The “Chemical Imbalance” Myth

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from The Florida Jewish News If my article, “If Its Not a Chemical Imbalance, What Is It?” threw you into a tailspin, I apologize. I believe the requirement for clarity rests on the writer, not the reader. Let me be very clear: The notion that there is a lack of serotonin in the brains of depressed people and that they consequently have a “chemical imbalance” is a fiction. Furthermore, doctors who promote this fiction are not acting in the best interests of their patients and need to rethink the matter carefully before continuing along this path. No Evidence Of Serotonin Decrease Elliott Valenstein is a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Michigan with no financial ties to any particular industry. In his book, Blaming the Brain: The Truth About Drugs and Mental Health, published in 1998, he states, “I did not write this book because I am opposed to using drugs to treat mental illness. . . I do not treat patients and have no reason to be for or against drug therapy, psychotherapy . . . or to take any side in any disagreement between nonmedical therapists and psychiatrists. . . I have spent over forty years working as a biopsychologist studying how the brain and other biological factors such as hormones and drugs influence behavior.” Valenstein states: “There is not a shred of evidence of any . . . decrease [nowadays] in brain serotonin. In another book, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer describes the ‘revolutionary’ finding that major personality and behavioral traits are regulated by the balance between norepinephrine and serotonin....

If It’s Not A “Chemical Imbalance,” What Is It?

REPRINTED BY PERMISSION from FLorida Jewish News We take medicine to feel better, right? If we, God forbid, are diabetic and diet can’t get it under control, we can take medicine for it. For a headache, have an acetaminophen. For a tricky ticker, there’s an array of cardio meds your doctor will prescribe. For depression, just pop that happiness pill. Hold on. Not so fast, there, partner. You don’t want to pop that happiness pill unless you want to be married to it for the rest of your life. Here’s a biological rule: When your body notices the presence of a substance in it, it says to itself, “Oh, here’s some endorphin (or thyroid stimulating hormone, or whatever), so I don’t have to produce any of it.” In other words, the more you put in from the outside, the less your body will produce. Chicken and Egg Problem Now you’re going to be quick to tell me that I’ve got it backwards, that your body wasn’t producing the substance in the first place and that’s why your doctor prescribed it for you. Well, yes, and no. You’re right that your body wasn’t producing it at the moment. Remember, you came in to get some help with depression (or anxiety or whatever), so of course your body wasn’t—at that point in time—producing the chemicals that would be flowing freely if you were happy. But which came first? Were you unhappy because the chemicals for happiness just weren’t there in your body—as the pharmaceutical companies have spent billions trying to convince medical doctors and psychologists so that they can convince their...
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