E. Fuller Torrey, a well known psychiatrist, is an outspoken critic of some of Robert Whitaker’s (Anatomy of an Epidemic) findings. We met Dr. Torrey at his office in Washington D.C. for this interview. I found him to be very warm and engaging and extremely dedicated to his life long work to identify the causative agents of severe psychosis and schizophrenia.

We started the interview on a point that he and Robert Whitaker completely agree.  Pharmaceutical medications used to treat mental disturbances are being over prescribed – especially in children! They both believe this presents an extreme danger to our society.

Where they differ is in the way they believe pharmaceutical treatment should be applied. Whitaker’s findings lead him to believe that medication should be used sparingly and mainly to relieve acute symptoms in the early stages of severe distress. In his analysis of the scientific literature he has found that long term use of psychopharmaceuticals is mostly ineffective and has side effects that are extremely harmful. He quotes the results of programs like ‘Open Dialogue’ in Northern Finland that have shown very favorable results by minimizing the use of medication and placing an emphasis on healing the social network of the distressed individual.

Dr. Torrey does not mince words. It is his belief that psychosis is a physical disease that at this time is best managed by medication. He hopes one day to isolate the physical causative agent(s) of psychosis that he suspects are carried by household cats.

As I get further into this project I’m finding this debate over the definition and treatment of ‘mental illness’ to be heating up more and more – fueled by the disarray and crisis of our mental health system.

14 Responses to “Interview with E. Fuller Torrey: Biological Disease”

  1. jaux le bramz

    This is the guy who attributes cat poop (as the infectious agent) as the cause of mental disease and is “From the Gov’t and here to help”? GOOD GOD PEOPLE!! WAKE THE F*** UP. Nice contrast to the rest of your interviews though…

  2. Julie Stowell

    Dr. Fuller and Whitaker are both right. Our son has PANDAS, (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus Infection). This is a severe form of OCD/Tourettes/Sydenham’s Chorea. Indeed, his illness was caused by his antibodies mistakenly attacking a protein in his brain called Kam Kinase II instead of the Strep bacteria. Our son is now doing very well because of antibiotics and NSAIDs. He also takes a very, very low dose of Luvox and Abilify. PANDAS patients cannot tolerate normal doses of SSRI’s, it sends them into serotonin syndrome. IVImmunoglobulin took care of all the physical symptoms he was experiencing. Behavior modification helped him overcome many of his phobias. It has taken a network of doctors, family, teachers, etc. to help him get well.

  3. Sean Blackwell

    Hi Phil! I saw your TED Talk and was quite surprised. When I wanted to speak at Ted Sao Paulo about my own Spiritual Emergency, I was rejected. Glad to see that you were not! I think you will enjoy my YouTube videos. I’m heading to Europe to help a few people heal their bipolar disorder in the Fall. See my website where I have a PDF of my healing program. I think you will find it interesting. Thanks! Sean Blackwell

  4. G. Pie

    Does Torrey have anything to say about those of us who have rejected our labels and associated treatment yet have made spectacular recoveries from serious mental illness?

    Is Torrey at all concerned that, without any objective method of diagnosis, the potential for misdiagnosis is huge?

    Does he care about those that actually do worse on medication? Oh, well, so a few 100 lives are destroyed in order to try to save the 10 who might benefit from treatment.

    This man frightens me.

    • Phil Borges

      We interviewed Dr. Torrey in an effort to explore all side of the story. Though those are specific questions I can’t answer for Dr. Torrey, on his behalf, he does believe pharmaceuticals are being over prescribed, especially in children, and he has even challenged the drug companies to this regard.

      • G. Pie

        Despite whatever Torrey has to say about medicating children, in general he is very much in favour of medicating more patients. That’s why he’s so much in support of coercive legislation such as Kendra’s Law. (It’s worth noting that Kendra’s killer had actually repeatedly been seeking psychiatric care but had been turned away prior to this tragedy. That’s a little fact that was kept from the public.)

        I appreciate that you can’t answer my questions on Torrey’s behalf but the truth of the matter is that he can’t answer these questions either.

        Perhaps the next time you interview him, you might want to include a psychiatric survivor’s point of view.

        In the meantime, I stand by my statement: This man is dangerous.

        • Phil Borges

          Good suggestion to include survivor’s point of view. We absolutely plan to include many survivor’s in the final documentary.

  5. Jenny

    Yes and in my story (started at inner-worlds-ron-and-moral-injury): my symptoms (if I had told GP all of them which I didn’t!) would have been described as ‘psychosis’ but caused by sudden brain injury.

    The GP and psychiatric nurse tried to push SSRIs on me but I looked them up and decided they wouldn’t/couldn’t help and would be harmful.

    I am so glad I wasn’t so badly injured so I could do that (in 2005) and am sure I would have been less able to adapt to my brain injury and my new self if I had taken them. I had to relearn (no help) driving, reading, cooking, moving = pretty much everything did on auto before. And no short-term memory = relearn over and over.

    Too many people are put onto psychoactive drugs because they are cheap and prevent the injured patient causing trouble or making a fuss; they deaden behaviour which is annoying/difficult for others.

    This control of those who are different must stop as must imprisoning (loss of liberty) and forced medication (and experimentation) on those with psychological/behavioural difference.

    This doctor is very naive and stupid if he thinks only infection causes ‘psychosis’.

  6. Mary Newton

    Phil, if you haven’t looked up Bradford Keeney by all means do so. A modern American shaman for sure, along with his wife. I think you’ll be impressed.

  7. John Paul Zoccali

    I would greatly like to speak with Dr. Torrey. I have been homeless or in shelters for nearly two years now in California. For the past 8 years, I’ve been the subject of a great deal of harassment that has been referred to as “behavior modification.” During that time, I was told twice that my “whole life is an experiment.” The ordeal of the past 8 years started with a very threatening experience with a mental health professional who used deceptive and confusing tactics during our encounter. The experiment that is my life is a behavior-control/mind-control/brainwashing experiment related to loneliness studies and is connected to my time as a student at Ohio State University and The University of Toledo. I figured it out when I read this article: They are trying to keep me buried and it is critical to them to portray me as insane. By the way, I’ve seen how many homeless people in San Francisco and Sacramento have overtly manifested mental illnesses and I’ve seen the wretched conditions they live in, namely, being homeless which is extremely difficult. I would greatly like to speak with Dr. Torrey about my situation. I was told once, “You’re an experiment,” and, on another occasion, “Your whole life is an experiment.”

    • Phil Borges

      Thank you for sharing your experience with me John Paul. I am sorry to hear of the hardships you endure. Indeed, our society needs to provide more social services to help people without homes. I am not directly in contact with Dr. Torrey. I am sorry I cannot help further. My best wishes to you!

    • Joel Lesses

      You are in my prayers for healing and blessings. May the difficulties turn to blessings for you. If you have an opportunity to maybe try homeopathic approaches, maybe this could assist enhancing the quality of your life.

    • Joel


      Has there been improvement for you? I wonder how you have been? You remain in my thoughts knowing all will be well.


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