Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Media Perpetuates Unsubstantiated Chemical Imbalance Theory Of Depression, Study Shows

Date:
March 3, 2008
Source:
Florida State University
Summary:
The theory that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance is often presented in the media as fact even though there is little scientific evidence to support it, according to a new study.

The theory that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance is often presented in the media as fact even though there is little scientific evidence to support it, according to a new study co-authored by a Florida State University visiting lecturer.

Related Articles


Jeffrey Lacasse, an FSU doctoral candidate and visiting lecturer in the College of Social Work, and Jonathan Leo, a neuroanatomy professor at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee, found that reporters who included statements in news articles about depression being caused by a chemical imbalance, or a lack of serotonin in the brain, were unable to provide scientific evidence to support those statements.

Lacasse and Leo spent about a year in late 2006 and 2007 monitoring the daily news for articles that included statements about chemical imbalances and contacting the authors to request evidence that supported their statements. Several reporters, psychiatrists and a drug company responded to the researchers' requests, but Lacasse and Leo said they did not provide documentation that supported the chemical imbalance theory. Their findings were published in the journal Society.

"The media's presentation of the theory as fact is troublesome because it misrepresents the current status of the theory," Lacasse said. "For instance, there are few scientists who will rise to its defense, and some prominent psychiatrists publicly acknowledge that the serotonin hypothesis is more metaphor than fact. As the current study documents, when asked for evidence, reporters were unable to cite peer-reviewed primary articles in support of the theory."

Moreover, the researchers said, several of the responses received from reporters seem to suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of the theory's scientific status. The "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," which almost all psychiatrists use to diagnose and treat their patients, clearly states that the cause of depression and anxiety is unknown, according to Lacasse and Leo.

The Society article builds on the pair's 2005 study, which focused on pharmaceutical advertisements that claim depression is caused by an imbalance of serotonin -- an imbalance the drug companies say can be corrected by a class of antidepressants called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).

"The chemical imbalance theory, which was formulated in the 1960s, was based on the observation that mood could be artificially altered with drugs, rather than direct observation of any chemical imbalances," Leo said. "Since then there has been no direct evidence to confirm the theory and a significant number of findings cast doubt on the theory."

The researchers said the popularity of the theory is in large part based on the presumed efficacy of the SSRIs, but they say that several large studies now cast doubt on this efficacy. A review of a full set of trial data published in the journal PLoS (Public Library of Science) Medicine last month concluded that much of the perceived efficacy of several of the most common SSRIs was due to the placebo effect. Other studies indicate that for every 10 people who take an SSRI, only one to two people are truly receiving benefit from the medication, according to Lacasse and Leo.

Still, the National Center for Health Statistics found that antidepressants are the most prescribed drugs in the United States, with doctors writing more than 31 million prescriptions in 2005. Both Lacasse and Leo emphasized the importance of patients being given factual information so they can make informed decisions about medications and the role of other potentially useful interventions, such as psychotherapy, exercise or self-help strategies.

"Patients might make different choices about the use of medications and possibly use alternative approaches to their distress if they were fully informed," Lacasse said. "We believe the media can play a positive role by ensuring that their mental health reporting is congruent with scientific literature."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Florida State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Florida State University. "Media Perpetuates Unsubstantiated Chemical Imbalance Theory Of Depression, Study Shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 March 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080303164507.htm>.
Florida State University. (2008, March 3). Media Perpetuates Unsubstantiated Chemical Imbalance Theory Of Depression, Study Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080303164507.htm
Florida State University. "Media Perpetuates Unsubstantiated Chemical Imbalance Theory Of Depression, Study Shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080303164507.htm (accessed April 19, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers found a spike in oxytocin occurs in both humans and dogs when they gaze into each other&apos;s eyes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find Link Between Gestational Diabetes And Autism

Scientists Find Link Between Gestational Diabetes And Autism

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers who analyzed data from over 300,000 kids and their mothers say they&apos;ve found a link between gestational diabetes and autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Video Messages Help Reassure Dementia Patients

Video Messages Help Reassure Dementia Patients

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) Family members are prerecording messages as part of a unique pilot program at the Hebrew Home in New York. The videos are trying to help victims of Alzheimer&apos;s disease and other forms of dementia break through the morning fog of forgetfulness. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Common Pain Reliever Might Dull Your Emotions

Common Pain Reliever Might Dull Your Emotions

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2015) Each week, millions of Americans take acetaminophen to dull minor aches and pains. Now researchers say it might blunt life&apos;s highs and lows, too. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins