Depression – a chemical imbalance? – APL Health
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Depression – a chemical imbalance?

Why have we been conditioned into the theory that depression is a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain?

Maybe because we prefer to be diagnosed with a “physical disease”, which can be treated and potentially cured rather than a psychological diagnosis, laden with stigma, blame and weakness.

ALL emotional responses have a chemical consequence. A good example is laughter…

When we laugh, chemical endorphins are released into the blood stream. These endorphins do not cause the laughter, but are a consequence of it.

Antidepressants work by altering our brain chemistry. It is therefore assumed that people with depression have a chemical imbalance in the brain as a result of the condition, which can be corrected with antidepressants.  The evidence to prove this theory is very weak and it is not known for certain whether the changes to brain chemistry is the cause or consequence of depression.

Research has shown that depression is 10 times more likely in those born after 1945, than those born before 1945. The research takes public awareness and the number of people who actually report it into account and that’s still 10 times more people becoming depressed than there were 50 years ago. We know that human biology doesn’t change this quickly, nor do gene’s. This may be a clue that changes in society and lifestyle play more of a role in the prevalence of depression than the theory of a chemical imbalance.

Studies have shown that there is a reduced number of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, in depressed people. However, reduced serotonin is another consequence or symptom of depression due to reduced activity, motivation and social interaction.

A third of people taking antidepressants find their mood completely lifts, a third find it partially lifts and a third find them unsuccessful or stop taking them due to side effects.

Antidepressants are also ineffective in preventing relapse when compared with psychological therapy, which is obvious when they are considered to be treating a symptom and not the cause.

For those experiencing severe depression, antidepressants can bring a welcome relief which makes you feel much better. However, to avoid a relapse further down the line, it is essential you get the right kind of therapy and skills that manage triggers and prevent further episodes of depression. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a good example of talking therapy which aims to break the cycle of negative thinking patterns and behaviours, to avoid future relapse.

So let’s beat the stigma of depression, accept that it is not always a “physical disease”, only to be cured with tablets, and fight back by keeping active, getting enough sleep, connecting with others and challenge those negative thinking patterns!