The “Chemical imbalance” theory

What follows is a selection of a selection of a selection of printed media reports on the so-called “chemical imbalance theory”. Almost without exception the word “theory” was not included:

A number of Psychiatrists, who have a prominent social media presence, have robustly argued that this was a “theory that never was” and  that it had little to do with psychiatry and psychiatrists. As an NHS psychiatrist of over 25 years my experience was quite the opposite of this and I am left fearful about how powerful voices are attempting to re-write the past:

  • Dr Ronald Pies, MD,  has described the ‘Chemical imbalance theory’ as a “trope” that it has been “miss-attributed to the profession of Psychiatry”.
  • Dr George Dawson, MD, has repeatedly described the ‘Chemical imbalance theory’ as little more than “anti-psychiatry propaganda”
  • Dr Joe Pierre, MD, describes the ‘chemical imbalance theory’ as “a straw-man argument by anti-psychiatrists” and that “it is not something that’s been seriously taught in medical school or psychiatry for 20 years.”
  • Another regular contributor [@philosofacespin] stated that “psychiatrists never advanced the chemical imbalance theory: a single drug company did in a f—ing advert”

In the UK, a number of senior psychiatrists have also challenged the role that the ‘chemical imbalance theory’ had in informing and guiding the prescribing of psychiatric drugs. However, the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor Wendy Burn said on 10 August 2019 “it hasn’t actually been disproven, we won’t know til we can actually measure the chemicals in the brain”.

Dr Samei Huda, the author of ‘The Medical Model in Mental Health’ has noticed a theme with medical students  [2 December 2019] “some slip into the chemical imbalance narrative as a justification for psychiatric medications . . .”

In the novel ‘Metroland’ by Julian Barnes, a question was asked:

2 Replies to “The “Chemical imbalance” theory”

  1. Thank you for website and observations. I find the siege mentality and reflexive whitewashing of history by psychiatry’s self-appointed Ministry of Truth appalling. You’re a psychiatrist, and so am I and we can admit that psychiatry, pharma, including at least two former APA Presidents, actively promoted the chemical imbalance myth.

    I don’t get the stubbornness. Internal medicine admitted it got stress as the cause of gastric ulcers wrong. I think it is professional insecurity. And I don’t like the gaslighting of critics who present real evidence.

    1. Thanks James,
      I appreciate very much that you have taken time to write and you make very important points.

      I am retiring from Medicine later this month but I intend to keep writing about a range of issues. I hope that we might be able to communicate. I would like that.

      kind wishes

      Bridge of Allan

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