The Spurious Chemical Imbalance Theory is Still Alive and Well

The promotion of the chemical imbalance theory did occur, and continues to occur, and is a most shameful chapter in psychiatry’s history.  It is arguably one of the most destructive, far-reaching, and profitable hoaxes in history. I could not begin to estimate the number of clients I’ve talked to over the years who told me that their psychiatrists had told them they had a chemical imbalance in their brains, and that they needed to take the pills for life to correct this imbalance. Even today, I regularly receive emails from readers contesting the assertions in my posts and telling me in no uncertain terms that they have chemical imbalances in their brains that cause their problems.
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A Challenge to Dr. Lieberman

On a national Canadian radio show on Sunday (April 26), former APA president Jeffrey Lieberman called me a “menace to society” for my writings on the long-term effects of psychiatric medications (and other writings.) He said there was abundant evidence that psychiatric medications improved long-term outcomes for various psychiatric disorders. And so now we would like to issue a challenge: Dr. Lieberman, please point out these studies for us.
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The Latest News from Twin Research: The Genetic Influence on Political Voting Choices is “Moderately Strong”

There seems to be no end to illogical and even comical “findings” from MZ-DZ twin method comparisons, where the original twin researchers argue that the greater behavioral resemblance of reared-together MZ (monozygotic, identical) versus same-sex DZ (dizygotic, fraternal) twin pairs demonstrates the “heritability” of the behavioral characteristic in question. Among these we find a twin study whose authors concluded in favor of a genetic basis for being a “born again Christian” (65% heritability), another that found important genetic influences on tea and coffee drinking preferences, and still another that found that the heritability of “loneliness in adults” is 48%.
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Real Psychiatry and Darwinian Evolution are One and the Same: Molecular Psychiatry has Missed the Forest for the Trees

The basic principle for the development of human personality is the very same as for Darwinian evolution. In our quest to understand human biology, we have lost our way. We are looking in all the wrong places. The human organism from the beginning adapts to its salient environment. We can trace our adaptations from a zygote, to an embryo, to a fetus, to a newborn, a baby, a toddler, a child, an adolescent, all the way to adulthood. This also tells us how psychiatric problems arise, and informs us of the appropriate and effective treatment.
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Want to Be Drug Free? 
It’s Time to Live More Simply

Creeping from the shadows, emerging from the glen, is a cry for an existence much better than the one we’re living in. It is clear that drugs are becoming our crutch, an excuse to avoid experiencing the trials and tribulations as such. So below is an entreaty to return to simplicity, one in which much of what we need is available so readily.
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Getting Our Anti/Critical Psychiatry Authors Read:
A Case for Book Activism

Our success as a movement depends on our ability to sway the general public—and if the mainstream press and media never afford our books their due—not even the blatantly cutting edge ones (and if anything, these are treated worse) and the general public, as a consequence, remains largely unaware of their existence, the likelihood of succeeding in our primary mission(s) is substantially reduced.
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A Reply to Peter Kramer:
Do Serotonin Imbalances Cause Depression?

A recent article on the website i09 titled, ‘The Most popular Antidepressants are Based on an Outdated Theory” has again raised the issue of Chemical Imbalances.  It is interesting that the author of the  i09 piece cites Dr. Peter Kramer and states, “Some psychiatrists vehemently disagree with the way journalists and other psychiatrists have pushed back against the chemical imbalance theory….” In both cases he cited what he considered the best evidence in support of the theory, but he did not discuss the research in any depth. Back in 2008, we took an in-depth look at the evidence that Dr. Kramer used to support the chemical imbalance theory. When one takes a closer look at that research we do not think it supports the theory. For this reason, we are reposting our 2008 essay about this.
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So Long, and Thanks for All the Serotonin

The serotonin reuptake inhibiting (SSRI) group of drugs came on stream in the late 1980s, nearly two decades after first being mooted. The delay centred on finding an indication. They did not have hoped-for lucrative antihypertensive or antiobesity profiles. Even though a 1960s idea that serotonin concentrations might be lowered in depression had been rejected, drug companies marketed SSRIs for depression even though they were weaker than older tricyclic antidepressants. They sold the idea that depression was the deeper illness behind the superficial manifestations of anxiety. The approach was an astonishing success, central to which was the notion that SSRIs restored serotonin levels to normal, a notion that later transmuted into the idea that they remedied a chemical imbalance.
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Allen Frances and the Spurious Medicalization of Everyday Problems

On April 5, Allen Frances MD, published an article on the Huffington Post blog.  The title is Can We Replace Misleading Terms Like ‘Mental Illness,’ ‘Patient,’ and ‘Schizophrenia’.  It’s an interesting piece, and it raises some fundamental issues. Dr. Frances’ position in this and other recent papers appears to be that in general, psychiatric “diagnoses” and “treatment” are OK, but that they are being overused by unscrupulous practitioners with the encouragement of pharma, and perhaps other monied interests. But the central issue is the spurious medicalization of non-medical problems in the first place.
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An Open Letter to Colin Powell

Dear Colin Powell: You shared that your wife was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having a ‘chemical imbalance.’ You said she was, as a result, put on psychotropics and found success after doing so. I’m not going to attempt to take that away from her, but whereas so many issues encompass shades of gray, the chemical imbalance theory does not. The chemical imbalance theory is not just unproven; It is debunked. But you need not take my word for it.
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It’s Not Easy Being “Clean”

I think I have underestimated just how hard it can be for people to approach mental health problems from a psychological and social perspective. The longer I work with people who are experiencing severe psychological distress, the more they teach me about the difficulties involved in breaking away from an “illness” mindset. Medications, by and large, are still the mainstay of helping people with psychological troubles despite an increasingly widespread acceptance that psychological problems are not medical problems. Mental illness is an “illness” only in the same way that love-sickness is an illness.
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A Story About NMDA Receptor Subunits, and Why SSRIs Impair Cognitive Capacity

The impact of long-term SSRIs on memory-related nerve cell receptors does have functional consequences. Research shows that SSRIs impair the acquisition of fear memories. (Perhaps a positive outcome.) But unlearning fear memories involves new learning as well, and according to a study by LeDoux and colleagues, long-term exposure to SSRIs makes it harder to unlearn fear memories.
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Antipsychiatry, (Ex)consumers, Peers, and ‘This Movement’: Assembling the Histories of Reform and Resistance, Part 1

Within the communities that surround Mad in America one is likely to hear reference to “the movement.” The basic meaning of this phrase seems clear enough. The movement broadly refers to the groups of people actively rethinking the mental health system, and the treatment of persons labeled as mentally ill, in the United States and abroad. Upon further inspection, however, we realize that there is no centralized ethos uniting these groups. There may be consensus that the current mental health models are troublesome, but within each subset of ‘the movement’ there are many different perspectives about such troubles’ causes and solutions.

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Dissolving Madness,
Ending the Nightmare,
Beginning a Better Dream

Much of what we term “madness” is, in fact, the awakening of the “Self” to its own Wholeness/Divinity. We are born totally pure. Throughout our lives we are subject to projections, flung at us from a multitude of directions: from Mom and Dad, from schools, religious institutions, the media, and the medical model. We are all buried, to some degree, under projections, and interesting symptoms emerge: nightmares, stress and anxiety, fear, flashbacks, and so on. These are not “Madness,” but symptoms of health; of a “Self” attempting to break free from lies.
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Turning Patients into Numbers

I felt persecuted from the moment I was given a psychosomatic label. I found myself hostage to a diagnosis that I hadn’t even known existed: “conversion disorder.” Even though the diagnosis was hidden deep within my medical file under piles of negative test results, it seemed to reveal itself at each new doctors appointment or ER visit. This diagnostic code was now part of me as if it were a scarlet letter on my forehead.
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The Science and Pseudoscience of Children’s Mental Health

Over the past two decades, there has been a meteoric rise in the number of children – now estimated to be 1 in 6 – diagnosed and treated for a range of psychological disturbances including ADHD, autism, mood disorders, and learning disabilities. Explanations in the popular media tend to polarize around two viewpoints. The truth is, neither of these perspectives tell the whole story. Without question, some children are diagnosed unnecessarily because their behavior is inconvenient to the adult world.
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Spiritist Psychiatric Hospitals in Brazil

There are 50 Spiritist psychiatric hospitals in Brazil, offering inpatient and outpatient services that utilize an integrative approach to recovery, stressing the spiritual alongside physical and emotional therapies. Few people outside Brazil know of them. This article describes their philosophy, successes, as well as the treatments they use—and how they are a valuable resource for sensitives, creatives, and visionaries.
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Psychiatry and the Business of Madness: An Ethical and Epistemological Accounting

Normally when I write a book review, I include some quotes from the work to enable readers to judge for themselves the quality and content of the material.  With Psychiatry and the Business of Madness, however, this presented a problem, in that virtually every one of the 264 pages of text contains eminently quotable material.
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The Meds Became My Moods:
A Woman’s Story of Dignity, Grace & Love

When my own child died in 1994, several providers encouraged me to seek psychiatric treatment for my despair and despondency. I remember clearly saying that while medications may take the edge off, I wanted to feel the intense grief, I wanted to cry and weep and protest, because our love, inimitable, was worth every tear I shed. But parents of children who die or face death are prescribed psychiatric medication primarily because medical providers are unable to cope with the trauma of child death.
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Polypharmacy Poisoning, Dependence and Recovery from the Psychiatric Paradigm

It took surviving all of the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal, including derealization, gastritis, auditory hallucinations, wasting, dementia, panic attacks and profound depression, for me to come to understand that not only had I really been a cool person before all that shit, but also that nothing was wrong with me. I was smart and a little neurotic at times, but that was it. Drugs caused me to be mentally ill where I had not been before.
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Madness in Civilisation:
A Cultural History of Insanity

Until recently the history of psychiatry was a neglected backwater whose murky depths were explored largely by psychiatrist. The impression conveyed by books such as Tuke’s Chapters in the History of the Insane in the British Isles, Macalpine and Hunter’s Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry: 1535 – 1860, Berrios and Freemen’s 150 Years of British Psychiatry 1841 – 1991, or Fuller Torrey and Miller’s The Invisible Plague, is one that sees psychiatry and modern systems of mental health care as the inevitable outcome of progress through scientific thought, a (white European male-led) narrative from darkness and ignorance to enlightenment and knowledge.
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Medical Nemesis Revisited: Physician-Caused Anger, Despair & Death

Regaining power over our own health was the goal of Ivan Illich’s 1976 book Medical Nemesis, which detailed an epidemic of physician-caused death and illness. This epidemic continues, and so does an epidemic of physician-caused anger, despair and crazy-appearing behaviors. In 2013, the Journal of Patient Safety reported that the “true number of premature deaths associated with preventable harm to patients is estimated at more than 400,000 per year,” making it the third leading cause of death in the United States It is especially drug use errors, communication failures and diagnostic errors that result in another medical nemesis: They can make us appear—and sometimes feel—like we’re “crazy.”
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Fighting for the RLCs Continued: Where’s the Evidence?

The Western Mass Recovery Learning Community (along with the five other RLCs across the state of Massachusetts) remains in jeopardy of a 50% slash to our budget that would go into effect July 1, 2015 should it come to pass. As noted in my previous post (Peer Supports Under Siege), the proposed reduction was introduced by Governor Charlie Baker in early March. However, there are many hoops to jump through and so we’ll remain in budget limbo for some time to come while the House and Senate draw up their own recommendations and then everyone comes together to make a final call.
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There is a Crack in Everything, That’s How the Light Gets In

Psychiatric abuse is a reality in psychiatric settings when mental health law and the safeguards within it are not implemented properly or monitored effectively. We have found this out to our cost and others also. Forced drug treatment can be used on mental patients who resist by declaring them to be “without capacity”. It’s for this reason that in 2011 I became involved in clinical psychology training groups at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities, for people who are “experts by experience”, or service users and carers. For over 3 years I tried to be meaningfully involved and to have a voice at the table. However it became increasingly difficult to be heard and to be valued as a psychiatric survivor, an unbeliever in mental illness. I was up against it from both academics and the people with lived experience, and their carers, who believe in biological psychiatry and that forced treatment is necessary.
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Protesting a Psychiatric Atrocity

On May 16, 2015, protests against electroconvulsive therapy or ECT will take place around the world.  To support this educational campaign, I am releasing my newest Simple Truths about Psychiatry video which is titled “Shock Treatment is Trauma.” Ted Chabasinski, an attorney, is an organizer of the protest.  Ted recently talked about his personal experiences and the upcoming protests on my radio show, “The Dr. Peter Breggin Hour.”  We agreed that money and power is not the only motivation of shock doctors.   Many are taking out their violent impulses on their helpless victims.
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