The Myth of Depression as Disease: Limitations and Alternatives to Drug Treatment

By Allan M. Leventhal; Christopher R. Martell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
THE CONTEXT OF
DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

Biological Explanations

Biological explanations of the cause of psychological problems are insufficient at best. Like any theory that looks at only one factor, the biological theory overlooks too many other factors. Far too little is accounted for. If depression is caused by a [chemical imbalance] in the brain, what causes the chemical imbalance? Diagnoses of depression have tripled since World War II. Millions of prescriptions are written for antidepressant medications each year. Such an increase would suggest that there is a nationwide epidemic of depression. How could this be explained? Has there been a genetic mutation that has occurred in the twentieth century that has spurred a rash of chemical imbalances?

Such reasoning points out several problems with the current state of the mental health field. First, a simple notion about chemical imbalances clearly does not explain what causes or maintains depression. Second, many of the millions of prescriptions written every year are written for people who may be distressed but who don't meet diagnostic criteria for clinical depression. Third, as discussed in Chapter 1, the diagnostic system that is used is vague, filled with overlapping descriptions, and lacks reliability. In short, there is more to the explanation of depression that is accounted for by other theories than a simple medical model.

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