Chemical Imbalances: Real or Imagined?

One of the first terms that parents and others hear when someone shows symptoms of having a mental disorder is “chemical imbalance.” It is the catch-all that often is used to explain why someone suddenly shows signs of major depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. I remember being shocked when I used this term in a news article and was later confronted by someone who proudly identified themselves as being “anti-psychiatry.” She told me that there is absolutely no evidence that mental illnesses are real and/or caused by biological problems inside the brain. 

I soon learned that this is an ongoing argument, often a bitter one, waged between different factions in the mental health community. 

So I was happy when I was sent an advance copy of the book: SHRINK RAP: Three Psychiatrist Explain Their Work   written by Dinah Miller, M.D. Annette Hanson, M.D. and Steven Roy Daviss, M.D.. Their book is being published by the Johns Hopkins University Press next month. 

The doctors, who write a popular mental health blog offer their take on “chemical imbalances” and I found their comments helpful.

“Chemical imbalance is a term with imprecise meaning…Saying that a psychiatric disorder is caused by a chemical imbalance, although an imperfect explanation, sometimes makes psychiatric disorders more palatable to patients and less stigmatizing. The term gives some credence to the practice of treating these disorders with medication. But there is no psychiatric disorder for which we know for certain which chemicals are  “imbalanced” if any.

“We have reasons for believing that psychiatric disorders must certainly be mediated by biological factors. For one thing, psychiatric illnesses run in families, even when family members are separated at birth. Research has shown that genetic links, and even specific genes, may be associated with different disorders. Many studies have shown that the biological features of groups of people with illnesses are different from those same features in groups of people without those illnesses. What we don’t have, yet, is a specific reliable test for a certain genotype or enzyme level, or a brain scan finding that indicates that a specific person has a specific disease.”

The authors explain that if a person goes to the doctor because of increased thirst or urination and has a lab test done, and it shows markedly elevated blood sugar levels, then that patient most certainly has diabetes. But with a few rare exceptions, such as Huntington’s disease or Jacob-Creutzfelt dementia, there’s nothing like this in psychiatry — no blood test, no x-ray, no CT scan that yields a definitive diagnosis. In psychiatry, blood tests are ordered to rule out medical conditions that masquerade as psychiatric illnesses — especially thyroid conditions or high ammonia levels — or to monitor medication levels to make sure medications are not damaging a patient’s organs.

“We know that the medications used to treat mental illnesses alter the levels of certain neurotransmitters. The antidepressant Prozac increases levels of serotonin in the brain. We don’t know for sure that depression is caused by low levels of serotonin, or that raising these levels is the mechanism that helps to alleviate the symptoms, but many lines of evidence suggest such a connection. In simpler terms, we presume there is a ‘chemical imbalance,’ but it remains uncertain as to what that imbalance actually is. Serotonin may be just one step in the final common pathway, along with many other steps, that contribute to the syndrome of depression. Simply said, we don’t know the exact biological nature of what is wrong when someone has a mental illness; nor do we know for certain the exact mechanism by which medications or other treatments work.”

So does this mean the term “chemical imbalance” is a misnomer?

I don’t think it is.  I agree with Shrink Rap. It is an impercise term used by laypersons to explain what we can’t define at this point. But in my view, based on what happened to my son, Mike, and what I observed doing research at the jail in Miami for my book, there is clearly something biological going awry. The heart can get sick and so can the brain.

I was fortunate enough to speak to Dr. Eric Kandel, the Nobel Prize winning doctor, who appeared on Minds on the Edge when it was produced by Fred Friendly Seminars. Dr. Kandel acknowledged that science simply hasn’t been able to discover the “biological underpinnings” of major mental disorders. But that doesn’t mean there is not one or more. He wondered why we continue to separate illnesses in the mind from illnesses in other parts of the body. Because we don’t understand them, doesn’t mean they are not real — as any of us with loved ones who show symptoms of severe disorders know first-hand.

The real tragedy, Dr. Kandel explained, is that medical research in nearly every other area of the body has moved forward significantly with the exception of our brains.

What’s your opinion?

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.

  • Shrinkrapblog

    Well that was really nice–thank you for the mention and for doing such a nice job of putting our quotes in context. And anytime any one wants to mention me in the same article as Eric Kandel…

  • http://behavenet.com moviedoc

    I agree except with your suggestion the term chemical imbalance is “used by laypersons.” Actually we psychiatrists usually bring it up because it’s all we’ve got. Maybe it will help to suggest that some illness clearly do involve chemical imbalance in the brain. Look at Parkinson’s for example, an illness that leads to mental deterioration and seems to involve dopamine imbalance. Thyroid hormone is a chemical which seems to affect the brain in people suffering from hypo- and hyper- thyroidism. What about intoxication with drugs like cocaine and ecstasy.

    What I most appreciate about your post, however, is your implication that science has failed psychiatry rather than psychiatry failing society.

  • http://neurodeviant.blogspot.com/ Neurodeviant

    There is no exact term to describe the cause of mental illness, because we don’t know the exact cause. It is important to be accurate but equally important to be understood. I think that it may be the most correct, or least incorrect term. All the we can say in general is that these disorders are a deviation from the norm (although not as much as people realize given the lifetime prevalence rates), that they ultimtely end up changing the function of the brain. Whatever that function is, it’s disrupted and it causes the behavior. It can be a neurological problem that manifests as a behavioral problem, like temporal lobe seizures or traumatic brain injury. It can be influenced by hormones (premenstrual or postmenopausal issues). They both probably end up influencing chemicals in the brain though, and so the term “chemical imbalance” is the least incorrect term. It’s the simplest way to describe it to someone who is not a neurologist or psychiatrist. If people called these illness neurobiochemical disorders that would be more accurate, but we finally have people talking about them and I don’t want them to stop. If people think that all of a sudden there is a different cause, they’d question the credibilty of the psychiatric community. People are ignorant in general. If they are using a term that does not involve blaming the person for the illness, and they aren’t too far off base, they can call it a chemical imbalance. I like things like this to be exact, but it’s important to pick your battles

  • http://jungianschizophrenia.blogspot.com/ spiritual_emergency

    I speak from the position of someone who has experienced psychosis and as a parent of an adult child who has also experienced extreme states. They are presently diagnosed as schizoaffective/bipolar.

    I associate my own experience of psychosis with “multiple losses as accompanied by trauma”. Medical science certainly seems to be accepting of the idea that stress and trauma can produce psychosis. These are well acknowledged triggers for extreme states and we even have the diagnostic label of “Brief Reactive Psychosis” to cover off up to 14 days of psychosis in Europe; a month’s worth to subscribers of the DSM-V. If you go past the 30 days alloted you no longer belong to the category of “Brief Reactive Psychosis” and are far more likely to end up in the catch box of schizophrenic. I prefer the terms “ego collapse” or “ego fragmentation”.

    I do not have any difficulty acknowledging that a neurochemical response plays a role. I am, after all, having a neurochemical response to your words in this very moment. Why would I not have an equivalent response to “multiple losses as accompanied by trauma?” Where I might disagree is the implication that such a response is a permanent condition. My own experience lasted approximately 30 months. I was never hospitalized, never medicated, never received formal therapy. I am well. My relationships are stable, I have been working for several years save an extended period when I quit work so I could serve as a support to my child.

    Their own experience also had multiple contribuing factors: sleep deprivation, the loss of a significant relationship, a form of emotional trauma, plenty of cannabis. They have experienced brief periods of psychosis as well as depression, but in their case, they seem more prone to episodes of mania. We cannot know at this time if the anti-depressants or anti-psychotics they were treated with might have contributed to these cycles. We do know that the cannabis seems to either trigger or escalate the mania.

    When I have seen my child in these states, I do not doubt that something is going on beyond their usual norm but I cannot possibly pin all the cause solely on their brain chemistry. It used to be much more widely acknowledged that these experiences were due to multiple causes. In terms of my own recovery, I had to grieve my losses and address my trauma. In terms of my child, they have had to give up cannabis, make new friends, develop a new outlook, get adequate rest, feel loved and supported, learn to resolve conflicts. They have chosen to make use of medications as part of their own treatment and these do seem to be producing some benefit for them, but meds alone won’t do it. That right there is enough to tell me that there’s more than something chemical going on.

    As for myself, I’ve never been medicated. I am recovered, in spite of that 30 month experience. If schizophrenia behaved like a disease for all people, I should not be well.

  • http://jungianschizophrenia.blogspot.com/ spiritual_emergency

    My apologies for posting this here but I do not see a means of addressing you privately. I have read the commenting policy and it’s my understanding that this post will not post immediately, rather, it will have to be viewed first. Perhaps that will suffice as a means of contacting you privately.

    I would very much appreciate it if you would share with your readers some information regarding a treatment program developed for psychosis/schizophrenia. It’s possible you’ve heard of it. It’s called Open Dialogue Treatment and was developed by Finnish, clinical psychologist, Jaakko Seikkula. What follows is some information from a recent documentary that has come out about the program…

    =============================================

    “All of us could have psychotic problems. It’s an answer to a very difficult life situation. It’s in a way, a kind of metaphorical way to speak of things that beforehand did not have anywhere they could be spoken of.”

    – Jaakko Seikkula

    This is the land of open dialogue where for more than twenty years, they’ve been documenting their results which are the best in the western world, to the extent that schizophrenia is now disappearing from their region.

    They’re down to 2 cases per 100,000. A 90% decline in schizophrenia! And why? Because their first-episode cases are not becoming chronic.

    - Robert Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic

    Video Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBjIvnRFja4

    ================================================

    I have been reading about the Open Dialogue approach for a few years now and have collected a number of articles, including links to studies here: http://forums.psychcentral.com/showthread.php?t=177419

    That may help serve as an introduction to other parents who are seeking treatment programs for their children that actually work and do not carry the same risks as long-term medication.

    I would love to see these kinds of programs in place in North America but it’s not going to happen until we begin demanding better for ourselves and/or our loved ones. We won’t be able to get it in place for our children, but maybe for their children.

    I’m hopeful that the program may appeal to governments as well because it’s a lot cheaper to produce full recovery than it is to invest in a life-time of social supports, periodic hospitalizations and (limited) financial support.

    ~ Namaste

  • Judy

    Some of us have some chemical imbalances. I believe that genetically, and it can be proven that it is easy to have even a small imbalance. Sadly enough, many people are labeled. It is possible that to be setup in something that is beyond your control can be even worse. And to be a victim of that abuse is even harder. For many years I have worked as a nurse, only to learn that one of the worst things that I have been through is that I become the victim of abuse by patients that I have loved. The administration thought that if they gave this to a M.D. (patient) to bring me to fall in love with him and then push me away, without my ability to be prepared for and or mentally able is worse than not having any shoes to wear. I was virtually setup and I expect an apology from both the patient and administration, as I didnt know that this was their plan until the patient (M.D.) told me after the fact. I will not disclose his name, but by reading this he will know who he is. I was only told what he was doing after I had fallen in love with him, and then had tried like anything to control my feelings, as I was a nurse at the time while working there and I didnt want to get my certification in trouble. I began to forget what he told me as our relationship resumed, and became more serious. I became married to him, and he even said to me “So, Is your stepdad dead”? , I never really believed that a man with so much can be able to be so cruel. I have made mistakes, but if I ever hurt anyone or was mean enough to say that I would apologize immediately. As I know he hurts since the loss of his wife in 2006, but I would never abbreviate that she is dead, for I know it would hurt him so. For the father that he is to me, the M.D. I sure tried to love him so, give him what he needed whenever he needed it and be kind and caring. I shared very little of my troubles until recently. But according to the little setup I have been in it has given me more sadness than not. And then not to mention any other way to try hurting me. I pray for you father, for you need the prayers, and even despite all else you are still loved in my heart. Call me to apologize please….as you know my phone number.

  • judith b

    I have been reading the above information a quote by spiritual emergency, by Jaakko Seikkula, which explains psychotic problems, and notice also that schizophrenia has diminished in this area of their region, where treatment of schizophrenia at an early stage can lessen the possibilty of more chronic illnesses, and that they have left the topic more open to discussion has lessened these illnesses as well. I believe in addition, taking care of these people with such mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar, can aide in eliminating or at least curbing the illness somewhat. Someone without family for instance, and what I mean here, is that not only being without parents, in addition to other family members, but physical and mental abuse can suffer from Bi-polar disease. As I hired someone years ago who, said that she suffered because she lived with a foster family where she suffered abuse however her parents were foster parents and could not provide enough care for her because they were busy taking care of other children in the home. As a result the teenager, the one I hired, and was taking medication to help her Bi-polar disorder, had suffered grandly by other teenagers living in their home who had abused her. I am talking here about making sure that if help is needed than as long as you are well enough to give it, than by offering care is very important, and that is in the form of love. If somewhere love is taken away, then the person suffers especially if they are without parents, or parents who have died, and family members who cant take care of them need to be given support so that they can. It is what I was told years ago. That if you take from a person you must give it back, especially if it was taken without asking for it. Whether it is love, spirit or an object. I offered this person a job, regardless of the consequences and it proved to aide her ambitions and abilities. To the point where she told me that her doctor had stated that she could stop taking her medication.

  • judith b

    I have been reading the above information a quote by spiritual emergency, by Jaakko Seikkula, which explains psychotic problems, and notice also that schizophrenia has diminished in this area of their region, where treatment of schizophrenia at an early stage can lessen the possibilty of more chronic illnesses, and that they have left the topic more open to discussion has lessened these illnesses as well. I believe in addition, taking care of these people with such mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar, can aide in eliminating or at least curbing the illness somewhat. Someone without family for instance, and what I mean here, is that not only being without parents, in addition to other family members, but physical and mental abuse can suffer from Bi-polar disease. As I hired someone years ago who, said that she suffered because she lived with a foster family where she suffered abuse however her parents were foster parents and could not provide enough care for her because they were busy taking care of other children in the home. As a result the teenager, the one I hired, and was taking medication to help her Bi-polar disorder, had suffered grandly by other teenagers living in their home who had abused her. I am talking here about making sure that if help is needed than as long as you are well enough to give it, than by offering care is very important, and that is in the form of love. If somewhere love is taken away, then the person suffers especially if they are without parents, or parents who have died, and family members who cant take care of them need to be given support so that they can. It is what I was told years ago. That if you take from a person you must give it back, especially if it was taken without asking for it. Whether it is love, spirit or an object. I offered this person a job, regardless of the consequences and it proved to aide her ambitions and abilities. To the point where she told me that her doctor had stated that she could stop taking her medication.

  • JLW

    I have been reading the above information a quote by spiritual emergency, by Jaakko Seikkula, which explains psychotic problems, and notice also that schizophrenia has diminished in this area of their region, where treatment of schizophrenia at an early stage can lessen the possibilty of more chronic illnesses, and that they have left the topic more open to discussion has lessened these illnesses as well. I believe in addition, taking care of these people with such mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar, can aide in eliminating or at least curbing the illness somewhat. Someone without family for instance, and what I mean here, is that not only being without parents, in addition to other family members, but physical and mental abuse can suffer from Bi-polar disease. As I hired someone years ago who, said that she suffered because she lived with a foster family where she suffered abuse however her parents were foster parents and could not provide enough care for her because they were busy taking care of other children in the home. As a result the teenager, the one I hired, and was taking medication to help her Bi-polar disorder, had suffered grandly by other teenagers living in their home who had abused her. I am talking here about making sure that if help is needed than as long as you are well enough to give it, than by offering care is very important, and that is in the form of love. If somewhere love is taken away, then the person suffers especially if they are without parents, or parents who have died, and family members who cant take care of them need to be given support so that they can. It is what I was told years ago. That if you take from a person you must give it back, especially if it was taken without asking for it. Whether it is love, spirit or an object. I offered this person a job, regardless of the consequences and it proved to aide her ambitions and abilities. To the point where she told me that her doctor had stated that she could stop taking her medication.

  • judith b

    I have been reading the above information a quote by spiritual emergency, by Jaakko Seikkula, which explains psychotic problems, and notice also that schizophrenia has diminished in this area of their region, where treatment of schizophrenia at an early stage can lessen the possibilty of more chronic illnesses, and that they have left the topic more open to discussion has lessened these illnesses as well. I believe in addition, taking care of these people with such mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar, can aide in eliminating or at least curbing the illness somewhat. Someone without family for instance, and what I mean here, is that not only being without parents, in addition to other family members, but physical and mental abuse can suffer from Bi-polar disease. As I hired someone years ago who, said that she suffered because she lived with a foster family where she suffered abuse however her parents were foster parents and could not provide enough care for her because they were busy taking care of other children in the home. As a result the teenager, the one I hired, and was taking medication to help her Bi-polar disorder, had suffered grandly by other teenagers living in their home who had abused her. I am talking here about making sure that if help is needed than as long as you are well enough to give it, than by offering care is very important, and that is in the form of love. If somewhere love is taken away, then the person suffers especially if they are without parents, or parents who have died, and family members who cant take care of them need to be given support so that they can. It is what I was told years ago. That if you take from a person you must give it back, especially if it was taken without asking for it. Whether it is love, spirit or an object. I offered this person a job, regardless of the consequences and it proved to aide her ambitions and abilities. To the point where she told me that her doctor had stated that she could stop taking her medication.

  • gorgepeterson

    According to me chemical imbalance is a depression nothing more. To get the recovery from depression you take your medicine regularly. Also get the enough sleep. You also share your talks with your friends.

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  • Anonymous

    There are so many different types of disease. Chemical imbalance is one type of disease. There are so many symptoms of chemical imbalance. Now a days medical science found so many latest technology so chemical imbalance has destroy with proper medical treatment. 

  • Anonymous

    I will not reveal his name, but through reading, he knows who he is. I told him what to do, I love to love him, any attempt to control their feelings.

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  • Qandwr

    My brother Mike passed away last week from liver disease. Mike had spent the last 20 years in nursing homes for mental disease. During his last 2 months his ammonia levels rose between 40-60. During the times that his ammonia levels were high, I noticed a hugh difference in him. He was normal. I was so happy to have my brother back and so sad to know that he knew everything that was happening to him.  Could there be a link between mental illness and ammonia levels?  I wonder.

  • Anonymous

    I believe in the concept of brain plasticity, that is that early childhood experiences, good or bad, can alter the structures in the brain.  This could be one possible explanation for various mental illnesses.

  • JAS

    Holistic and medical intuitives like Edgar Cayce pointed to the pituatary gland and pineal gland in the brain when severe mental illness was the issue.  I wonder if those doing research are focusing on these two glands?  It’s interesting to note that the cause and effect of many diseases and illnesses Cayce mentioned back in the 1920s and 1930s are now getting verified by science and research.  Maybe he was on to something.

    I don’t understand how we could be questioning “chemical imbalances” in the brain when it’s an organ, secrets all types of hormones and chemicals and is the “master” organ that controls so many bodily functions.  Like Pete said, the brain can be damaged and diseased just like any other organ.  Neuro-biology research has a long way to go when it comes to answers about mental illness.  Obviously SOMETHING isn’t working in the brain when people hallucinate or have delusions.  I remember when I once had an extremely high fever from the flu and was hallucinating.  It was one of the most terrifying ordeals I’ve ever had and the sensations and memories haunted me even after I got over my fever.  I cannot imagine the torture someone with mental illness undergoes when the brain isn’t working properly.  It’s absolute torture and so horrific.  I can actually still remember the sensations of hallucinating and that was only one, single episode that lasted maybe 2 days.

    I believe the medical intuitives like Cayce who pointed to the two “master” endocrine glands that are in the brain (pineal and pituatary) and have alot of influence in the body.  Maybe the pituatary or pineal glands are somehow related to mental illness but we simply don’t have the understanding yet?

  • The Bipolar Project

    I agree exactly with what the psychiatrists you quoted in this article said. That’s my understanding of it, and I agree with it. We don’t really know what exactly is going on, but there is something going on. I think there is a problem with bringing it all down to biology though – people tend to ignore other factors that are just as important in recovery and well-being. Just because there may be an imbalance doesn’t mean that we can’t balance it through balancing various aspects of our lives. For example, I find I’m “unbalanced” if I don’t exercise enough, or if I drink alcohol and eat lots of unhealthy food. We are human. There are biological underpinnings of everything about us we just have to find them. 

    Also, it is difficult confirming whether biological factors are a cause of the illness or a consequence of it? Do psychopaths have different brains from birth, or do the years of acting in certain ways change the way the brain functions? We need very expensive prospective longitudinal studies to tease apart causation and consequence.Ultimately, everything we do influences our biology and that is something that needs to be more broadly recognised. People want to feel that their illness is real by saying it’s biological or neurochemical but if that stops people from engaging in behaviours that would be helpful to their recovery, then it’s not helpful at all. That’s my opinion. 

  • Marabe

    I agree that the term ‘chemical imbalance’ is great for society to embrace and helps to undo stigma. I believe the saying, ‘you are what you eat’ applies to virtually every human condition from cancer to mood disorders. Consider in human physiology, that like in all other matter, our cells, and cell matter, are in constant flux, interacting in a myriad of ways. Consider the electrical energy produced by our bodies, our heart and brain particularly. Consider the interplay of all life forms and its affect on eachother. As the moon’s gravitational affects the earths tides, so, a fetus is affected by a mother’s anger. If a child receives painful physical punishment every day for five years, and never receives loving touch, the developing brain will wire itself accordingly, and differences will be widely noted from him and a child who received a balanced parental love. There exists substances in foods that healthy brains need. Anthropology has shown how the early brains of our ancestors changed from vegetarian to meat and fish diets.
    Mental illness is a gradual reaction brought about by the endocrine, neural, and cardiovascular systems attempts to ‘make sense’ of an overload from outside stimuli, and the lack of streamlined neuro-cellular pathways to accomodate a very busy process. There exists no serious mental illness without spiritual overtones, therefore the magnetic, kinetic, and paranormal or 6th and 7th senses are included with the human systems and all external stimuli for affecting all aspects of life, including mental illnesses. Here is cause to explore what Eastern medicine has studied for thousands of years, with remarkable accuracy. Emotions such as love and hate have an energy. So does caffeine, a mother’s touch, and a dose of Haldol.
    To treat any disease is to treat the whole person, mind, body, spirit, including all the chemicals, their reactions, the surrounding environment.
    There is no normal or abnormal chemical balance. It is so individualized depending on gene placement, interaction w/ other energise – ie love, climate,other living things etc. Altitude sickness is a good example of how the body rearranges its systems to eventually accomodate height.
    Mental illness is in part, not acclimating quick enough to stressors internal and external . And everything becomes off balance – chemicals, neuron firing, ADP or messenger cells, the heart and the glands receive off messages,visual and auditory senses allign themselves with the spiritual or out of body self.
    This is my experience, and belief, as I have studied my own bipolarness for over 50 years, beginning at a time when doctors admitted they didn’t know a damn thing about it. I maintain that if one wants to know about something, to go to the source. I hope more people w/ serious mental illnesses will make it their life goal to study their illness inside and out, for their own benefit, but mostly for science and future generations.
    I have a long way to go yet, in my self-study. We seem to have treatments well under control. To learn the causes we need careful observations from the well mentally ill. And then, praise be to Providence, if from there, we can form workable theories for prevention.  What a wonderful world this would be if we could lessen the odds for these illnesses of human pain and torture.
    Imbalance – a good place to start.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1178802486 Laura Pogliano

    Many psychiatrists have said to me that they do not like a catch all phrase like chemical imbalances to describe complex brain disease like schizophrenia. However, symptoms are relieved by medication, or chemicals. These chemicals relieve the absence of the correct chemicals, which are stripped from the brain or which are impeded from working correctly (too much or too little). I don’t like anecdotal evidence, with talk therapies or life style changes, because while those are useful in conjunction with medication, I think most MDs (psychiatrists) agree that there is no relief from symptoms without chemical intervention. If there was, we would still have our snake pit custodial care in place, which was ALL we used to be able to do for the severely mentally ill, before better medications were discovered. Epilepsy is chemically medicated, likewise so are bipolar, depression, schizophrenia, etc. So is addiction. I think that moving away from the phrase chemical imbalance puts this brain disease back into quasi-medical mode; where people don’t have to “believe in it,’ because there is no physical testing that can be done to identify these illnesses, and no physical evidence to say they exist. Brain scans show damage, and illness, without identifying which illnesses and why. True that there is loss of tissue, and we can see where, but not why. So in keeping drastic mental illnesses on the “medical side of the house,” it’s fine to describe them as chemical requirements, even if that’s reductive, or an incomplete picture, as that is practically their only means of relief right now. As for my son, he literally cannot skip even two doses of his medication or he has an increase in positive symptoms. I wanted to so so so very badly to take my son to a holistic physician, who told me, Your son is not mentally ill; his systems are not balanced and his adrenal gland is malfunctioning. You must remove his medicine and heal his adrenal gland system naturally: I believed that and vomited for two weeks, worrying that I was medicating a ‘well’ child. I also had to admit that I didn’t want him to be SICK FOR LIFE, and those other holistic remedies meant he wasn’t. Over time, with more dysfunction, I came to believe that MEDICINE was correct, and I was glad I wasn’t harming him more, by keeping him from chemicals that allowed his brain to heal and resume functioning. I wish it were as easy as non-chemical believers make it sound…It’s not. (I’m not dismissing their theories in whole: I just think it’s a dangerous path to go down, when the brain is clearly diseased, and people are desperately scrambling to understand and find remedies…) 
    Thanks again for a stimulating post and good information that is always helpful, like the book you’re featuring. 

  • Rene

    Why would the brain, the master organ of the body that conducts thousands of tasks, be the ONLY organ in the human body free from disease or dysfunction? Why would the brain be the only organ to NEVER malfunction? Other brain diseases exist (Parkinsons, Multiple Schlerosis, Alzheimers, Epilepsy, etc.,) Why wouldn’t the thought processing mechanism fail or dysfunction or the mood mechanism fail or dysfunction? Why are we even still asking this question? Just because we don’t know the process or the mechanisms that fail with psychotic disorders or mood or thought disorders doesn’t mean they don’t exist…

  • superflychic

    I have been struggling with a stigma of my mental illness all my life. (chronic depression). I’ve been ashamed of it. Both my parents were mentally not well, but being from the 1920 and 1930′s generation, they’d never seek help..to them, it was always something else wrong, like diet or exercise..which has some validity to it. my dad stay in the hospital several times due to heart trouble and surgery, they referred him to a Psychiatrist every time and he’d laugh, and very mad at them for suggesting he’s mentally messed up. He suffers from severe anxiety and major depression. I Know because of me seeking mental help and diagnosed with it by all kinds of drs. He is very angry person and negative to the inth degree. I cannot go off meds, tried to many times with no positive results..i get so sick and so angry all the time. So no one can tell me depression isn’t a real. You just have to experience it on order to understand.