Is the Link Between Serotonin and Depression a Myth?


zoloft adDo you remember the old Zoloft (Sertraline) ad where the sad egg no longer chases the birdy, and whenever he moves, the thick cloud above follows him? Pfizer did a masterful job of taking a very complex phenomenon and simplifying it down to a concept that two-year-olds can understand. In fact, the visual props made such an impact on my husband that he continues to ask me, years after the original commercial, if I am a “sad egg” whenever he senses that I’m experiencing symptoms.

In the late 1980s and 90s, Pfizer wasn’t alone in dumbing down depression to a simple “chemical imbalance,” a shortage of neurotransmitters (messengers between neurons) like serotonin that can be replenished with a class of drugs called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

According to a report by the National Center for Health Statistics, the rate of antidepressant use in this country among teens and adults increased by almost 400 percent between 1988-1994 and 2005-2008. Antidepressants were the third most common prescription drug taken by Americans of all ages in 2005-2008 and the most frequently used by persons ages 18-44 years. About one in 10 Americans aged 12 and over takes antidepressants.

But what if the explanation that led to the popularity of SSRIs isn’t true?

Continue reading …

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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1 Response
  1. Therese,

    Thank you, again, for continuing to decipher and shed light on the complexity and often contradictory statements about depression and treatment options, especially the propaganda disseminated by the pharmaceutical industry and unwitting psychiatric med prescribers.

    It may be an overstatement to say that the state of the science is still in the dark ages. However, it seems that the experts can’t determine, measure, or directly link the cause of the illness with the medicinal treatment, and the treatment standard is little more than trial and error. No wonder the stigma of mental illness persists.

    Thank you for being a light on a hill, a safe harbor in the storm, chasing and sharing hope for the hopeless!

    A very frustrated (and depressed) sad egg