The Truth About Chemical Imbalance Theory And Antidepressants

A few years ago I visited my primary doctor because of chest pains and after a few tests he confirmed that I had an anxiety disorder and not heart disease.

After the test he spoke to me for about 5 minutes, prescribed Prozac , and told me to have a great day.

At first I really didn’t think much about this, but for reasons unknown to me, I stuck the little bottle of pills in my pocket and vowed to never ingest any of it.

In retrospect it may have been my natural suspicion and anxiety about things I knew nothing about, but over time it is clear that this was a good move on my part.

I won’t beat around the bush I don’t think that anxiety disorder(s) or any other mental illness is caused primarily by a “chemical imbalance” in the brain and I’m also not convinced that antidepressants work as advertised ( I didn’t say that they don’t work for some).

Nowadays it seems that people rely on buzz words as reference material and I think that this practice has lead to a warped view of what is and is not causing mental malfunction in people.

So what does cause anxiety disorder(s)? The jury is still out on this question, but suffice to say the causes are complex, multifaceted, and poorly understood by science as of today.

The reason that this matters is because if the actual cause of anxiety disorder, OCD, social anxiety, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and PTSD are not known, then why are doctors prescribing psychotropic drugs to cure and or manage these conditions?

This I think is a fair question, which when reviewed carefully, will reveal that not only are the reasons not good, but border on the unethical. When this question is reviewed closely the very efficacy (effectiveness) of antidepressants can also be called into question.

You and I, and millions of others, have seen all the commercials before. Sad girl sitting at the base of a wall, lying in bed, hands plastered all over face, you can choose the sad position.

The scene is usually shot in black and white until the voice over comes on and says “Are you sad? Nervous all the time?” And you perk up and say “yeah, yes I am”.

The voice over than offers a solution in the form of a pill, Que bright colors and cheerful music, to make you happy. The ad, and by direct connection the pharmaceutical companies, argue that depression and anxiety disorders (among other mental conditions) may be related to a chemical imbalance in your brain. A  what?

The idea of a chemical imbalance causing havoc in people’s brains all started in the 1950′s and culminated in a scientific paper written by Joseph Schildkraut in 1965.

His paper called “The Catecholamine Hypothesis of Affective Disorders” basically argued that neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain (a.k.a. brain chemicals) were the main cause of psychiatric conditions, like anxiety disorder, for example.

But was Schildkraut right? Are the drug companies using sound science when promoting their products? Let’s review a few bits of information and you can make up your own mind.

The principle argument made by the chemical imbalance theory is that if there is an imbalance of certain brain “chemicals” then things go array. However studies have shown that “depleting serotonin (brain chemical) levels in the brain reaped no consistent results” 1. In other words getting rid of serotonin from the brain did not cause anxiety, depression, etc on a consistent basis.

In addition, “contemporary neuroscience research has failed to confirm any serotonergic lesion (chemical based reason) for any mental disorder, and has in fact provided significant counter evidence to the explanation of a simple neurotransmitter deficiency.” (1)

As of today there is simply no solid scientific evidence to support the notion that anxiety and other mental conditions have anything to do with chemical imbalances.

So, if the existence of a chemical imbalance is questionable, how do antidepressants work? The answer is no one is absolutely certain, but again let’s take a closer look. Ever heard of broad spectrum antibiotics?

Essentially these are antibiotics prescribed to battle a wide range of bacteria in the body. This sounds great but sometimes this type of antibiotic targets good bacteria and can also cause sickness.

It’s like carpet bombing. When loads of bombs are dropped from an aircraft and it’s hoped that the intended target gets hit.

But this leads to collateral damage and this is a risk you take when shooting into the dark. You may hope to take an antidepressant to relieve depression but this can have unintended consequences.

In other words, if you target a wide range of chemicals in the brain you’re bound to hit something. But should serotonin really be the target? Or should it be some other chemical? This is simply unknown.

Some might argue that antidepressants helped them, it even saved their life, possibly. But there are also many other instances of people becoming more anxious, more depressed, and more suicidal because of antidepressants. This is what makes antidepressants problematic.

Moreover, “the fact that aspirin cures headaches does not prove that headaches are due to a low-level of aspirin in the brain.” (1). Recently I reviewed a blog that was thrashing anyone that contested the effectiveness of antidepressants. This caused me concern for a few reasons.

I wondered why these folks were so sure that antidepressants worked as advertised? That chemical imbalance was the culprit. Were they basing it on commercials or scientific findings? Even the president of the American Psychiatric Association has stated that there is no test to determine if someone has a psychiatric condition. (2)

There is no blood test or other lab test to confirm that someone is “off-balance.” Yet powerful drugs are administered to combat the ‘disease.’

So then, if you can’t test for it how can one treat it effectively? Again, some say that it has worked wonders for them but what of a placebo effect? It is very possible that many people feel better because they feel like they are treating their condition and not necessarily because the drug is effective.

“Using the freedom of information act researchers were able to gain access to all clinical trials of antidepressants submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by the pharmaceuticals companies. When the published and unpublished trials were pooled (combined), the placebo duplicated about 80% of the antidepressant response.” (1)

Ultimately, the scientific literature currently available simply does not confirm that chemical imbalances cause mental ailments, nor does it confirm that antidepressants treat any brain imbalances.

In my view, the causes of mental ailments are most likely spread among biologic, genetic, social and environmental reasons. Being that mental ailments are so complex I find it hard to understand why some are so sure about chemical imbalances being the primary cause of mental disorders.

Furthermore, how can a single drug, whether it’s Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, etc., treat all six anxiety types and depression, and male sexual dysfunction?

I am not a fan of using drugs to treat anxiety, however, I also understand that they do help some people. The fact that this happens is great but that does not mean that it is ethical for any company to mislead people and make them believe that what they are selling is proven to work when it is not.

Just because a substance may help does not make it safe or well understood. Antidepressants can be harmful and even dangerous. You might ask well why do doctors prescribe such drugs? Doctors are smart, dedicated professionals, but this does not make them experts in what is yet to be completely understood.

The point of this article was to open the eyes of anxiety and depression sufferers. Make sure that you ask questions about what is prescribed to you. Make sure that you are properly diagnosed and not simply providing your own diagnosis visa via a 5 minute conversation with a family doctor.

Like all things we buy and consume, we should be as informed as possible, so we can also be empowered to make decisions based on facts and not be emotionally sold on something. Drugs are simply handed out too easily and not looked at with a critical eye by the general public.

And although drug therapy may help some people this does not excuse you from weighing your options and being well-informed. Your attention to this matter is demanded because your health could be on the line.

Let me know what you think and don’t forget to check out the podcast that I included below.

Review:

1. It is not known if mental disorders are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. This is an unfounded theory.

2. It is not yet known if or exactly how antidepressants work.

3. The media play a large role in informing the public about ‘facts’ regarding mental illness and effective treatments.

4. Drug companies are misleading the public to believe that the chemical imbalance theory is fact and that antidepressants are safe and effective. These two things are yet to be fully known.

5. You should be an informed consumer and protect your health by educating yourself and asking questions when speaking to your doctor.

6. There is no test that can determine if someone is serotonin deficient or mentally ill.

UPDATE:

Seems like this issue will not be going away any time soon. Recently NPR took a stab at reviewing this topic. Take a listen to the podcast or click here to read the article.

References

1. “Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect Between the Advertisements and The Scientific Literature” .

Lacasse JR, Leo J PLoS Medicine Vol. 2, No. 12, e392 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0020392

2. APA Admits there is no test for “Chemical Imbalance” – Link .

3. The Chemical imbalance ‘theory’… come on Glaxo – PROVE it now – Link .

4. Typical debate surrounding this issue among lay people – Link .

5. Youtube video Re: Experience with antidepressants – Link .

6. BBC News: The myth of the chemical cure – Link.

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Comments

  1. says

    Nice post, Thank you for sharing you article. It is normal for the us to be depress sometime because it is our way to cope with particular stressing situations. But long term depression is unhealthy and can lead into some mental problems. Management is the best and first thing to do to cope up with depression, and if having difficulties. Medication are also given to those depressed individuals. But with the prescription of the doctor.

    Thank you for posting. Hope to hear from you soon.

  2. says

    I agree with your view. Management should definitely be the first phase of any treatment for anxiety or depression.

    Meds can work for some but people should limit their use of drugs and try to deal with the stress in their life in order to find a good balance.

  3. Kelly says

    Great article and I agree with it!

    I have had neurotransmitter testing done to figure out which transmitters were giving me trouble. This is a relatively new test and although it’s not perfect, it’s useful. For example, they found that I actually have a really great amount of Seratonin (hence SSRI’s giving me nothing but loads of side effects). They also found my norepinephrine to b really high, hence my horrible anxiety anxiety disorder. Is this a chemical imbalance- no. It’s simply proof of what is going on inside my brain and what is not. Useful to know when trying to treat an anxiety disorder.

    I think they are getting closer to perfecting these types of tests and hopefully will soon be able to tell what type of drug (if any) can help your condition so that you don’t have to go through the pains of trial and error. I sure hope they hurry up on this, seems like they should know it by now.

  4. Paul says

    Kelly,

    Thanks for the information. What is this test called?

    I’m glad to hear that researchers are at least working on a test to determine if anxiety and depression are caused by chemical imbalance.

    It may be some time before these test prove highly effective but good to hear that some progress is being made.

    I think it would do wonders to eliminate all the guessing that currently goes on when it comes to diagnosing and treating anxiety disorders.

  5. Kelly says

    Paul,

    The test is called a neurotransmitter test.
    Although the test does not reveal if you have anxiety or depression, it does give you the data about your neurotransmitters and other brain stuff (like hormone levels, etc). This test doesn’t tell you specifically if your anxiety/depression is caused by a chemical imbalance, rather it simply gives results for a clinician to deduce what may or may not be causing some of your issues.

    For example, my test revealed that my neurotransmitters (norepinephrine and epinephrine) were VERY high and “excitable” (firing too rapidly). One could deduce that this being present could explain anxiety symptoms or a disorder. However, there is no reason to think this is chemical. What is occuring in my brain could simply be the result of having untreated anxiety disorders my whole life along with the behavioral aspects of an anxiety disorder, and things like how I was raised, etc. This factors can change the brain and it’s functioning…thus creating a situation like I have- which in my opinion is not a chemical imbalance, but rather the effects of what i listed above impacted my brain.
    These tests will improve. Like I mentioned they are working on one to determine if you do have a chemical imbalance of some kind, and if so what (if any) medication would prove helpful with that imbalance. I think however that this alone is not the key to recovery- it lies in lots of cognitive behavioral work as well. My thoughts are that the individuals behavior along with other external factors are what cause these things in the first place, then the mind/body change as these issues continue.

  6. John says

    This post concludes by saying that there is no test to check for serotonin deficiency. Yet, in this post’s case-in-chief it argues that serotonin depletion is most likely not the cause of depression, anxiety, and the likes. WHICH ONE IS IT? If there is no reliable test for serotonin deficiency how do you know it’s not the cause? Scientists use a multitude of ways to determine if something is true. When scientists don’t have the means to test for 100% conclusive proof they often use inferences to make informed guesses about something. I’m not a master of reason by any means but a classical example of inductive inference might look something like this- Major Premise- “Despite a lack of reliable tests to actually determine Serotonin depletion, scientists have identified the affect natural and non-induced serotonin depletion has on the body.” Minor Premise- “when test subjects are given Paxil, the known effects of natural serotonin depletion subside in test subjects.” Conclusion, “Paxil probably helps people who are suffering from serotonin depletion.” What’s wrong with that logic? It is the logic this country uses to put people to death in the electric chair; shouldn’t that be good enough to help someone with depression or anxiety?

    The problem I have with this post is that although the author acknowledged biological contribution to anxiety, depression, etc., the author trashes the use of drugs that help so many people’s lives (I’m not sure why the author trashes it other than a desire for “100% conclusive proof”). Social Phobias can ruin lives, literally debilitating people to the point of refusal to leave pedestrian jobs (for fear of having to function further in the public eye), refusal to begin a romantic relationship, the refusal to go out to a dinner, the refusal to sing a song, the refusal to let their heart free; you get the point. People can spend years in a psychologist’s office trying to get to the “root” of their problem, while they rot away in their miserable existence. Ultimately, my point is that psychiatric medicine has shown to have more benefit than harm on so many peoples’ lives. Therefore, why would this author post an essay insulting the good these drugs have done without offering a solution? I believe that we should be gracious and happy for what science has been able to do for these people, instead of cynical and judgmental.

  7. says

    Hey John,

    Thanks so much for your impassioned comment. I do appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

    Many of the points you made were good, but I wanted to add some to the discussion.

    You cited the fact that we use inductive logic to execute folks and that as a result we can safely use the same logic when it comes to anxiety treatment. However there is a problem – innocent people get executed all the time because of this type of logic.

    The death penalty debate notwithstanding sometimes you simply need a little more when it comes to treating mental illness because of the stakes i.e., people sometimes kill themselves because of medication even if this is not the intended result.

    You also stated that I trash drug use well not really. What I said is that drug use helps some people and not others. If it helps you then have at it. I never promote the non-use of drugs I simply caution people to be fully aware of side effects and possible pitfalls of drug use.

    Have drugs helped many people, of course (like I pointed out in the post and the podcast) but is it for everyone? Of course not.

    With respect to the serotonin and whether or not it is the cause of anxiety – well in my view this is unknown. What’s wrong with acknowledging this fact? Science is still working and making strides toward an answer but lets not fool ourselves – we just don’t know, all good guesses aside (but respected).

    And believe me I’m not a cynic, I believe in science and the scientific method. I just distance myself from jumping on the bandwagon too soon.

    Our society is highly addicted to drugs and what I’m saying is that we should explore all options when it comes to anxiety treatment and not make assumptions.

    I usually get comments like this from people who have been helped by drugs, and I’ll say it one more time, if drugs help you – wonderful.

    But lets not suppose that because it helps you that it will help all.

    I always say, whatever it takes to feel better as long as it is SAFE and legal.

  8. MWM says

    Jim Carry’s and Tom Cruise’s opinions don’t hold any water because one is an anti-vaccinationists and the other is a sciencetologist.

  9. John says

    You compared these psychiatric medications to “carpet-bombing antiobiotics” that ultimately harm humans. I’d say that’s a pretty harsh comparison; harsh enough for me to say that you “trashed” the medication.

    In regard to a major premise in your argument where you mentioned the harm these drugs do… I understand that you find the isolated incidents of harm that these drugs as an important consideration; I even agree with you to a very limited extent. However, I believe in utilitarianism (i.e. that the most important consideration is the good/benefit to the whole of society/the masses/the group). Your argument is retributivist in nature (i.e. less concerned with the benefit/good to the society as a whole and more concerned with the individual harms that are caused). Are you familar with an old common law case called Dudley and Stevens? A few guys on a lifeboat had to resort to murder/cannibalism to stay alive. The Court found them guilty of murder. Alot of people struggled with the verdict because people felt that these guys were heroes. They thought, “wasn’t it better that only one guy was killed than all of them perish at sea?” As laws and culture evolved, utilitarism became a stronger goal in our society and is often the strongest consideration in the Model Penal Code. Therefore, when you say that alot of people are put to death who are innocent that may be true, but isn’t that better than having a bunch of murderers running around the streets simply because the prosecutor couldn’t find more than circumstantial evidence?

    In regard to the medication we are discussing, I’d rather save 99 lives and have 1 person commit suicide then let all 100 people live in misery and torment. Furthermore, I’d also like to see a study done regarding suicide rates of people on these medications v. people who are depressed in general. Or even further, the suicide rates of people who need help with severe depression/anxiety but are refused psychiatric medication or given a placebo; if you compare that suicide rate you might find that less suicides are occuring on the medication (That would be a pretty ballsy study- considering what’s on the line, i.e. death/suicide). When you’re dealing with a sect of society that is screwed up mentally you’re obviously in a much higher suicide risk-rate. Therefore, is it these drugs that are causing the suicide or is the already-significant mental problems they are coming through the door with? Who knows? If you know of a study that answers these questions I’d love to see it, plus I think it would boost the credibility of your argument.

  10. says

    MWM,

    Thanks for the comment. In response I just wanted to say that just because you disagree with a persons position on one or even many issues this does not mean that they should be discounted for all things and forever more.

  11. says

    Hey John,

    Again you made some excellent points. But, in my humble view, there is simply no right or wrong on this issue. People have to do what is best for them.

    The possibility of conducting a study such as the one you suggested would be very interesting and I will most definitely keep my eyes open and write about it if I ever get the chance.

    Best wishes.

  12. says

    John: “Drug companies are misleading the public” That is the understatement of the year. They purposely mislead both the consumer and the doctors whom they get to ‘pitch’ their products for them. All in the name of the mighty buck. Sad indeed.

  13. Rebecca says

    Kelly,

    Can you tell me the name of that serotinin test? And the contact info of the doctor that gave it to you so that I can track down that test and get it for myself? Did it help you. Did it show that you had low serotonin. THanks so much for the info.

  14. Jessica says

    Jessica,

    This was a really helpful artical and it saved me alot of time. I spent hours on the web looking for answer anout my depersonalization disorder. The only thing that I could come up with was a chemiacal imbalance in my brain. Well i did find out that anxiety is caused by stress and negative thoughts(constantly) and depersonalization is caused by anxiety. So I realized that The chemical inbalce is probably caused by the anxiety which is caused by stress. So in other words if I stop stressing, become more possitive, and take vitamines daily then I should be good to go!!

  15. David P says

    I recently found an amazing site that has a completely radical, and unbelievable theory on what causes mental disorders. Not only that but it essentially says it can explain hundreds of other diseases that there is no known cause of. http://www.quizdoc.com/

    if you are interested in alternative theories to stuff like depression or anxiety i think that the above site is well worth a read

  16. Sarh says

    I have anxiety and I am on paxil. I’ve had to vary the dose periodically. Once I even switched thinking that paxil was no longer working but with no effect, which leads me to say that the placebo effect is not in question here, at least not for me. I went back to paxil after a while and things got better. However, it is a tool, not a solution. Imagine you have to build a dog house but don’t have a good hammer. Paxil for me is like a pretty good hammer that I use to build with. But i also had cognitive therapy and I have been ok for a while. I’m now on this site because I’m having a little recurence of symptoms due to recet stress, but it’s much more bearable that without my paxil hammer. It doesn’t make me numb or overhappy or anything like that. It makes me what I can be without the anxiety. Anxiety is the big bully who comes and kick my house around once in a while, in my doghouse analogy. With paxil I can fight back better. I’m not saying it’s the way for everyone but I think it can help a lot of people. There are many ways to overcome and none are perfect. So I can only speak for me. But keep an open mind.

  17. says

    Hi Sarah,

    Great comment. I agree 100%. I say that you should do what helps YOU. If that’s drugs, okie dokie. As long as it’s safe and does what you need. That’s true for all forms of anxiety treatment.

  18. Julie says

    I am not an eloquent writer, so please bear with me. To compare taking Antidepressants with the Death Penalty is simply arrogant on most fronts. But in not starting a battle of words, which i may say is all the commentator of such statements was interested in. It was quite clear to me in the original article, that we should research first and foremost what we put in our bodies. I have been on both sides of the coin, taking Paxil for many years to combat my Panic disorder, and ended up with an Anxiety disorder as a result of the meds. I do believe that whatever you need to do, i.e meds, Naturopathy, meditation, psychotherapy, and many others to help you live your best life, than do it with open arms. Do not however think for one second that when we get to the point of having a commercial for “Restless Leg Syndrome” that we must diligently begin to scrutinize pharmaceutical companies and their intentions.What the hell did we do 100yrs ago? Finally i decided to stop the meds and work my ass off to try and help myself naturally. I started seeing A Naturopath who gave me wonderfull herbs(that i also researched)to help the horrible withdrawl symptoms that no one mentions. I changed my diet, started meditating, and for the first time in a very long time, i feel hopefull. So once again agreeing with the Author, if the meds have changed your life for the better than i applaud you for finding what works. If you are still struggling to find the right combination, come to the dark side, put on your Armor and fight for your life. I think it’s worth it ;)

  19. Deron Gille says

    Watch a documentary called, “The Marketing Of Madness” available at cchr.org. It can answer most of your questions. The Drug companies themselves have studies done that are now available that show that most of the Psychotropic drugs prescribed are dangerous, increase depression and suicide and have dangerous and deadly side effects we aren’t told about. Some of the side effects include muscle spasms, darting of tongue, heart disease, diabetes, suicide, depression etc.etc. These companies are lying so that they can make more money. Ritalin, the most common drug prescribed for children with so called attention disorder is more powerful and addictive than Cocaine. Most of the so called disorders are also made up and voted on by psychiatrists simply as a marketing campaign. If we try to change our lives, what we eat, what we do, how we think etc. then we can start really getting somewhere with mental illness. Avoid the Hype. Sincerely, Deron Gille

  20. JoAnn Laferriere says

    I love this article. It gets people thinking. In the past I was leary of anti-depressants, and tried almost everyone only to have horrible side effects. After suffering for years, not knowing what was wrong with me, and not having any relief from Anxiety, I finally got a diagnosis and now take Prozac and Serequel. For whatever reason, these ones work in this combination for me. I don’t care why or how! All I know is I finally feel fantastic and I am ALIVE! I guess I will say “If it feels good….DO IT!” If your Doctor is prescribing and it’s not making a difference, don’t give up hope…eventually you will find what works. It took me 15 years of Hell! Good luck, it IS carpet bombing!

  21. Chitown kid says

    to the author: so what do you suggest we do?? what do people constantly living with this horrible condition(s) do?? I’ve been suffering from panic attacks, high anxiety, muscle tension out of this world!! and then as a result i developed really really bad depression thinking that i have to live the rest of my life like this.. suffering.. so what do you suugest, just live the rest of our lives suffering then??

  22. says

    Hey Chitown,

    Like I said, if drugs work for you, great. If they don’t then you have other options. Do what is best for you is my main point.

  23. Chitown kid says

    What do you suggest really?? What other options work?? I haven’t put an anti depressant in my body yet but let me tell you, with the way I’ve been suffering and the mental and physical anguish that I’ve been suffering so badly from everday of my life for the past year, is really leaning me towards trying them. My physical are are just as bad as my mental symptoms!! I can’t control it anymore and it’s making me crazy….. I just want my normal life back… Did you yourself ever suffer from anxiety/panic attacks/depression??

  24. says

    Hey Chitown,

    Did I ever suffer from Anxiety? Man, I couldn’t even begin to tell you how much I suffered in the past. I had severe anxiety and depression for 10 years.

    Eventually, I beat the condition and that’s why I created this site, so I could help other people do the same.

    So I empathize with your frustration, I can hear it in your writing.

    But, the fact that you feel like that is normal, there isn’t anything easy about living with anxiety and depression.

    Personally I never took drugs because I felt like it wouldn’t allow me to get at my real problem, my true fears.

    But that doesn’t mean that taking drugs in the short term is all bad.

    Have you spoken with a doctor about your options? Obviously a doctor would be the most qualified to answer drug questions, but in addition to drugs there are other options.

    For example, in my case I started taking fish oil pills, I exercised 5 times a week, stopped smoking, stopped drinking caffeine, started reading books about anxiety and fear that were written by well known doctors like Dr. Aaron Beck, Claire Weekes and Victor Raimey, among others.

    I trained myself how to relax using meditative techniques and deep breathing. I used self-talk and learned about the fight or flight response and how it works on the body and mind to make you believe things that aren’t true… like the idea that you’re going crazy or that anxiety symptoms are dangerous and can kill you.

    I’ll be real with you, none of that is easy. But I stayed focused on recovery for over two years and then one day my wife was like, “hey, you stopped complaining about all that anxiety stuff.”

    The most important thing I learned about my situation with anxiety though has two parts:

    1. The fear of death and derangement is the main problem. All I can say is that what matters is life, not death. Don’t fear it or wait for it… live and be who you want to be. Losing this fear will truly set you free.

    2. To settle the anxiety and depression issue you’ll have to do more than just one thing. That might mean using drugs AND exercise, or it could mean no drugs and simply talk therapy and meditation. The truth is that there is no one way to get better, period. The key is to keep searching and DOING things until you find the right combo.

    I’ve been where you are Chitown, I more than relate. It is sad, scary, and lonely all at the same time. It feels like all the worst things in the world wrapped into one and having it repeated over and over again. But there is hope, there’s always hope.

  25. Chitown kid says

    I really really don’t know what to and it’s so discouraging… I feel like I’m going crazy and I’m losing my mind!! Is there really hope?? I would give up anything in the world to have my normal self back!! Anything….

  26. crazy person says

    Avoid all “neurotransmitter” testing like the plague. These are scams designed to separate you from your money, nothing more. Urine and salivary testing for neurotransmitters is useless. There is no test which shows levels of neurotransmitters within your brain. The same chemicals that are neurotransmitters are present in many other tissues throughout the body with different physiological roles. For instance, serotonin is responsible for gut motility, catecholamines are produced in your adrenals, etc.. Just because you have some level of serotonin or its metabolites in your urine or saliva has no correlation to levels that exist in your brain. If there were a test that was clinically significant A: they would have scientific proof of the monoamine hypothesis, which they don’t B: it would be the standard diagnostic tool employed by psychiatrists, which it isn’t. Now, if you wan’t to give money to unscrupulous laboratories, go right ahead, but it will do nothing in terms of providing you with a diagnosis or treatment plan.

  27. Frank says

    Thank you crazy person I can tell u are the most educated person to comment on this article there is a reason why antidepressants “work” but it has nothing to do with serotonin if you are curious google the history of the chemical imbalance theory and you will find a review of three books the first book explains exactly why the work. For those of you suffering from terrible anxiety know one thing even though right now you think (and I’m certain you do) that your anxiety will never get better there is always a possibility that it will sadly not a certainty but a possibility is enough to keep you going. I was in your shoes just months ago anxiety ridden and I was certain that it would never get better but it did. I was so anxious that chronically I couldn’t get erections and have sex with my then girlfriend. Then we broke up I graduated from college and my life changed. Previously I tried a dozen medications 4 or 5 therapist and none of it worked the only thing that is going to have a lasting effect on your anxiety is either lifestyle changes or changes in your life situations. However the placebo effect is very strong. Just never under any circumstances start taking benzodiazepines for more than a week maybe not even that long they are extremely addictive and when you come off of them which you will eventually have to your anxiety willY be worse and you will have withdrawals and it shouldn’t need to mentioned but due to the level of quackery in this country and the overall failure of psychiatry avoid barbiturates like the plague these archaic medications make xanax look like vitamin c. But TRY to maintain hope if you want to go the medication route then do it but don’t trust exactly what your hopefully psychiatrist tells you notice the geodon clock in their office and google the
    medication on your phone but do
    Not go to the drug companies website and read side effects go to forums there are plenty and read the ole there of comments made by people who have taken these drugs. This is a source much more reliable than your psychiatrist who just got back from a cruise to the Bahamas paid for by Pfizer

  28. JaHce says

    I’ve often been prescribed drugs like prozac when I’ve complained about the usual symptoms and tried them occasionally for a certain time period and stopped when I didn’t feel mmuch different. Last year, while having vertigo attack, my doctor took one look at me and said I should see a psychiatrist. I took neither the medicine he prescribed or the appointment he set up. I did however go to a naturopath and within 2 weeks of taking her recommended supplements, I felt like I had been reborn. I think my anxiety stems from inane working situations and a disconnected family.

  29. Mary Hunter says

    John;

    this is late in the list but I have to tell you you are majorly misinformed. As a person who suffers anxiety severely as well as having a father who is a psychiatrist I know that measuring seratonin is like measuring the width of a persons shoulders to determine if they are going to have a heart attack.

    Yes obese people do gain weight at the shoulders, but some people are taller, some have larger bones, some have other disorders that cause larger shoulders (such as dwarfism). Your logic suggests a linear static level of reasoning that does not apply to any biological rational. Appropriate levels of any. chemicals are determined by the persons biological configuration. Additionally whether the levels of any “brain chemicals” is adequate is completely relative to the person. Much like someone can have larger bones or be overweight but it may not be related to issues that cause heart defects

    Furthermore if you truly were a sufferer you would know that 99% of doctors do not test a chemical or even at minimum go through a Gant chart. Heck I was recently prescribed cymbalta with a 2 minute conversation… not even being told what the drug was. Took 6 months to ween off a medication I was on for a month.

    So I agree it isn’t wise to jump into a treatment without real concrete evidence as I still have a lack of balance after it.

  30. Bryan says

    I would love to believe the chemical imbalance hypothesis. It isn’t even credible enough to be called that in my book. I do not oppose further research on this. There simply is no evidence suppoting it. I’m severe schizoaffective. I would do anything to believe that the solution to my and everyone else’s illness was anywhere near as simple as the chemical imbalance idea suggests. If it were, there would be dramatically less patients locked away in state hospitols for decades. These are people who are treated like lab rats and force fed DOZENS OF PILLS A DAY. They have no one to sdvocate for them. After years of this the results are often that they have developed crippling twitches and muscle spasms that DID NOT exist before taking these drugs. I am not saying I have a better solution- besides treating people, especially sick people, like human fucking beings. The chemical imbalance theory is a successful advertising sloagan for pharmicutical companies which has propeled the anti-depressant market well into the billion dollar club. It is also widely preached by all levels of the mental health industry and widely accepted by the patients there in. I find this to be unforgivable. I don’t know if there is anything that can be done about this. I don’t how this myth can be combated. I don’t think this chemical imbalance myth will ever be defeated. Its power, acceptance and damaging effects will grow. Anybody want to cheer me up on this?

  31. Krystal says

    Wow, this is horrible. What a terrible article. I’ve been on ssris for ten years, and they work great for me. They work for a lot of people I’ve talked to as well.

  32. says

    Krystal:
    I said “I am not a fan of using drugs to treat anxiety, however, I also understand that they do help some people. The fact that this happens is great but that does not mean that it is ethical for any company to mislead people and make them believe that what they are selling is proven to work when it is not.”

    This is my main point. What is “horrible” about that?

    Some are helped by meds, many aren’t. All should be prudent about what they take into their body. If an SSRI worked for you fantastic. But that isn’t true for all.

  33. says

    Krystal:
    I said “I am not a fan of using drugs to treat anxiety, however, I also understand that they do help some people. The fact that this happens is great but that does not mean that it is ethical for any company to mislead people and make them believe that what they are selling is proven to work when it is not.”

    This is my main point. What is “horrible” about that?

    Some are helped by meds, many aren’t. All should be prudent about what they take into their body. If an SSRI worked for you fantastic. But that isn’t true for all.

  34. Patrick says

    Paul,
    Have you talked to people that have bounced from one drug to another or combinations, only to have them eventually stop helping (when they even do); who decide to stop their medications with professional supervision of coursse?

  35. says

    Yup. I have heard of people trying different medications in different doses until they find the right combination. This is very common.

    Paul

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