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The "Chemical Imbalance" Myth

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A theory that is wrong is considered preferable to admitting our ignorance. – Elliot Vallenstein, Ph.D.

The idea that depression and other mental health conditions are caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain is so deeply ingrained in our psyche that it seems almost sacrilegious to question it.

Direct-to-consumer-advertising (DCTA) campaigns, which have expanded the size of the antidepressant market (Donohue et al., 2004), revolve around the claim that SSRIs (the most popular class of antidepressants) alleviate depression by correcting a deficiency of serotonin in the brain.

For example, Pfizer’s television advertisement for Zoloft states that “depression is a serious medical condition that may be due to a chemical imbalance”, and that “Zoloft works to correct this imbalance.”

Other SSRI advertising campaigns make similar claims. The Effexor website even has a slick video explaining that “research suggests an important link between depression and an imbalance in some of the brain’s chemical messengers. Two neurotransmitters believed to be involved in depression are serotonin and norepinephrine.” The video goes on to explain that Effexor works by increasing serotonin levels in the synapse, which is “believed to relieve symptoms of depression over time.”

These days serotonin is widely promoted as the way to achieve just about every personality trait that is desirable, including self-confidence, creativity, emotional resilience, success, achievement, sociability and high energy. And the converse is also true. Low serotonin levels have been implicated in almost every undesirable mental state and behavioral pattern, such as depression, aggressiveness, suicide, stress, lack of self-confidence, failure, low impulse control, binge eating and other forms of substance abuse.

In fact, the idea that low levels of serotonin cause depression has become so widespread that it’s not uncommon to hear people speak of the need to “boost their serotonin levels” through exercise, herbal supplements or even sexual activity. The “chemical imbalance” theory is so well established that it is now part of the popular lexicon.

It is, after all, a neat theory. It takes a complex and heterogeneous condition (depression) and boils it down to a simple imbalance of two to three neurotransmitters (out of more than 100 that have been identified), which, as it happens, can be “corrected” by long-term drug treatment. This clear and easy-to-follow theory is the driving force behind the $12 billion worth of antidepressant drugs sold each year.

However, there is one (rather large) problem with this theory: there is absolutely no evidence to support it. Recent reviews of the research have demonstrated no link between depression, or any other mental disorder, and an imbalance of chemicals in the brain (Lacasse & Leo, 2005; (Valenstein, 1998).

The ineffectiveness of antidepressant drugs when compared to placebo cast even more doubt on the “chemical imbalance” theory. (See my recent articles Placebos as effective as antidepressants and A closer look at the evidence for more on this.)

Folks, at this point you might want to grab a cup of tea. It’s going to take a while to explain the history of this theory, why it is flawed, and how continues to persist in light of the complete lack of evidence to support it. I will try to be as concise as possible, but there’s a lot of material to cover and a lot of propaganda I need to disabuse you of.

Ready? Let’s start with a bit of history.

The History of the “Chemical Imbalance” Theory

The first antidepressant, iproniazid, was discovered by accident in 1952 after it was observed that some tubercular patients became euphoric when treated with this drug. A bacteriologist named Albert Zeller found that iproniazid was effective in inhibiting the enzyme monoamine oxydase. As its name implies, monoamine oxydase plays an essential role in inactivating monoamines such as epinephrine and norepinephrine. Thus, iproniazid raised levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine which in turn led to stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system – an effect thought to be responsible for the antidepressant action of the drug.

At around the same time, an extract from the plant Rauwolfia serpentina was introduced into western psychiatry. This extract had been used medicinally in India for more than a thousand years and was thought to have a calming effect useful to quiet babies, treat insomnia, high blood pressure, insanity and much more. In 1953 chemists at Ciba, a pharmaceutical company, isolated the active compound from this herb and called it reserpine.

In 1955 researchers at the National Institutes of Health reported that reserpine reduces the levels of serotonin in the brains of animals. It was later established that all three of the major biogenic amines in the brain, norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine, were all decreased by reserpine (again, in animals).

In animal studies conducted at around the same time, it was found that animals administered reserpine showed a short period of increased excitement and motor activity, followed by a prolonged period of inactivity. The animals often had a hunched posture and an immobility that was thought to resemble catatonia (Valenstein, 1998). Since reserpine lowered levels of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, and caused the effects observed in animals, it was concluded that depression was a result of low levels of biogenic amines. Hence, the “chemical imbalance” theory is born.

However, it was later found that reserpine only rarely produces a true clinical depression. Despite high doses and many months of treatment with reserpine, only 6 percent of the patients developed symptoms even suggestive of depression. In addition, an examination of these 6 percent of patients revealed that all of them had a previous history of depression. (Mendels & Frazer, 1974) There were even reports from a few studies that reserpine could have an antidepressant effect (in spite of reducing levels of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopanmine).

As it turns out, that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to revealing the inadequacies of the “chemical imbalance” theory.

The Fatal Flaws of “Chemical Imbalance” Theory

As Elliot Valenstein Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at Michigan University, points out in his seminal book Blaming the Brain, “Contrary to what is often claimed, no biochemical, anatomical or functional signs have been found that reliably distinguish the brains of mental patients.” (p. 125)

In his book, Valenstein clearly and systematically dismantles the chemical imbalance theory:

  1. Reducing levels of norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine does not actually produce depression in humans, even though it appeared to do so in animals.
  2. The theory cannot explain why there are drugs that alleviate depression despite the fact that they have little or no effect on either serotonin or norepinephrine.
  3. Drugs that raise serotonin and norepinephrine levels, such as amphetamine and cocaine, do not alleviate depression.
  4. No one has explained why it takes a relatively long time before antidepressant drugs produce any elevation of mood. Antidepressants produce their maximum elevation of serotonin and norepinephrine in only a day or two, but it often takes several weeks before any improvement in mood occurs.
  5. Although some depressed patients have low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, the majority do not. Estimates vary, but a reasonable average from several studies indicates that only about 25 percent of depressed patients actually have low levels of these metabolites.
  6. Some depressed patients actually have abnormally high levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, and some patients with no history of depression at all have low levels of these amines.
  7. Although there have been claims that depression may be caused by excessive levels of monoamine oxydase (the enzyme that breaks down serotonin and norepinephrine), this is only true in some depressed patients and not in others.
  8. Antidepressants produce a number of different effects other than increasing norepinephrine and serotonin activity that have not been accounted for when considering their activity on depression.

Another problem is that it is not now possible to measure serotonin and norepinephrine in the brains of patients. Estimates of brain neurotransmitters can only be inferred by measuring the biogenic amine breakdown products (metabolites) in the urine and cerebrospinal fluid. The assumption underlying this measurement is that the level of biogenic amine metabolites in the urine and cerebrospinal fluid reflects the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain. However, less than one-half of the serotonin and norepinephrine metabolites in the urine or cerebrospinal fluid come from the brain. The other half come from various organs in the body. Thus, there are serious problems with what is actually being measured.

Finally, there is not a single peer-reviewed article that can be accurately cited to support claims of serotonin deficiency in any mental disorder, while there are many articles that present counterevidence. Furthermore, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) does not list serotonin as the cause of any mental disorder. The American Psychiatric Press Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry addresses serotonin deficiency as an unconfirmed hypothesis, stating “Additional experience has not confirmed the monoamine depletion hypothesis” (Lacasse & Leo, 2005).

When all of this evidence is taken in full, it should be abundantly clear that depression is not caused by a chemical imbalance.

But, as Valenstein shrewdly observes, “there are few rewards waiting for the person who claims that “the emperor is really nude” or who claims that we really do not know what causes depression or why an antidepressant sometimes helps to relieve this condition.”

How Have We Been Fooled?

There are several reasons the idea that mental disorders are caused by a chemical imbalance has become so widespread (and none of them have anything to do with the actual scientific evidence, as we have seen).

It is known that people suffering from mental disorders and especially their families prefer a diagnosis of “physical disease” because it does not convey the stigma and blame commonly associated with “psychological problems”. A “physical disease” may suggest a more optimistic prognosis, and mental patients are often more amenable to drug treatment when they are told they have a physical disease.

Patients are highly susceptible to Direct-to-Consumer-Advertising (DCTA). It has been reported that patients are now presenting to their doctors with a self-described “chemical imbalance” (Kramer, 2002). This is important because studies show that patients who are convinced they are suffering from a neurotransmitter defect are likely to request a prescription for antidepressants, and may be skeptical of physicians who suggest other interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy (DeRubeis et al., 2005). It has also been shown that anxious and depressed patients “are probably more susceptible to the controlling influence of advertisements (Hollon MF, 2004).

The benefit of the chemical imbalance theory for insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry is primarily economic. Medical insurers are primarily concerned with cost, and they want to discourage treatments (such as psychotherapy) that may involve many contact hours and considerable expense. Their control over payment schedules enables insurance companies to shift treatment toward drugs and away from psychotherapy.

The motivation of the pharmaceutical companies should be fairly obvious. As mentioned previously, the market for antidepressant drugs is now $12 billion. All publicly traded for-profit companies are required by law to increase the value of their investor’s stock. Perhaps it goes without saying, but it is a simple fact that pharmaceutical companies will do anything they legally (and sometimes illegally) can to maximize revenues.

Studies have shown that the advertisements placed by drug companies in professional journals or distributed directly to physicians are often exaggerated or misleading and do not accurately reflect scientific evidence (Lacasse & Leo, 2005). While physicians deny they are being influenced, it has been shown repeatedly that their prescription preferences are heavily affected by promotional material from drug companies (Moynihan, 2003). Research also suggests that doctors exposed to company reps are more likely to favor drugs over non-drug therapy, and more likely to prescribe expensive medications when equally effective but less costly ones are available (Lexchin, 1989). Some studies have even shown an association between the dose and response: in other words, the more contact between doctors and sales reps the more doctors latch on to the “commercial” messages as opposed to the “scientific” view of a product’s value (Wazana, 2000).

The motivation of psychiatrists to accept the chemical imbalance theory is somewhat more subtle. Starting around 1930, psychiatrists became increasingly aware of growing competition from nonmedical therapists such as psychologists, social workers and counselors. Because of this, psychiatrists have been attracted to physical treatments like drugs and electroshock therapy that differentiate them from nonmedical practitioners. Psychiatry may be the least respected medical specialty (U.S. General Accounting Office report). Many Americans rejected Fruedian talk therapy as quackery, and the whole field of psychiatry lacks the quality of research (randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind experiments) that serves as the gold-standard in other branches of medicine.

Dr. Colin Ross, a psychiatrist, describes it this way:

“I also saw how badly biological psychiatrists want to be regarded as doctors and accepted by the rest of the medical profession. In their desire to be accepted as real clinical scientists, these psychiatrists were building far too dogmatic an edifice… pushing their certainty far beyond what the data could support.”

Of course there are also many “benefits” to going along with the conventional “chemical imbalance” theory, such as free dinners, symphony tickets, and trips to the Caribbean; consultancy fees, honoraria and stock options from the pharmaceutical companies; and a much larger, growing private practice as the $20 billion spent by drug companies on advertising brings patients to the office. Psychiatrists are just human, like the rest of us, and not many of them can resist all of these benefits.

In sum, the idea that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance is a myth. Pharmaceutical ads for antidepressants assert that depression is a physical diseases because that serves as a natural and easy segue to promoting drug treatment. There may well be biological factors which predispose some individuals toward depression, but predisposition is not a cause. The theory that mental disorders are physical diseases ignores the relevance of psychosocial factors and implies by omission that such factors are of little importance.

Stay tuned for future articles on the psychosocial factors of depression, the loss of sadness as a normal response to life, and the branding of new psychological conditions as a means of increasing drug sales.

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256 Comments

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  1. I was placed on Deprokote and Zoloft… After less then 3 months of taking them I went Cold turkey. I realize now it was not the smartest thing. But I did manage to get off the peels. I am now about 3 months free, and my feelings, emotions and excitement for life is comming back. I do feel that God, Excercise, and support, also vitamins and eating good. Staying away from sugars has got my body to return to regular use.. If any one is going through the same please write back to share some information back to me..

  2. I support your theory, but would just like to ask you a question. One person told me that they had one type of anti-depressants and they helped them with their mood and when they changed the anti-depressants to another type they began to feel more depressed again. And the same happened to another friend of mine who said that he switched a lot of anti-depressants before he found the right ones that really helped him. How is this possible?

    • I am not sure to whom “Nick’s” question is directed, and my standard policy online is to reply only to fully signed comments or questions. However, I will say that it is not at all uncommon for depressed patients to have a worsening or relapse of their depression when they discontinue one antidepressant (AD) and/or start another. Each AD has somewhat different chemical properties, and people tend to have varying responsiveness to specific agents. Also, sometimes there is a “coverage gap” during the switch-over that leaves some people vulnerable to a relapse.

      But there are also many other variables in depression that may have nothing to do with the medication; for example, someone “gets worse” after switching from one AD to another–but this happens at the same time he or she is entering into divorce procedures or loses a job. This is why psychiatrists stress the “bio-psycho-social” approach to understanding mental illnesses. –Ronald Pies MD

      Note: For more on this, see dlvr.it/56qCGd

      • Dr. Pies, respectfully, whether any ORGANIZATION or ACADEMIC psychiatrist promoted the chemical imbalance theory, I personally have heard it from many mainstream (as in major hospital) psychiatrists, as have family members and friends. If nothing else, academic and institutional psychiatry have not done enough to debunk it the theory, leaving it to more radical elements to do so, despite knowing that the theory has been used to justify millions of prescriptions.

        • I am breaking with my long-standing policy of replying only to fully signed comments, because I think this issue is so important.

          I have no doubt that some patients heard the phrase “chemical imbalance” from some hospital-based psychiatrists, and I agree that more could have been done by those of us with academic and research experience to “debunk” this notion. But too many critics constantly claim that “psychiatry” endorsed the “chemical imbalance theory” when this was simply never the case–if, by “psychiatry”, we mean the profession as a whole.

          The original developers of the biogenic amine hypothesis themselves were among the early “debunkers” of any simplistic chemical imbalance theory. Thus, psychiatrist Joseph Schildkraut and neuroscientist Seymour Kety wrote in 1967:

          “Whereas specific genetic factors may be of importance in the etiology of some, and possibly all, depressions, it is equally conceivable that early experiences of the infant or child may cause enduring biochemical changes, and that these may predispose some individuals to depressions in adulthood. It is not likely that changes in the metabolism of the biogenic amines alone will account for the complex phenomena of normal or pathological affect.”

          Simply put, they were saying that mood problems are not just the result of abnormal brain chemistry! This was also the position of most responsible psychiatrists in academic and professional organizations, and in textbooks of psychiatry.

          Finally, when prescriptions are written for mood disorders or other serious psychiatric conditions, there is no need to “justify” them based on a theory of brain chemistry. The prescription is justified because the patient is suffering and often incapacitated, and there is good reason to believe the medication will help. For generations, aspirin was prescribed to relieve pain without doctors having a clue as to how it actually worked!

          Yes, psychiatrists could have done more to explain the nuances of treatment to their patients, using the bio-psycho-social approach most of us have always endorsed. But there never was a “chemical imbalance theory” put forward in a concerted way by the profession as a whole–and critics would do well to drop this canard and move on.

          Ronald Pies MD

          • Thanks for your reply and I have signed this with my full name (I am from Newton, MA), it was just habit that led me to use an initial. I think we are largely on the same page and I appreciate your candor. I do wonder, though, re your statement about there being reason to believe the drugs will help, do you disagree with the recent body of writings (e.g.Iriving Kirsch and Joanna Moncrief and Marcia Angell) which as I understand them suggest that except perhaps for the severely depressed, SSRIs don’t really work any better than placebos? I don’t have the scientific background to evaluate those claims, although given my admitted biases I did nonetheless find them appealing.

            • Hi, Mr. Spaeth,

              I very much appreciate your providing your full name–it is one of my biggest gripes about the internet, that people can engage in criticism without taking personal responsibility–so thanks!

              To answer your question in brief: in my view, Kirsch, Moncrieff, and Angell are mostly wrong, as regards anti- depressants. (And Angell is deeply wrong in her views on psychiatric diagnosis).

              While antidepressants (SSRIs, SNRIs, etc.) are not robustly effective agents, they are certainly superior to placebo for the treatment of acute, moderate-to-severe major depression. As the condition slides farther down the severity curve toward “normal sadness”, the drug-placebo difference becomes less pronounced, as one would expect–these are not “anti-sadness pills” or “happy pills.” For more on all this, you might take a look at the studies below, and the long paper I did on this topic, also cited.

              Thanks for your comment and take care down the road in Newton!

              Best regards,
              Ron Pies MD

              1.Stewart et al analyzed six placebo-controlled anti- depressant studies of patients with nonsevere MDD (Hamilton Depression Score <23) and found that “mild-moderate MDD can benefit from antidepressants,” with the NNT (number needed to treat) in the range of 3 to 8 (NNT<10 is considered clinically significant).
              2. In a re-analysis of the United States Food and Drug Administration database studies previously analyzed by Kirsch et al, Vöhringer and Ghaemib concluded that antidepressant benefit is seen not only in severe depression but also in moderate (though not mild) depression.

              1. Stewart JA, Deliyannides DA, Hellerstein DJ, McGrath PJ, Stewart JW. Can people with nonsevere major depression benefit from antidepressant medication? J Clin Psychiatry. 2012 Apr;73(4):518-25. Epub 2011 Dec 27.]

              2. Vöhringer PA, Ghaemi SN. Solving the antidepressant efficacy question: effect sizes in major depressive disorder. Clin Ther. 2011 Dec;33(12):B49-61. Epub 2011 Dec 2.

              http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3398684/

              • Dr. Pies, thank you for your reply and for your very informative and balanced article. While my personal experiences with medications do bias me against them, I nonetheless can appreciate your perspective and insight and certainly this is an article anyone interested in the debate should read. I am frankly surprised I had not seen it before as I have read quite a bit in this area. It can be very frustrating to the layperson ( and, I am sure, the doctor) that there are so many complexities instead of simple, objective truths in medicine. As we know, data can be spun many ways, so it’s hard sometimes even to trust clinical trials or meta-analyses (as you point out re the re-examination of the raw data examined by Kirsch).

                W/r/t the point in your article re ADs being overprescribed in some settings, I must say that it really bothers me that my daughter, who at most has very mild situational depression, can walk into psychiatrists’ offices in upscale communities where presumably one is seeing very well-qualified doctors, and come out in one appointment with prescriptions for various psych meds. It should not work that way, in my view.

  3. There is indeed an “emperor with no clothes” in this story, Mr. Kesser, but it is not the field of psychiatry. No responsible academic psychiatrist, psychiatric organization, or textbook ever spouted the sort of nonsense that has become known as the “chemical imbalance theory” of mental illness. (Readers: beware of “science writers” who can’t explain the difference between a hypothesis and a theory).

    To the extent the “chemical imbalance” notion became part of the popular culture, it was owing to distorted versions of the catecholamine hypothesis [see link] appearing in drug company ads, in pop psychology magazines, and now, on uninformed websites and blogs.

    The paradigm most characteristic of American psychiatry from the 1980s to the present has been the “bio-psycho-social model” (BPSM) developed by Dr. George Engel. This stresses the complex interaction among biological, psychological and social causes, in bringing about mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

    In their 2005 statement to the general public, the American Psychiatric Association acknowledged that the precise causes of mental illnesses are as yet unknown– not that mental illnesses are caused by “chemical imbalances.” Sadly, this albatross has been hung around psychiatry’s neck–it is time to remove it and move on. There is much suffering that needs to be addressed, and most psychiatrists understand that a holistic, bio-psycho-social approach is required to address it.

    Ronald Pies MD

  4. Alternative medicine is just as guilty of perpetuating false treatments based on neurotransmitter imbalance myths as mainstream medicine. Look at some of the absurd surveys many practitioners use all starting with Julia Ross’s “The Mood Cure” to see if serotonin, gaba, or dopamine are your “issue.” And with the recent obsession with methylation it’s all coming back into play again, as the theory du jour is now that methylation cycle SNPs somehow result in inadequate neurotransmitter production. Uh, evidence please?

    • And I should add that these surveys are often supplemented by absolutely unproven urine tests allegedly measuring neurotransmitter levels, and other unproven tests supposedly yielding “markers” of neurotransmitter levels. And of course the treatments are 5htp, amino acids, and all sorts of other unproven supplements. I have seen this over and over again in personal experience, including from MDs. It’s ironic to me that alternative medicine, which so decries drugs, bases treatments on the same demonstrably false paradigm.

      • You ask a reasonable and complex question, which I think would best be answered by a knowledgable and caring psychiatrist or other MD who specializes in addiction medicine. The answer will likely differ depending on which opiate/s you are/were using, time since last use, whether or not you are currently on an antidepressant, which one/s, for how long, your response, and your reactions to prior antidepressants, if any. It will be important to choose your doctor carefully. Doctors, like everyone else, come from homo sapiens, and not from any angelic race. Blessings to you on your journey.

  5. I’ve been searching for someone knowledgeable to ask a question i have concerning heavy illegal drug use and Serotonin. From what I’ve read I might be able to find an answer to my question here. My question is this, is it possible that after thirty years of heavy drug use, mostly opiates, would that cause the body to stop making serotonin on it’s own? If so, is there any way to get the body back on track to making it on it’s own or will the drug user have to always rely on anti-depressants?

    • Hi Doug.

      The body will never quit producing serotonin in as much as it will never quit producing melatonin, norepinephrine nor dopamine..

      Are you on antidepressants now or street drugs?

      Years of substance abuse (whether street drugs or medicinal) will take its toll eventually and damage the natural healthy cycle and recycle of these otherwise organically produced brain chemicals.

      The problem you now have (if dependent on, or addicted to seratonin producing chemicals) is getting back to the organically producing nature of these chemicals.

      From what I have learned in studying these drugs is, The longer you are on them, the longer it takes to come off.

      For me it was 2001 – 2009, then a further two and a half years of weaning off. Those who have taken them for, say a year, the time taken to come off will not be as long, although different people and their pain threshold will differ so no one can be put into any scientific graph or chart as to exactly how long it will take.

      It also depends on dosage, my dose began at 75mg daily, within a year it was 150mg and eventually became over 300mg – Today, 75mg is considered too high a dose to begin with.

      My reduction process was done via liquid doses and they were a god send to a degree, as it managed me mls at a time (too big a dose drop is both dangerous and brutal to the system, causes psychosis and much more).

      You do not have to rely on these drugs forever, not if you are prepared not to. But, you do have to work hard to come off and it takes time, stamina and willpower. – Include the family in all decisions you take because they will also be affected and you will need support.

      Thirty years of damage to repair is not going to be easy but, it is indeed possible.

      Please think about reading Peter Breggin (esp Medication Madness) and read David Healy (DavidHealy.org) these guys are experts in the field of pharmapsychology and know exactly how medication and street drugs are abusing the brain and body, the dependence trauma and withdrawal dangers
      – They both include patient testimonials in their research (which is the real scientific evidence) and are both non judgemental concerning street drug use.

      Always do your own research and go at your own pace, you will need a medical professional to prescribe liquid doses but, if you go it alone without one, just go slow and research, research, research throughout (hearing other peoples stories of success is truly a way forward and powerful enough to determinate and justify your struggle).

      Please come back and let us know how you are getting on, I will always respond.

  6. To Phil Pulve,

    Your comment came through to my email but, I cannot find it here on the site.

    You say you have run out of Lexapro, please go and see a medical professional asap, and please check out DavidHealy.org and type in Lexapro.

    You need see a medical professional asap because stopping any snri / ssri abruptly is extremely dangerous, can cause psychotic outbreaks and many more symptomatic dangers.

    There may be a way of obtaining the drug from a medical professional and paying later – It took me 2.5 years to be weaned off of Venlafaxine via small reductions of liquid doses.

    You ask why, you feel Lexapro is working? I cannot speak for you, only myself (and thousands of other Doctor and patient testimonials) that when a patient is on the drug they are conditioned to believe it is working, it is only when free of it they know otherwise.

    Also, when, like us both, you are switched to another drug and the withdrawal kicks in you believe those symptoms are your actual depressive state – going back on the original takes the withdrawal away and you believe again, the drug is working in your favour. – Its a vicious cycle

    Your, 1 week of weaned Effexor was both dangerous and just nowhere near enough time for your body to accept the changes. SSRI / SNRI withdrawal is brutal and sadistic.

    Like I said after many years of upping, downing and switching my mental state became excessive deterioration and it then took 2.5 years of minimal dose reductions of a liquid dose (at times half a ml was dropped over a period of 2 – 3 weeks) – during the reduction I had many psychotic breaks and much, much more. It was knowing I would recover that kept me going.

    Doctors call this `Trial and Error` but believe me hon, this aint nothing but error all the way They are not going through it, you are. – Your experience is a world apart from their text book knowledge.

    Do as much research as you can for yourself, read patient testimonials, clinical trial data in medical archives of Lexapro, read Moncrieff, Healy, Breggin etc, and not pharma promotions because you need the truth and the option to discontinue this drug.

    Note I am not trying to be a Doctor (God forbid ha ha) but, I urge you to seek out the truth for yourself and help yourself.

  7. It is my believe that all mental illness is caused by a nutritional imbalance. Much like the Witch’s of Salemn.

    The best choice is a 100% organic diet.

    Yes 10% of mental illness will never be explainable.

    But at least we now know that 90% is due to poor nutrition in water, food and our toxic atmospheres The mental illness rates and modern rise of chemicals prove this, and not so much the new testing laws for mental illness.

    Don’t be tricked. Mental Illness like any business is a Trillion dollar business. And like all business’s their are the good guys and the bad guys. Unfortunately the Bad guys rule not only Health but sadly Mental Health as well.

    The answer = 100% Raw Vegan, its the best on offer. Not perfect but the best of the best…………:-)

  8. I think what Chris is saying makes some sense. It seems a little too simplistic that mood could be attributed only to serotonin (and dopamine, norepinephrine, epiniephrine, GABA, etc.) Oh if only that were the world we lived in. This is coming from one who takes amino acids ala “The Mood Cure” by Julia Ross and they really seem to have the functions they are claimed to have as far as stimulating/sedating/antidepressant. And they seem to work best for me in combination, lending credence to the theory of other amino acid researchers like Mary Hinz that too much of one will imbalance the other neurotransmitters if the aminos are improperly used or combined. These treatments are specifically based on chemical imbalance theory, and yet, is there not a lot more the amino acid precursors can do than only convert to these chemicals? Is it possible they affect other functions in the brain, also affect the biochemistry of the body in ways that have nothing to do with serotonin?

    • In my ever so humble opinion The Mood Cure is complete quackery. GABA doesn’t even cross the blood brain barrier, for instance. I have taken tons of it with no effect at all. Her response, of course, is that oh clinical experience shows it works. That is not good science. Clinical experience shows sugar pills work quite well.

        • Although sugar pills don’t give you the permanent nocternal bruxism, restless leg syndrome, permanent tinitus or head zaps that the 3 years of venlafaxine I took did. I was emotional when my partner left me. The doctor would have been doing a far better job if he had prescribed me a 20 minute run and a pep talk rather than a life sentence of side effects. Doctors are largely unaware of the withdrawal symptoms of ssris . It took me three individual visits to my local hospital brain scans ecgs and eventually self diagnosis via google ! to find that head zaps were related to venlafaxine. My psych, doctor and a major hospital all argued they were not associated. Hopeless

  9. Hi again Chris…
    Seems to be a time bomb here for the 21st Century.
    I’m so depressed. I did not want to be part of “other people’s opinions”. Seems everyone has them.
    Antidepressants have, long term, killed anything that I would have hoped for in life…
    In the last 6 mos.I have, ama, weaned myself from the pills that I’d become unresponsive to 26 years ago, I am actually less miserable now, than I have been in the last 29 years…why they still keep insisting that I take them? Hmmmm
    LOL is all I can say….
    Big money, big power… big government… etc…
    Could never share my whole story here… not enough room, not enough time…and seriously, who really cares!! 😉
    I look to God, knowing that he loves me… and all who suffer…
    I do know of those who have benefited from these drugs. Very short term though. (like one year for head injuries…).
    In these drugs, I do not trust… in the long run, after they stopped working, and I was told to continue taking them, they dragged me into a deeper darkness of despair than I could ever have known, left to my own CHEMICAL IMBALANCE…. 😉

    Jeannie 🙂

  10. Chris…
    So totally agree with so much that you have shared with us….
    Ultimately, can you tell me WHY depression has destroyed my life?

  11. “As Elliot Valenstein Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at Michigan University…”
    — Dr. Valenstein is Professor Emeritus at the UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN. There is no such place as “Michigan University”.

    “I also saw how badly biological psychiatrists want to be regarded as doctors…”
    — psychiatrists ARE doctors, and are regarded as such.

    • Of course they are….. The majority of Psychiatrists and Doctors are both arrogant drug pushers and indeed drug advocates, so it`s apt to put them into the same category. (most noted exceptions being Breggin,(US), Healy (UK), Nutt (UK) and Kresser (US) – the handful of brave whistleblowing professionals who care more about people than profit
      At least Psychology focuses upon getting to the root of a problem without disruption of organic brain chemicals via the time again flawed imbalance theories

      . Why you argue `Right to drug` as superior in an opposition to `actually having morals and sense psychology` is rather odd. In any situation it should be about helping people, not who has rights of titles.

  12. Anon,

    It seems ignorant to generalize your unique experience to millions of people who suffer from depression/anxiety throughout the world. Do you honestly believe that every single person in the world who is suffering from a mood disorder can be treated in exactly the same way? Did you ever take time to consider that what you experienced as one individual out of 7 billion may have been very different than what someone else has experienced? Perhaps your mood disorder was caused by experience-related psychological mechanisms or lifestyle patterns whereas the mood disorders that other people experience and also call “anxiety” or “depression” are caused by chemical deficiencies? Is that not a possibility? If you deny this possibility, then it would seem to be out of either obstinacy or ignorance .

    I have a problem with websites such as this that make sweeping generalizations about mental illnesses without providing empirical proof (not just interesting speculation), because such websites do a disservice to the public good. Claims should never, under any circumstances, be made about a subject such as this when a solid arsenal of hard, empirical proof is lacking–especially when the wellbeing of others is at stake. What doesn’t work for you may work fantastically for someone else, and that is a fact. So let’s deal in facts, shall we? If you truly care for others and are humble enough to admit to a degree of uncertainty, then you will.

    On a final note: Although I was initially going to dismiss the off-handed comment about “pharma”, I feel it necessary to debunk such an outrageous comment, for as a human being who fervently cares for the wellbeing of others, I have no motive or agenda other than to debunk dialogue on websites such as this that has the potential to misguide and misinform the opinions of people who are genuinely suffering from emotionally painful and exhausting neurological disorders.

    That is all I have to say on this topic, so thank you for your time, patience, and deliberation. My best wishes to all!

    • pHARMa`s MOTTO…….A patient cured is a customer lost!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…… can you deny such a fact???????????? curing a patient will lose it`s business will it not? To cure a disease will lose billions in profit would it not?
      Business is business and business is profit. Are you so damn deluded to that fact?.
      You talk about `fact` and I have presented two. Please provide the proof of a chemical imbalance for us all to see…. show us the evidence. Pharma trials for six weeks then puts drugs to market and prescribe for years do you deny this?
      I am far from ignorant but, You. what are you? aside from deluded within whatever your job description is.
      As for psychological mental problems the whole world has them and yes many life styles cause them but here`s a fact for you….. Love cannot be bottled,measured, touched, seen nor heard, nor can stress nor anger nor hate….. but pharma tells us depression can be…. it has no evidence of it but tells us it can be……. how can pharma bottle one emotion but not any other????? because, it cannot!!!!
      Facts are facts and you have none. I urge you to come back with hard evidence to debunk my evidence then we can have an intelligent and civil discussion.

    • Talking about lack of proof, the whole field of psychology is theories. There is no proof. Do you even know what psychology is? It’s the study of human behavior. Have you ever taken psychology? Probably not. You’d love it because there are no facts, all theory about human behavioral “disorders”. Psychologists are pretty much a bunch of quacks. My theory about you is that you’re ignorant. I believe it’s a chemical imbalance though so please get checked by a doctor in psychology.

      • Millennm…I am so sorry you are so angry and bitter. I’m not sure why, but I’m sure there is good reason. The reality is ignorance is facing the truth and refusing to see it and admit it. Seriously, when it comes to the “chemical imbalance” claim, the facts are just not there. ALL behavior has purpose. The medical world framed behaviors as “disorders” & “illnesses”, but there is no known causes. They are not illnesses but rather mental strategies to live out there own style of living learned early on in life. I’m sorry if you’ve suffered or loved someone who suffered with mental issues. I’m sure that would be very hard.

        • “They are not illnesses but rather mental strategies to live out there own style of living learned early on in life.”
          Agreed!

          Oh and please don’t waste everyones time diagnosing me on a message board.

    • Perhaps just show us where the peer reviewed study showing that depression is caused by low seratonin is. If it does not exist then the article is correct.

  13. Dear Chris,

    Your objective seems contradictory. You stated the following in bold font: “it should be abundantly clear that depression is not caused by a chemical imbalance.” However, you incorrectly claimed that there is no evidence to support that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance. In fact, there is abundant evidence. I am living proof.

    Ever since I was in fifth grade, I dedicated my life to trying to feel better. I was always extremely self-aware and knew that something inside of me wasn’t right. I would always look around and wonder why everyone else seemed so vibrant and energized, and why I always felt scattered and exhausted.

    Over the years, my symptoms got progressively worse. I was probably the biggest skeptic of chemical imbalance theory out there, because even though my parents repeatedly tried to get me into counseling and on medication, I vehemently denied there was a problem and said that I could “fix” the way I was feeling myself. I spent years and years trying to do this, simply because I firmly believed people can always control the way that they feel. But as everyday activities became more and more difficult and as I started getting more and more exhausted by my scattered thoughts and lack of focus, I became severely depressed. It was physically impossible for me to get out of bed and to behave like a “normal” individual. I turned to every possible explanation BUT chemical imbalance theory to explain why I was miserable. I thought maybe if I pushed myself really hard in everything I did–in school, in ballet, etc.–then I would be rewarded somehow by feeling better. I was always guilty about everything for no apparent reason, and I blamed myself for every little thing that went wrong. I thought I felt the way I did because I was a bad person.

    Now I am a senior in college. I have been miserable for most of my adolescent life until now. A year ago, my parents forced me to go see a psychaitrist because my grades were slipping. I dug my heels into the ground because I didn’t want to believe anything was “wrong” with me even though I was so miserable and tortured–I took it as a personal failure. They finally made me go, and my psychaitrist wanted to start me on 50 mg of Zoloft. I was so averse to the medication that she compromised and started me on 25 mg instead–which is half the normal starting dose. Everyday I hated taking the medication because I thought it labeled me a “crazy” person. Even though I started to notice small differences, like slightly more focus and energy, I still wasn’t exactly feeling great or comfortable. I took these small changes to be coincidence, and I convinced my parents and psychaitrist to let me go off the medication in December.

    Over winter break, and through the beginning of this past spring semester, I started realizing that I still had no energy and felt relatively scattered throughout the day. It was still hard to get out of bed. After I met a girl my age from my university who went through the EXACT same experiences and had the EXACT same symptoms, I no longer felt lonely in the world anymore. Although my doubts about chemical imbalance theory were still shaky, it felt so good to know firsthand that I was not having unique feelings and experiences.

    After meeting her, I decided to give the medicine a try one more time, but this time I took the standard 50 mg dosage. The difference was undeniable. I started to wake up in the morning feeling physically energized and vibrant. I began seeing the world around me completely differently. I no longer felt neurotic guilt throughout the day, and EVERYTHING BECAME EASIER. When my mom and dad were helping me through my illness, they always told me that everyday life shouldn’t be that hard. And they were right. But a major part of the disease is a tendency to blame yourself for everything. You simply don’t feel good, so you blame yourself and try so hard in everything you do because you think that will change the way you feel.

    Mr. Kresser, I implore you to reassess your objective in writing this blog. There are people out there who are sick, miserable, and desperate because of a chemical imbalance in their brain, and if they see this blog in their quest to find an explanation and decide to buy into it, it could ruin their lives. You can’t try to explain the way someone feels unless you experience it yourself. If anything, that is the most important lesson I have learned during my years of misery: NEVER MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. Your blog simply does not allow room for the possibility of chemical imbalance theory, yet in my instance, I know for a fact that I suffered due to a chemical imbalance in my brain. IT IS UNDENIABLE. I was the hugest skeptic of all. I didn’t believe it until I DRAMATICALLY STARTED TO FEEL BETTER WITHOUT EVEN TRYING.

    Please, please, I implore you from the deepest parts of my heart and soul. Reconsider and revise this blog. It is doing a disservice to people out there who truly need medical help.

    With the utmost outpouring of love,

    Kara

    • Nice try trying to persuade people. How much did big pharma pay you to write that? I was also classified as having a chemical in balance for anxiety and depression. I tried zoloft, effexor, serequal and every medicaton for anxiety. After doing exercise, proper nutrition, therapy, i was able to overcome my anxiety and depression. Its not about taking pills, its about a lifestyle changes.

    • THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE OF A CHEMICAL IMBALANCE THEORY…..It was first theorized in 1883 by Kraeplin and has been just that `A THEORY` ever since. no evidence suggests such a theory to be concrete evidence….. The only evidence in hard fact is that overloading serotonin creates mental instability, hence the raise in suicidal ideation/mania etc ….. theories are ok only when they do not affect another….. and in this case, the flawed theories affects the lives of millions both mentally and physically.
      This blog is not to stop people from getting help but, instead to expose peoples experiences to the flawed theories.

  14. Hi, I am very grateful blogs like this exist, many/ most medical professionals are unwilling to accept pharma can be wrong and instead ignorantly deem patients backward regarding symptoms actually being adverse reactions to excessive serotonin intake.
    I was diagnosed with mild depression by my Dr, on 2001, medicated snri Venlafaxine/Efexor 75mg, by 2003 my mental state had deteriorated so bad (suicidal thoughts/inability to absorb information/anger and violent outbursts) and physical symptoms were beginning to manifest (bowel trouble/severe dehydration/arthritic/skin discoloration/Hypersomnia/loss of libido). My Dr insisted the drug did not and could not cause such symptoms it had to be me with an underlying depression not formally recognized and upped the dose to 225mg then to 300mg. I spent until 2009 in mental and physical torment being sent for both psychological and pyschiatric evaluation, I was always deemed in denial of my own mental stability until another Dr, decided to send me for a polysomnography (because of the excessive hypersomnia,) This led to a realization that I was unable to fully fall asleep, my brain was not shutting down properly and despite not knowing, I was awake virtually 24/7. The medication was thus reviewed and after 2.5 years of excruciating withdrawal in the reduction process, I finally regained my normality and intelligence. Since having come off of the drug (Feb 2012) my skin is back to normal, my arthritic condition dispersing, my bowels are working normally, my mental state and alertness all back to normal I sleep on average 10 hrs at a time etc, etc.

    I have spent 2009- to date researching the drug, clinical trials, medical journals, case files and more, I now know serotonin is present in the gut (hence the high risk of bowel trouble related to this drug) I also have learned there is no hard evidence of chemical imbalances and is merely a theory of Kraeplin whom theorized this in 1883. Science is pretending it knows everything dangerously and that it can treat the everything too. I have further learned, treatment is not curing, treatment merely suppresses one symptom (for a while) whilst introducing the many more instead. most of which the medical professional does not relate to the actual cause and thus persists to wrongly treat on top of all else.
    The most scary reality I have discovered is, clinical trials only last week, this in comparison to the years of prescribing, If a trial results with only 5 out of 20 participants falling victim of an adverse reaction, that adverse reaction is considered rare and not always added to pharma`s list for patients nor Doctor`s, I once had respect for scientific evidence, I believed it as factual hard truth. this not the case at all. It instead focuses on desired result and tidy result, little bits of evidence denied if does not fit.

    No one knows the reality of what a serotonin norepinephrine drugged patient is going through, This can even include the patient, they are deemed mentally unstable, clueless etc, I was until another Dr stepped in. Most patients are totally ignored when attempting to challenge the drug. Observations and arrogantly ignorant theories of `experts` are dangerous.
    My medical history, prior to the drug was clean of any mental and physical problems whatsoever, as is now, a year on after discontinuation. The profit is all that seems to be the reality of pharmas denial of mass evidence regarding patients on ssris and snris.
    Is pharmas motto A patient cured is a patient lost? I believe so.

    • So, I just happened upon this site because I’m out of Lexapro and can’t afford to buy it until next week. I would love to be off all meds and I know for sure I can drop some (hoepfully all with a better diet and more exercise – I’m diabetc as well.) But, I was so fascinated by your post about Efexor – I was on it for the month of Dec. 2013 and it was awful – I was crying daily and thought about suicide often. It finally dawned on me that a fill-in doctor had changed my meds and I didn’t question it. I chalked up the change in my mood to some stressful life situations (Xmas time during a divorce) but this was beyond bad – I asked to be switched back to Lexapro and weaned off Efexor over a week or so. The difference was amazing. So, the big question is – why am I thinking the Lexapro is working? I can’t afford this stuff (over $100 a month). I’m intrigued on the whole “chemical imbalance” theory is wrong.

      Anyway – had to chime in when I read your Efexor experience. So sorry it lasted for so long. We put doctors in such high regard but they’re just people too.

      • There is a predecessor to Lexapro which is very inexpensive. Lexapro is a portion of the molecule of the original drug. You may want to ask your doctor what he/she thinks about this. Also, it’s useful for you both to discuss/document your symptoms and their severity during treatment but before starting a medication. That way, you both have objective measures to guide the next step.

  15. I have suffered from depression, anxiety and OCD for most of my 46 years on this earth. I have been to many different therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists that pretty much offered the same advice and drug therapy. I’ve been on virtually all of the SSRI’s and several different types of benzo’s. It was decided by my last psychiatrist that I remain on Prozac, the first SSRI that I started on. I kept telling this doc and the other docs before him that I wasn’t benefitting from the drug. The doctors insisted that I “appeared better off” taking Prozac?! Are these doctors suddenly trying to be mind readers? Better off? How? Talk about egregious statements!

    Being a fool I stayed on Prozac for nearly 20 years, and being virtually bankrupt from the drugs and therapy. I finally had enough of this and quit the Prozac. I had been on Valium for years and it was very hard to wean myself of off a benzo.

    I decided to try an alternative route (though I’m extremely skeptical homeopathy) and I went the route of herbs, supplements and dietary changes. To my dismay, after spending more money and adhering to this “natural” approach for 2 years, I found myself no better off than when I was on the scientific based meds.

    I still suffer from depression and the anxiety is a killer at times. My OCD symptoms are dormant at times, but when my anxiety kicks in so does my OCD big time. This confirms my belief that hell only exits right amongst the living here on earth.

    Being 46 years old I know that I’ve lived out more than half of my life. And when your mind is perpetually consumed in an incurable, misunderstood vacuum of static discord, then I find a small degree of solace in knowing that someday my pain will fade into oblivion with my passing.

    Sorry to be so macabre, but if you’ve lived with depression, anxiety and OCD for all of these years and struck out with the docs, and even the holistic ones, then you’ll feel that your ship has encountered the eye of the hurricane. Your vessel has tipped over and you’re tossed in the story seas. Blackened skies squelch the light, and the pounding surf roars, with a devious ferocity, striking you like a raging bull. I’m pulled down fathom depths. It gets only darker. Frigid. I fall unconscious. The darkness is immeasurable. I shall never see the light.

    • To David: Sorry to hear you have such a “resistant” depression. OCD itself can be worse than most people can imagine. Just torment. Some meds specifically target OCD while also helping depression. But perhaps you have tried all these. There is an organization called The OCD Foundation. I have not been on the site for a while, but It seemed useful and informative.

  16. I read this article in hopes for answers, but it really doesn’t help. If depression isn’t a chemical inbalace or at least not a total chemical inbalance then I don’t know what else to do. I’ve had depression since I was 6 years old. I had no tramatic event, I had no change in diet, and no hormonal in balance. I’ve tried changing diet, talk therapy, excersise, and all the other things that have ever been suggested. They don’t get rid of the depression, they impove it but it’s still there. Add a major life event and my depression explodes, and get extreme. But it’s never gone, it’s never even 90% better. Am I doomed to spend my whole life either being majorly depressed or just being moderatly depressed?

  17. Chris,

    I thought this article, and the debate that followed, were absolutely brilliant! Informative and insightful. That being said, I am curious to hear your thoughts on the literature citing the connection between emotional state and the functioning of the enteric nervous system.

    Evidence has shown that probiotics and fermented foods have a direct influence on our emotional state via the “gut-brain axis”. The enteric nervous system (ENS) of our gut evolves from the same embryonic tissue as our central nervous system and remains connected throughout our lives via the vagus nerve. The ENS makes use of more than 30 neurotransmitters, most of which are identical to the ones found in the CNS, such as acetylcholine, dopamine, and serotonin. In fact, more than 90% of the body’s serotonin lies in the gut, as well as about 50% of the body’s dopamine.

    Thanks again for a great article,
    Adam

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21893478

    “Your Backup Brain” Dan Hurley, Psychology Today, November 01, 2011. psychologytoday.com

    “More than 1 in 10 Americans on Suicide-Linked Antidepressants” Anthony Gucciardi, Natural Society, October 20, 2011. naturalsociety.com/antidepressants-causing-suicide

    http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/gastrointestinal-inflammation-may-play-critical-role-pathogenesis-depression

    “Do Probiotics Help Anxiety?” Emily Deans, M.D., Psychology Today, June 17, 2012. psychologytoday.com

    • Chris is right about antidepressants, the monoamine theory of depression has no factual proof. Antidepressants themselves have been shown to have no statistical significance, except possibly slight improvements in severely depressed people. All classes of antidepressants were ‘discovered’ accidently during the development and trials of drugs intended to improve other conditions. Anecdotal evidence of mood improvement during clinical testing is often cited as the initial period of ‘discovery’ and their respective efficacy. The problem is that several independent meta-analysis of published trials showed no statistical difference from a placebo, and only a slight statistical significant improvement of some symptoms in severely depressed patients only. Furthermore, the monoamine theory of depression was first introduced BASED on medications that have not even been proven to work using statistics; ironically the only initial proof-since proven incorrect-provided by the drug manufacturers themselves. There is no scientific, nor is their even enough reasonable proof to support a monoamine theory as the cause of depression. The diagnosis of depression itself is largely a subjective process defined by a subset of observed or described symptoms. Very little is known if any pre-existong physical abnormalities play a consistently central role in depression, as well as any consistent physical changes that occur during depression at this time. Unfortunately, that is the case. Their is likely an overlapping subset of people diagnosed with depression or similar undefined illnesses (such as CFS) where physical abnormalities in the CNS and/or endocrine system (genetic or not) do exist.

  18. Hi Chris,

    I’m not sure if this is the best place for this question, but here goes: I have had several friends who (after having children) have had severe anxiety creep up. A couple of my friends suffer from anxiety attacks and others just live with constant anxiety and seem to be “revved up” all the time and unable to enjoy life. I have witnessed that those who decided to try medication (usuallly zoloft) have found relief and the anxiety has subsided and they report to feel like themselves again. Anxiety seems to be different issue than depression and I’m wondering what you think about these cases? I also suffer from constant anxiety (after having children) and I contemplate trying medications sometimes as well. But I don’t want to go down that road if I don’t have to. I eat really well and do lots of other self-care. What are your thoughts on people reporting that Zoloft is working for anxiety? And do you think there are cases where medication is warranted?
    Thanks so much.

    • Hi Adam,

      My response was actually for Miss Diagonsed…I should have pointed that out.

      That said, I currently take an SSRI in conjunction with eating as well as I can, supplementing for iron and exercising per my doctor. I am honestly pro whatever helps a person not experience the fear and uncertainty of depression and anxiety. I don’t doubt that diet and excerise help, but it’s not the end all be all for some of us who experience these things to debilitating degrees. Sometimes it’s trial and error.

      Anyway, I appreciate your response, but I simply don’t agree. My opinions are largely aligned with Charley and there is no point in rehashing what’s been discussed.

  19. Dear Chris,
    thank you very much for your posting. It is very important that people know that there is no evidence that chemical imbalances cause depression.
    There is well-made documentary on this topic:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDlH9sV0lHU

    Now, what’s your advice to a guy like me who’s suffered from depression for years? I am currently taking Mirtazapine and at least it helps me sleep. But I’ve become highly skeptical on this issue and don’t know what treatment is the right one.

  20. No scientist actually believes that a chemical imbalance is the cause of depression. However, increasing neurotransmitters does cause downstream effects that fixes depression in a lot of people. Depression is a complex disease as it can be caused by numerous problems and this is why a lot of antidepressants work only mildly better than placebo. There are even opioid receptors that can be involved in depression which the standard SSRIs would never even deal with it. It could be that over the years receptor downregulation occurs and taking an antidepressant causes decensitization of presynaptic neurons. There are so many reasons, but the fact is these drugs save lives so don’t put them down. As a scientist I have never heard anyone in the community believe this theory, it was an old theory from a long time ago. Sometimes you want to give the consumers of a product the easiest description possible and unfortunately this is where the chemical imbalance theories come in and stay strong in the marketing field.

    • Depression is not a disease though, it is a natural human emotion like anger, stress, anxiety, happiness, love, hate etc.

      That`s the problem today, calling natural emotions a disease is allowing science to make billions of profit on something that will eventually heal in time

      • I don’t know if you have had severe depression, but no: sometimes they don’t heal in time.

        Mental illness is also not an emotion as you so simply try to categorize it. Are you going to tell me that things like PTSD, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and bi polar disorder are also all just “natural emotions” that their sufferers must overcome? You’re trying to gloss over the complexity of the brain by attributing it all to nature. Just because something occurs naturally does not mean it’s beneficial or benign.

        I’m not saying throw pills at any and every person who exhibits symptoms of depression, but the idea to so many that depression is just temporary bouts of sadness to overcome demonstrates painful ignorance.

        • Hello Ciara,
          I do understand your concern when hearing someone speak in simplistic terms when it comes to mental health. I often will catch myself saying some of the same things that Miss Diagnosed stated.

          I am so sorry if you personally have suffered with severe depression. I have & I know what it’s like. At one time, I had allowed myself to be diagnosed with “bipolar disorder”. I was so depressed & had attempted suicide, but because of my beliefs & understanding of how our minds work I shifted my thinking & returned to my beliefs (regarding the mind & life) & my life changed.

          Ciara, the reality is that the very ones (psychiatrists) who are using the term “mental illness” are the ones who agree that there is no known cause for everything in the DSM – from depression to schizophrenia….period!

          I believe it was in the ’30’s that psychiatrist (in collusion with big pharma) had to call (frame) mental conditions as “illnesses” in order to validate their practices as “doctors”. You see if it is an “illness” (they would believe) like the flu for example, they then could “treat” it. But the reality is unlike biological illnesses, there is NO KNOWN causes for the supposed “mental illnesses” they are treating.

          My intention is NOT to upset you or anyone else, but personally I do not believe in the term “mental illness”. My depression (& all other “disorders” of the mind) are serving a PURPOSE. All be it, its probably pretty useless now, but there is an unconscious purpose.

          Our minds were masterfully created to protect us from all things real or imagined. Therefore, as we developed a belief (mistaken/interfering) about something that made sense at the time (i.e. as a child) or it was useful, but now, it’s not so useful.

          I wish I had more time & space to elaborate. The bottom line is that the allopathic medical model created the “frame” by which we look at human behavior. Therefore, EVERYTHING is defined through this pathological frame or lens.

          My framework is that of health & wholeness. Our minds are NOT sick (ill), but rather ARE normally functioning (even though it may be useless now). The challenge is that we are functioning off of “sick” or screwed up or silly strategy(ies).
          Most Sincerely,
          Anthony Verderame
          http://www.WholeLifeCC.com

          • Anthony,
            are you a Dr?

            If so, thank you for going beyond medical school and seeing people as people, not diseased subjects.

            I am afraid I do talk simplistic at times it is probably because I have gone into detail time again and now just assume everyone knows what I am talking about.

            My Bad, no one elses. Its not that I get annoyed at peoples ignorance so much as their refusal to think logically and outside of their conditioned boxes, again my bad, so much is drummed into us all from such an early age and we have to endure something and come out of it to know whats truth and what isnt.

            I know 13 years ago, I would never have believed a Dr (let alone several) could nor would have put me through what I went through, furthermore 3.5 years ago I was still unaware that I was mentally ill due to drugs, despite the obviousness of it – please note on these drugs you no longer have rational nor logical thought.

            In 2004, I asked my Dr if the pills were making me so ill and he replied No, they were uppers and would not affect me in that way.

            My faith in him was the worst mistake in my life, as was being put on the drugs in 2001.

            I never had a mental illness prior, and have not had since a year after discontinuation (that is not to say I have recovered the physical symptomatic stress fully).

            I first began to worsen in 2002 6 months after being drugged.

            My Dr stated, I was merely showing underlying symptoms that the drugs were helping to bring out, he upped the dose….. Life just went down from there, the dose upped, downed, drug swapped to an ssri, then back to a snri.. etc – Call it an excruciating excuse for any existence.

            My only aim in life is to educate others on the evils of these drugs and those who make them, nothing more. I never demand I am believed and urge anyone to research themselves the everything not just pharma one sided sites.

            I cannot help screaming from the roof tops the what I know. If it helps just one person stay away from these drugs? then I am happy.

        • Yes I have had severe depression and it was caused by anti depression medications.

          If you look back over my posts here you would see that I was initially diagnosed with mild depression for what was really an upsetting time of being a young single parent and bullied by an ex, My Dr saw fit to drug me and I went downhill from there.

          To psychotic breakdown to suicidal ideation, self harm and attacking my daughter amongst many more disturbing adverse reactions.

          Emotions are being played with by Pharma for a profit as for `disease` No emotion is a disease that can be drugged to cure.

          Please research brain medicines and cures there has been none, all drugs treat symptoms whilst creating a multitude of other symptoms to boot this is fact.

          I do not deny many people suffer from many forms of psychosis and mental health issues but these are not diseases that we are led to believe.

          Whether schizophrenia, anxiety, adhd, depression etc have you ever heard of a cure? or even why, how, they exist?

          The reason is because pharma do not care why or how, so long as they can treat and make billions in profit.

          I did hear voices in my reduction withdrawal, I personally believe the psychospiritual has a lot to do with the mind and the messing around with it – drugs open up a whole new area that science is clueless about, Like I say above, emotions (unlike science`s ever testimonials of what is real must be seen, touched, heard, smelt and tasted to ever exist) are non physical and cannot be proven to exist despite our knowing that they do because we have felt them.

          I do not have a go at you here but urge you to think outside the box and attempt detatchment from the conditioning since childhood….. Drs are not Gods, They prescribe toxic chemicals, no diferent from the chemicals on the street.

          However, street drugs are taken knowingly of effect, are usually taken in moderation giving the body and mind time to heal… Medications are taken daily, on continuum, never give time for the body and mind to heal and taken because a so called expert said you needed them

          The Dr pushing pills did not trial them, test them and only knows what pharma states as fact. furthermore so many drugs are being introduced, esp generics that the Dr is actually clueless of pharmaceutical difference and bioequivilent difference making it more dangerous every generic he prescribes.

          Please do proper research via patient testimonials, case files, original medical journals etc. Like I say I am not having a go at you I just want everyone to be safe from these drugs as would anyone who has endured them and lived to tell the tale

          • That last post was meant for Caira, ust like to add that Bipolar, unipolar and ADHD only arose/ were invented since the onset of medications reboot in the 1980s.

            Also Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a situational depression caused by severe distress, it is not a disease

            I am not saying mental illness is emotion I am saying pharma is inventing diseases or claiming emotions as a means to treat. ADHD/Anxiety/ Bipolar/GAD/ SAD etc

            Most Psychological issues need time and careful working through not drugs.

            I do not simplify the brain, ironically science does saying it can treat what it cannot

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<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper qc_box_container_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_9' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_9' class='qc_box_container gform_legacy_markup' action='/the-chemical-imbalance-myth/comment-page-4/' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_9' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_9_1" class="gfield field gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_1' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_9_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='Your Email' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_9_2" class="gfield health-concern field field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_2' >I want to improve my...</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_2' id='input_9_2' class='large gfield_select' aria-invalid="false" ><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>I want to improve my...</option><option value='Weight' >Weight</option><option value='Energy' >Energy</option><option value='Digestion' >Digestion</option><option value='Brain' >Brain</option><option value='Overall Health' >Overall Health</option><option value='All of the Above' >All of the Above</option></select></div></li><li id="field_9_4" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_9_4' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='46' /></div></li><li id="field_9_5" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_9_5' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='Food Additives' /></div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_9' class='gform_button button' value='Download eBook' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_9").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='9' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_9' value='WyJbXSIsIjVkYTAyNjYxOTg4ZDNhZGQwOTU0Yzc4NDcyNDk5YmM4Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_9' id='gform_target_page_number_9' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_9' id='gform_source_page_number_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='popup_name=Food+Additives' /> </div> </form> </div>
[gravityform id="9" title="false" description="false" field_values='popup_name=Diet-Heart Myth']
<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper qc_box_container_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_9' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_9' class='qc_box_container gform_legacy_markup' action='/the-chemical-imbalance-myth/comment-page-4/' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_9' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_9_1" class="gfield field gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_1' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_9_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='Your Email' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_9_2" class="gfield health-concern field field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_2' >I want to improve my...</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_2' id='input_9_2' class='large gfield_select' aria-invalid="false" ><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>I want to improve my...</option><option value='Weight' >Weight</option><option value='Energy' >Energy</option><option value='Digestion' >Digestion</option><option value='Brain' >Brain</option><option value='Overall Health' >Overall Health</option><option value='All of the Above' >All of the Above</option></select></div></li><li id="field_9_4" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_9_4' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='46' /></div></li><li id="field_9_5" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_9_5' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='Diet-Heart Myth' /></div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_9' class='gform_button button' value='Download eBook' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_9").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='9' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_9' value='WyJbXSIsIjVkYTAyNjYxOTg4ZDNhZGQwOTU0Yzc4NDcyNDk5YmM4Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_9' id='gform_target_page_number_9' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_9' id='gform_source_page_number_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='popup_name=Diet-Heart+Myth' /> </div> </form> </div>
[gravityform id="9" title="false" description="false" field_values='popup_name=B12']
<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper qc_box_container_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_9' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_9' class='qc_box_container gform_legacy_markup' action='/the-chemical-imbalance-myth/comment-page-4/' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_9' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_9_1" class="gfield field gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_1' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_9_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='Your Email' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_9_2" class="gfield health-concern field field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_2' >I want to improve my...</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_2' id='input_9_2' class='large gfield_select' aria-invalid="false" ><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>I want to improve my...</option><option value='Weight' >Weight</option><option value='Energy' >Energy</option><option value='Digestion' >Digestion</option><option value='Brain' >Brain</option><option value='Overall Health' >Overall Health</option><option value='All of the Above' >All of the Above</option></select></div></li><li id="field_9_4" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_9_4' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='46' /></div></li><li id="field_9_5" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_9_5' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='B12' /></div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_9' class='gform_button button' value='Download eBook' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_9").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='9' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_9' value='WyJbXSIsIjVkYTAyNjYxOTg4ZDNhZGQwOTU0Yzc4NDcyNDk5YmM4Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_9' id='gform_target_page_number_9' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_9' id='gform_source_page_number_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='popup_name=B12' /> </div> </form> </div>