The universal model for depression is that it a chemical imbalance in the brain. I have serious reservations about the value of that model.
The core problem with the idea is that it is disempowering. The message is “you can’t help yourself get better.”
What thoughts that follow once a person believes that their depression is due to a chemical imbalance?
- “I’m broken.” Since my brain is what I use for all of my thoughts and memories, I’m basically defective.
- “There isn’t anything I can do.” Chemistry is complicated; I don’t understand it, so how can I do anything to help?
- “It’s not going to go away on its own.” Since my brain is a bunch of microscopic neurons firing, they’re not going to fix something as severe as a chemical imbalance.
- “It’s a medical problem.” Doctors are the ones who treat medical problems, so I need a psychiatrist and medications.
When you cut your hand, you know what is hygienic. Rinse it in water. Keep it clean and cover it with a bandage. Watch for signs of infection or use an antibiotic ointment.
A person can be suffering and depressed. Today, the person learns very few tools for recovery. There isn’t any hygiene to practice; no prevention strategies.
A treatment plan might be little more than not to get worse. The tacit meaning of “chemical imbalance” is that a depressed person needs to look to doctors. Then, people with letters after their name can help make the best of it.
Although this can be an appropriate treatment, the model for a disease needs to be useful.
“Chemical imbalance in the brain” is glib. It rolls of the tongue so easily that it doesn’t get inspection. However, it doesn’t help anyone understand depression nor take action.