Comment: Right of Reply; Simon Wessely
The professor of psychological medicine at King's College, London, responds to Joseph Schwartz's article in praise of psychoanalysis in the treatment of mental illness
Joseph Schwartz's piece on Freud was the equivalent of a two-hour taxi ride. Freud's invention of psychoanalysis was a landmark in the history of modern thought, and it is difficult to overstate his impact on culture and literature. But there is one gap - his influence on how we see mental disorder, which was never profound in this country, continues to dwindle.
As a way of understanding human behaviour and motivation, psychoanalysis is like great literature: one reads it for insights into the human condition, but not for advice on how to help an agoraphobic solicitor use the Underground, a cancer patient to think that there is still a purpose in life, or a student to overcome an attack of mania, all of which I have done in the last week.
Yes, psychiatrists do prescribe medication to treat mental disorder - because it works. Well over 1 000 studies now show that if you are depressed, for whatever reason, antidepressants are safe and effective. They are far from perfect and have side effects - both of which are also true of analysis - but are a great deal cheaper.
What Schwartz is saying is the old line of "talking good, drugs bad". Back in the 1960s we used to have those debates, but they are frankly tedious now. We now know that the reality is, "talking good, drugs good", and, as a result of modern trials, "talking plus drugs best of all".
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 2 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 4 A third of employers never check job applicants' qualifications, survey finds
- 5 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians