The Chemical Imbalance Theory of Depression: Joanna Moncrieff
Click on the title for a useful article from Joanna Moncrieff on this subject. As she puts it:-
‘A long overdue debate is raging about the chemical imbalance theory of depression. Having been deluged with this idea for two decades now, the general public has come to believe that it is a scientifically proven fact.’
We can endorse that – many of our clients believe this. So do some therapists.
In reality, this is not ‘scientifically proven fact’. There has never been any real evidence base for this theory. As Joanna goes on to say:-
‘…..leading psychiatrists have been trying to distance themselves from the chemical imbalance theory of depression in the last few years, because the evidence to support it has simply never been there.’
Better late than never, one might say. Except that, in the meantime, prescription rates for anti-depressants have soared. We continue to medicate with psychotropic drugs those who are experiencing pain and struggle in engaging with their realities. These drugs are not inert, they have a powerful systemic impact (even if not the impact that is intended or wanted). We continue to allow cultural primacy to the medicalization of distress, and the disempowering ‘disorder’ model of human pain.
As Joanna concludes:-
‘Social constructivist thinkers have highlighted that emotions are not equivalent to physical states or sensations like being hungry, tired or having a cold. They are not simply involuntary experiences thrust upon us by our biology. They are sophisticated and specifically human responses to the world around us that involve complex moral evaluations of events.
This is not to deny that some individuals suffer more than others, and that some need assistance to climb out of the dark place they have become stuck in. The disease-model, however, is ultimately not helpful, as well as being unfounded. For all its attempts to incorporate social factors, the disease-model renders depression meaningless, because biology effectively trumps other influences. It conveys the message that we are powerless to change ourselves or our situations. When things go wrong, it persuades us we need a pill to put them right.’
And the evidence for this? Well, it’s not there.
That matters, doesn’t it?
Thanks, Brent Dean Robbins, and The Society for Humanistic Psychology, Division 32, for putting us onto Joanna’s article:-
Joanna’s article contains a number of useful links to research and other resources.
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