Mental health diseases like anxiety and depression are extremely complex in nature. There are a number of theories that suggest the causes which lead to these disorders, especially depression. One such hypothesis or theory regarding the cause of depression is Chemical Imbalance.
What Is the Chemical Imbalance Theory?
This theory was proposed in the 1950s when research and insight into mental health were still limited. According to the chemical imbalance theory, mental health disorders like depression can be caused by certain chemical imbalances in the brain. A chemical imbalance is a condition where there are either too many or too few chemicals called neurotransmitters present in the brain. Neurotransmitters are natural chemicals found in the brain that carry messages from one nerve cell to another. Examples of certain neurotransmitters include serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
It is important to note here that many health professionals have refused to validate this theory. According to them, if depression was simply caused by the imbalance of neurotransmitters, then the disease would have been easily cured with the help of prescribed drugs that restore the balance in the human brain. But this is mostly not the case.
Symptoms of Chemical Imbalance
According to the scientists and researchers who focused on the role of chemicals in mental disorders, an absence of the normal level of neurotransmitters in your brain could lead to one or more of the following conditions:
- A feeling of restlessness
- Frequent mood swings
- Feeling numb and empty
- Lacking empathy
- Lack of energy
- Either overeating or loss of appetite
- Inability to carry out everyday activities
- Tendencies to hurt yourself and others
- Substance abuse
- Being aloof from others
- Hearing voices in your head
- Being unable to concentrate
What Causes A Chemical Imbalance in the Brain?
Although the exact causes of a chemical imbalance are not yet clear, researchers are of the opinion that a number of environmental, and social factors have a crucial role to play.
There are several chemical reactions going on in your brain at any given point in time. These chemical reactions affect your mood. For instance, the imbalance of serotonin in your brain can cause depression. However, the causes of this imbalance are not clearly known.
Antidepressants can sometimes help to uplift your mood. However, increasing the number of neurotransmitters by having antidepressants do not necessarily mean that the symptoms were caused by a lack of these brain chemicals. In fact, this imbalance might very well be a symptom of depression, instead of being a cause.
Chemical tests are often inadequate to diagnose clinical depression in people. Healthcare professionals will first perform tests to rule out or treat any underlying physical conditions that might be triggering certain symptoms of depression in you. In case there are no physical health complications, you will be referred to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. The psychologist will ask you certain questions regarding your feelings, and daily activities, in order to get the right diagnosis.
Treating A Chemical Imbalance
Chemical imbalances can be treated with the help of prescribed antidepressants. These antidepressants balance out the levels of chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine, noradrenaline, dopamine,etc., in your brain. However, it is important to note that these medications can only help to manage the symptoms and not eliminate the causes of the imbalance entirely. Moreover, not all patients experience the same level of positive impacts and recovery after taking antidepressants.
Talk therapy or psychotherapy can be effective in treating mental health conditions like depression as well. These therapies work on our thinking and behavioral patterns and enable us to break the negative cycle.
Talk to a Professional
There is no denying the fact that the millions of chemical reactions in our brain affect our moods. However, the chemical imbalance theory as a cause of depression is not backed by sufficient evidence. According to health professionals, depression has a web of underlying causes like genetics, life experiences, psychosocial factors, etc., that cannot be encompassed within this simplistic theory. If you experience any symptoms of depression, talk to a professional, and get effective counseling, therapy, and treatment.
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