Is depression a chemical imbalance?

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.

About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
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10 Responses to Is depression a chemical imbalance?

  1. Greatly mentioned sir!

    Does helping oneself to cope from depression or similar issues can result in successful career as a Counselor/Psychologist?
    As I’m 27yrs, female, started with my career as a Counselor/Psychologist and I’m afraid by the age factor as well as past traumas that projects a hindrance to successful career ahead.. I’m way too confused!

    Meanwhile, I’m very much excited to read you book!


    • In the webinar today at AIPS India,
      You mentioned about Exposure Therapy too.. Still it’s little messy out there.. pls suggest..


      • Dr Bob Rich says:

        You will find it described in my book. Also, do a search for “exposure therapy,” “Traumatic Incident Reduction,” and “EMDR.”
        When you suffer trauma that makes you unable to escape from a situation (e.g., war events, rape, years of abuse from a carer), remembering those events cause intense distress. That is in itself negative reinforcement (if that is mysterious, look up “classical conditioning” or “Pavlovian conditioning”). So, the fear always stays, and even spreads as new triggers get associated with it.
        We need to extinguish this conditioned response. That means, experiencing it until the emotion fades. It does. Then the PTSD reactions fade.
        Did you buy a copy of my book on depression? That means you qualify for another of my books, free. If you use my contact form, I can email you a copy of “Ascending Spiral,” which also describes how to do exposure therapy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • This information is quite helpful sir, I’ll go through the details for further assistance. Thank you.
        And yes, I’ve just ordered a copy of your book ‘From Depression to Contentment’ it will reach to me in a week or so.
        And definitely, I would like to get more knowledge about the same. Here’s my email


    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Ashhmeet, having suffered is a necessary qualification for becoming an effective therapist. Think of your past troubles as an apprenticeship. You and I are guides who can say, “This is the road I walked on. Come with me, and you can free yourself.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Truly sir! Your approach is so commendable, I appreciate your words. Thank you again..


      • Dr Bob Rich says:

        Ashhmeet, I have removed your email address from your comment. We don’t want some nasty person to steal it and send viruses and things as if they came from you.
        I do have a contact form here at Bobbing Around for that reason.
        I will now email you a free copy of “Ascending Spiral,” as a thank you for buying my Depression book. I hope you enjoy it, and reviews of both books would be wonderful when you have read them.
        Have a good life,


  2. Dr Bob Rich says:

    Thank you, Isabella. Your book shows the power of psychological forces like prayer.


  3. Joan Y. Edwards says:

    Dear Bob,
    Thank you for all you do to help bring people to a calm inner self!
    Never Give Up

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with you Dr Bob. A depressed person needs a whole systemic change. Not only the rewiring that is afforded by drugs. The whole person’s tendencies, thought, and behavior patterns must change to neutralize the triggers that keep them mentally disabled. Drugs are not the solution!


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