Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The myth of brain abnormality causing mental illness

It may seem surprising, but modern psychiatry is based on the myth of biochemical imbalance in the brain causing mental illness. Some psychiatrists may protest that their perspective is broader than this. Of course they take into account the personal views of patients and the situation in which patients find themselves. But, in the end, psychiatrists have a belief that what has caused patients' mental health problems are brain abnormalities. That's why medication is needed to correct these abnormalities.

I was struck by a comment made to me by Anne Cooke, who edited the British Psychological Society's recent report on psychosis (see previous post). When doing the rounds of media interviews to promote the report, she said that what journalists found surprising was that she was saying that psychosis may not be a brain condition. Our cultural perspective has become so imbued with this notion that to challenge it seems out of order. But, it does need to be challenged. It's wrong! What's of concern is that modern psychiatry is based on this myth.

3 comments:

Oliver said...

I think the problem is that nature abhors a vacuum--without a *simple* idea/explanation with which to replace the biochemical imbalance hypothesis people tend to reject criticisms of it.

Duncan Double said...

Very profound! It's too complex to relate to people.

allan said...

It is indeed a shared myth. Mind cannot be reduced to brain.Schizophrenia is more than dopamine fluxes. Depression more than just serotonin deficiency. Drugs help symptoms but cure is more elusive and hard to define. The future of psychiatry depends on not being reductionist though pharma would be happy with that