Chemical Imbalance

“So next time you are told that a psychiatric condition is due to a brain-biochemical imbalance, ask if you can see the test results.” – Craig Newnes Editor of The Journal of Critical Psychology

193967_pill_bottlesThe idea of a chemical imbalance in the brain is a psychiatric theory that has been taken on board without inspection and accepted as fact despite the complete lack of scientific evidence to support the claim. The theory is nothing more than opinion. It is not fact.

A central reasoning behind psychiatric treatment is that the chemical structure of the brain affects the behaviour of an individual. It is reasoned that when someone shows abnormal behaviour, this is due to a chemical imbalance occurring in the brain. It is the sole justification for giving people psychiatric drugs and is the foundation of a multi-billion pound drug industry.

Drugs can and do affect behaviour. We can observe and even experience this every day and while it cannot be denied that people do experience problems and upsets in life that may result in mental troubles, representing these conditions as being diseases or caused by a ‘chemical imbalance of the brain’ that can only be alleviated with drugs is dishonest and harmful.

Many other experts agree:

In 2005, psychiatrist Marc Graff, spokesman for the American Psychiatric Association stated, “Chemical imbalance? Well, it’s a shorthand term really, it’s probably drug-industry derived, I suppose. But it’s the idea that there are really abnormalities in the neurotransmitters … in our brains. And we don’t have the test, because to do it you’d probably have to take a chunk of brain out of someone, not a good idea. We have some blood tests that help a few things, such as lithium levels and other things we use for therapeutic drugs. But I agree, there aren’t any blood tests.”

British psychologist Craig Newnes says, “To date, studies have failed to demonstrate that people with the commonest psychiatric diagnoses have a brain-biochemical imbalance. The studies on all the main diagnostic categories of psychiatry are plagued by a significant problem: the people being tested have almost always already received psychotropic medication, so if there is a blood, brain or liver disorder, this may have been caused by the treatment. Physical tests on people diagnosed, but not yet treated, in the psychiatric system, would be the only way to find out if there were a difference between these people and the general public. This never happens, as most people first encounter a GP who, instead of asking for blood and other tests to demonstrate a psychiatric condition, simply prescribes a psychotropic drug or refers on to a psychiatrist.” – Craig Newnes, Clinical Psychologist, The Guardian, 10 January 2002,

“Psychiatrists have no way of telling that someone has a chemical imbalance. The idea that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance is simply a hypothesis. There is no consistent evidence that there is any biochemical abnormality in people diagnosed as depressed. The idea has been promoted by drug companies and professional organisations, but the evidence base for it is almost non existent.”  Prof. Joanna Moncrieff – An Interview with Joanna Moncrieff: The Myth of the Chemical Cure January 6, 2010

“There is no test for depression.  Our understanding of the brain is simply not sophisticated enough.”  Dr Jim Bolton, Lecturer in Psychiatry, St. George’s Hospital, London 2001