Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chemical Imbalance May Not Be the Cause of Depression

If you're depressed, do you have a chemical imbalance in your brain? In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, Dr. David Burns says there's no proof that chemical imbalance is a cause for depression.

It's an Unproven Theory, Not a Fact
According to Dr. Burns, it's only a theory not a fact that a chemical imbalance is a cause for depression:

"There is an almost superstitious belief in our culture that depression results from a chemical or hormonal imbalance of some type in the brain. But this is an unproven theory and not a fact.

We Still Don't Know the Cause of Depression
Dr. Burns writes that we still don't know the cause of depression:

... we still do not know the cause of depression and we do not know how or why antidepressant drugs work. The theory that depression results from a chemical imbalance has been around for at least 2000 years, but there still is no proof of this, so we really do not know for sure.

There's No Test That Can Demonstrate Chemical Imbalance is the Cause of Depression
Dr. Burns writes:

Furthermore, there is no test or clinical symptom that could demonstrate that a particular patient or group of patients has a "chemical imbalance" that is causing the depression."

Key Take Aways
I think this raises an interesting issue. When is depression caused by your thought patterns and when are your thoughts "under the influence" of chemicals. I think the meta-point here is that before resorting to chemical treatment, work through and rule out problems with thought patterns, and that chemical solutions aren't a silver bullet.