Under the Hood

Debunking The Biggest Chemical Imbalance Myth

Throughout the last few years, depression as well as other mental health issues has been on the rise all around the world, affecting everyone from teens to the elderly. In fact, it was reported that at least 17.3 million American adults suffered from at least one major depressive episode back in 2017. Furthermore, reports stated that the highest rates are among those aged between 18 and 25.

However, more and more attention is now being given to the condition that almost seemed like a taboo back then. But what’s the real reason behind it?

At the moment, it’s still very much hazy and the science around it usually points to depression.

With that being said, one of the proponents behind raising awareness on the condition is professor Peter C. Gøtzsche, a Danish physician-researcher and outspoken critic of the drug industry. Helping found the 1993 Cochrane Collaboration and writing several papers about antidepressants ever since, the professor is best known for debunking perhaps the biggest myth of all when it comes to depression: that it’s caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Chemical Imbalance Myth

The idea usually goes that whenever a person is suffering from depression, there is some sort of chemical imbalance happening in their brain and the drug they will take can help fix this. However, the professor’s research has disproven this, stating that something like a person’s dopamine levels can’t help in diagnosing if they have a condition as well as where it started.

Furthermore, it also reinforces the idea that there is something wrong with this people, which can result in continued drug use for years.

Per Gøtzsche, there is no known mental health issue that is caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals. Furthermore, he also said that psychiatric drugs are the one that usually cause the chemical imbalances and not fix them at all. A paper he recently wrote with his colleagues also revealed that these drugs are not beneficial in the long term and can even be the reason behind bigger problems, such as increasing the risk of both suicide and violence.

Depression Higher rates of depression diagnoses were observed among women compared to men. Jasper Graetsch/Unsplash