A career first for me. The Scientologists have registered a complaint on behalf of one of my patients via one of their front organizations. Their opposition to mental health treatment is longstanding, as they believe they have a better explanation for why people act ill. It is, predictably, a science-fictiony explanation involving cool words like thetans and engrams. The theory is supported by anecdotal evidence from Scientologists – and nothing else. They make their case by hanging around the edges of mental health news, searching for things that they can make sound horrible. Accuracy is of no importance to them.
In the present instance, for example, my paranoid schizophrenic patient was given risperidone. Threatening to kill the police and claiming to have a chip implanted in your head will sometimes cause your psychiatrist to consider that option. A possible side effect of this medication is akathesia, or restlessness. Therefore, all subsequent symptoms the patient displayed after receiving this medicine can be called “restlessness,” and attributed to the medication rather than the disease. The scientology front group is not claiming that he actually did have this side-effect, by the way, just that he possibly could have.
Side note: Akathesia and other side effects of many psychiatric medications genuinely suck. No argument there. However, 1). not everyone has the side-effects, and 2) the side-effects of not taking your medicine – going to jail or a hospital, losing your job or spouse, spending all your money - suck worse.
We encounter this type of bad reasoning all the time. “I never had any problems at all until I came to this hospital,” which is rather like “Casts cause broken bones.” After all, the boy was running happily in fields just hours before he came to your emergency room, doctor. Just take off that cast and he’ll be fine. And overfull state hospitals are of course going out and actively seeking merely eccentric people to refuse treatment and storm around threatening us. I mean, who wouldn’t?
It is curious that psychotic illogic has a similarity to nonpsychotic illogic. You would think that the argumentive reasoning of a mentally ill person would be qualitatively different than the reasoning of a non-ill person who is just wrong, such as a tax protester or a Scientologist. There are substantial differences, but there are uncomfortable similarities as well. The most prominent similarity fits well with what we discuss here: a preconceived narrative impedes looking at the facts and adjusting to them.