≡ Menu

If you are new to this site, Questions and Answers about Recovery can be a good place to start!

Psychiatrists are starting to get embarrassed by the “chemical imbalance” theory

Despite the fact that most of the public has been convinced by biopsychiatry that “mental illness” is caused by a “biochemical imbalance,” there has never been solid evidence of any particular imbalance as a cause, and that fact is starting to receive more publicity.  Rather than apologize for the mass deception, psychiatry is attempting to dodge responsibility by claiming that “we never said it was a biochemical imbalance.”  An example of a recent article along those lines is “Psychiatry’s New Brain-Mind and the Legend of the “Chemical Imbalance”

I had my own experience confronting psychiatrists at our county mental health department about this.  A couple years ago I asked that a policy be created that no one ever be told that their problem was due to a “biochemical imbalance.”  They refused to make such a policy, and demanded that I quit asking for it, even though they privately admitted they knew any mental problems were much more complex than any “chemical imbalance.”  So why did they defend the “right” of psychiatrists to say something they knew wasn’t true?  Because, I believe, they knew lots of their colleagues liked to say it was such an imbalance so they could get consumers to think the drugs were necessary, and they didn’t want to confront those colleagues about such deceitful statements.

So what will replace the “chemical imbalance” myth?  The “Psychiatry’s new brain-mind” article starts out well by talking about the need to recognize that things are more complex, but quickly falls back into psychiatric denial of complexity and exaggeration of evidence for biological causes, for example by stating that

conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are attributable to rare, but highly potent, genetic variations that lead to dysfunction in multiple, complex brain circuits. However, the particular symptomatic manifestations in a given individual-—the disease phenotype—is partly dependent on the person’s experiences and environment.

Here the “schizophrenia” or “bipolar” are being framed as definitely genetic, with only the form of the disorder dependent on experience.  This is a flagrant attempt to totally overlook such things as the fact that even when one identical twin has “schizophrenia” the other twin most often doesn’t have the disorder at all, and the fact that psychiatry has never shown that any particular genes are required in order to get “schizophrenia,” and the fact that abuse and other negative experiences may make “schizophrenia” more likely for any particular population……I could go on.

It seems that psychiatry is addicted to simplistic biological theories, and needs considerably more “treatment” before it can “recover.”

5 comments… add one
  • Ron,

    I think there is plenty of room for embarrassment re: the “Chemical Imbalance” theory.

    Mainly, because it ignores what’s going on from the neck-down in the body, and from the spirit-up in the soul.

    Unlike some others, I believe that there may be some ” chemical imbalance”, but not in the simple way it’s explained by psychiatry as a “brain disorder.” –

    It seems pretty plausible that a person who has undergone trauma may have some “imbalance” going on, and there’s room to look at how hormones and adrenals, and a host of other physical conditions may be at play –

    Etiological Factors of “Psychosis” and “Mania”
    Drug or Alcohol-Induced “Psychotic Episode”
    Sleep Deprivation
    Blood Sugar Problems; Hormonal Imbalance; Thyroid Disorder; Adrenal Failure
    Nutritional Deficiencies
    Absorption Difficulties
    Toxic Exposure and/or Environmental (Cerebral) Allergies
    Lyme disease
    Twenty-Nine Medical Causes of “Schizophrenia” as detailed by orthomolecular psychiatry

    But to simplify all things to a brain disorder is absurd.
    So, I would say they should be “embarrassed” by their silly theory.
    And they should be “ashamed” for all the injury they’ve caused over the years, with their “chemical cure”…. which only adds insult to injury to people who find themselves in a temporary period of vulnerability.

    “Psychosis” is an event.
    Not a person.

    And any person has the potential to overcome this de-humanizing label.


  • Ron,

    I have read that as much as 80-90 percent of people who have been diagnosed with a severe “mental illness” (I really hate that term, by the way) have undergone some form of trauma.

    However, it does bring a couple of questions to mind:

    1) What about the 10-20 percent who did not undergo trauma?
    2) The identical twin example you cite… (And this is just thinking out-loud by the way, without an answer… Assuming the twins were raised in the same home, environment, then why would one twin suffer emotionally and the other not (at least not to the same extent?

    My theory is that some people are highly sensitive to what they experience in life…. Not “overly” sensitive, but highly sensitive… Because they feel so deeply (both an asset and a liability), the are deeply connected to the pain they experience, inside as well as what they view and experience in a home environment, or later in life.

    And keeping with that theory, I have come to believe that these same folks can be (sometimes) very sensitive to the foods they eat, chemicals in the air, and many other things. It could be that the body becomes sensitive (or develops) these symptoms along the way, following trauma. Or maybe its just that the body is highly sensitive (as are the emotions).

    I don’t think this makes a person “weaker” or “stronger,” but I do think it presents a challenge for someone to overcome. As every human being has to overcome… To learn ways (in this case, or “theory”) to find ways to use (what would otherwise remain) a liability as a strength… Greater empathy for others, capacity to love deeply and connect in ways that those who are not as highly sensitive may not experience.

    Those are just some thoughts. At the end of the day, I think all of this is “theory,”… What I do know for certain based upon reading and meeting many others is that “schizophrenia” (whatever that is) is NOT a zyprexa, geodon, or abilify deficiency. And that much I know for CERTAIN!


  • Even more pernicious than “chemical imbalance,” another pseudo-theory may take its place: That distress causes progressive brain degeneration and psychiatric drugs, especially antidepressants, spur neurogenesis to counteract it.

    Watch out for this one, it’s even more damaging to the human spirit than “chemical imbalance.”

    • The Beyond Meds site has a post on this new theory Altostrata is mentioning, titled “Neuropsychiatry: Same baloney, different sandwich” it is at

      I think there is some fairly good evidence that excess chronic stress causes some brain shrinkage. But I imagine it’s part of a process – for example when a relationship ends, or someone important to us dies, we may have the part of our brain devoted to them shrink back, then if we work it right we see some other possibility, get engaged with life again, and things get better. I’m not sure that taking pills to artificially prop up the brain is a great idea – it might just get us addicted to the pills to keep alive part of our brain which really no longer has a real relationship with our life.