Iatrogenic Effects of the Chemical Imbalance Theory

Kermit Cole
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Researchers (including MIA blogger Brett Deacon) found that study subjects given “a bogus biological but credible test demonstrating their depressive symptoms to be caused, or not caused, by a chemical imbalance in the brain” were more pessimistic and self-blaming regarding their prognosis, and viewed pharmacotherapy as more credible and effective than psychotherapy. The authors conclude “the present findings add to a growing literature highlighting the unhelpful and potentially iatrogenic effects of attributing depressive symptoms to a chemical imbalance.”

Abstract →

Kemp, J., Lickel, J., Deacon, B.; Effects of a Chemical Imbalance Causal Explanation on Individuals’ Perceptions of Their Depressive Symptoms. Behaviour Research and Therapy. Online March 6, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2014.02.009

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected]