Monday, January 04, 2010
by Tara Peyman, ND
The current practice of psychiatry in the US is driven by a few basic assumptions about human emotional experience, and some of these assumptions are not clearly backed up by scientific factual evidence.
The primary assumption is a reductionist idea that an imbalance in levels of one or more neurotransmitters is the underlying cause of bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and psychotic disorders, personality disorders, and other mental health concerns. This first assumption then leads to the rationalization of the use of psychiatric medications to attempt to correct imbalances in neurotransmitter levels. These assumptions were developed primarily by chemical companies, initially by accident while trying to test other products, when they found that certain drugs caused symptoms like sedation, euphoria, apathy, etc. Then they thought, "Well if this drug causes euphoria, maybe we can use it to treat sadness."
Some of the main flaws in that reasoning are:
1) Despite the fact that psychiatric medications alter brain chemistry, and can definitely reduce symptoms of mental illness, there is no clear evidence that these medications are actually correcting any specific imbalance. What they are more likely doing is creating a stronger, more noticeable, less upsetting experience for the patient. In other words, if the patient is anxious, a benzodiazepine creates an overpowering experience of relaxation that overrides the patient's original sensations and thoughts associated with anxiety. The patient still has anxiety, they just don't have the ability to notice it while they are under the influence of the medication.
2) Actual brain levels of dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters can be the same between patients with depression and without depression symptoms. These neurotransmitters are used for a huge variety of metabolic processes, and we really just do not fully understand the complexity of their effects, especially when it comes to mood disorders. We can make generalizations and guesses, and use these guesses to make drugs that alter brain chemistry.
3) The attempt to reduce human emotional experience to an excess or deficiency of a couple neurotransmitters is overly simplistic and unrealistic. The human brain and emotional experience is highly dynamic and complex. It's unreasonable to assume that a serotonin deficiency alone causes the experience of depression, and that increasing serotonin between neurons actually corrects depression.
I am not opposed to the use of psychiatric medications. I think they have been very helpful for a huge number of patients. They just don't treat the actual cause of the problem.
It may be tempting to assume that your depression or bipolar disorder is just because of a chemical imbalance. The truth is that it is not that simple. Our mental and physical health is dynamic, and must be treated as such. This is one of the reasons that homeopathic medicine
works so well to treat mental health disorders, because homeopathy can actually correct the underlying dynamic imbalance, which a neurotransmitter supplement or antidepressant medication cannot do.
Valenstein, E. Blaming the Brain: The Truth About Drugs and Mental Health.
Breggin, P. Your Drug May Be Your Problem.
Ross, C. Pseudoscience in Biological Psychiatry: Blaming the Body.
Tara Peyman is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor in the state of Arizona. She has an expertise in treating bipolar disorder and depression with natural medicine. Dr. Peyman has also developed comprehensive, naturopathic programs for weight loss, diabetes and smoking cessation. She practices at East Valley Naturopathic Doctors in Mesa (480.985.0000) and in Tempe (480.456.0402). Call for a free 15-minute consultation, or visit www.DrTaraPeyman.com
for more information.