The Media and the Chemical Imbalance Theory of Depression
The cause of mental disorders such as depression remains unknown. However, the idea that neurotransmitter imbalances cause depression is vigorously promoted by pharmaceutical companies and the psychiatric profession at large. We examine media reports referring to this chemical imbalance theory and ask reporters for evidence supporting their claims. We then report and critique the scientific papers and other confirming evidence offered in response to our questions. Responses were received from multiple sources, including practicing psychiatrists, clients, and a major pharmaceutical company. The evidence offered was not compelling, and several of the cited sources flatly stated that the proposed theory of serotonin imbalance was known to be incorrect. The media can play a positive role in mental health reporting by ensuring that the information reported is congruent with the peer-reviewed scientific literature.
- Antonuccio, D. et al. (1999). Raising questions about antidepressants. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Vol. 68.
- Healy, D. (2006). Let them eat Prozac. New York: New York University Press.
- Kirsch, I. et al. (2002). The emperor’s new drugs: An analysis of the antidepressant medication data submitted to the US FDA.. Prevention and Treatment. Vol. 5.
- Lacasse, J., & Gomory, T. (2003). Is graduate social work education promoting a critical approach to mental health practice? Journal of Social Work Education, 39(3), 383–408.
- Lacasse, J.R. and Leo, J. (2005). Serotonin and depression: A disconnect between the advertisements and the scientific literature. PLoS Med 2(12): e392. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0020392.
- Lacasse, J. and Leo, J. (2006). Serotonin and depression: A disconnect between the advertisements and the scientific literature. PLoS Medicine. Available at: http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0020392.
- Leo, J. (2006). The SSRI trials in children. Ethical Human Psychiatry and Psychology, 8(1), 29–41. CrossRef
- The Media and the Chemical Imbalance Theory of Depression
- Open Access
- Available under Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Volume 45, Issue 1 , pp 35-45
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Additional Links