A person at Quora asked: “Why do I feel so depressed sometimes, but then not feel anything the next day?” Someone answered: “Depression is like that. Sometimes it will just got you out of nowhere. It’s the chemical imbalance in your brain. One minute you’re fine the next minute you’re down. When you’re not depressed, enjoy every minute of those.”
I couldn’t let that urban myth pass. It was manufactured by Big Pharma, and causes a lot of harm. My reply: “No, Mary Jane, I disagree that it is a chemical imbalance. Yes, the chemical imbalance is there, but it is in response to how you use your brain. It is like when a car is swerving all over the road, that involves wild moves in the steering linkages, but the problem is the driver.”
This pushed someone else’s buttons. She posted: “I hope you’re not implying that depression is a choice? I’m unsure if I’m reading that correctly. Depression does go up and down and depression is a chemical imbalance, but it does need you to take control for yourself. Depression doesn’t just go away. The smallest break in your depression routine can make a difference even taking a shower. Getting help and talking to someone is your best bet. Your imbalance maybe too much to just ignore you may need medication. There was a time in my life I was so depressed I was in a psychosis depression. I couldn’t do anything but stare off into space and feel/say nothing. I’ve come a long way but when I start picking up old depression habits I realize it’s a slippery slope. This sounds ridiculous but have a shower everyday, make your bed everyday go for, a walk and if it before more present… get on medication. Sometimes the imbalance is just too strong for habit changing behavior.”
See the harm this way of thinking causes? For years, this lady has been suffering, because she believes she is trapped in a chemical imbalance only drugs can relieve. To her, it is a life sentence like, say, Type 1 Diabetes.
My response, the reason for this post:
I’ve been there. From 5 years of age or before, I was so depressed I didn’t know I was. I just knew I was stupid, and ugly, and couldn’t do anything right, and nobody could love me. When I was 21, without realising it I started therapy on myself. By 23, I had it under control: OK most of the time, then some trigger had me plummet. This went on for another 20 years, during which, again without realising it, I invented the tools of positive psychology for myself. At 43 years of age, I noticed that the invariable triggers no longer dragged me down.
Later, I extended my psychology training, and for over 20 years was very successful at running a counselling psychology practice. I was the therapist other psychologists sent their most difficult cases to, and for years I served in leadership positions in my profession.
So, I do know what I am talking about.
MRi scans show that the brains of people suffering an episode of depression have a typical pattern. When given antidepressants, a proportion of them (different in different studies) change the brain pattern to “normal.” Stop the drug, and the depressed pattern returns.
If you replace the drug with psychotherapy, the same brain changes are observed. But when the therapy stops, the brain pattern stays “normal.”
This is strong evidence that the mood/emotion is primary, the brain changes merely the mechanism, like the driver and steering linkages of the car.
Please have a look at From Depression to Contentment where you can read the first chapter and table of contents of my book, and a list of reviews.
The tools in there will empower you to get rid of that chemical imbalance for good, without drugs.