I was often told by my psychiatrists that I had chemical imbalances in my brain that were the cause of my mental health disorders. And, they readily offered me psychiatric medications to right these supposed imbalances. Curiously, they never tested me for any such imbalances before they prescribed the meds; they seemed able to determine which imbalances I suffered from by performing a cursory physical examination and conversing with me once every two months – for twenty minutes. In the impaired mental and physical condition I was in, I didn’t challenge their assertions or methodologies.
Now that I am on the other side of this medication madness, however, I have begun to question: one, if inherent chemical imbalances do even exist; two, if, in fact, it is these imbalances that are the cause of cause mental health disorders; and three, if psychiatric drugs can, indeed, rectify those imbalances.
Dr. Peter Breggin, in a section of Drugs May be Your Problem titled, “Are there Biochemical Imbalances?” explains: “As one of my colleagues recently said, ‘Biochemical imbalances are the only diseases spread by word of mouth.’” He goes on to state that there is no evidence to support the claim that such imbalances exist or that psychiatric medications can rebalance the brain: “… [R]esearch in no way bolsters the idea that psychiatric drugs correct imbalances. Rather, it shows that psychiatric drugs create imbalances. In modern psychiatric treatment, we take the single most complicated known creation in the universe – the known brain – and pour drugs into it in the hope of “improving” its function when in reality we are disrupting its function.”[i]
Certainly, Dr. Breggin’s observations directly reflect my own experience in using medications. I never felt as apathetic, lethargic, anxious, or manic as I did when I was on medications. Before I took psychiatric medications, I had head pain but I could perform well in school and in sports. After I had been on them for months and years, I truly felt out of balance physically, emotionally, and mentally. If medications are designed to correct brain imbalances, why is it that so many people report feeling sicker than ever the longer they stay on them?
While scanning posts on online forums this week, I came across a fascinating 47-page pamphlet called. Green Mental Health Care: How to Get off & Stay Off Psychiatric Drugs. I found it to very helpful, so helpful in fact, that I plan to post it on this homepage as a resource for those trying to get off of psych meds. In that work, the author, Genita Patralli, addresses the notion of inherent chemical imbalances in our brains:
To clear up the “chemical imbalance” controversy, psychiatry and the pharmaceutical companies are pushing the idea that you have an inherent chemical imbalance in the brain and they have a pill that will correct it. This is not true! They have created this fairy tale based on pseudoscience to sell their products. This claim that is void of any proof or scientific explanation implies that there is something inherently wrong with you and nothing could be further from the truth. Your brain is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing; it is reporting that there is something wrong in the body.[ii]
There is nothing inherently wrong with our brain’s chemical balance – until we take psychiatric medication, that is. The brain is reporting problems elsewhere in the body, problems that can be tested for and resolved. She continues:
The brain is a very dense collection of endocrine glans and nerves. The nerves read the internal and environmental factors and call upon the endocrine glands (hypothalamus, pituitary, pineal, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenals, testes, ovaries, and pancreas) to provide the chemicals required to survive (adapt) to the environment you live in. When the environment is nutritionally deficient or physically threatening, the glands become fatigued or deficient and become unable to respond appropriately to the requests of the nervous system. The chemicals they are supposed to provide are no longer available which throws the entire body out of balance (homeostasis) and the brain reports this.
So yes, there is a chemical balance due to a damaged or deficient organ but it is not a genetic or inherent condition. It is correctable by healing the organ that is deficient so that it produces the chemicals nature has relied on … to maintain homeostasis in the body.[iii]
It makes far more sense that I feel anxious or depressed because I have adrenal fatigue or because environmental stressors, which certainly include toxins, have compromised my nervous system. Addressing these underlying issues will naturally resolve any chemical imbalance my body may be temporarily experiencing. Dumping psych meds into the mix will most certainly impair the body further and make it that much harder for it to restore homeostasis.
I would like to conclude this discussion, whose purpose is to bring to light the fallacy of inherent chemical imbalances in the brain, by returning to Dr. Breggin. In this quote, he uses an analogy that compares psychologists to computer repairmen to domonstrate how flawed their current approach to treating the brain is:
How would you react if your computer consultant treated your computer the way psychiatrists treat patients and their brains? Suppose your computer consultant invariably concluded that the problem must lie in the hardware of the machine rather than in the program, the operator, or some external factor such as the power source. Suppose your consultant always began by pouring toxic agents into your computer. Further suppose that your consultant never guaranteed you a good result while continuing to pour toxic agents into your computer without regard for the consequences – and, when pressed for an explanation, made vague references to “crossed wires” or “electrical imbalances” in your computer but never looked inside, conducted tests, or provided a definitive diagnosis.[iv]
When phrased like that, it is damningly clear that many of us have allowed ourselves to be hoodwinked into believing that we have some sort of inherent chemical imbalance that can be fixed by one or more psychiatric medications. Judging from the utter mess we find ourselves in after buying into this fallacy, it is high time that we stopped allowing toxic agents to be poured into our fragile systems and restored homeostasis in our bodies by addressing the actual causes of our physical and mental disease.
[i] Peter R. Breggin, Your Drug May be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications (New York, NY: Perseus Books, 1999), 6-7.
[iii] IBID, 4
[iv] Peter R. Breggin, Your Drug May be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications (New York, NY: Perseus Books, 1999), 10.