I’d like to draw attention to the MindFreedom organization and a collection of articles it has compiled regarding the “chemical imbalance” theories of mental illness. The stories concentrate on the theory as promoted by the pharmaceutical industry specifically regarding depression. I encourage you to spend time on the MindFreedom website for an alternative view on “mental illness” in general.
Regarding the chemical imbalance myth, I believe that it is a myth that covers most if not all forms of mental illness. I propose that instead it is enviromental and nutritional deficits that are the cause of mental disorder.
A World Health Organization study conducted in 1969 and then again in 1992, which is documented in a book I’ve already mentioned in another post, “Mad in America,” by Robert Whitaker shows recovery rates of schizophrenia in undeveloped nations to be 64% as compared to developed countries with the rate of recovery being 18%. On page 227 Whitaker reports:
The WHO first launched a study to compare outcomes in different countries in 1969, a research effort that lasted 8 years. The results were mind-boggling. At both two-year and five-year follow-ups, patients in three poor countries–India, Nigeria, and Colombia–were doing dramatically better than patients in the United States and four other developed countries. They were much more likely to be fully recovered and faring well in society–“an exceptionally good social outcome characterized these patients,” the WHO researchers wrote–and only a small minority had become chronically sick. At five years, about 64 percent of the patients in poor countries were asymptomatic and functioning well. Another 12 percent were doing okay, neither fully recovered nor chronically ill, and the final 24 percent were still doing poorly. In contrast, only 18 percent of the patients in the rich countries were asymptomatic and doing well, 17 percent were in the so-so category, and nearly 65 percent had poor outcomes….the WHO researchers concluded that living in a developed nation was a “strong predictor” that a schizophrenic patient would never fully recover…..….The notion that “cultural” factors might be the reason for the difference has an obvious flaw. The poor countries in the WHO studies–India, Nigeria, and Colombia–are not culturally similar….The obvious place to look for a distinguishing variable, then, is the medical care that was provided. And here there was a clear difference. Doctors in poor countries did not keep their mad patients on neuroleptics, while doctors in rich countries did. In the poor countries only 16 percent were maintained on neuroleptics. In rich countries 61 percent were kept on such drugs.
I would venture to say if the 16 percent of people kept on drugs in poor countries had not been been put on neuroleptics the majority of them would have recovered as well. This is further evidence that the chemical imbalance theory and even the link made to genes as a factor in mental illness is flawed. Enviromental factors such as trauma are much more likely indicators.
It is not a popular idea and certainly not PC to suggest that family dynamics plays a role in mental illness, but a large majority of people suffering from mental illness have traumatic experiences in their histories whether this involves their families or not. This does not in any way blame families…it simply acknowledges dysfunction and trauma affects mental health. To clarify, it cannot be deduced that family members and parents are “bad” simply because they are not able to offer all the supports a child might need. Also trauma in childhood may have no relationship to what happens in a family per se…it can also be induced by broader social, enviromental factors and nutritional deficits.
It’s important to add that the United States psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries refused to accept the finding of these studies. The argument posed by the Western doctors allowing them to dismiss the studies’ findings are noted in “Mad in America.” Read the book for further enlightment on this issue. Suffice it to say the study was simply too threatening to the psychiatric/pharmaceutical complex.