The old psychiatric institutions at the turn of the century give us the earliest look at psychiatry's barbaric practices. These institutions were basically prisons where the "insane" were kept. In this places several controversial methods where applied as an attempt to treat the different illnesses. Some of these methods include:
Trepanation is perhaps the oldest form of neurosurgery. It involves the removal of a piece of bone from the skull, and it has been performed since prehistoric times. It was practiced by several cultures such as the Ancient Egyptian one. The procedure is still performed today, for both medical and non-medical reasons. In the past the procedure was used as a treatment for afflictions ranging from simple headaches to severe mental disorders.
Lobotomy is a psychosurgical procedure in which the frontal cortical tissue is destroyed, the theory being that this leads to the uncoupling of the brain's emotional centers and the seat of intellect. They were used mainly to treat a wide range of severe disorders, including schizophrenia and clinical depression. In the 1940s and '50s, the lobotomy was performed on at least 40,000
Electroconvulsive therapy was used mainly for severe depression, which has not responded to other treatments. For some people, it has been a life-saver; but others have found it far from helpful, and consider the risk of its potential long-term side effects to be unacceptable. It is also now most commonly used to treat mania and schizophrenia. The most important side effect of ECT is memory loss. In addition, immediately after treatment people experience drowsiness, headache and nausea, and loss of appetite. Other effects include apathy, and loss of energy.
Corpus callosotomy, used mainly for the treatment of epilepsy, consists in cutting the corpus callosum (fibers that connect the two halves of the brain). It helps the hemispheres share information, but it also contributes to the spread of seizure impulses from one side of the brain to the other. It drops the attacks in about 50%-75% of cases decreasing the risk of injury and improving life quality. Nevertheless it may cause numbness, depression and difficulty speaking among other things.
Nowadays there are new institutional configurations for doing scientific research. Some celebrate these changes but others are seriously worried about them. Currently the commercial sector invests more than 70% of all American R&D budget. In psychiatry a large part of this money is invested by Big Pharma companies. These companies spend $19 billon a year on promoting their products; nevertheless they do not always address the correct sector of the population with their advertising strategies.
One of the main mistakes made by contemporary psychiatric practices may be encouraging patients to alleviate their afflictions just by taking medication; not by having a holistic approach that might also include a change in lifestyle, playing sports and the practice of meditation.