Kids Caught in the Psychiatric Maelstrom
How Pathological Labels and "Therapeutic" Drugs Hurt Children and Families
by Elizabeth E. Root, MSW, MS Ed
September 2009, 222pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-38122-5
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-0-313-38123-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Between 1994 and 2003, a 40-fold increase of bipolar diagnoses occurred among youth ages 0 to 19. Likewise, it has been estimated that up to 10 percent of American children have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, although there is neither a medical test for ADHD, nor proof that it has any biological component. Does the increasing frequency of these diagnoses amount to nothing more than an “unholy alliance” between psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry?

This book offers a warning that American children are receiving increased chemical treatment from psychiatrists and provides a primer on how to improve the emotional health of kids without drugs.

“Maelstrom” is an apt metaphor for the inexorable deterioration many children experience inside the mental health system. Kids Caught in the Psychiatric Maelstrom: How Pathological Labels and “Therapeutic” Drugs Hurt Children and Families challenges current treatment practices and addresses the critically important issue of excessive prescribing of psychiatric medications to children.

This encyclopedic work reveals “inside the system” information, emphasizing the theoretical divide at the root of the controversy over diagnosis and treatment. It explains how the 1990s, “decade of the brain” replaced talk therapy with biochemical treatments, leading to the hegemony of the pharmaceutical industry—and subsequently the massive drugging of children. Author Elizabeth E. Root details common diagnoses and treatments, explaining up-to-date brain research, with some surprising interpretations, and noting dangerous national precedents to mental screening. Finally, she illuminates pathways toward solutions and healthier families, sharing nonpsychiatric explanations for the nation’s increase of troubled children and the rationale and research supporting non-drug, alternative approaches to childhood distress.


  • Rich use of case examples and clear explanations facilitates in-depth explorations of the most common pediatric "diagnoses," detailing why these are specious conditions.
  • A recommended readings section guides parents and caregivers to helpful resources.
Elizabeth E. Root, M.S.W, M.S. Ed., is a licensed clinical social worker, now retired, whose employment spanned five counties of upstate New York. She worked in the public sector with children and families for 18 years.


"Writing for parents and caregivers, Root, a retired clinical social worker, criticizes treatment practices of children with psychiatric conditions and addresses the issue of excessive prescribing of medications. Noting the supposed increase in mental illness in children, she asks whether they are really mentally ill and whether the care provided to them is really helpful. She discusses medical and psychosocial treatment models and how they influence a therapist’s attitude toward a patient; the history of ADHD, neurobiological theories, and critiques of them; myths about bipolar disorder; the increase in psychopharmacology, the pharmaceutical industry, types of drugs, and their safety; screening of children and the lack of an objective screening method; and non-drug alternative solutions."—SciTech Book News, December 1, 2009

"Elizabeth Root is a great freedom fighter in a world that so needs discerning clarity when it comes to children and families in need of the truth in the world of mental health treatment. Kids in the Psychiatric Maelstrom brilliantly cuts through the mire to the answers so many desperately seek at a time when the medical community is confusing so many with their one gear answer of medications for every problem. Elizabeth has created a great resource in a wonderful and enlightening style."—Howard Glasser, Psychologist, creator of the Nurtured Heart Approach, author of Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach and co-author of The Inner Wealth Initiative: The Nurtured Heart Approach in Education

"STOP! If you are thinking of having your child evaluated by any kind of mental health professional, stop—and read this book first. With a sensitive and caring awareness of the needs of parents and children, combined with the critical insights of a careful researcher, Betsy Root draws an accurate but tragic picture of the risks of exposing our children to mental health evaluation and treatment. In today’s environment, nearly every psychiatric or psychological evaluation of a child leads to misleading and stigmatizing psychiatric diagnoses and then to toxic drugs. This very readable book can help re-empower you as a parent to meet your child’s needs, as unconditional loving caregivers do best, without any 'magic' pill.' "—Peter R. Breggin, M.D., psychiatrist and author of Talking Back to Ritalin, The Ritalin Fact Book, and Medication Madness; Ithaca, New York.

"In a time of clear and present danger due to the poisoning of millions of our nation's children with toxic and damaging psychiatric drugs, Elizabeth Root's book is a vital work. Speaking from years of experience, she provides an up-to-date deconstruction of the pseudoscientific front used to justify drugging our chlidren in the name of medicine, and sheds light on the dark financial conflicts of interest underlying this 'science.' This by itself is a great value, but Root goes further to provide good news by reminding us of a more sensible psychosocial approach to chlidren, and a great variety of specific methods that really work. She has created a tremendous resource."—John Breeding, PhD
Psychologist and author of The Wildest Colts Make The Best Horses and True Nature and Great Misunderstandings

"Elizabeth Root has written an encyclopedic up to date critique of the American approach to children's mental health and illness"—Lawrence H. Diller, MD
Author, The Last Normal Child (Praeger, 2006), Should I Medicate My Child? (2008) and Running on Ritalin (1999)
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