Fellow Psychiatrists Hammer Ablow

Fellow Psychiatrists Hammer Ablow November 10, 2014

It’s about damn time that Fox News’ Keith Ablow was taken out to the woodshed by his fellow psychiatrists for his laughably idiotic and unethical diagnoses of what is wrong with Obama. In an AP article, the past president of the American Psychiatric Association hammers him:

Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of psychiatry at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, said Ablow seems more interested in entertaining than in reflecting well on his profession. Lieberman is past president of the American Psychiatric Association, which discourages members from speculating on psychiatric characteristics of non-patients.

“It is shameful and unfortunate that he is given a platform by Fox News or any other media organization,” Lieberman said. “Basically he is a narcissistic self-promoter of limited and dubious expertise.”

Ablow isn’t an APA member, having resigned in 2011 in a dispute over transgenderism.

It’s not unusual for there to be an uncomfortable relationship between the medical community and doctors who get into television. Talk show hosts Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz have their critics. Dr. Drew Pinsky took heat for exposing rehab patients to the pressure of a televised recovery.

While doctors are entitled to political opinions like anyone else, the way Ablow tries to connect his views to medical analysis “is really just irresponsible and it’s embarrassing for physicians in general,” said Ford Vox, a staff psychiatrist at the Shepherd Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center in Atlanta.

It’s completely unethical. Oh, and that “dispute over transgenderism” that led Ablow to resign from the APA in 2011 was Chas Bono appearing on Dancing With the Stars, which Ablow said would cause kids watching the show to develop “gender identity disorder.” He was criticized by the APA for that ridiculous and irrational claim and he took his ball and went home. Quite frankly, I think Ablow should be stripped of his license. Any psychiatrist who does the kind of absurd diagnoses on people he’s never met based on political boilerplate should not be allowed to practice.

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  • New FoxNews motto:

    More interested in entertaining than in reflecting well on the profession.

  • John Pieret

    Basically he is a narcissistic self-promoter of limited and dubious expertise.

    I wonder if Ablow is self aware enough to know how much that stung … or care.

  • Childermass

    “Basically he is a narcissistic self-promoter of limited and dubious expertise.”

    Well if you are going to rant that it is unethical to diagnose people from afar, it probably not wise to diagnose someone as narcissistic.

    Oh, well…

    He is a narcissistic self-promoter of limited and dubious expertise pandering to right-wring idiots.

    /I am not a shrink, not presenting myself as one, not presenting what I say as a professional diagnosis and thus I am not bound by ethics, norms, or standards of the the professional mental healthcare community. 😉

  • jonrowe

    I think for some time that psychiatry is in need of serious reform. People on all political sides could use these rhetorical diagnoses as weapons.

    The concept of “mental disorder” is presented under the auspices of objectively true but value neutral terminology. If people are “sick” as opposed to “well” that’s different from saying they are “good” or “bad.” Yet there is some pejorativeness to saying someone has a “mental disorder” wherein they aren’t bad or evil just “unwell.”

    The actual science underlying the language is quite thin.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    The APA should stick to their own standards and work to deny Ablow the certifications to practice psychiatry, but not intervene in other fields such as television entertainment. They may find it disqualifying that Ablow is

    … a narcissistic self-promoter of limited and dubious expertise.

    – but that leaves him perfectly suited for a leading position at False Noise.

  • jonrowe

    BTW: I think Albow resigned from the APA because they changed the language of the “DSM” regarding transgenderism. It was no longer “Gender Identity Disorder,” but “Gender Dysphoria.”

    I support such move, but I think it represents a problem inherent in psychiatry. They are describing real things, but with loaded terminology.

  • karmacat

    I think the best way to challenge Ablow is for psychiatrists to point out how wrong he is and make fun of him, especially when he uses “psychiatric expertise.” I think the training program he went should say that Ablow is not living up to what he was taught. By the way, jonrowe, there is a lot of robust science underlying the term mental disorder. The problem is the public’s misunderstaning what a mental disorder is. It can range from mild depression to severe schizophrenia and can include specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, bipolar, etc. And just because someone has mental disorder doesn’t mean they cannot function at a high level.

  • jonrowe

    karmacat: there are a lot of folks within the industry who have the bona fides that have exposed the “thinness” of the science. I understand these are all real “human problems” and the calm quiet mind is superior way to live. That by itself is a philosophical conclusion. And that’s the problem, much of the “science” of mental disorder is ethical philosophy, about which good people can differ, parading in the language medicine.

    The notion that someone’s physically healthy brain (in other words, they don’t need to see a neurologist) is “sick” or “disordered” is not an objective scientific fact. Rather, at best, such is — like the notion of corporate person-hood — a useful fiction.

    A metaphor if you will. Like saying someone has “demons.”

  • beezlebubby

    Just to clarify, certification is an agency-based credential. It may be national or international, depending on the conferring body.

    Licensure, in the USA, is granted by the state in which a provider practices. When I was going through a mental health MSEd program in 2002-2004, New York State (along with Montana, Hawaii, and only one other state) did not have licensure for mental health counselors. NY got with the program and implemented licensure about 7-8 years ago, I’m glad to report.

    Ablow may not even be licensed. If he is, the state can be petitioned to investigate. He may well be violating the terms of licensure.

  • Ablow’s latest and greatest is a call for “American jihad” to force not just democracy, but our Constitution on the rest of the world, even in those countries that already have democracy. With political subterfuge and special forces if necessary.


    I really can’t imagine where people in other countries get negative impressions about America.

  • karmacat


    Mental illnesses include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, OCD, etc. These are beyond just “human” problems. Having neuroses is not a psychiatric term anymore. There is plenty of genetic studies, brain imaging studies , brain function studies for a lot of illnesses even eating disorders. The science however is not yet good enough to figure out what exactly is going on each individual brain. And, yes, there are some individuals with depression, anxiety, etc. that is not due to a “biological” disease. There are a lot of gray areas in psychiatry in terms of certain individuals and there is a lot of overlap of biology, psychology and environment that contributes to mental illness. And psychiatry is not just about saying that someone is ill, it is also about how to help people be better, to teach people difference skills so they can function. There is research on which therapy works best for certain conditions and for certain people.

  • jonrowe

    Let me clarify my position: I am not Tom Cruise. I’m not even Thomas Szasz, (a psychiatrists, btw) although I do respect the latter’s position quite a bit. I do support helping people through help and wellness.

    However, saying “[t]hese are beyond just ‘human’ problems” begs the question. I would term schizophrenia and severe chronic depression as really fucking serious human problems. But human problems nonetheless.

    “And, yes, there are some individuals with depression, anxiety, etc. that is not due to a ‘biological’ disease.”

    Actually no. Little if any depression or anxiety is in fact caused by a “biological disease.” If it were you’d see a neurologist or someone who specializes in bacterial or viral infections of the brains if they were actually “biological diseases.”

    This are physically healthy but chemically different brains.

    I’m glad you admit “[t]he science however is not yet good enough to figure out what exactly is going on each individual brain.”

    This blog is for hard nosed skeptics and this much we know: the brain is just a bag of chemicals. These are “mind” problems. Religious people might say these are “soul” problems.

    Saying that a brain scam show demonstrate OCD or schizophrenia needs clarification. Yes, these physically healthy brains are chemically different. Yet my brain is chemically different than Ed’s. That’s what makes me me and Ed Ed. The “mind” has the power to change the “brain’s” chemistry. You can choose to go on a 20 minute walk and brain scams will show the before and after differences.

    Perhaps the “mind” doesn’t exist apart form the brain — a notion that a hard nosed skeptical science blog would endorse. It’s metaphorical, just like concept of the soul.

    If these premises are true then “mental illnesses” occurring in physically healthy brains are also metaphorical. The fact that they are having human problems and the feelings are real, might not be metaphorical. But the concepts of “illness” is metaphorical and the concept of “disorder” is subjective. Not objective like having cancer, diabetes or heart diseases.

  • jonrowe

    Forgive the typos above. I don’t think I can go back and edit. Usually I like to post and then edit the typos and grammatical errors. I know it’s brain “scan” as opposed to “scam.”