The Myth of Chemical Imbalance
Alternative Hypothesis for Depression
1 in 5 Americans suffer depression in their lifetime according to official statistics.
We’ll discuss the validity of this claim later in the article. First, let’s talk about what depression is.
The DSM V is the manual used by psychiatrists to diagnose psychiatric disorders. It gives us a list of attributes needed to make a diagnosis. When it comes to Major Depressive Disorder the requirements are 5 or more of the following symptoms for at least 2 weeks, which changes functioning. One of the symptoms must be depressed mood or loss of interest.
Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated in the subjective report or in observation made by others
Markedly diminished interest in pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day and nearly every day
Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, for example, more than 5 percent of body weight in a month or changes in appetite nearly every day
Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day
Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day
Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness nearly every day
Recurrent thoughts of death
The criteria to diagnose this is rather vague and can be caused by many other things besides depression. Insomnia, for example, has numerous causes.
This vagueness and subjectivity when it comes to diagnosis causes to overdiagnosis. It’s easier for a doctor to appease their patients by telling them they have depression than it is to tell them they are just sad or living an unfulfilling life.
Once a doctor has diagnosed someone with depression pills are invariably the next step. It usually starts with an SSRI or SNRI, maybe an MAO inhibitor, and eventually antipsychotics. The cause of this is said to be a “chemical imbalance” in the brain.
This is a convenient way for doctors to describe depression. It takes blame away from patients and they don’t feel attacked. It makes it easier for the doctor to treat. Just pull out that prescription pad.
It also happens to be untrue.