medical institutions—but that experience is not one I share so any ideas in stepping away from that perspective would be helpful.

Movements need many voices operating from many positions. You are doing the right thing by acknowledging that experience can be very real for people while not being your experience. Your experience is also valid and it is not wrong for you to pursue what works for you, while understanding that it doesn't work for everyone and supporting change. You should do what works for you to take care of yourself, including stepping away from communities that you are not finding helpful to you. You are not betraying or disrespecting them by taking care of yourself in a way that is appropriate for you.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:19 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]

Can you consider taking a subreddit vacation/break of 1-2 weeks, and then re-assess how you feel before returning?
posted by samthemander at 2:20 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]

This person explained how they were severely harmed in their trauma treatment and that I should not trust my current doctor nor my therapist. That it’s only a matter of time until I’m abused by them because therapy and medicine are inherently abusive.

I always get annoyed when people talk about doctors and therapists as though, being "trained professionals", they must inevitably be good at their jobs; I get annoyed because doctors and therapists are people, and some people are excellent at what they do, some are very very bad at it, and many are somewhere in the middle. You can't generalize; they're all individuals, and they're all working in fields with lots of room for individual, subjective judgement.

By the same measure, it's disconnected from reality to say that a doctor or therapist is inevitably going to be abusive. These are individuals, with individual personalities and goals and philosophies and agendas. There are some abusive ones, because there are some abusive people in any group, and there will definitely be bad ones, but there are also going to be a lot of good, non-abusive ones who do actually want to help. You can't generalize, however convenient a generalization can be.

Their arguments got into my head—what if I am just brainwashed and can’t see that my doctor and therapist are actively hurting me? Just trying to make me “normal” for capitalist gain?

On the capitalist gain front... personally I'd worry more about people imposing their religious goals on me; capitalists tend to be less zealous, and to focus their zealotry on things like taxes, privatization, and regulation than on the national employment rate. And I've met a fair share of anti-capitalists doctors.

On the brainwashing front: I think it's a general good practice to periodically examine the effect other people, environments, and actions are having on you (like you're examining the effect these circles are having on you), and that's definitely true regarding doctors and therapists. Work out for yourself, every so often, what your treatment goals are, how you feel about them, how you feel about the treatment you're receiving, whether you feel that you're able to raise concerns and be listened to, and so on. If you ever feel railroaded into something, pay attention to that. If you ever feel encouraged in directions that you want, pay attention to that. If you're ever unsure about things, second (and third) opinions are useful and recommended. If you find yourself going in directions you once would never have taken, stop and carefully think about why you're doing it, whether the reasons are good, whether the experience is okay, what the results have been so far, whether there are signs to pay attention to that will tell you when it's time to stop or when you're going too far, and so on.

You can make a list of the most fundamental values you want to follow, and periodically review them, weigh your current path against them, and, if there's a conflict, work through whether it's the values or the path that need adjustment, and why.

In short, don't worry about something vague and passive like "being brainwashed"; make it a habit to actively stop and take a look around on a regular basis so that you don't end up sleepwalking. To abuse another metaphor, if you're worried about being a frog in a gradually warming pot, start regularly taking the temperature instead of avoiding all ponds. (Sorry, that came out even more strained than I thought it would.)

Finally.... it's not only doctors and therapists who could potentially, in theory, become abusive or brainwashing. Online (and IRL) communities are famous for that too, particularly ones with an ideological focus. And even if they're not doing anything with bad intent, there can still be a bad effect on you. (Lots of people take breaks from Metafilter for that reason - i.e. not because they feel it's abusive or brainwashing, but because they notice they don't like the way participation has been affecting their mood, their free time, etc.)

So, again, evaluate all these things regularly, feel free to take breaks from them or just stop them altogether, and keep actively paying attention to what the actual effect on you and your life is.
posted by trig at 2:36 PM on May 31 [8 favorites]

You are quite young still and I have known dozens of people in your age group that go through this same phase. I’m not saying that you will grow out of it or whatever - people of all ages are susceptible to self doubt and group think - but rather to validate your experience as being entirely age appropriate. You are just a few years into being treated like an adult, and have so much to learn about the world and yourself. It’s normal to see a chink in the wall of authority figures and institutions and poke holes into it, only to become scared when the wall crumbles a bit.

As a long term tumblr person (I got these shoelaces from the president) I have seen the harm that these circles can do. There is a normalization of blame and shame, a weird attachment to out of the blue bomb drop dms as a viable form of communication, an assumption that everyone has either read all the back posts and every tag in every reblog or just tripped across a post that day as a newborn and needs to be fully educated from base principles with seemingly no in between. But, as a far left person who has been on tumblr for over fifteen years, there is plenty of value to still be gleaned, just not from those people. Block people liberally, turn off anonymous messages immediately, engage in dashboard pruning. You are not obligated to interact with anyone who makes you feel unsafe, and that includes online and it includes people making you feel the way that you describe in this question.

I am not on Reddit and so have no advice on that front but it is probably similar. Find subreddits that are full of positive people who can hold complex opinions and who understand that experiences differ and can all be valid. Block mute or whatever it’s called there regularly. Don’t doomscroll in threads; if you feel bad step away.

Offline, work on trusting yourself and having confidence in your opinions and memories. Depending on the modality of your therapy you might find something fruitful there, but you could also write down your medical history and keep good records so they are easy to refer to. Day to day look for media that showcases the lives of people with wildly different experiences to your own or with complex moralities - reinforce the idea that two people can have very different experiences with the same thing, that what systems work for some are actively harmful to others, that morality is an ever moving thing. There is no best way to be a good person, and someone else’s bad time doesn’t mean your good time doesn’t count.

Yes there is some validity to the views you describe. Western medical institutions have an extremely shady history and comparatively not much energy is being put into rectifying that today rather than forging ahead with new things and making money. Hell, we just recently got updated blood donation guidelines that let sexually active gay men donate, in frigging 2023! But importantly, the reason for that was a huge study that involved referring to the standards from all over the world, equity experts and many many many committed scientists and officials.

I have a theory about the anti medical bias you’re talking about, and it’s because some people can’t be comfortable with an authority figure who freely admits to not knowing things. Medicine is a realm that we are honestly just getting started in - there are plenty of people still alive who remember before antibiotics. A good scientist is going to admit there are more things they don’t know than things they do, and that the more they learn the more questions they will have. That’s how it’s supposed to work! Yet when someone is a medical doctor and is responsible for the life and mental health of a patient in their care, admitting to not knowing something is really scary. So there are lots of points where this relationship between patient and doctor can begin to sour even before you get into stuff like systemic descrimination and the insurance racket. This dovetails nicely with a lot of anti establishment rhetoric in some groups, and outsized self reliance in others. A desire for purity of thought or process - something inherent in most of the groups you describe - means that whole systems and institutions are derided because they aren’t perfect to begin with, and the spiral goes on.

Anyway, I’ve rambled at length, sorry, but in short, you sound like you’re having a time of it but also like you are pretty normal for your age and experience; keep learning about the different lives and experiences of different people and don’t work to invalidate them, or your own experiences; try to become more comfortable with uncertainty - it will save you a lot of strife; and people who admit to not knowing things are not the same thing as people who don’t want to help.
posted by Mizu at 2:48 PM on May 31 [7 favorites]

1. It is your trauma brain hyper focusing on “what if this will hurt me” and “how can I be in control” (I.e. thinking that your actions in this micro community are going to have a lasting impact on capitalism. It’s also ok to write your book.

2. Get off the internet and spend a few days figuring out how you feel apart from this community. Go for walks and breathe and be in your body and see where you’re at.

3. I was in an anti-therapy group a long time ago. Super glad I did therapy. It is often a valid phase but it’s not a whole story.

4. You can trust yourself to figure out what’s good for you. Not perfectly all the time, but you really can.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:46 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]

The first thing is to leave that sub and swap it for something that engages your brain in a happy-interesting way for a while. It's coming on summer, find a camping (all the ones I'm in are very nice, I dip out of any that veer too close to "complaining/competing as a hobby/personality") or gardening or grilling sub, r/cheesemaking or something.

Touch grass, as they say, even if just digitally. Go do something else. Go play, go engage in something not deeply and sadly mired in other people's very real but often misattributed trauma, disappointment, unmet expectations, anger, fear, anxiety, and maybe sometimes delusion. Engaging with that material is a form of trauma and you recognize it is crossing the line to self-harm; it's time to redirect. Surely you have a junk drawer that needs cleaning out, or there's some cute dogs walking down the street that you're missing. Go tend to your own life and leave them to theirs.

Also, any chance you're using this to avoid dealing with some therapy homework you know is going to be a particular uphill slog? Is this time of year a bad anniversary? Is the lengthening daylight fucking up your sleep? What's going on? Usually when people start getting sucked into any sort of "dark side" material, something's going on, some unmet need or ache or disruption in your normal processing patterns. So go look at some cute dogs and also maybe have a good "my buddy, my pal" talk with yourself about what you might be trying not to look directly at.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:54 PM on May 31 [9 favorites]

Weirdly I just read a book that might help you, If it Sounds Like a Quack, today. The book is about alternative medicine and goes deeply into why it’s so popular and what people, especially people who have had terrible experiences with mainstream medicine, are getting out of it. While I think the whole book is excellent if you don’t have time to read an entire book the chapters that follow Robert O. Young are the most relevant, some of them are from the perspective of a client who turned away from mainstream medicine to accept his alternative healing.

Personally I went into anaphylactic shock a little over a week ago, I have nothing to say but good things about modern medicine as I am still alive.
posted by lepus at 4:01 PM on May 31 [6 favorites]

Do everything you can to quit reddit. While it's quite possible to find less destructive communities there, I'm getting the sense that you're having trouble making good distinctions about them. In the big picture, there's nothing on reddit you need to thrive or even survive. If you haven't actually had bad experiences with medicine, it sounds like this community offers poison more than help. Until you're in a better place, just give the whole place some distance.

While it's very possible to experience abuse at the hand of medical professionals, those same professionals also have big incentives to not abuse people under their care, up to including legal liability and loss of livelihood.

Ask yourself what incentives to random redditors have to not cause harm, even those with the best of intentions? If someone from that community is led to self destruction, what consequences would anybody face? Would they even know? Nobody on reddit is practicing medicine or therapy or law. And if they are, that's absolutely a big red flag to stay away.
posted by 2N2222 at 4:02 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]

Well I don’t have anything to add except I think it will be valuable to have LOTS of people validating your feelings and also steering you away from these people who aren’t helping you and seem to be harming you. You will be ok without them, and they will be as best they can with what they’ve got, same as they did before you got involved.
posted by Glinn at 4:27 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If these online communities are not supportive of your mental health, you should not participate in them. They don’t have any objective validity beyond the effect they have on you, which you say is negative.

I suggest taking a break for a month to clear your head. Then you can decide whether you want to reconnect. Frankly, I hope you don’t, because they sound harmful. But setting a goal of a month break might be a good way to start.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 5:36 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]

Just in case it helps you step away, which you say you want to do - my mother fell down this rabbit hole when she was diagnosed with a cancer that, at the time of her diagnosis, would have had close to a 90% five-year survival rate. But she refused conventional treatment and was dead within an agonizing, painful, bitter year.

It sounds like you've made personal connections and feel some sense of obligation to this community. It also sounds like many of them are getting real value and support from sharing their experiences. But this kind of thinking and the emotional, involuntary, sweeping mistrust it inspires - especially in the most desperate and vulnerable - also causes real harm to real people. It seems like it is already causing you real harm, and that is all the justification you need to step away.
posted by exutima at 5:40 PM on May 31 [5 favorites]

It sounds like your paranoia was triggered so spend some time around people you deeply trust until the present wave has passed. No one is out to get you or deeply manipulate you. If doctors prescribe the wrong Rx for you, it is because we are still learning so much about mental illness and medication, not because they have malicious intent. Very few people are out to get anyone, they work within the limits of their collective knowledge and experience.

So again. Your paranoia has been triggered that touches on a deep sense of lack of individual safety and malicious intent of others. Reassure yourself that you know how to take care of yourself and your best interest; you CAN protect yourself. Go to a friend you deeply trust and tell them all this and soak in the safety. If anyone ever tried to manipulate you you can just… walk away. You have all the control. You’re powerful and have agency. You’re intelligent and can trust yourself.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:43 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]

A lot of people have given great advice for disengaging from this community, but I want to engage seriously with your concerns about mental health treatment and the claims of the anti-treatment movement. I grew up in an anti-medicine household that resulted in serious long-term harm to me and went on to become a therapist. I am also far-left, anti-capitalist, anti-incarceration, etc. I spent many years working on how to reconcile my participation in the field that does, in many instances, systemically abuse people. Part of the "every lie has a bit of truth to it" is that the mental health system is abusive in many ways.

But here's the thing. When we say "the mental health system" we are referring to so many things. And I thought myself complicit in a violent history that I've only recently learned most therapists are both historically, systematically, and legally disconnected from. The history of mental health treatment is a godawful mess, but the first thing to know is that psychiatry and psychology (and social work, counseling, etc.) are not the same fields. They are very different training, with very different foundations and perspectives on human beings and mental health. This article might interest you, especially this bit:
Before World War II, psychologists were “firmly subordinated to medical men [psychiatrists], largely confined to administering psychological instruments such as IQ tests, and mostly women or Jewish or both (and thus doubly marginalized at the time)."


In the 1940s and 1950s, the psychiatric profession (which included mostly psychoanalysts at the time) tried to keep psychologists in a subordinate position. The hierarchy broke down, however, once mental institutions began to empty their beds and the delivery of care shifted to less centralized outpatient facilities.
That inpatient vs outpatient bit is crucial, hold onto that. See, something even I didn't realize until well into my training is that psychiatrists and every other type of mental health clinician have extremely different levels of institutional power. Inpatient units are run by psychiatrists. In most locations only MDs have "admitting privileges," meaning only psychiatrists are able to institutionalize someone against their will. In my area, psychologists haven't even been let into inpatient units until the last few years. Like, literally, only since COVID times have they allowed psychologists to participate in inpatient care. And they always have to defer to psychiatrists on final decisions; you can argue until you're blue in the face that a patient should be released but the psychiatrist is the only person with the power to do so.

Generally, the crux of mad rights and anti-psychiatry (some people use the term anti-therapy or anti-psych but the movement started specific to psychiatry for a good reason) is bodily autonomy. It's specifically inpatient psychiatrists that have the legal authority to institutionalize people against their will. Except in rare instances, almost no other mental health professional has this power. Some outpatient psychiatrists might, if they do a mix of inpatient and outpatient, have admitting privileges. But AFAIK this is rare--most people specialize in only inpatient or only outpatient.

My supervisors drilled into me that if I send someone to the ER, I need to be okay with giving up all control over the situation because the psychiatrist on staff does not have to take my opinion on institutionalization into consideration whatsoever. I actually do not have any more power than a random stranger in this regard--I can call 911, but so can anyone. Psychologists, social workers, LPCs, LMFTs, etc. are simply locked out of access to that institutional power.

This is not to say that these individuals can't be abusive or act unethically, or that there aren't other fundamental problems with the field. But anti-psychiatry and mad rights were specifically born around demands for bodily autonomy, and the framework doesn't work when applied to a situation that is not about bodily autonomy. It sounds like you are receiving mostly or only outpatient treatment. The theory, political organization, and community that anti-psychiatry was built around was about involuntary inpatient treatment. Over the years, especially online, a number of people have co-opted that language and community to be about outpatient, voluntary treatment as well. But this foundationally doesn't work, because the systemic problems with inpatient treatment are centered around bodily autonomy and a legal authority that most outpatient clinicians simply do not have. Your therapist not only cannot do this to you, they don't even come from the same field as the people who can. Their field has been working to return bodily autonomy to mentally ill people for decades. This doesn't absolve them of other issues, and there are still people that happily go along with the current system, but it is straight up not the same field as involuntary inpatient psychiatry on pretty much every conceivable level. So absolutely, absolutely do not stop seeing your therapist because they are your strongest advocate if someone ever does try and use this systemic power against you.

And, further, don't stop seeing your psychiatrist either. As already mentioned, outpatient psychiatrists generally don't have admitting privileges, so the anti-psychiatry movement isn't (or shouldn't be) about them. Further, the problem with psychiatry is the power that is given over people's bodily autonomy. Not everyone who has power over others' autonomy abuses it, and there are many situations in life where we need to interact with people with power over us to get what we need. No longer seeing your psychiatrist will not remove the power imbalance as anyone can still call 911 on you and an inpatient psychiatrist can still admit you involuntarily. And doing so will mean you don't have access to resources that you need and find helpful.

Bodily autonomy is about being able to choose to use those resources, if you wish. Demanding that people don't use medication, therapy, or any kind of treatment is against the principles of bodily autonomy and mad rights. You can be a leftist and still use resources that are provided in the context of a problematic system. In fact unless you're a complete anarchist, leftist praxis demands this. I assume you still pay taxes and use roads, sidewalks, etc. even though the state system is deeply flawed and has abused many people. Even if you don't, I'm sure there's something you participate in that fits the bill. Existing as a person means some kind of engagement with institutions. Some specific institutions (involuntary inpatient psychiatry) are worse and more dangerous, but that doesn't mean you need to opt out of every institution that has ever touched on the topic of "mental health."

There's more I could say on this comment but it got way too long--feel free to MeMail me if you'd like to talk more (sockpuppet is fine, or if you want to have one of the mods post or MeMail me an e-mail address). But I hope this helps you better understand your relationship to your mental health providers. Receiving outpatient therapy or medication (or even voluntary inpatient) has little to nothing to do with the goals of anti-psychiatry, even though many people have extended it far beyond its original purpose. And the systemic abuse that the mad rights group has politically organized about is a completely separate beast from the mental healthcare you're receiving. They share a broad umbrella, but they are separate on many, many levels that the general public doesn't really understand. You are not a bad person for accessing these resources. And you are not putting yourself at risk for abuse by doing this. In fact, by working to keep yourself stable, you are lessening your risk of someone using the power of institutionalization against you.posted by brook horse at 7:28 PM on May 31 [19 favorites]

I have found it helpful with my own deep distrust of professionals to remind myself that I should never put my whole trust in anything. That’s the definition of false gods. I try to remind myself that we’re all muddling along whether we have a professional degree or not and there is no magic answer in anything. Being falsely convinced that all medicine is fallible is just as much a mistake as thinking it’s beyond reproach.

(Off to have an imperfect DMD remove a failing tooth implant that was put in by another and even more distinguished DMD, probably the right thing to do but who knows. Otherwise I have excellent teeth because dentistry works on the whole. It’s all a matter of statistics and there is no One True Right Answer, including this one, but I prefer being able to chew.)
posted by Peach at 5:26 AM on June 1 [3 favorites]

Their arguments got into my head—what if I am just brainwashed and can’t see that my doctor and therapist are actively hurting me? Just trying to make me “normal” for capitalist gain? This person sent me tumblr blogs where anti-medicine circles mix with anti-capitalist ideals of anti-institution and of supporting victims who have been harmed by them

One thing to keep in mind is that everyone in the US is living in a capitalist society, and many people try to turn other people away from mainstream medicine in order to sell their own treatment. This is still capitalism. Choosing alternative medicine is not anti-capitalist in and of itself. Treatment from an accredited MD is also not capitalist in and of itself.

The simple definition of capitalism is the motive to make a profit. And pretty much anyone doing any kind of work in the US is trying to do that- or at least, not actively avoiding it. I do have to say that our for profit healthcare system is pretty bad, and a lot of the arguments and needs for people to find their own way would evaporate if everyone got free health care.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:20 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]

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