Child Tardive Dyskinesia

Most of my postings are blatantly political and are republication of stories from news sources like Alternet, Huffington Post, or In These Times. This one is different. It concerns my own professional field, psychotherapy. I am a semi-retired pastoral psychotherapist. While the state does not license pastoral counseling and psychotherapy, I am a Fellow of the certifying body for this profession by the federal government, the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. To become a “Fellow” of the AAPC, one must hold a masters or doctorate in a psychotherapy field as well as a second in a spiritual discipline and have thousands of hours of supervised practice. (I also hold certifications in several other similar organizations.) So I am not a novice.

Over a period of more than 45 years of counseling and teaching, I have had many clients with protracted problems of depression and anxiety for whom I was the second profession in their struggle; the first being a physician or psychiatrist who had prescribed a multitude and variety of psychotropic medications like Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Paxil, Seroquel, etc.  A common pattern frequently arose. No matter what I did, or which medications they were taking, the depression lingered. It did not improve. This was often in stark contrast to others who were taking either no or very low doses of medications.

After attending a workshop, by a drug expert (A faculty member, was teaching physicians at a well-known medical school) I was alerted to the multitude of side effects of these drugs in some people. One of those side-effects is often, ironically, depression. Here, at least, was a clue. I followed up on this and discovered that the list of side-effects is long and sometimes deadly. The positive effects of these drugs is often overstated. In fact, in a very thoroughly vetted meta-analysis of a variety of studies, the principle positive effects of anti-depressants has been shown to be simply a placebo effect; the “sugar-pill” does just as well in many cases. (Irving Kirsch)

The case against these drugs has been stated most often by Dr. Peter Breggin. Dr. Breggin is the drug industry’s favorite whipping boy. They call him a quack and much worse. Perhaps that may be because he often testifies as an expert witness in lawsuits brought against them and based on his expertise, juries regularly decide that he provides the best evidence of fact. The drug industry does not like Peter Breggin.

All this leads to the following recent story.

$1.5 Million Award in Child Tardive Dyskinesia Malpractice

February 11, 2014

On February 11, 2014 a Chicago jury awarded $1.5 million to an autistic child who developed a severe case of tardive dyskinesia and tardive akathisia while being treated by psychiatrists with Risperdal and then Zyprexa between 2002 and 2007. The drug-induced disorder was diagnosed when he was fifteen years old and by then had become disabling and irreversible.

Tardive dyskinesia describes a group of persistent or permanent movement disorders caused by antipsychotic (neuroleptic) drugs including Risperdal, Zyprexa, Invega, Abilify, Geodon, Seroquel, Latuda, Fanapt and Saphris. In addition to typical tardive dyskinesia spasms and twitches of his face, eyelids, and tongue, the youngster developed a severe case of tardive akathisia involving torturous internal agitation that drove him into constant, unrelenting motion.

According to Ithaca, New York psychiatrist Peter R. Breggin, MD, a medical expert in the case, the boy was diagnosed with autism as a child and then started on SSRI antidepressants before the age of seven. He continued to be treated with the antidepressants Zoloft and then Paxil which caused his mental condition and behavior to deteriorate. Dr. Breggin testified in court that antidepressants very frequently cause severe emotional and behavioral disturbances in children. He used a flipchart to draw a diagram of the brain for the jury to graphically explain to them how the antipsychotic drugs work by blocking dopamine neurotransmission and how that leads to a compensatory reaction in the brain that causes tardive dyskinesia. Dr. Breggin’s complete trial testimony can be read here.

Instead of removing the child from the offending antidepressants, his first psychiatrist started him on Risperdal (risperidone). His second psychiatrist, Howard Segal, MD, who was the defendant in the case, continued him on Risperdal and then Zyprexa for two and one half years, despite the appearance of tardive dyskinesia symptoms. Dr. Breggin explained to the jury how antipsychotic drugs cause tardive dyskinesia at a high rate in children and adults, and how the doctor’s negligent actions caused the boy to develop severe tardive dyskinesia and tardive akathisia.

In response to the jury verdict, Dr. Breggin stated that psychiatric drugs do much more harm than good in treating autistic children and that he hoped the case would serve as a reminder and an alert that autistic children (like all distressed children) need caring psychological, social and educational interventions, and not psychiatric drugs.

Dr. Breggin is the author of many scientific articles and books. His most recent book is Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families. His website is


The Chicago attorney in the case was Francis P. Morrissey. The malpractice case was Angel v. Segal, State of Illinois, In the Circuit Court of Cook Count, Illinois, County Department, Law Division, No. 09 L 3496.




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