Thursday, 25 April 2013

There it is again – depression and chemical imbalances in the brain

There it is again. Why oh why do people still keep on perpetuating this very tired (and tiresome) old myth – the one about depression being a direct result of an imbalance in brain chemistry which is then corrected by antidepressants? I say this because I stumbled across this in a health website the other day: “Antidepressants help correct chemical imbalances in your brain by affecting certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.”

Why does this matter, you may ask? It matters for various reasons. First, it matters as people deserve the truth and it isn't just or helpful to oversimplify the facts to mislead people.  I say more about chemical imbalances and depression here. Second, it turns our attention away from addressing the concerns and situations that might be getting us down.  That’s why I write about the importance of the context of our lives here. Third, it can make people feel pressurised into thinking they need a drug to correct this so-called chemical imbalance, when in reality, antidepressants can actually create all manner of chemical imbalances, possibly leading to, for example: disrupted sleep, mood swings, mania, feelings of depression, sexual problems, and even suicidal feelings or violent thoughts and actions too. That’s not to say that some people may not find them helpful some of the time.

I also read in that article that: “Antidepressants are not habit forming (addictive).” A quick search on the internet will soon reveal countless people struggling to come off antidepressants such as Seroxat (US Paxil) as they can be so difficult to stop. I call that “addictive” even though a person is unlikely to crave them in the same way as someone might crave some of the street drugs. I mention the addictive power of antidepressants here (number 20 in my list of “20 Reasons To Be Cautious About Antidepressants”).

Yesterday I wrote down a few thoughts about trust and betrayal in my blog here. Being mislead about mental health drugs is also a betrayal of trust. It’s only right that we are clearly told what these drugs do and do not do, and to be clearly told about their limitations and the risks – so then we can make more informed choices. Fair?

“I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

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