“Chemical Imbalance” is a Real Thing — Right?

You often hear someone who takes psychiatric medications say they have a chemical imbalance, or that they’ve been told they have one. Literally billions of dollars have been made selling psycho-pharmacological drugs to cure this imbalance. Millions of people take them. The problem with this is that there is really no such thing as a chemical imbalance. It doesn’t exist. You see, if it were a real thing, it could be measured. You could have a test and see which chemicals are not balanced. If someone has diabetes and their pancreas does not make enough insulin, this can be measured and proven. If someone’s body does not make enough red blood cells, this can be measured and proven. It should be the same for a chemical imbalance. However, this test does not exist.

It would also be true that if a chemical imbalance were a real thing, the same medication to correct an imbalance would work for everybody. Insulin doesn’t just sometimes not work for some people with diabetes who need insulin. It always works because the problem is measurable. This is not so with psychiatric medications. Not only do psychiatric medications not work the same for everybody, it is often not known how a psychiatric medication works inside the body at all. For example, many doctors – and patients – believe boosting serotonin levels helps fight depression. This is a very commonly-accepted medical theory. It was conceived in the 50’s and rose in popularity in the 80’s with the invention of Prozac and other medications like it. But regardless of what you’ve been told, this is not a fact. In fact, even after all this time there is still no proof of it at all and studies show that 60-70% of depressed patients do not respond to Prozac or similar drugs that boost serotonin. People are simply prescribed these medications – and ingest them – based on vogue theories, with no hard science to back them up, no idea how the drugs work, what the side- or long-term effects will be or anything else. This is dangerous and with many people on multiple medications now (often to counteract side-effects), it is no wonder that people have so many problems. This is especially true when you consider the fact that when a medication is found not to work, instead of discontinuing that medication, doctors will often just add more medication(s) to the medication(s) the person is already on.

Part of this reason the chemical imbalance theory became so popular is because doctors essentially made it up to sell drugs. Psycho-phamacological drugs to treat mental illness became much more popular and “mainstream” in the 80’s and 90’s, but people were still leery of labels due to the stigma attached to it and they were certainly unaccustomed to taking pills for something that was thought of as “all in their head.” So in order to demystify, de-stigmatize and put people at ease with taking a pill for a mental problem, doctors began making it sound as if the patient had a physical problem. Enter the chemical imbalance. This is not to say that many doctors did not wholeheartedly believe in the veracity of the chemical imbalance claim; undoubtedly many did and still do. This theory not only demystified mental illness for the patient, it demystified mental illness for doctors, too. It is supported by nothing, though.

Good health care should be about elimination first, not accession. The truth is that many so-called mental illness symptoms are caused by improper nutrition, chemical toxicity in the body, hormonal problems, reactions to environmental toxins, stress and many other things. Before any medication is prescribed, these things should be eliminated but they are generally never even mentioned to the patient at all. The patient is simply given pills and told to “call if there are problems.” This is very vague; patients often do not realize what these “problems” could be, or do not recognize them when they arise. Patients are not educated about side-effects or health risks when they are given prescriptions. They are certainly not told that no one (including their doctor) understands fully how these drugs interact with their bodies and that they may do more harm than good, if they even do anything at all.

The major downside to the chemical imbalance theory and the resulting popularity of treating mental problems with drugs is that psychiatrists and even family doctors have become little more than pill pushers and other therapies which actually do work and which address the root of the problem rather than just the symptoms of the problem (such as the so-called “talking cure”) have fallen by the wayside. It has become about convenience rather than cure. Doctors gain much from this. Pharmaceutical companies gain much from this. The government gains much from this. Only the patient loses.

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