After I complained about lack of outrage in Daniel Carlat’s Unhinged, Bruce Charlton pointed me to this essay (registration required) by Simon Sobo, a psychiatrist. Sobo says something I may end up repeating every time the subject of antidepressants comes up:
Rat pups that are isolated from their mother and littermates produce ultrasonic sounds that are indicative of stress. SSRIs [the most popular type of antidepressants] reduce these sounds (Oliver, 1994). Is a chemical imbalance being corrected? I doubt it.
That’s a nice summing-up. Prozac (an SSRI) really does something, but the notion that it returns to normal something broken is absurd. Sobo also gives an example of how the anti-anxiety effect of such drugs works in practice:
Mrs. L. had originally required 40 mg of Paxil (paroxetine) per day to recover from a postpartum depression. After 12 months on the medication, an incident happened that disturbed her. During her lunchtime, she was visiting her 1-year-old son at his day care center when one of the workers began screaming at another infant instead of picking her up. The next day Mrs. L. went shopping during her lunch break. Later that week a co-worker became tearful during the course of a conversation with Mrs. L. regarding her own child’s day care center. Only then did Mrs. L. wonder about her decision to go shopping the day after she had witnessed the day care worker’s inappropriate reaction. She wondered if her Paxil had made her indifferent when ordinarily she would have reacted and worried about such a thing.
My research about mood suggests that depression is due to defective entrainment of a mood oscillator. It’s caused by something missing from the environment. “Chemical imbalance” has nothing to do with it.