A Psychiatrist’s Perspective: "Down the TM Rabbit Hole"

The post below is a psychiatrist's response to "www.suggestibility.org," a Website created by a person who formerly practiced the Transcendental Meditation program and then claimed that TM practice produced harmful psychological effects. Dr. Krag points out that psychotic disorders can be triggered by, or coincide with, any major life event—such as joining the Army, entering college, or job stress; as unfortunate that may be, it is unhealthy and perhaps unwise to blame the Army, college, or job for that mental disorder.

James Krag, M.D.
, is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, president of the Psychiatric Society of Virginia and was president of the Virginia Association of Community Psychiatrists for four years. He is currently Medical Director of Liberty Point, a residential treatment program for adolescents with psychiatric problems.


I am a Board Certified Psychiatrist who has worked with people of all ages and with a wide range of psychiatric disorders. I have worked in both hospitals and out-patient clinics. For a number of years I was Medical Director of a community mental health center and have encountered many people with sever and persistent psychiatric disorders. I have also been using Transcendental Meditation personally since 1970.

I have been asked to comment on the account of Joe Kellett, who has blamed Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for various difficulties that have emerged in his life.

Psychotic disorders first tend to appear in the late teens and early 20s, though they can manifest at both younger and older ages. This group of disorders seems to manifest independent of economic level, country of origin or intelligence. The problem can persist for varying lengths of time and degrees of intensity. Fortunately this set of disorders only affects a small percentage of the world's population. Unfortunately for those that are affected by these disorders, it can become devastating to their life.

Although there are many theories for what brings these problems on, there often seems to be notable changes or stressors present in the persons life directly prior to the onset. For instance, I have seen this occur when men and women attend "boot camp" in their military training or when they leave home to attend college. I have also seen it when there is a death in the family or a major physical illness for the individual. Certainly it has long been noted that substance abuse can trigger these disorders. I have even seen it occur when a person works a "rolling shift" and their sleep-wake cycle gets disrupted. I have seen it occur for people when they enter a new charismatic religion and believe that they have been "saved". It is important to note that for individuals who are not susceptible to developing a psychotic disorder, none of the above stressors would trigger the onset of this disorder.

The account written by Joe Kellett is an interesting and unfortunate story. He attributes the problems he developed in his life to his involvement with the Transcendental Meditation program. I think it is entirely possible that he may have developed similar problems at some point had he experienced other notable life-style changes. If a person develops a psychotic disorder when they enter the U.S. Army, do we say that the Army caused the problem? Do we blame the Army when the person is discharged because of it? Are universities at fault when every year in the U.S. a percentage of the incoming students develop a psychotic disorder? Is the university at fault when the person then leaves the school? Is the field of psychiatry at fault when a person enters a hospital for care while delusional? (There is a very active group opposing psychiatry for "causing" psychotic disorders.)

Clearly the vast majority of young people going through notable changes and challenges in their life do not develop psychotic disorders whether they are in the military, colleges, or the Transcendental Meditation program. It is unfortunate that Mr. Kellett seems to be among that minority that develops such problems. The world is not perfect and institutions are not perfect. Perhaps it would be more productive for him to not criticize a specific organization that he was involved with when he became disturbed, and rather to join forces with those organizations that are working to find causes and treatments for psychotic disorders.

James Krag, M.D. FAPA
Liberty Point Residential Treatment Program
Staunton, Virginia

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