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"Chemical imbalances"

Posted by plosmedicine on 31 Mar 2009 at 00:22 GMT

Author: James Blackburn
Position: Registered Psychologist
Submitted Date: March 05, 2008
Published Date: March 6, 2008
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

It is unfortunate that publication of this landmark paper, which should contribute to more intense scrutiny of suggestions by the pharmaceutical industry that SSRIs address the basic mechanisms of depression, should be marred by an "Editors' Summary" that perpetuates additional myths about depression. First, the summary states that depression is "caused by imbalances in the brain chemicals that regulate mood" This statement is grossly misleading, at best; in fact, the "chemical imbalance" myth has been addressed in an earlier PLoS Medicine article ( Further, the summary states that current treatment for severe depression "is usually a combination of psychotherapy and an antidepressant drug". While that is a description of guidelines for practice, the reality is that only a small percentage of people treated for depression, even severe depression, receive psychotherapy.

No competing interests declared.