Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Professional Psychology: Debating Chamber · Psychology Journals · Psychologists

Edwin Fuller Torrey, M.D. (b.September 6, 1937, Utica, New York), is an American psychiatrist and schizophrenia researcher. He is Associate Director for Laboratory Research at the Stanley Medical Research Institute (SMRI). The Washington Post referred to Torrey as "the most famous psychiatrist in America."

Torrey is president of the board of the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), which describes itself as being "a national nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to eliminating legal and clinical barriers to treatment of severe mental illnesses."[1] TAC supports involuntary treatment when deemed appropriate by a judge (at the urging of the patient's psychiatrist and family members). Torrey has written several best-selling books on mental illness, including Surviving Schizophrenia.

Education and early careerEdit

Torrey earned his bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, from Princeton University, and his medical doctor's degree from the McGill University School of Medicine. Torrey has also earned a master's degree in anthropology from Stanford University, and was trained in psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine. He practiced general medicine in Ethiopia for two years as a Peace Corps physician, in the South Bronx, and in Alaska in the Indian Health Service. From 1970 to 1975, he was a special assistant to the NIMH director.

Stanley Medical Research InstituteEdit

Torrey is the Associate Director for Laboratory Research of the Stanley Medical Research Institute, the largest private provider of research on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in the US. SMRI also maintains a collection of postmortem brain tissue from individuals with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression and from unaffected controls, which are made available to researchers without charge. The institute has been sued for allegedly taking brains for use in research without proper consent; one lawsuit was settled out of court.[2]

Treatment Advocacy CenterEdit

Torrey is a founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a national non-profit organization that supports outpatient commitment for certain people with mental illness who, in view of their treatment history and present circumstances, are judged unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision. TAC has been credited by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and others with helping pass Kendra's Law in the state. Kendra's Law allows court-ordered involuntary treatment of people diagnosed with schizophrenia or other severe mental illness who have a history of noncompliance with psychiatric advice, i.e., individuals who are, "as a result of his or her mental illness, unlikely to voluntarily participate in the recommended treatment pursuant to the treatment plan."[3] Previously, only inpatient programs were available to submit a patient to involuntary treatment. TAC's efforts to pass Kendra's Law led to similar successful passage of Laura's Law in California, and similar laws in Florida and elsewhere. Torrey has testified numerous times in front of Congress.

National Alliance on Mental IllnessEdit

Torrey was for many years an active advisor for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Although Torrey, TAC, and NAMI remain aligned, NAMI may have tried to distance itself from TAC in 1998. One source The Psychiatric Times, reported that TAC was designed from the start to be "a separate support organization with its own source of funding."[4] According to MindFreedom International, an association of survivors of psychiatric treatment opposed to involuntary treatment, NAMI severed its relationship with TAC because of pressure from groups opposed to Torrey both from within NAMI and outside NAMI. Torrey is according to MindFreedom one of 'the most feverishly pro-force psychiatrists in the world'. MindFreedom suggests that the 'links between NAMI and TAC are simply going from overt to covert.'[5].

In response to a Morley Safer 60 Minutes piece 2002, NAMI provided Torrey with a partial defense of comments made by Torrey on 60 Minutes defending NIMH programs Torrey attacked, such as a study on adolescent romantic relationships and studies on the brains of snails, newts and birds but NAMI stated also Torrey was for 'true recovery'. [6].

Torrey was also the keynote speaker at the 23rd annual NAMI convention in 2002. [7].

In 2005, NAMI gave Dr. Torrey the following tribute on its 25th Anniversary Celebratory Donor Wall:

In Tribute To E. Fuller Torrey, M.D.: For his tireless work as a trailblazing researcher, scientist, author and advocate. He has contributed to the field and to NAMI members in so many ways, including: As a groundbreaking researcher -- treading where most were afraid to go, investigating theories at which the mainstream scoffed but that today are among the most promising clinical leads in the field; As a ferociously resolute advocate -- fervently and incessantly pressing for better treatment and services for people with serious mental illnesses - always unwilling to back away from his ideals, never afraid to be politically incorrect for his passionately held cause; As a prominent and admired author of dozens of books -- including the Bible of hope for so many people with schizophrenia and their families, Surviving Schizophrenia; and As a dedicated practicing clinician - somehow carving out time to provide uncompensated psychiatric care to the most vulnerable and disenfranchised individuals with serious mental illnesses in homeless shelters, in jails and in third world countries. Dr. Torrey, it is no wonder that the Washington Post judged you "the most famous psychiatrist in America." You have touched the lives of countless NAMI members throughout this nation. Thank you for all you have done.

Evidence of NAMI's continuing links to TAC can be found on their board of directors.[8] One individual, Frederick Frese, is presently on both the NAMI and TAC boards. TAC has two other former NAMI board members on their board and Laurie Flynn, the former NAMI executive director, is part of the TAC Honorary Advisory Committee.


When Torrey first became a psychiatrist, it was commonly thought schizophrenia was caused by 'bad parenting'. That his sister, Rhoda, had schizophrenia and Torrey himself did not led him to question evidence for this theory. As a result of research by Torrey and others, it is now commonly accepted that schizophrenia is a biologically-based illness, although there is still no biological diagnostic test for schizophrenia.

In searching for a cure for schizophrenia, Torrey has studied whether a parasite in cat droppings causes schizophrenia. He is testing antibiotics against the feline parasite Toxoplasma gondii to treat schizophrenia patients. Minocycline and azithromycin in a mouse model show effectiveness against Toxoplasma gondii [9] The ketolide antibiotics HMR 3647 and HMR 3004 may be effective against toxoplasmosis in humans. The ketolide antibiotics HMR 3647 and HMR 3004 reached 100% effectiveness against toxoplasmosis in mice and were remarkably nontoxic. [10] Torrey told The New York Daily News his wife thinks he is going to be assassinated by cat lovers.[11]


Torrey received two Commendation Medals from the U.S. Public Health Service. In 1999, he received a research award from the International Congress of Schizophrenia. In 2005, a tribute to Torrey was included in NAMI's 25th Anniversary Celebratory Donor Wall.


Dr. Torrey stands in opposition to the anti-psychiatry views of Thomas Szasz, a libertarian psychiatrist who asserts mental illness is a myth, and the late R. D. Laing, a British psychiatrist who suggested schizophrenia may offer a chance to grow. He is also opposed by some individuals who have been subjected to involuntary psychiatric treatment, anti-psychiatry advocates, many civil libertarians, critics of the pharmaceutical industry, and Scientologists.

Torrey attracted criticism from Thomas Szasz for his stance on the use of involuntary treatment in the acutely mentally ill (Szasz 2004).


  • 1975, Why did you do that?: Rainy day games for a post-industrial society, Chilton Book Company, ISBN 0-8019-6143-2
  • 1980, Schizophrenia and Civilization, Jason Aronson Publishers
  • 1983, Surviving Schizophrenia: A Manual for Families, Consumers, and Providers, Harper and Row, ISBN 0-06-095919-3
  • 1983, The Roots of Treason: Ezra Pound and the Secret of St. Elizabeths, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, ISBN 0-15-679015-7
  • 1986, The Mind Game: Witchdoctors and Psychiatrists, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, ISBN 0-87668-689-7
  • 1986, Care of the Seriously Mentally Ill: A Rating of State Programs, with Sidney M. Wolfe and Laurie Flynn, ISBN 99917-962-2-3
  • 1988, Nowhere to Go: The Tragic Odyssey of the Homeless Mentally Ill, Harper Collins, ISBN 0-06-015993-6
  • 1992, Criminalizing the Seriously Mentally Ill: The Abuse of Jails As Mental Hospitals (senior author/editor), ISBN 0-7881-4279-8
  • 1992, Freudian Fraud: The Malignant Effect of Freud's Theory on American Thought and Culture, Harper Collins, ISBN 1-929636-00-8
  • 1994, Schizophrenia and Manic-Depressive Disorder: The Biological Roots of Mental Illness as Revealed by a Landmark Study of Identical Twins (senior author), with Irving I. Gottesman, Edward H. Taylor, Ann E. Bowler, Perseus Books Group
  • 1996, Out of the Shadows: Confronting America's Mental Illness Crisis, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., ISBN 0-471-24532-1
  • 2002, Surviving Manic-Depressive Illness, Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-08663-2
  • 2002, The Invisible Plague: The Rise of Mental Illness from 1750 to the Present, with Judy Miller, Rutgers University Press; ISBN 0-8135-3003-2
  • 2005, Beasts of the Earth : Animals, Humans, and Disease, with Robert H. Yolken, Rutgers University Press, ISBN 0-8135-3571-9
  • Ethical Issues in Medicine
  • Frontier Justice: The Rise and Fall of the Loomis Gang, North Country Books Inc, ISBN 0-932052-91-6
  • Ride with the Loomis Gang
  • Surviving Manic Depression : A Manual on Bipolar Disorder for Patients, Families and Providers, with Michael B. Knable, Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-08664-0
  • Surviving Schizophrenia for the Lay Reader, Harpercollins Publishers, ISBN 0-06-091217-0
  • Schizophrenia and Manic-Depressive Disorder: The Biological Roots of Mental Illness as Revealed by the Landmark Study of Identical Twins, Group, ISBN 0-465-07285-2
  • The Death of Psychiatry
  • Witchdoctors and Psychiatrists: The Common Roots of Psychotherapy and Its Future (revised edition of The Mind Game), Harper Collins, ISBN 0-06-097024-3

See alsoEdit


  • Szasz T. Psychiatric Fraud and Force: A Critique of E. Fuller Torrey. J Humanist Psychol 2004;4:416-430.

External linksEdit

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.