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Gary Younge
Cruise meets match in War of the Words

At the premiere he called a Channel 4 prankster a jerk for squirting him with water; in an interview on US TV he branded the host "glib" and "irresponsible" for expressing his views on psychiatry.

But yesterday Top Gun met his match. After he launched an attack on Brooke Shields for revealing that she took psychiatric drugs to cope with post-natal depression, Shields struck back.

In a comment piece in the New York Times, usually reserved for policy wonks and public intellectuals, Shields, a Princeton-educated actor and former model, argued that Cruise's comments are "a disservice to mothers everywhere".

"I'm going to take a wild guess and say that Mr Cruise has never suffered from post-partum depression," wrote Shields, currently starring in Chicago in London.

"To suggest that I was wrong to take drugs to deal with my depression, and that instead I should have taken vitamins and exercise, shows an utter lack of understanding about postpartum depression and childbirth in general."

Shields' response came after Cruise, a Scientologist, last week lambasted both her and the host of NBC's Today Show, Matt Lauer, for their belief in psychiatry.

"She doesn't understand the history of psychiatry. She does not understand it in the same way you don't understand it, Matt. You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do."

Cruise insisted that antidepressants just "mask the problem", adding: "There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance."

His outburst was the latest in a recent litany of bizarre behaviour including jumping up and down on Oprah Winfrey's sofa as he declared his love for his fiancee, Katie Holmes.

Cruise's broadside on NBC was not the first time he had attacked Shields for taking antidepressants.

Responding directly to the accusations he made on the programme, Shields ended her article: "It's not the history of psychiatry, but it is my history, personal and real."

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