Ask any doctor what the cause of depression is and they are more than likely to talk about an imbalance of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin or dopamine. That is the conventional story and why drugs are given to block the uptake of both these chemicals in order to increase the amount in the brain. Children with ADD are given Ritalin to increase dopamine levels.
The problem is that there is no proof that there is really any problem with the neurotransmitters. That’s right: the message system may not be working correctly in the brain but there is little evidence as to why this is so, and how the neurotransmitters are involved. Once a person begins to take the drugs, however, there is shift in the way the brain functions as the drug has now distorted the way the message system is working.
Keep in mind that the body’s systems are always doing the best they can do, and holding a balance that is not easy to disturb. The drugs are powerful enough to make a difference so that in order to maintain the previous balance before the drugs were given, the body shuts down production of chemicals to try and maintain the previous balance. This is the reason that there does not appear to be any change in the medical condition at first, because in fact the system is doing its best to keep the status quo present before the drug. It also shuts down receptor sites and transporting chemicals to keep the same balance.
Eventually of course the pressure is too much and a shift does happen in the chemistry, but this does not always translate into better moods. In fact most of the science suggests that antidepressants don’t do any better than a placebo in mild to moderate depression. Only is severe depression do antidepressants make a difference. This could just be that patients with severe depression just feel better on the numbing effect of the drug.
Why is this so?
My impression is that most medical scientists don’t get that there is a difference between the brain and the mind. The reasons are generally clear. Scientists can’t really measure the ‘mind’ in the same way as the ‘brain’ and so they tend to ignore mind. It may seem obvious to most lay people that it is not the brain that is emotional, but the mind – but then we don’t know much about the mind. Or do we?
So we sit with medical science that ignores mind, and yet is stuck with a brain that does not seem to fit within its own paradigm; and doctors go on using antidepressants despite the fact that the science does not confirm that they work.
One way to understand the dichotomy is to compare it to the particle-wave dichotomy of light. In this analogy the brain is the particle aspect, and mind the wave aspect of consciousness itself. Mind and brain then become polarities of one entity, just as particle and wave are two ways of measuring light. Scientists can’t use ‘particle’ tools of measurement to measure waves in the same way that one cannot use ‘brain’ measuring tools to measure mind. I like this explanation because it actually fits in with my experience. I will discuss this more in other blogs.