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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.

MYTH: The chemical balance in the brain cannot be changed by thinking or behavior.
FACT: Research studies at the UCLA School of Medicine show that cognitive-behavioral therapy alone actually causes chemical changes in the brain.

MYTH: 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 symptoms alone.

MYTH: 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."

MYTH: 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 mood-elevating effect.

MYTH: 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.

MYTH: 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.

MYTH: 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.