Deconstructing Antipsychiatry: Executive Summary

Critique of psychiatric practice is a long tradition that has led to significant improvements in the field. Antipsychiatry, however, is a more radical movement, that does not seek to improve psychiatry, but to destroy it. Through carefully selected examples, it spins a one-sided tale, trying to persuade us that mental illness isn’t real, psychiatric drugs cannot work, and that all treatment is coercive and damaging. This is all for the benefit of corrupt pharmaceutical giants and governments.

This article examines the arguments advanced in Burstow’s 2015 book Psychiatry and the Business of Madness, a wide-ranging analysis that exemplifies the antipsychiatry genre. Beneath a carefully constructed veneer of credibility, we will find a series of ill-constructed “proofs” that have their basis in trickery and logical fallacy. Yet, far from engaging intellectually with a wider audience, antipsychiatry’s “good vs. evil” narrative aims primarily to recruit devotees to their cause.

Antipsychiatry raises fear, uncertainty, and doubt among those at their most vulnerable. Yet it offers no practical alternatives to those who are suffering, only ideology.