Debunking the “Chemical Imbalance” Theory of Depression

Blogger Phillip Hickey, PhD, has another great Mad in America post debunking the “chemical imbalance” theory of depression based on an article on Florida State University’s DigiNole Commons. The article is a very easy read and I recommend it highly for anyone who has been diagnosed with “depression” or who has ever taken an anti-depressant medication (or for clinicians).

The lie that depression was caused by a chemical imbalance in serotonin levels in the brain was propagated for decades by psychiatrists and Big Pharma. Please, let’s get the word out that this in NOT TRUE! I am so tired of patients and other clinicians continuing to repeat this urban myth.

To tell patients they have a chemical imbalance when this is not true stigmatizes them, promotes a feeling of helplessness that leads to lack of change, and lowers their already-low self-worth.

The public needs to take action to become aware and reject attempts by PCPs and psychiatrists who keep foisting this serotonin myth on them in an effort to sell drugs.

What is Depression?

Depression is merely an expectable reaction to a situation where a person has many thoughts of self-loathing, which lead to chronic high levels of “stress” (aka threat or fear.) The brain reacts to internal messages of self-criticism as a form of threat, which to the brain are processed in the same way as an external physical threat, such as being mugged. This internally generated “fight-or-flight” response cannot be sustained by the brain and body for long periods of time. The body eventually gives up and shuts down physically and numbs out emotionally, with “symptoms” of lack of motivation, excessive sleep, sadness, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, etc.

Perhaps one day some brain chemical cause of depression might be discovered. But until then, please stop repeating the lie that unhealthy serotonin levels cause depression. Because the above explanation IS actually based on science!

Dogs and Kids: It’s NOT how they were raised

This article has good information on our attitudes toward dogs who come to us with a “past.” Sadly, dogs who have been in fight rings, abused, neglected  or otherwise “raised wrong” are often rejected as adoptable because people have been told that behavioral issues can’t be changed. In other words, people believe the myth that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

But that myth is exactly that — wrong! Dogs can be trained, no matter their age,  and that is because they live in the moment. They can forget past experiences if the owner does not allow those negative memories to bring on feelings of guilt, pity or a presumption that the dog is forever “bad.”

As I often find, the exact same is true for people, especially for children who have been labeled as “bad.” My experience as a family therapist is that once parents have a few problems with a child, they label this child a “problem child” and seek professional help. (When all he really needs is a calm, firm Pack Leader parent!)

Then once parents talk to a school counselor or psychiatrist, they usually blindly accept the “diagnosis” that their child has been given — ADHD, ODD, depressed, bipolar. And they believe the lie that this “diagnosis” is a lifelong “illness” that must be medicated and that is the only possible “treatment;” there is no “cure.”

This biomedical model for behavioral problems must be discarded as incorrect and harmful. There has never been a biological cause found for any of these “mental disorders.” These diagnoses are mere behavioral and emotional concerns, not biomedical “illnesses.” And the child’s misbehavior can be traced directly to improper parenting.

But the good news is that if these are behavioral problems, that means they can be changed! Just like dogs, children like to live in the moment. They can move past unhealthy behavior patterns if parents do so first. Pack Leader parents know that each day is a new day and they have to discard negative presumptions about a child and bring a positive, forward thinking attitude to each situation.

Dogs and people very often sense the attitudes being sent their way and live up — or down — to those opinions. Live in the moment.


The Dog That Taught Me About Leadership


Reilly, the Muse for “Pack Leader Psychology”

As I say in “Pack Leader Psychology,” a growl instantly moved me from pack member to pack leader with my dog, Reilly. But if I hadn’t had a dog that understood how to be a pack member, I might never have learned this lesson. And I might never have made the connection that being a pack leader to people might also be a good thing for my interpersonal relationships as well.

The story begins when I got Reilly as an eight-month-old dog. She had grown up in an outdoor kennel with her birth pack and several adult dogs. Living for so long with this normal dog pack taught Reilly how to recognize and honor the pack leader or leaders — probably her mother and father.

Continue reading

Welcome to the inaugural Pack Leader Psychology blog post!

I’m very excited to begin this new adventure that has been about six years in the making. I have written a non-fiction self-help book called “Pack Leader Psychology,” and this blog is the first step in introducing the ideas in that book to the public. A full website will follow soon and the book is now available as an e-book on Amazon (Kindle fans!). Print and e-versions on B&N and other sites will be due shortly.

So what is the book about?  Tough to shorten 230 pages down into a few paragraphs, but here goes:

“Pack Leader Psychology” recounts the lessons I learned while becoming a pack leader to my dog, Reilly, that helped transform me from a submissive, abused wife into a calm, confident, independent and assertive human pack leader. Read More