Quote of the Day

 Science-Based Medicine published a recent post on the state of American Psychiatry and mental illness.  It’s well worth a look if you’re interested in such things.  Here’s a quote:

The tally of those who are so disabled by mental disorders that they qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) increased nearly two and a half times between 1987 and 2007—from one in 184 Americans to one in 76.”

Do you believe many mental illnesses are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain?  It’s such a time-saver for the physician to tell the inquiring patient, “You just have a chemical imbalance.  This drug will help straighten it out.”  Read the post for counter-arguments.

Steve Parker, M.D.


Filed under Quote of the Day

5 responses to “Quote of the Day

  1. Emily Deans

    I’m not a big fan of Whitaker’s work though he raises some important points in his book – however, there is clear evidence and loads and loads of descriptions of all the major psychiatric illness before the advent of pharmacotherapy. I do *really* respect and trust Daniel Carlat. He has a good blog too: http://carlatpsychiatry.blogspot.com/

    And of course the “chemical imbalance” stuff is ridiculous. Psychiatric illness, like all illness and symptoms, frankly, is a dance of genes, nutrition, developmental risks, coping skills, and other lifestyle factors like sleep, exercise, stress levels… it’s complicated, and it is never, ever, a zoloft deficiency. (Sometimes zoloft is a piece of what will help.)

  2. Emily Deans

    one more thing – just wanted to add that I do think there is a decent case for iatrogenic causes of psychiatric disorders, especially in bipolar disorder, but I think that is all confounded with the recent nutritional and lifestyle changes too…

  3. Hi, Emily.
    Thanks for your comments.
    (Dr. Deans is a psychiatrist, for those who don’t know. Check out her book, “Feeling Better: A 6-Week Mind-Body Program to Ease Your Chronic Symptoms” at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Feeling-Better-Mind-Body-Program-Symptoms/dp/006076614X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311949768&sr=1-1

    I guarantee most primary care doctors rely on the “chemical imbalance” theory, and it seems to have great appeal to mental health consumers, too.


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  5. At our current level of ignorance, depression is essentially a syndrome. Anytime we call something a syndrome, we’re basically saying these 100 patients all have a similar conglomeration of symptoms. We have no idea as to the true etiology for each patient and in fact, we may be looking at 100 different diseases (just the general human condition, pathology, trauma, organic causes, etc, etc, etc) once we understand the root causes but right now, we don’t have a clue so here’s your pill that is our best guess. Next patient, please.