Ruined Lives: Big Pharma, Psychiatry and Overdiagnosis

Bipolarized: Rethinking Mental Illness

Directed by Rita Kotzia (2014)

Film Review

This documentary tells the tragic story of a man with presumptive PTSD who was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 17 and spent the next 16 years drugged up with lithium carbonate. In 2010, after two attempts to stop the lithium caused incapacitating depression, he admitted himself to a specialist clinic in Costa Rica that helped him gradually taper and discontinue the lithium.

Although family and friends noticed an immense improvement in his functioning (he was less depressed and more alert, energetic, and focused), without the medication he continued to experience disabling spells of anxiety.

He tried numerous alternative treatment options:

  • He saw a naturapath who gave him 20+ intravenous chelation treatments for toxic blood levels of lead and mercury.
  • He saw a shaman in Colombia who treated him with psychic surgery.*
  • Yoga (partially effective)
  • Acupuncture
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation**

Finally he saw a psychologist specializing in trauma therapy who diagnosed PTSD and helped him work through childhood micro-traumas he experienced with an extremely physically and emotionally abusive father.

In May 2012, he joined a protest at the American Psychiatric Association annual conference  with hundreds of other psychiatric patients whose lives were ruined by misdiagnosis.

The film blames the tendency for psychiatrists to misdiagnose and overdiagnose serious mental disorders on the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), the current “bible” of psychiatric diagnosis. Many psychiatrists acknowledge that recent DSM editions (DSM III through DSM V)  have been heavily influenced by Big Pharma. At present, the vast majority of psychiatric research is funded by pharmaceutical companies.

The current DSM V is very different from DSM II, the manual I used during my residency. Prior to the release of DSM III (published two years after I finished training), psychiatric diagnosis was based on a patient’s longitudinal psychosocial history. In other words, with the help of family, a psychiatrist took a full his of a patient’s emotional and social functioning. Beginning with DSM III, psychiatrists were trained to diagnose a patient based on a single interview and DSM III’s Chinese menu system of symptom clusters.

However even under DSM IV and DSM V criteria, it’s totally inappropriate to diagnose a patient bipolar based on a single manic episode. To qualify for this diagnosis, there needs to be a clear pattern of repeated mood swings.

For me the most interesting part of the film was a quote from Robert Whittaker (in Mad in America) about a WHO study revealing Third World schizophrenics have better treatment outcomes than those from the industrial North. The former receive mainly psychosocial treatments; while the latter are nearly always treated with psychotropic medication.

*Psychic surgery usually involves the channeling of spirits to eliminate acute and chronic illnesses.

**Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety.


18 thoughts on “Ruined Lives: Big Pharma, Psychiatry and Overdiagnosis

  1. Such stories explain, to me, why I refuse to indulge any sort of pharmaceutical pseudo witchcraft. I’ve never done any drugs, prescription, over the counter or street-offered because that is never the way to go. It’s like smoking (never done that either), the body gets addicted to the drug(s) and thinks it can’t function without them. We have an immune system for such things as viruses and we have one for mental conditions which can be traced down to lazy mishandling of emotional conditions. It’s called common sense. There’s probably many drugs proffered to counteract common sense because common sense isn’t profitable for the global unhealth industry.

    Liked by 2 people

    • All I can say, Sha’Tara, is that Rockefeller and the robber barons messed up our health and medical education system pretty badly by forcing doctors to move away from true healing to pharmacology. As I near the end of my life, I am really saddened to learn the extent to which I have been colonized, not only as a woman, but as a doctor.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I suffered CPTSD for decades. I studied Dr. Christine Courtois and was finally able to break down the walls holding me back. CPTSD can be fully resolved with the right treatment. It just happens to be very much of a cash cow for those calling themselves professionals.


    • To be honest, Joyce, I encounter very few activists (including myself) who haven’t experienced major problems as adults due to childhood trauma. I’ve come to believe that as a society, we have unwittingly incorporate child sexual, physical and emotional abuse into the colonization process.

      Liked by 1 person

      • As a writer [and having studied psychology and human behavior lifelong], I found it difficult, at first, to impart the emotion I was portraying to the reader. I came to the conclusion one must have a reference point for said emotion in order to ‘feel’ it.

        If a reader has not experienced terror, then when reading of one who experienced it, they feel only pity–no compassion or empathy.

        I came to the conclusion we are not born with the ability to ‘feel’ compassion and/or empathy. We must have reference points in order to do so.


  3. I wish I could remember the name of the Psychiatrist who spoke at Mount Holyoke who essentially said that schizophrenics were disappointed with their lives from an early age – that was it!
    Big Pharma has corrupted all medical care and psych treatments – period.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agreed. I have studied human behavior and psychology all my life. I cannot believe what has been done [or not done.] This whole ‘profession’ has been created on a weave of fantasy.

      They most certainly need ‘help.’


    • Trace, what’s excited me most over the last decade was learning the extent to which an imbalance of intestinal bacteria affects the expression of many serious mental disorders (schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder etc). Just think of how much human potential could be unlocked if we eliminate people’s exposure to Roundup and other pesticides, vaccines, and chlorinated and fluoridated water.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree that environmental toxins contribute significantly to psychiatric, as well as other health problems. In this documentary, I wondered how Ross McKenzie got all that lead and mercury in his system in the first place. People are not normally tested for them, yet I suspect they are way more prevalent in the environment than we suspect, since both are used a lot in industry, so would be concentrated in industrialized societies. Think of mercury -containing tooth fillings.


        • When I was in private practice in the US, Katherine, I always tested children presenting with attention deficit hyperactivity symptoms for lead poisoning. Interesting about mercury fillings. I had most of my amalgam fillings removed 25 years ago – and it’s only this year the FDA has come out with a warning about their toxicity.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Well, good for you. Lead is probably the best known neurotoxin, but the term “mad as a hatter” comes from the old practice of using mercury in the hat-making process. I read one study that cited elevated lead and mercury levels in racoons and other animals at the mouth of the Savannah river. There was also at least one tritium spill from the nuclear power plant upriver, or from the old bomb factory, The mouth of the river is, by one local family practitioner’s report, so polluted that someone who fell into the river a few years ago had to be treated for burns on her skin.

            When you consider all the environmental toxins that have accumulated, especially in industrialized countries, many of which are not easily detected by tests, it’s truly scary.


  4. I didn’t plan to watch this whole documentary, but it was too interesting. It’s now 5:20 a.m., eastern daylight time, and my roosters have already crowed to tell me I’m keeping them awake.

    The film recounts from a patient’s perspective what I perceived while working as a psychiatrist. The film doesn’t mention that for a psychiatrist to get paid by most insurance, he/she has to come up with a diagnosis. As insurance has become almost indispensable for most people, “most people” are buying themselves a lot of trouble by visiting a psychiatrist.

    I quickly learned after residency that psychiatrists are dissuaded from doing psychotherapy. That function has been shifted to lower-cost therapists like psychologists and social workers. Psychiatrists, limited to fifteen-minute “med checks,” have become nothing more than prescription-writing machines.

    I agree with Sha’Tara that common sense can solve most problems, but common sense is not common.


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