Did we all believe a myth about depression?

Avoya Travel

A study showing depression isn’t caused by low levels of the “happy hormone” serotonin has become one of the most widely shared medical articles.

It has provoked a wave of misleading claims about antidepressant drugs, many of which increase the amount of serotonin in the brain.

This research doesn’t show the drugs aren’t effective.

But the response to it has also sparked some genuine questions about how people treat, and think about, mental illness.

Short presentational grey line

After Sarah had her first major psychiatric episode, in her early 20s, doctors told her the medication she was prescribed was like “insulin for a diabetic”. It was essential, would correct something chemically wrong in her brain, and would need to be taken for life.

Sarah stayed on the drugs even though they seemed to make her feel worse, eventually hearing menacing voices telling her to kill herself and being given electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

Yet the claim she needed the drug like a diabetic needs insulin wasn’t based on any medical evidence.

“You feel betrayed by the people that you trusted,” she says.

Her reaction to the drugs was extreme but the “chemical imbalance” message she was given was not unusual.

Sarah on her wedding day in a veil smiling next to her mother
Sarah and her mother, who took insulin for type 1 diabetes

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