Learn why biology is not destiny.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Newsman Mike Wallace Declares Depression is a "Medical Disease"

I saw a short infomercial on primetime CBS in which Mike Wallace tells the public depression is a "medical disease." What? Only in the rarest cases (e.g., condition of the thyroid gland in which thyroxine is deficient) has a biological etiology been established for symptoms of depression. Getting treated for clinical depression is one thing, but if depressive episodes were caused by a biological pathogen--the popular misnomer of a "chemical imbalance"-- meta-analyses done on talk therapy vs drugs (there have been several) would have shown that the effectiveness of talk therapy is zero, which is not the case. From the same studies, if depression was simply a "medical disease" then combining the two treatment modes would not be more effective than one or the other. Aside from any inherent flaws of the sacred meta-analysis itself (e.g., quality of the metadata), the DSM-IV still lists this condition as a psychological disorder--a matter of abnormal behavior and not a "medical disease." Moreover, despite FDA approval of anti-depressants for demonstrating more efficacy than placebo, there are still indicaters that anti-depressants may work with some people only because of the placebo effect (see here: ).

In truth, the real "medical disease" can be caused by the drug treatments used for depression. The "chemical imbalance" actually occurs when people take anti-depressants (e.g., serotonin remains in the synapse of neuron connections rather than re-uptaking). There is increasing evidence that upon stopping anti-depressants withdrawal symptoms are common. People who take several anti-depressants at the same time are at risk for a potentially lethal type of toxicity lightly labeled "serotonin syndrome." Drug treatments can lead to Parkinsonism, cognitive dysfunction, suicidality, weight gain, nervousness, agitation, and insomnia (all considered to be mere side effects by most professionals).

I'm always sorry to hear that anyone including Mike Wallace has suffered through clinical depression. He tells the public, "It [treatment likely in the form of an anti-depressant] worked for me," but it's particularly bad science to generalize from one case. However, It is yet another example of how biodeterminism is being spread in our culture. Do you think he's a paid spokesperson for the pharmaceutical industry?

If you want more references:

Very good article here:


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