EIGHT MOST DANGEROUS MYTHS OF DEPRESSION
MYTH: Depression is a medical illness caused by a chemical
imbalance in the brain.
FACT: The cause of depression is not known. Its symptoms
are associated with low serotonin levels in the brain but
there is no proof that low serotonin causes depression.
The chemical balance in the brain cannot be changed by thinking
FACT: Research studies at the UCLA School of Medicine
show that cognitive-behavioral therapy alone actually causes
chemical changes in the brain.
The diagnosis and treatment of depression is based upon the
neurobiological and psychological data of the patient.
FACT: The diagnosis and treatment of depression is
typically based on the presence or absence of self-reported
Manic depression is a genetic disease
FACT: According to Paul R. McHugh, psychiatrist-in-chief
of Johns Hopkins University Hospital, manic depression is
a presumed disease. The presumption, he declares, "carries
the implication that some as-yet-undemonstrated pathological
mechanisms and etiological agencies will emerge to explain the stereotyped set of symptoms."
Doctors cannot prescribe medicine to cure a theory
FACT: Doctors can prescribe medicine for a theory if
they call it a disease, such as depression, even without any
corroborating physiological proof that such a disease actually
exists. They only have to prove, in blind studies, that the
medicine makes people self-report feeling a little better
than those who took placebos. Placebos also have a significant
Depression is not learned
FACT: A research study done of college roommates shows
that among roommates of the same sex, depression (but not
anxiety) was contagious.
Anti-depressants are the most effective cure for depression.
FACT: In a 1999 study at Duke University scientists
found that three 30-minute workouts each week brought relief
equal to drug treatment. A Psychometric Medicine study found
that 40% of patients relying on drugs were stricken with depression
again within 6 months versus only 8 % who exercised. Dr. Robin
B. Jarrett in a 1999 landmark study at the University of Texas
found cognitive psychotherapy as effective as MAO inhibitors
for major depressive disorder with affective features.
Mental disorders are diagnosed using the same scientific criteria
as general medicine.
FACT: General medicine abandoned appearance-based classifications
a century ago as being unreliable-symptoms must be validated
by specific physiological pathologies. Mental disorders however
are diagnosed by the appearance of symptoms alone, even self-reported
symptoms. Committees of psychologists and psychiatrists draw
up lists of symptoms and give the lists illness names. Then
they vote these various illnesses "in" or "out"
of their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
according to the prevailing prejudices of the day.