Well-intentioned but not completely right

medicating the brainI read this commentary from the Philly Inquirer on mental illness and the author insists that mental illnesses are all “chemical imbalances.” While I do think many mental illnesses are the result of chemical imbalances, some mental illnesses are not physical. Some mental illnesses come from a spiritual and/or psychological battle. There are many people who recover from mental illness without medication. If a chemical imbalance was the case for these people, they would never get better. Pharma companies have sold the American public and countless mental health organizations on the idea that millions of people suffer from a “chemical imbalance.” I don’t buy that – well, come to think of it, actually, I do – my dollars contribute to Wyeth and GlaxoSmithKline‘s profits.

After suffering from bipolar disorder (or depression, depending on which psychiatrist I listen to) for 10 years, my husband and I are leaning toward the “chemical imbalance” theory that many doctors and pharmaceutical companies push. But a person who is depressed over a temporary situation does NOT have a chemical imbalance and simply may need psychological counseling.

America is overmedicated, drugged-up, and the victims of the smartest ad campaigns from pharma companies. What concerns me even more is that the FDA and mental health organizations like NIMH buy into many of the pharmaceutical companies’ lies and tactics. What further concerns me are the doctors involved in clinical trials who fail to disclose their affiliations with many of these pharmaceutical companies.

So yes, chemical imbalances do exist for many people. Millions? It’s possible. But unlikely. And I could go off on another rant about how PCPs shouldn’t be prescribing psych meds, but I’ll leave that argument for another day.

3 thoughts on “Well-intentioned but not completely right

  1. Not posted yet on this specific issue, but the first challenge I think about, after answering the inevitable “chemical imbalance” consideration: What is causing the chemical imbalance?
    Most often we find significant chronic, core problems with metabolism, nutrition, even chronic bowel problems that interfere with the effectiveness of the meds. If the bowel is sick, the liver is sick behind it, and then the brain remains sick, no matter what you do with pouring on neurotransmitter modifiers.
    It’s like poking the coals, hoping to start a fire. Without good wood, no steam.

  2. Just one more quick thot: Hormones and neurotransmitter levels are closely related, influence each other and can be dysregulated not only by diet, but by other nuances such as decreased D3 and diminished iodine,

  3. Hi Chuck,
    I’m trying to track my mood swings (I had some severe bipolar episodes this past week) to see if it happens right before my menstruation. Is it possible that if it’s just – oh say, PMS – that I don’t need a mood stabilizer and should instead be on a contraceptive?
    Also, how would the hormone imbalance affect men, considered that they are not as prone to the wider degree of hormone fluctuation?
    Sorry to bombard you with all these questions. I’ve read a few of your past posts and find a lot of food for thought…

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