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Depression Chemical Imbalance Doesn’t Exist, Experts Say

Elizabeth Renter
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July 15th, 2012
Updated 04/18/2013 at 12:55 am
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depressionchemicalimbalance 235x147 Depression Chemical Imbalance Doesnt Exist, Experts Say

What if you went to a crime ridden street corner, suffering from depression, and were told that a certain drug could change how you felt about things? What if you went to your doctor and were told the same thing? While the corner drug dealer and your physician might have different drugs in mind, they are essentially offering a similar solution—putting you in a “drug-induced” state to minimize your negative symptoms. Doctors, the media, and society say there is a chemical imbalance which causes depression, but a depression chemical imbalance doesn’t exist, experts say.

Depression Chemical Imbalance Doesn’t Exist

Dr. Joanna Moncrieff, a mental health expert from the department of mental health services at University College in London is taking a quite non-politically-correct approach in characterizing anti-depressants and other mental health drugs as just another dependency.

She says that although doctors, the media, and society in general has latched on to the idea that depression and anxiety, for example, are just evidence of a “chemical imbalance” in the brain, there is no hard evidence to support this.

“Scientific research has not detected any reliable abnormalities of the serotonin system in people who are depressed.”

While many people are convinced this is indeed their problem and therefore are okay with being offered a drug to solve the “problem”, she says the problem is that we are minimizing the seriousness of taking drugs to solve a “mental disorder.”

It is frequently overlooked that drugs used in psychiatry are psychoactive drugs, like alcohol and cannabis. Psychoactive drugs make people feel different; they put people into an altered mental and physical state. They affect everyone, regardless of whether they have a mental disorder or not. Therefore, an alternative way of understanding how psychiatric drugs affect people is to look at the psychoactive effects they produce

She says that these drugs, like anti-depressants, often produce symptoms of other, illegal drugs. The difference—these are prescribed by medical professionals and marketed to the masses in a more acceptable way.

In decades past, there was a stigma associated with mental health drugs. While it’s debatable whether this stigma was justified, there’s little doubt that it did make people think twice about taking medication for depression.

Now, however, we are convinced that these drugs are correcting a defect in the brain. The drugs are correcting an “imbalance.” But the problem is, that imbalance has never been proven.

Sure, you can argue that your medication makes you feel better, but wouldn’t other psychoactive drugs make you feel better too?

Dr. Moncrieff isn’t suggesting that people take cheaper illegal drugs, since they may have similar effects, but instead wants people to really get real about their anti-depression or anti-anxiety medications– what are they really doing to themselves when they rise each morning and pop the same pill, occasionally having to up their dosage because their body has developed a tolerance.

And with the number of Americans on antidepressant medication estimated to be 1 in 10, perhaps a critical look at this drug trade is warranted.

Additional Sources:

NY Times

From around the web:

  • Touchofsanity

    The word cancer could be substituted here, and would be appropriate. You think 75% of oncologists asked would refuse chemotherapy in the event of a cancer diagnosis because they love the idea of dying of cancer? 75% would refuse the same chemo they pump into their patients. Keep questioning nothing, and believing blindly, but let those of us who have a clue keep asking the questions that lead to answers.

  • Touchofsanity

    It’s dangerous to ask questions? That’s moronic. What IS dangerous is NOT asking questions, and blindly popping pill which have never been proven in any test to do anything other than change a persons state, with associated side effects. Nothing is done to help the person develop coping mechanisms for living in a twisted world. People need to be empowered to realise that they can help themselves without having licensed drug pushers shoving ineffectual drugs at them. All this expert is saying is this should be investigated and questioned. Why would any honest, reasonable person have an issue with that?

  • joanne

    Bloody right this isn't a scientific journal and after a couple prior articles similarly posing as 'scientific', I have to agree with the comment that this site's reputation is, well, unreputable. Unlike. Done.

  • PSI CHI

    THIS IS NOT A SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL!!! NO STUDIES/RESEARCH WAS DONE!! It's one "Expert" giving their opinion….This is extremely dangerous!!! The internet is FULL of mis information–case and point!!! Also this site hasan extremely low/poor reputation. Plain and simple…If you read this and believe what it says (and then give your personal experience to back it up) there exists THOUSANDS of scientific journals, with longitudinal studies that prove everything in this wrong, and so you are poorly educated and closed minded! MISINFORMED IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR BEING WRONG!!

  • joanne

    Oh dear God. So what. Psychiatry is an imperfect science. So is treating cancer for God's sakes – throwing a bunch of poison into the system and hoping it kills the bad stuff and allows the good stuff to return.

    And here we go again. Let's blame the patient, asking them to think about "what are they really doing to themselves when they rise each morning and pop the same pill, occasionally having to up their dosage because their body has developed a tolerance.". What are we really doing to ourselves? We're taking a medication that helps alleviate tortuous symptoms. That helps prevent the incessant and persistent negative rumination.

    Clearly written by one who has not the slightest understanding of mental illness.

  • http://thewayr122.blogspot.com/ Chad Prigmore

    Such an important and truthful article – thank you for posting it! While in a hard spot 7 years ago I was diagnosed with ADHD, ADD, Manic Depressive, and Bi-Polar. All of it was just a way to justify a bunch of drugs that caused more problems by far than they ever were meant to fix. I threw the drugs away, started following Christ and never looked back. All the "symptoms" went away and I learned a very valuable lesson.

    • Anonymous

      I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 15 years ago, and since this time, I have been on practically all the antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers and a program of ”aggressive” ECT. All these chemicals and treatments and hospitalizations did little for me, and up until recently I thought that, and I was made to believe that, these medications were working as much as they could, but I had such an extreme illness that I would never be cured completely. I have recently changed my life around an ended a very unhappy relationship that I have been in for 13 years, undergone extensive DBT therapy and realized that I have been suffering from trauma rooted in my horrific childhood. A few months ago, unsupported by my doctors, I gradually came off all my medication and have begun a comprehensive change in my diet and lifestyle. I feel 100% better, and for the first time in my life I do not feel like a ‘broken’ person.

      If only psychiatry looked harder at he roots of so-called mental illness, instead of looking for scientific answers to emotional problems, an stopped taking huge payouts from pharmaceutical companies, we may be able to help more ‘broken’ individuals, and not just mask symptoms.

      I am certainly not saying that all mental issues are emotional, but until there is cold hard proof if imbalances in the brain, ‘professionals’ should take more time trying to find the root causes of distress rather than oversimplify the symptoms with a blanket diagnosis.

    • Anonymous

      I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 15 years ago, and since this time, I have been on practically all the antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers and a program of ”aggressive” ECT. All these chemicals and treatments and hospitalizations did little for me, and up until recently I thought that, and I was made to believe that, these medications were working as much as they could, but I had such an extreme illness that I would never be cured completely. I have recently changed my life around an ended a very unhappy relationship that I have been in for 13 years, undergone extensive DBT therapy and realized that I have been suffering from trauma rooted in my horrific childhood. A few months ago, unsupported by my doctors, I gradually came off all my medication and have begun a comprehensive change in my diet and lifestyle. I feel 100% better, and for the first time in my life I do not feel like a ‘broken’ person.

      If only psychiatry looked harder at he roots of so-called mental illness, instead of looking for scientific answers to emotional problems, and stopped taking huge payouts from pharmaceutical companies, we may be able to help more ‘broken’ individuals, and not just mask symptoms.

      I am certainly not saying that all mental issues are emotional, but until there is cold hard proof if imbalances in the brain, ‘professionals’ should take more time trying to find the root causes of distress rather than oversimplify the symptoms with a blanket diagnosis.

    • Joanna

      I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 15 years ago, and since this time, I have been on practically all the antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers and a program of ”aggressive” ECT. All these chemicals and treatments and hospitalizations did little for me, and up until recently I thought that, and I was made to believe that, these medications were working as much as they could, but I had such an extreme illness that I would never be cured completely. I have recently changed my life around an ended a very unhappy relationship that I have been in for 13 years, undergone extensive DBT therapy and realized that I have been suffering from trauma rooted in my horrific childhood. A few months ago, unsupported by my doctors, I gradually came off all my medication and have begun a comprehensive change in my diet and lifestyle. I feel 100% better, and for the first time in my life I do not feel like a ‘broken’ person.

      If only psychiatry looked harder at he roots of so-called mental illness, instead of looking for scientific answers to emotional problems, and stopped taking huge payouts from pharmaceutical companies, we may be able to help more ‘broken’ individuals, and not just mask symptoms.

      I am certainly not saying that all mental issues are emotional, but until there is cold hard proof if imbalances in the brain, ‘professionals’ should take more time trying to find the root causes of distress rather than oversimplify the symptoms with a blanket diagnosis.

  • http://www.herbalanxietytreatments.com/index.html johan smith

    Will taking natural medicine for anxiety help you to take charge of your life, so that fear and anxiety no longer hold you captive?

  • MetalCowgirl

    Eat fruits and veggies, stay away from all chemicals in food and processed food, and stop eating dead animals and bovine mammary secretions! I was on depression meds for several years, tried like 7 different kinds, tried different doses, etc…my doctor NEVER mentioned trying to change my diet. 2 years ago I did change my diet. I went vegan, started cooking myself, and my depression was literally GONE in two weeks. It was amazing!

  • Nag Hammadi

    Interesting article.

    Please keep religion out of science and politics.

    • Diana Palomino

      You are right Nag.

      Religion has no place in science or politics!

  • http://www.whoanellieretro.com linda seaton

    the greatest sin is that parents are medicating their children at the request of academic schools. This has always disturbed my good sense. Yet, this culture still diminishes a spiritually equipped family when consecrated prayer is the natural source to turn to/ rely upon, in remedying any dis-comfort, dis-ease, dis-order, dis-may. That American elitist and ignorant display is simply ridiculous and erroneous, in my book.

    God is Love. Love heals everything imagineable. Pure Love/ Clear Motives/ Clean Living, Morally are scientific means to restoring health in every way.

    • IM

      The explanation true causes of disease and their cure can be found at: endofdiseases.com. It is writings of Phineas Quimby, who understood the scientific principles upon which disease is created and cured, without medicine, profound Wisdom indeed.

    • Diana Palomino

      Religion is not always the answer. Medications is sometimes a necessary means to our illness. We do rely too much on medications, there is no argument there. Unfortunately there are those that abuse it. As for religion I do not believe in it 100%. There have been too many religious people that commit more wrongs than the ones that they are accusing. The only truth I agree with is the basics of the ten commandments after that all religions have been modified to what the person writing the bible or the one starting the religion believes.

  • http://www.whoanellieretro.com linda seaton

    yes. my first born was Oct.1973. I knew it then. how? instinct. my natural instinct told me to question everything medical doctors stated as 'fact' and 'instruction'. I was so used to collecting information for myself and deducing for myself and certainly using logical thought processes for myself. I'd seen first hand how my mother was affected by prescription drugs and yet she taught us (her children) to question everything.

  • Sean Watson

    The way to improve your mental health is to increase the amount of DHA and EPA you intake. Your brain needs essential fatty acids to function properly, and especially needs those 2. Spirulina is a good way to get all of your fatty acids

  • http://naturalsociety.com nate m

    lol i love that other ppl are finally seeing the truth to this! i personally have a laundry list of mental health problems and take no drugs for it, i have bad days and i have good days. even tho i have bad days and sometimes weeks im better off dealing with it and learning the proper coping skills to deal with them then i would be if i just to some pill that not only makes me a zombie but also has the potential to make my problems worse and give me other physical problems (we've all seen the TV adds so u know what im talking about) as well as cause farther mental issues in the long run.

    • WB

      Agreed. I was on anti depressants for 2 years. The result was horrible, yes in the beginning they seemed to help, but as time went on i realized that some emotions and other factors were enhanced, making the "prescription" worse than none at all. I stopped taking perscription meds 2 years ago and "self medicate" as needed. I wouldn't suggest others do the same but I can say for myself, that in the down times ( a few weeks of the year, seasonally) I smoke cannabis. it helps and I don't suffer any negative side effects. I've become conscious of my diet and chemicals and try to live live with as few un-natural chemicals as possible. After 2 years I've noticed a dramatic difference. My life and mind are much more balanced. So is my relationship. :)

      • Anonymous

        That's cuz ur stoned.

    • Anonymous

      Oh my god!!! Cannot believe what i am reading!! If it was not for my very trusted gp. And his 'mind altering' drugs!!, combined with counselling then i may not b here today. Don't know what cowboy doctors ur. Referring to but they don't just hand u pills and leave u to it. Show me hard verified facts that "its all in our heads".

      • Wyrd

        Some people to benefit from treatment the other 80% of people would be better off just doing Yoga and avoiding TV.

        … and the doctors do give out ritalin prescriptions like they are haloween candy and leave you to it.

      • joanne

        Agreed. Dangerous "reporting". Honestly, if the word 'cancer' were substituted for depression, can you imagine how ridiculous the article would sound. Asking chemotherapy patients to question what they are putting into themselves. Disgraceful 'reporting'.

    • rachel

      yeah i'll just apologise here shall i for how badly i handle my feelings compared to you? all hail you i guess.

  • kristi singletary

    Great article.