The Science and Pseudoscience of Women’s Mental Health: Conversation with Kelly Brogan

Sharna Olfman, PhD
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Science and Pseudoscience of Mental Health Podcast: Episode 3

This past week, I had the great pleasure to talk with Dr. Kelly Brogan, a leading voice in natural approaches to women’s mental health. Dr. Brogan began her career as a conventional psychiatrist, but following the birth of her first child, she felt bereft of energy and mental clarity and was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Informed by her doctor that she had a chronic illness that would require a lifetime of medication, she launched her own research into her condition which catalyzed a profound paradigm shift in her understanding of health and wellness. Her research led her to Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic after which time she permanently retired her prescription pad while turning towards natural interventions that support the body’s innate capacity to heal.

With degrees from MIT and Weil Cornell Medical College, triple board certification in psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine and integrative holistic medicine, and direct experience practicing within the parameters of conventional psychiatry, Dr. Brogan is uniquely qualified to challenge the pseudoscience of the chemical imbalance theory and the drug regimens that it spawned. At the same time, her rigorous education conferred the investigative tools that enabled her to identify the scientific principles that support mental health. She focuses on the integrative nature of the gastrointestinal, immune, endocrine and nervous systems and their seamless communication with the ecosystem that resides within the body – the microbiome – and the ecosystem that surrounds us. This science is at the core of her thirty-day wellness protocol which she outlines in her New York Times bestselling book: A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies and reclaim Their Lives.

Our conversation addressed Dr. Brogan’s grave concerns about the recent rollout of Zulresso (brexanolone), a drug specifically designed, and approved by the FDA for the treatment of Postpartum Depression. Drug trials that qualified Zulresso for FDA approval in fact revealed that its efficacy is weak at best, and not clinically significant. After 30 days, it was actually less effective than placebo. It requires an invasive 60-hour IV infusion with side effects that include sedation – sometimes to the point of loss of consciousness, separation of mother and infant, and cessation of breastfeeding. Women diagnosed with Postpartum Depression are suffering, but impactful interventions need to take into account the complex cultural, socioeconomic, personal and biological underpinnings of their symptoms. Masking symptoms with a drug that causes further disruption to their lives, lessens the likelihood that they will receive effective support. Dr. Brogan estimates that 80% of women who enter her practice having been diagnosed with Postpartum Depression have undetected and untreated thyroid conditions.

We also discussed the reckless prescribing of SSRI antidepressants to one in four American women, many of whom are pregnant, and the long-term epigenetic consequences of SSRIs following prenatal exposure. Dr. Brogan shared her approach to tapering from SSRIs both during pregnancy and as part of her general treatment protocol. Our conversation came to a close with a fascinating exploration of the science that informs the relationship between meditation and mental health. Dr. Brogan shared the transformative impact that her own daily meditation practice has had on her capacity to cope with stress.

To learn more about Dr. Brogan’s clinical work and research, you can visit her website.

For other interviews in this series, click here.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Sharna Olfman and Kelly Brogan, can’t you see that it is wrong to run the issues of survivors into Mental Health, Therapy, and Recovery Issues, rather than accepting them as Legal and Political matters?

    Can’t you see that it is wrong to do this to anyone under any circumstances?

  2. ^^^^^^ We didn’t have enough feminism, it did not go far enough, and it could not sustain itself in the face of reactionary political, economic, commercial, and religious forces, and so we have seen the rise of completely reactionary ways of dealing with injustice: psychotherapy, recovery, and salvation religion.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00309SD0M/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

    https://www.amazon.com/Rocking-Cradle-Sexual-Politics-Happened/dp/0201624710/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=louise+armstrong+rocking+the+cradle&qid=1565739735&s=digital-text&sr=8-1

    https://www.amazon.com/Anti-Social-Family-Radical-Thinkers/dp/1781687595/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=anti-social+family&qid=1565739806&s=gateway&sr=8-1

  3. When I had my son 27 years ago, I had been pregnant for 9 months and a few weeks. I went to my Gyno who examined me so harshly I almost went off the table. She pronounced that “his head is down, ready to come out”. As I drove home, I felt very full and uncomfortable. That day he slowly turned back up. I guess the force of the exam sent him turning back. I spent the next few days waiting, I started to spot blood and had contractions every 10 minutes. The pain kept me up for two nights until I in enough pain and drove myself at 12 midnight on a saturday to the women’s hospital, where a Dr examined me, and told me I was not having contractions and I could go home. Two nurses started feeling my belly after he left and said to each other that it felt like a footling breach. They looked at me and said “Dr X is an asshole”. I was sent home, crawled back on the couch and spent more sleepless nights at home. ON Monday morning I went back to get an ultrasound, and they rushed me into ER, I was not even allowed to go to the bathroom. I did not realize that the surgery would be painful, so the nurses came with demorol, which I said I did not want, but she basically told me I had to have it, after that, they gave me a few more shots. The baby was in my room, I glanced at him and the nurse asked me what his name was and I realized I had a hard time remembering, which I tried to hide. I checked myself out early because I started to feel squirrely. I was so physically and mentally exhausted but each time I tried to sleep I woke in a panic. It had been four days with no sleep prior to surgery. It was hell, the panic, the hyperawareness. I had homecare for a few hours per day. I had no doctor so I went to my husbands who gave me a script for fluvoxetine. It did nothing, or made me worse. That Doctor also sent me to a shrink, where I stayed for exactly 30 minutes because he checked out my dry hands and focused on OCD. I continued to struggle and a friend recommended a “great” psychiatrist. As I sat in that hospital waiting for my appt. I saw a woman walking down the hall, and she dropped her glove and kept walking very slowly, then turned around slowly, walked back with glazed eyes and proceeded to pick up her glove, ever so slowly. I knew then, to go to that ONE appt. and get the hell out. Someone then put me in touch with a post partum group, and I ended up with my present GP, who tried Prozac on me, but took me off when she thought I looked too thin. It was not a good time AT ALL. I realized over the years what I needed. I was minimized, put in real danger by a doctors. I had sleep deprivation and Demerol, a new baby, surgery and stuff can go downhill so quickly. But I was left to deal with the aftermath. I think back on how I drove myself to the hospital because my spouse was looking after my sleeping 2 year old. In some cultures or families, women rally around the new mom. I am certain that women used to have post partum but pulled through without fruitcake shrinks and drugs. We live in an age where on one hand we are supposed to be in charge of our health and happiness, we are not supposed to rely on partners to complete us, we are supposed to take meditation and yoga, but mysteriously it’s always about our mental health, and at the same time are invited to partake in the mental health system that is “nothing to be ashamed of”. So right now, we have two choices, take yoga, drink green tea,be independent or go see a shrink. I had something very normal, no matter how nutty, but it was terrifying and terrifying to sit in front of a shrink at a friggin desk, just staring and judging. I researched “post partum doulas” Because I thought back on my experience, and voila, they exist. So I sent my daughter and daughter in law the article. I simply told them that IF they should ever get pregnant to look ahead early on, develop a support system. I feel like hiring one for myself, just to reclaim some of my lost months 🙂 (of course we hope that the doulas don’t recommend a psychologist or psychiatrist when things get tough)