The Dark Underbelly of Psychiatry

Extraversion and Introversion

The pathologizing of introversion further illustrates the propensity for scapegoating those perceived as different. The reification of cultural ideas about personality is reflected in an ideology that delineates what constitutes socially acceptable behavior and what deviates from that norm.

Although extraversion and introversion span a continuum, in western society introversion has always been viewed as inherently flawed.

This sentiment was loudly echoed in 2010 when the American Psychiatric Association considered citing introversion as one of the criteria for schizoid personality disorder in the clinician’s diagnostic guidebook, the DSM-5. Because of controversial opposition, this proposal was dismissed.

This trend became particularly detrimental when the first and second DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 1952 and 1968) listed homosexuality as a mental illness, initially as a sociopathic disorder and later as sexual deviance.

Homosexuality was criminalized and gay men and women were denied their basic civil liberties and rights to physical safety and economic security.

Aversion therapies, including electric shock, were deemed the standard course of treatment.

Chemical castration was employed as a ‘gay cure.’ Atascadero State Hospital in California was referred to as “Homosexual Dachau” because of the lobotomies, castrations and other forms of brutality perpetrated on hundreds of homosexual men and women.

Neurologist Walter J. Freeman, creator of the ‘ice pick lobotomy, is reported to have lobotomized more than 1,500 homosexuals, in addition to scores of American war veterans and Rosemary Kennedy.

It was only when the APA was vehemently protested by gay activists that the diagnosis of homosexuality was expunged.

The Eugenics Movement

We can trace back these barbaric beliefs and medical practices in the guise as endeavors to cure mental illness, to the Eugenics Movement.

During the American Industrial age in the late 1800’s, maximizing the potential of the land in order to feed the hungry masses led to selective breeding of crops and farm animals. By extrapolating from this technology the human species genetic future could be shaped.

Funded by Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, the movement endorsed designating those with ‘fit’ genes as eugenic, while those who were deemed genetically unfit were labeled cacogenic.

Naturally, those who were economically and politically prominent fell into the eugenic category, while minorities, the impoverished, mentally or physically disabled were assigned cacogenic status.

These ‘diseased’ individuals were to be eradicated through segregation, sterilization, or death. Held captive in lunatic asylums, these men and women were subject to barbaric and inhuane treatment of unsettling proportions.

Psychiatry’s early support and endorsement afforded scientific validation for eugenics. Money and influence encouraged politicians and judges to make eugenics legal and by 1933, those deemed cacogenic were imprisoned in asylums so as to prevent them from reproducing in the general population.

The United States victimized roughly more than 80,000 people with eugenic sterilization so that they could never again reproduce. This estimate includes targeted minority women in the 1960’s. Because of o America’s example of putting eugenics successfully into practice, Hitler was able to persuade the Germans to institute their own eugenics program.

The Dark Underbelly of Psychiatry

Rev Sheri Heller, LCSW

Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW, is a seasoned NYC psychotherapist with 25+ years experience in the addiction and mental health fields. Sheri is also an interfaith minister and playwright, and the founder of The Sistah Tribe - Phoenix Project, a therapeutic theater event for at-risk women and girls in the public sector of NYC. For more information, visit


APA Reference
Heller, R. (2016). The Dark Underbelly of Psychiatry. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 16, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 30 Jan 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2016
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