Anxiety disorders affect millions of Americans to varying degrees. And as specialists try and treat our problems with therapy and medication, there is, understandably, a desire to answer that pressing question, “Why is this happening to me?” According to some, the answer may lie in something as simple as a chemical imbalance. But not everyone agrees.
The mind and body are intrinsically linked, and a problem in one can manifest as a disorder or illness in the other. According to one school of thought, psychological or mental disorders including anxiety problems may have their root in a chemical imbalance in the body. Others take a different view on anxiety disorders and suggest it is more complex than that and not one that can simply be caused by imbalance of a neurotransmitter. Here’s a quick weigh-in on the evidence.
The Stigma Of Mental Disorders
Anxiety disorders and depressive disorders – and, in fact, any kind of mental disorder – have an attached social stigma that until a few years ago was quite severe. Just as someone with autism was misunderstood and even ostracized,
Which begs the question, does the chemical imbalance theory still hold true?
Understanding The Chemical Imbalance Theory
If you have an
So Why Do You Get Anxious?
According to the Social Anxiety Institute, a surge in levels of cortisol and adrenaline
Need For A Multi-Pronged Approach
The risk with taking a chemical imbalance view of things is that it implies that taking medication to “correct” the imbalance will solve the anxiety issues. However, in reality, you may need a combination of medication as well as counseling or therapy.6 As our understanding of anxiety disorders and other psychiatric illnesses improves, it seems more likely that the condition is the result of the interplay between a combination of psychology, social factors, genetics, biology, as well as environmental factors.7 While a chemical imbalance isn’t solely responsible, understanding the role neurotransmitters play has allowed huge strides in the field and how we manage anxiety disorders and other mental health problems.
|↑1||Deacon, Brett J., and Grayson L. Baird. “The chemical imbalance explanation of depression: reducing blame at what cost?.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 28, no. 4 (2009): 415.|
|↑2||Anxiety Disorders, University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑3||Lydiard, R. Bruce. “The role of GABA in anxiety disorders.” The Journal of clinical psychiatry 64, no. suppl 3 (2003): 21-27.|
|↑4||Social Anxiety, Chemical Imbalances, and Brain Neural Pathways and Associations, Social Anxiety Institute.|
|↑5||Castrén, Eero. “Is mood chemistry?.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 6, no. 3 (2005): 241-246.|
|↑6||Pies, Ronald. “Doctor, is my mood disorder due to a chemical imbalance.” Psych Central.
|↑7||Moran, Mark. “Brain, gene discoveries drive new concept of mental illness.” Psychiatric News 46, no. 12 (2011): 1.|