The problem with psychiatric drugs

How Little We Really Know About Psychiatric Drugs

Joanna Moncrieff reflects on what has and has not changed in the field of psychiatric drug treatment in the years between the first and newly published second edition of the Straight Talking Introduction to Psychiatric Drugs.

Joanna MoncrieffBy

Joanna Moncrieff, MD

October 6, 2020


I am not opposed, in principle, to the use of psychiatric drugs. I believe, as I say in the book, that “some psychiatric drugs do help some people in some situations.” Having said this, I think it is likely that the vast majority of people who take psychiatric drugs derive little or no benefit from them, and yet are susceptible to all the harms they can induce.

Psychiatric drugs, the bookIt is people’s right to know how little we really know about these drugs. People should be informed that the story they have been told, implicitly or explicitly, about having an underlying chemical imbalance that drugs can correct is just that—a story—with very little evidence to back it up.

They need to know that these drugs are doing things to the brain that we do not understand properly, and people should be aware of how little research there has been into the long-term effects of the drugs and the difficulties of coming off them. I hope the second edition of A Straight Talking Introduction to Psychiatric Drugs will enable people to make better-informed decisions about whether to start or continue these sorts of drugs.


For more, please click this link:

Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


Relaxation and de-tensing for health and happiness


An occasional blog

6th October 2020


Tension can cause physical illnesses and emotional problems:

Relax your way to a better life!

By Renata Taylor-Byrne, Health and Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor


Progressive muscle relaxation book, 1I have been interested in relaxation systems since 1986, when I used Ainsley Mears’ Passive Progressive Relaxation system to cope of with the stress of preparing for a surgical operation for which I had been scheduled – (a hysterectomy).  I found his system helped enormously to calm me down, and also to cope with the post-surgical pain.

I subsequently used various systems of audio-based relaxation, by various hypnotherapists, some from the US, and some (like Dr Robert Sharp, Paul McKenna and Glenn Harrold) from the UK. I have found these systems to be very good ways to reduce my stress level (when combined with Chinese exercises, stress reducing diet, and adequate sleep) in my role as a college lecturer for over thirty years.

Then, about a year ago, I rediscovered Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), which I had encountered many years ago; and I began to experiment with this system.  The results were so helpful that I began to do a lot of research on the subject, reading a dozen books directly on the subject, and seventy sources of related information in total.

Health coach, Renata Taylor-ByrneI then felt obliged to write a book about the amazing range of benefits of this system of de-tensing the body: based on my reading and my personal, daily experimentation. I wanted other people to benefit from using this easy to learn, re-energizing technique.

For example, PMR brings relief to insomniacs. It helps them sleep better, when the insomnia is caused by muscular tension and intrusive thoughts.

It also takes pressure off our internal organs; reduces anxiety, stress, and fatigue; and provides relief from pain and illness for those who haven’t been, and can’t be, helped by conventional medicine (for example tension headaches which have not responded to prescribed medication: (Bernstein, Borkovec and Hazlett-Stevens, 2000)[1].

It helps with stomach and digestive problems, test and exam anxiety, and handling the pressures of public performance, including sports performance, and musical performance anxiety, and all forms of public speaking.

Dr Edmund Jacobson, PMR creatorThis book is brief, easy to read and concisely summarises the priceless insights of Dr Edmund Jacobson, who researched the amazing health benefits of relaxation for over seventy years, at the Universities of Harvard and Chicago, in the US, in the early part of the last century. In 1936 he set up his own institute to research scientific relaxation.

And in my researches I found several more recent books on this subject, by authors who want to keep this system alive; and lots of research articles, from the past few years, which verified the amazing benefits of this system.

My book is written in an easy to understand language. It summarizes the scientific research (with case studies and research experiments) which provide lots of evidence of the effectiveness of this system.

It teaches you how to develop this easily-acquired skill of relaxation which rids your body and mind of toxic tension.

The numerous benefits include the following:

– Lowered stress levels;

– Lowered blood pressure and heart rate;

– Decreased muscle tension;

– Reduced fatigue and anxiety;

– Improved quality of life and reduced blood pressure among people with heart disease;

– Reduced migraine headaches;

– Reduces some forms of chronic pain;

– Improved sleep, and insomnia relief;

– Help with smoking cessation;

– Improvement in cognitive (thinking) performance for people with dementia;

– Increasing or activating the production of opiates (or our innate pain killers);

– Promoting optimal immune function.

– Improving public performance skills for athletes, sportspeople, actors, teachers, students and media presenters;

– And increased mental and physical energy and the development of a feeling of well-being and autonomy.

Progressive muscle relaxation book, 1I am sure that if you experiment with this system, you will make enormous gains for a few minutes of practice each day. And to learn it is very, very cheap. Once learned, it will strengthen you for the rest of your life with a few minutes of daily practice.

It sounds invaluable, doesn’t it? I have written a page of information about this book. Please take a look at how to Relax Your Way to a Better Life!


That’s all for now.


Renata Taylor-Byrne

cropped-abc-bookstore-maximal-charles-2019-1.jpgLifestyle & Health Coach-Counsellor

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

ABC Bookstore Online UK

The Institute for E-CENT (Research and publishing)



[1] Bernstein, D.A., Borkovec, T.D., and Hazlett-Stevens, H. (2000) New Directions in Progressive Relaxation Training. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers.

Covid-19 stress debunks psychiatric diagnoses


When society makes us sick, should we then allow “specialists” to blame us, and call us “patients” with “mental illnesses”?


Coronavirus poses a challenge to psychiatric and psychological diagnoses of anxiety and depression


Promoting an article from the ‘Mad in America’ blog:


COVID-19 Challenges Our Faulty Assumptions About Normative Wellbeing

Sadie Cathcart, Author at Mad In AmericaLucy Johnstone addresses how limitations to models for psychological health and treatment have been spotlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic–which may not be a bad thing.


Sadie Cathcart

September 21, 2020

In a manuscript recently accepted to BJPsych Bulletin, released in a pre-print format, psychologist Lucy Johnstone calls for a drastic shift in the discourse surrounding wellbeing in the context of COVID-19. She writes that the conceptualization of the COVID-19 pandemic as parallel yet separate from an epidemic of “mental health” has the effect of minimizing appreciation for contextual determinants of distress. According to Johnstone:

“In the current jargon, popular in both psychology and psychiatry, we need a [re]formulation – a shift from ‘patient with illness’ to ‘person with a problem.’”


For more, please click this link: COVID-19 Challenges Our Faulty Assumptions About Normative Wellbeing.***



Telling stories about childhood trauma can heal your life


ABC Bookstore Blog Post

2nd July 2020 (Updated on 18th August 2020)


The circle of life, and the value of stories: The silent witness of early childhood trauma

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling: Copyright (c) Jim Byrne 2020



Telling stories is good psychotherapyI believe that each of us is a silent witness of our early childhood experiences. We do not know what happened to us unless and until somebody helps us to make a story or stories out of our raw experiences.

You may have noticed this phenomenon: Sometimes in a cop show, or murder mystery, on TV, there’s a witness who knows something which is relevant to solving the crime or mystery. But this witness is unaware that they have witnessed something which is very important, which could be helpful in solving the case.

I believe each of us is like that witness. Let me explain:

Recently I’ve been reading three books that deal with complex, post-traumatic stress disorder:

Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score.

Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery.

And Pete Walker’s Complex PTSD: From surviving to thriving.

One of the things that struck me about all three books is that each of the authors have to tell a personal story to illustrate the journey that got them to study trauma. There is nothing impersonal about their expertise; and their personal stories underpin their professional practices.

Many years ago, I had a set of serendipitous experiences which unearthed some strange stories from my own ‘internal silent witness’. The first happened in Bangladesh in 1977. Up to that point, nobody had ever expressed any curiosity about my life. And I had – consequently – no story about life, which I could know and share with the world.

Asking others about their stories is good therapyI met Carla in Bangladesh, and she was intensely curious about my life, and especially my childhood. I told her some bits and pieces from the very edges of my conscious awareness, and she was appalled at how painful my childhood had been – how physically and emotionally I’d been abused. I was amazed at the emotions that came up them: the painful memories that welled back.  What I had taken to be ‘normal life’ turned out to be quite brutally unusual – or at least not how children should be raised, by parents who love their children, and want them to be happy.

Two years later, back in the UK, I met Renata (my wonderful wife of 34 years), and she was studying various disciplines, including Gestalt therapy. As a result, she was able to help me to explore my childhood some more. Out of my conversations with Renata, I got a lot of little stories about my weird childhood: some funny; some saddening; and some angering.

Over time, two major stories emerged: My Story of Origins (as a country boy in a city school, who failed to make a single friend in ten years of schooling). And My Story of Relationship (especially my insecure attachment to my cruel mother). Both of these stories now appear in a forthcoming book, which you can read about here: Recovery from Childhood Trauma: How I healed my heart and mind – and how you can heal yourself.

Whole cover,3

Later, I expanded those two stories to include a good deal of my journey from birth to eventual relationship happiness.

Update: And I have written that bizarre journey up in a three-volume, fictionalized autobiographical story, which you can read about here: The Broken Chain Conundrum.***

Whole cover, Broken Chain, 1

And, at the moment, I am rewriting another of my books, which is designed as a self-help guide for individuals who want to work on their childhood trauma. You can read some information about that book here: Transforming Traumatic Dragons: How to recover from a history of trauma – using a whole body-brain-mind approach

Whole cover 2, Dragons Trauma book June 2020

Without the curiosity of Carla and Renata, all of my unknown stories would still be festering inside of my neurotic, subconscious mind-brain-body; instead of having been externalized, ventilated, and healed.

What kinds of stories does your Silent Witness have in raw, gut-feeling form, which could benefit from being written up, or talked out?

What happened to you that needs to be aired and witnessed by a caring other?


cropped-abc-bookstore-maximal-charles-2019-1.jpgThat’s all for today.

Best wishes,


Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling, Authorship Coach and Trauma Therapist


How to heal your childhood trauma

Blog Post – 24th June 2020


Refinement of my book on ‘Facing and defeating your emotional dragons’

By Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling



For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on the refinement of my main book on processing traumatic memories. Because trauma is such a complex phenomenon, and lots of new ideas have been developed in the past ten years or so, it is taking some time to clarify my revised process of trauma therapy.

Here is an extract from the Preface to the revised, updated and expanded edition:


Facing and Defeating your Emotional Dragons:

How to process old traumas, and eliminate undigested pain from your past experience

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Copyright © Jim Byrne, June 2020:


Preface to the Revised Edition, 2020

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling


1. Preamble

Front cover, dragonsEarly childhood trauma (like physical and emotional abuse, and neglect), and other forms of prolonged trauma (like domestic abuse), affect the very structure of the human brain, and the behaviour of stress hormones in the body. This insight is expressed by Dr Daniel Siegel as follows:

“…(T)raumatic experiences at the beginning of life may have profound effects on the integrative structures of the brain… (A)bused children have abnormal responses of their stress hormone levels[1]… Cortisol (a major stress hormone) is sustained, and elevated levels can become toxic to the brain[2].”

And, cortisol and other stress hormones are secreted throughout the body when it’s under pressure.

In the first and second editions of this book, we made the mistake of overlooking the role of the body in storing traumatic memories; and the need to involve the body in the resolution of traumatic memories.

This revised, expanded and updated edition is intended to correct that omission, which was paradoxical, given that our main claim to fame, at the Institute for Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT), is that we “added back the body” to the rational, cognitive and psychodynamic models of the individual client in counselling and therapy. The body is the very foundation of the human personality; which is actually a body-brain-mind, as shaped by social experience.

In this preface we want to address the following contextual questions: What is trauma? What is post-traumatic stress disorder? What is Complex-PTSD? How widespread is Complex-PTSD? What are Adverse Childhood Experiences? What are some solutions to Childhood Developmental Trauma or Complex-PTSD? The meaning and importance of the concept of Traumatic Dragons. And finally, a brief overview of the content of this book.


2. What is trauma?

Front cover, dragonsAccording to my Oxford English Dictionary, trauma means: “… (1) a deeply distressing experience. … (And) (3) emotional shock following a stressful event”. (Soanes, 2002, page 893)[3].

And my Oxford Dictionary of Psychology says it’s: “…a powerful psychological shock that has damaging effects”. (Colman, 2002, page 755)[4].

To further clarify the meaning of ‘trauma’, let us take a look at how Sue Gerhardt, a psychotherapist who deals with childhood trauma, defines this concept.  She describes the opening scene of the film, Fearless, in which Jeff Bridges plays the role of a man who survives a plane crash, with several others. He looks at the scene of devastation without a flicker of concern; walks away; gets into a taxi, and leaves the burning plane, ambulances, fellow survivors, and fire engines behind him. His friend and business partner has died in the crash; so, not surprisingly, the Jeff Bridges’ character is ‘traumatized’. As Gerhardt writes (describing how this character is when he returns to his home life):

“His relationships are affected: he has difficulty relating to his wife and son, and starts instead to form a bond with another survivor who lost her baby. He has flash backs to the crash, reliving the moments as the plane went down. He impulsively takes extreme risks with his body, walking blithely across a busy highway. He is dissociated (or detached – JB) from reality”. (Gerhardt, 2010, page 133).

Trauma disrupts our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. And, in the case of prolonged childhood trauma, the damage also affects:

– personality development;

– the ability to think critically/logically (cognitive development);

– the ability to engage effectively in social relationships;

– and the ability to regulate one’s emotions (which can therefore escalate into inappropriate shame, anxiety, anger, guilt and depression).

Front cover, dragonsIndeed, as Dr Bessel van der Kolk (2015) writes, “All trauma is preverbal”. Traumatized individuals cannot find words to express their terrible feelings. They may freeze, like statues; or fight verbally or physically, with the wrong people; or find various ways of running away, as if you could run away from your own central nervous system’s panicky arousal! They may also ‘fawn’ over others to placate them, if they were bullied and abused by their parents.

As Van der Kolk expresses it: “Even years later traumatized people often have enormous difficulty telling other people what has happened to them. Their bodies re-experience terror, rage, and helplessness, as well as the impulse to fight or flee, but these feelings are almost impossible to articulate. Trauma by nature drives us to the edge of comprehension, cutting us off from language based on common experience or an imaginable past”. (Page 43).

Van der Kolk has worked with traumatized individuals for decades, including war-damaged soldiers and victims of childhood abuse and neglect. And his insights and approach to the subject have also been strongly influenced by working closely with Dr Judith Herman (1994/2015), who has been in the field even longer than him, and who has mainly worked with female victims of childhood sexual abuse, adult rape and domestic violence.

Eventually, trauma sufferers do come up with what Van der Kolk calls “a cover story”, which is their best attempt to tell a story which accounts for their trauma; but it rarely captures the essence of the experience. “It is enormously difficult to organize one’s traumatic experiences into a coherent account – a narrative with a beginning, a middle, and an end”.

I know that this is true from my own experience.  I only became aware of my own prolonged childhood abuse when I was thirty years old, and I met a woman who cared enough to listen to my story, and to tell me “that was not normal.  And that – what they did to you – was not okay!”


Front cover, dragonsTrauma does not just affect our consciousness; our memories; our minds. Modern neuroscience, since the 1990’s, has revealed to us just how much the brains of traumatized individuals are changed (for the worst) by their horrible experiences.  Trauma leaves its imprint on our brain, our mind and our body. And these imprints affect how we think, feel and behave in later life, even decades after the traumatic experience. Trauma changes our perceptions, and our capacity to think. But even when we begin to think/feel about our traumatic experience – and to create a helpful story of what happened – we are still left with the imprints in our bodies: the automatic physical and hormonal responses to present-time reminders of the trauma inflicted on us back there, back then.  The ‘there and then’ is always with us, in our bodies, here and now: unless and until we process those physical and hormonal responses. To quote Van der Kolk again: “For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed, and to live in the reality of the present”. (Page 21).


In this section I have presented two kinds of trauma: discrete experiences of trauma, like the plane crash; and protracted experiences of trauma, like prolonged childhood abuse. It is important to be clear about the distinction between the first – which is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – and the second, which is called developmental trauma, or Complex-PTSD.

Let us first define PTSD. …

For more, please click this link: How to resolve childhood trauma.***


Dr Jim's officeThat’s all for now.

Best wishes,


Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Email dr jim.byrne @

Telephone: 01422 843 629