Exhaustive Study Debunks Link Between “Chemical Imbalance” and Depression — The serotonin hypothesis

[In] a major new review of the research University College London Psychiatry Professor Joanna Moncrieff and a team of five other top European researchers found “there is no evidence of a connection between reduced serotonin levels or activity and depression.” The primary research indicates there is “no support for the hypothesis that depression is caused by lowered serotonin activity or concentrations.”

• • •

World Affairs Brief, July 29, 2022 Commentary and Insights on a Troubled World.

Copyright Joel Skousen. Partial quotations with attribution permitted. Cite source as Joel Skousen’s World Affairs Brief (http://www.worldaffairsbrief.com).

DEBUNKING LINK BETWEEN DEPRESSION AND CHEMICAL IMBALANCE

In turned out that Tom Cruise was right in a widely lampooned interview 20 years ago, where he told Matt Lauer (who was lauding the use of psychiatric drugs for depression),

“Here’s the problem, you don’t know the history of psychiatry. I do,” Cruise proclaimed. “All it does is mask the problem,” Cruise said of the use of antidepressants. “That’s what it does. That’s all it does. You’re not getting to the reason why. There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance.”

“I’m saying drugs aren’t the answer,” the action star said. “These drugs are very dangerous – they’re mind-altering, anti-psychotic drugs. And there are ways in doing it without that, so we don’t end up in a brave new world.”

Cruise calls Lauer “glib,” and says the talk show host “doesn’t even know was Ritalin is.” Cruise then challenges Lauer to find out more about Ritalin to educate his viewers.

The video of the old interview went viral on Twitter last week, racking up more than 3.2 million views. It’s relevant today because a new exhaustive study now debunks the “chemical imbalance” theory of depression. Surprisingly, it was even published in Psychology Today.

Surveys indicate that 85-90 percent of the public believes low serotonin or a chemical imbalance causes depression. The serotonin hypothesis has been challenged repeatedly and found lacking, even as it remains popular and influential.

A comprehensive, well-powered, high-quality umbrella review now determines that the theory is “not empirically substantiated.” Almost as soon as it was floated in 1965 by Harvard psychiatrist Joseph Schildkraut, the serotonin hypothesis of depression—reduced and simplified by big pharma marketing to the “chemical imbalance” theory of depression and anxiety—has been subject to critical research and found wanting.

The poor standing of the hypothesis in the scientific literature, however, barely dented its afterlife in textbooks, across clinical and treatment settings, and on mental health apps and websites. Nor has it dispelled the continued use of the phrase as “shorthand” between doctors and patients and in everyday settings, including for quite different mental states and conditions.

[In] a major new review of the research University College London Psychiatry Professor Joanna Moncrieff and a team of five other top European researchers found “there is no evidence of a connection between reduced serotonin levels or activity and depression.” The primary research indicates there is “no support for the hypothesis that depression is caused by lowered serotonin activity or concentrations.”