When Medicine And Psychology Got It Really Wrong

When medicine and psychology got it really wrong. Photo of Sigmund Freud

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal a few shocking examples of when medicine and psychology got it really wrong, and the lessons to be learned.

First a quick update:

“Male fear of commitment”
I teach that there are three primary causes of male fear of commitment – fear of loss of identity & individuality, fear of rejection and fear of responsibility. But some men who have been burned tell a different tale:

Now, let’s talk about when medicine and psychology got it really wrong.

“Is sex addiction real and why is not recognized as an official mental disorder in the DSM?” a producer asked me as part of a television special – A & E’s Biography Channel “Why Powerful Men Cheat.”

The DSM – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – is published by the American Psychiatric Association; it is the bible of mental disorders and has been revised five times since 1952. The DSM identifies the signs and symptoms of mental disorders but not the underlying causes, and it offers no real solutions or definitions of mental health.

Critics, such as psychiatrist Niall McLaren, argue that the DSM lacks validity (it has no relation to an agreed scientific model of mental disorder – for example there is no diagnostic test for schizophrenia) and it lacks reliability (different diagnoses share many criteria, and what appear to be different criteria are simply rewordings of the same idea.)

In 1952, the original DSM listed homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disorder. In 1968, DSM II removed homosexuality from the sociopathic list, categorizing it with other sexual deviations. In 1973, the DSM III categorized homosexuality (thoughts, feelings and behaviors) as a problem only when it was dissatisfying to the individual patient.

Accordingly, I responded to the TV producers about sex addiction and behaviors by referencing a medical diagnosis that is now being turned into a romantic comedy movie starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy and Rupert Everett: Female Hysteria.

Female Hysteria was a common medical diagnosis widely discussed in the medical literature of the 19th century: a catchall diagnosis for women who were suffering from faintness, nervousness, insomnia, bloating, fluid retention, heaviness in abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and “a tendency to cause trouble.” In 1859, one doctor cataloged 75 pages of possible symptoms of female hysteria.

The word hysteria has its origins in “Hustera”, the Greek word for the uterus, and “ia”, a medical suffix for a diseased condition. Simply put, doctors and psychologists believed that women were victims of these physical, mental and emotional symptoms & disorders because there was something wrong with their uterus and organs.

How did doctors treat women suffering from Hysteria?

Pelvic massage.

The doctor would manually stimulate the genitals until the female patient experienced “hysterical paroxysm” – orgasm.

Eventually, doctors wanted to speed up the treatment for female hysteria and this led to the invention of the female vibrator (thus the subject of the new movie “Hysteria.”) By 1870, a clockwork-driven vibrator was available for doctors; in 1873 the first electromechanical vibrator was used at an asylum in France for the treatment of hysteria, and; in 1918, in the US, Sears was advertising the vibrator in its catalog of electrical home appliances.

Female hysteria was an example of the way medicine and psychology completely misunderstood the female, feared her, and viewed her as a savage.

Eventually, medicine and psychology would begin to differentiate and classify each female ailment and disorder.

Sigmund Freud, a young physician and neurologist in Vienna, began to reclassify many of the cases of hysteria as anxiety neuroses.

But Freud believed that physical, mental and emotional aliments for both men and women could be cured by a simple discovery of his – cocaine!

In 1884, Freud wrote about cocaine to his future wife, Martha:

“If all goes well, I will write an essay on it and I expect it will win its place in therapeutics by the side of morphine and superior to it. … I take very small doses of it regularly against depression and against indigestion and with the most brilliant of success.”

Freud believed so intensely in cocaine that he administered it to his best friend, Ernst Fleischl-Marxow, a physiologist who had become addicted to morphine after injuring his thumb. Fleischl-Marxow subsequently became a cocaine and morphine addict and died seven years later at age 45.

Freud continued to promote cocaine and consumed a great deal of it for his own physical aches and mental anxieties. And in 1895, he and Dr. Wilhelm Fleiss nearly killed a patient Emma Eckstein trying to cure her of premenstrual depression with a botched unscientific operation of nasal surgery and excessive cocaine.

But in the 19th century, Sigmund Freud wasn’t subject to lawsuits, malpractice or even criminal charges and thus, a neurologist and father of psychoanalysis, Freud became a primary force in promoting cocaine which eventually was sold in drinks, ointments and even margarine. In 1886, in the US, John Pemberton introduced Coca-Cola, a non-alcoholic drink developed as a patent medicine which, until 1903, contained Cocaine (named after “Coca” the plant from which Cocaine is derived.)

In 1877, Dr John Harvey Kellogg (creator of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes – designed for his patients in a sanitarium and originally made without sugar), wrote against sex (he never consummated his marriage) and promoted circumcision (genital mutilation) for pubescent boys and girls to stop masturbation: “A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision, especially when there is any degree of phimosis. The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment… In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement.” Source: Kellogg, J.  Plain facts for old and young: embracing the natural history and hygiene of organic life, 1877.

Carbolic acid also known as Phenol is highly poisonous. Ingestion or absorption through the skin causes symptoms including colic, local irritation, corrosion, seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, shock, and respiratory arrest.

Serious errors that proved to be fatal and inhumane continued.

In the early twentieth century, Dr. Walter Freeman attended Yale, the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and studied neurology and psychiatry in Europe. Dr. Freeman became the father of lobotomy – an operation in which part of the brain is cut in order to treat some mental disorders. The first lobotomies were performed by drilling a hole in the skull while “transorbital lobotomy” involved a sharp, ice-pick like object that would be inserted through the eye socket between the upper lid and eye. Unable to see exactly what he was doing, the doctor would guess when he was at the right spot and would hit the end of the ice-pick instrument with a hammer.

From 1936 to 1951, Dr. Freeman succeeded in popularizing prefrontal lobotomy among US psychologists. He travelled 23 states in his “lobotomobile” van seeking to persuade and convince doctors that his treatment was a legitimate form of psychosurgery; he eventually performed about 3,500 of the 40,000 lobotomies conducted in the US. Howard Dully was 12 years old when a lobotomy was performed on him. In 1941, Rosemary Kennedy, sister to John, Robert, and Edward Kennedy, was given a lobotomy at age 23 because it was believed she was mentally slow and suffered mood swings. Rosemary became permanently incapacitated.

In 1953, the USSR banned lobotomies, and Soviet psychiatrist Dr. Nicolai Oseresky told the World Federation of Mental Health that lobotomies threatened to “violate the principles of humanity.”

Meanwhile, in the 1960s a serious medical and psychological fraud was to be committed by psychologist Dr. John Money from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

David Reimer was born a healthy male but following a botched circumcision, David was raised as a female. Dr. Money lied to the world saying David’s reassignment was successful, and cited it as evidence that gender identity is primarily learned. However, David later admitted to the world that he never identified as a female and suffering from depression he committed suicide at age 38.). Click here to read more.

In the 1970s, a government-funded program at UCLA, designed to reverse “Sissy Boy Syndrome” used experimental therapy. George Alan Rekers, a doctoral student, treated a 5-year-old boy, Kirk Murphy for sissy behavior, encouraging the father to physically punish and spank the boy when he played with dolls or engaged in perceived feminine behavior.

Dr. Rekers later became professor emeritus of neuropsychiatry at the University of South Carolina and a Baptist minister. He advised members of Congress, the White House, and the Department of Health and Human Services. He also became a prominent anti-gay activist and co-founded the conservative Family Research Council. But in 2010, Dr. Rekers was caught returning from a 10-day trip to Europe with a male escort he found on Rentboy.com.

Meanwhile, Kirk Murphy’s family said that their son Kirk was never the same boy following the therapy and he committed suicide in 2003 at age 38.

We all look up to people for guidance and often we place them on pedestals; we place our trust in and we relinquish our power to them – doctors, counselors, consultants, advisors, TV show hosts, priests, politicians and gurus. But often they turn out to be wrong or corrupted by a motivation for money, greed, ego or some other bias or prejudice. Credentials, qualifications, certifications, degrees, memberships to professional associations, institutions and even prestigious universities are never a guarantee of safety, wisdom, integrity or superiority.

The Police sang in “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”:

Poets, priests and politicians
Have words to thank for their positions
Words that scream for your submission
And no-one’s jamming their transmission
‘Cos when their eloquence escapes you
Their logic ties you up and rapes you

The simple lesson here from the long list of errors, lies and brainwashing is the need for discernment; to follow your intuition, be careful of whom you trust and never give away your trust and power out of fear or ignorance.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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