Biological Evidence for Depression - Mental Illness Exists

April 7, 2011 Natasha Tracy

'Depression is all in your head' say some who claim there is no proof mental illness. Here are biological, testable indicators of depression proving it exists.

Common messages spread by certain special interest groups are that “mental illness doesn’t exist” and “there is no biological evidence for mental illness.” It’s not surprising I take great exception with these claims. So do most doctors.

But the brain is an extremely complex organ and refuting the above notions is hard. It’s not a two-word response. So, I’m going to attempt to give a two-part overview, in plain English, of some of the research around the biology of major depressive disorder according to a meta-analysis done in 2010 (see below).

There are several promising areas in the research of the “pathophysiology” (the physical changes stemming from a disease) of major depressive disorder (MDD), all with strengths and weaknesses.

Depression, Genes, and Stress

Studies consistently show genetic factors affect 30% - 40% of cases of MDD. The other 60% - 70% of cases are closely linked to stressors both in the present and in childhood. A wide array of genes have been found to be associated with MDD.

[Note: the Mayo Clinic now offers a gene test to assess how your body would react to particular antidepressants.]


Depression and Stress Hormones

Elevated levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) are associated with times of stress. Cortisol levels typically decrease to normal levels once the stress has passed, however, in depressed patients, cortisol levels appear to be permanently elevated. Elevated cortisol is more prominent in those with childhood trauma.

[Note: cortisol levels have been linked to other mental illnesses such as anxiety and PTSD as well.]

Cortisol can be measured in saliva and elevated cortisol levels are almost exclusively found in patients with severe and psychotic depression. The corticotropin-releasing hormone (which stimulates cortisol release, among other things) has been repeatedly shown to play a major role in depression (and other diseases).

Serotonin, Dopamine, and Noradrenaline (Monoamines)

Monoamines like serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline have been widely studied and almost everything that increases the concentration of monoamines has been shown to have antidepressant effects.

While reduced central serotonin has been associated with “mood congruent memory bias, altered reward-related behaviors, and disruption of inhibitory affective processing,” testing of serotonin levels in people with MDD shows inconsistent results.

Research is increasingly showing the role of dopamine in MDD. Dopamine levels are consistently low in depressed patients and experimentally reducing dopamine levels is associated with an inability to feel pleasure and decreased performance on a reward-driven task in those with an increased risk of depression.

It is thought the monoamine effects seen are likely downstream effects of the primary abnormality, which is unknown. New drugs that affect dopamine appear to have promising antidepressant uses, particularly in hard-to-treat depression.

[Note: some dopamine altering drugs are on the market but are often not covered for mood disorders due to lack of FDA-approval in those disorders.]

Neuroimaging of Depression

Because of the cost of neuroimaging studies, only small-scale study data is available and most studies don’t have overlapping results due to subjects and neuroimaging methods selected.

However, structural abnormalities and decreased brain volumes have consistently been found in several areas of the brain of those with MDD. Brain volume in those with untreated depression decreases with the length of the depression.

At this time, the volume loss cannot be explained but can be stopped or possibly reversed with treatment. (Many mental illness treatments have been shown to promote neuron growth, neurogenesis.)

Biological Evidence for Depression - Part Two Next Week

Next week I will discuss the three remaining biological depression areas of research and bring together what this information means.

Notes on Information Source

This information is a concise synopsis of “Pathophysiology of Depression: Do We Have Any Solid Evidence of Interest to Clinicians?” by Gregor Hasler at the Psychiatric University Hospital, University of Berne, Switzerland. Published: World Psychiatry. 2010 October; 9(3): 155–161.

Hasler has published in a number of reputable journals. I believe this work was completed without outside funding, but I can’t find any information confirming that.

Yes, I have massively condensed this article and explained it in plain English, so for all the details, refer directly to the article.


Comments are welcomed as always; however, please be aware comment moderation has become stricter. Comments that are not on topic or that disparage others will not be allowed. Thank-you for your cooperation

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2011, April 7). Biological Evidence for Depression - Mental Illness Exists, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

December, 30 2016 at 9:46 am

You've been highly selective in how you have reported the findings of a single meta-analysis. The analysis itself contains phrasing that is easily misinterpreted. It points out that while genetic predisposition (sensitivity which is not specific to depression) may have a minor influence, the overwhelming contribution is environmental and therefore psychosocial intervention has the greatest potential for 'treatment'. It also points out that while some physiological changes are evident in some sufferers it is not evident in the majority. It clearly states that there is huge variability and no unifying theory of pathophysiology exists.
The problem with meta-analysis is that they rely on studies already carried out which themselves have inherent flaws and biases. The major flaw being being confirmation bias (you see what you want to see and downplay contradictions ) and that correlation is not causation. Our mental states influence our physiology, long term exposure to stressful environments causes adverse affects and changes on our physiology. That physiological changes are evident in some subjects and not others does not imply causation.
Presenting selectively chosen phrases from a single meta-analysis without presenting any qualification for the points you are making is misleading and potentially harmful. The truth is that the evidence shows (and is stated repeatedly in the study) that no single varifiable biomedical abnormality can be proven to cause depression.
There is a huge body of evidence, not just from special interest groups but from within the psychiatric field itself and from clinical psychologists and therapeutic practitioners, not to mention experiences of 'service users' that shows that treating mental distress as biological illness is unfounded and potentially very harmful.
If the purpose of your site is to support and inform sufferers of mental distress you have a responsibility to present informed unbiased information. Statements such as "biological evidence for depression - mental illness exists" are misleading and supported by the paper you are quoting
Given that the scientific understanding of these issues is likely to beyond most readers of your article it is likely to simply cause more distress and alienation.

October, 10 2016 at 9:05 am

At this time, medical science alleges "knowledge" based on it research, the majority of it of very poor quality and funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Whether mental illness is genetic, environmentally caused, and/or a combination of these two and/or a combination of other factors is not yet definitely established and is as of yet unknowable. At this point, based on the uncertainty of an accurate diagnosis in most patients I think medicine does more harm than good. I think some rare patients do benefit and do need help and benefit from pills. I am not anti medication--only for those who benefit from it However, I think many vulnerable children are inaccurately diagnosed by highly paid physicians who are paid by Big Pharma to place them on expensive pills. Many of these children recover without pills. Therefore, at present considering the economic incentives for over-medicating, I think for the majority of the public, medicine and Big Pharma do more harm than good. Science, I think, at this time too biased, greedy, and political to be accurate and fair.

March, 8 2016 at 12:15 am

Elopenor and others trauma doesn't always play a part in mental illness, look at the 1980s documentary "Children of Darkness" Brian a schizophrenic and moderately intellectually disabled may or may not had trauma but had a very loving father
Some children seem to be born with mental illness, how do you explain that? And some with very loving families
I agree, however, at times trauma play a part in mental illness and there is even one illness PTSD where trauma is a 'criteria'

Based On Biology
December, 9 2015 at 8:45 am

If there is no "biological basis" for mental illness just because there is no biological test discovered YET to accurately diagnose it doesn't necessarily mean no biological basis exists, anymore than you could argue the world is truly round when it was once believed to be flat.
Why do you think antipsychotics help schizophrenics. Do you honestly believe their psychosis would disappear or be alleviated on it's own without ongoing help?
MEDICATION helps treat BIOLOGICAL illnesses
Genetics have a biological basis. I am adopted and did not grow up with my biological family but I do know mental illness runs in my BIOLOGICAL family
I am bipolar and have been involuntarily commited before because I was suffering from psychosis brought on by untreated mania . When I was given antpsychotics I was CURED of the psychosis and the mania was brought under control. Other meds help keep it under control and improve my quality of life and reduce the kindling effect
Depression has often been referred to the common cold of mental illness. There is a biological basis for colds too but some would say there is no real cure, ok well maybe there are some medications that will help alleviate the symptoms until you get over it but unlike some mental illnesses you don't just get over it. They don't just disappear on their own and people need medication on a daily basis to cope.
If there is a biological basis for some illnesses such as with cancer then why does treatment not help everyone. BECAUSE THEY HAVEN'T FOUND A CURE, just like some forms of mental illness
Granted people die of suicide in large part by choice but their depression is not a choice. No one wants to be unhappy. CBT, positive thinking and psychologists can only do so much to help.
You could also argue that cancer is a choice to some degree and in some cases. What I'm talking about is cigarette smoking. There a reason there's a warning on cigarette packages
No doubt certain behaviours can lead to biological illnesses

December, 7 2015 at 6:48 pm

@Katy: I do not mean to be snide but for heaven's sake do your own homework. If you cannot do a simple literature study by yourself you don't belong in college and the point of a higher education is still to learn to do independent research in your chosen field.

December, 7 2015 at 6:40 pm

What do you think you have 'proven' here exactly? If there are physical causes for these phenomena then by all means explain them. If there are ways to objectively test for them then by all means explain them. The concept of 'mental illness' doesn't even have a consistent, clear definition and the various types are 'diagnosed' using extremely subjective methods (interpretation of behaviour and self-reporting) by people who rely on the argument of authority to make their claims sound believable ("I am a doctor/psychologist therefore what I say is the truth"). Unless that changes psychiatry cannot be considered a bona fide science and its claims are epistemologically on the same plane as religious dogma's.
Show us real evidence instead of relying on muddled thinking, unclear results and meaningless correlation. If your claim of clear differentation between depressed and non-depressed people would hold water don't you think doctors would be diagnosing these individuals with MRI-scans instead of questionairs? The day mental illnesses become objectively diagnosable and effectively treatable is the day psychiatry will cease to be since neurology will simply take over.
Meditation has been shown to increase feelings of happiness and contentment with a physical correlate in the brain but that doesn't mean meditation is a treatment for a medical illness, is it? Unless you consider the suffering inherent to life as stemming from mental illness of course but then we are all mentally ill just like christianity considers the whole of humanity sinners.
In your line of reasoning the fact that certain chemicals have an effect on the brain and its functioning apparantly translates to there being something physically wrong with it in the first place. If I drink ethanol and it elevates my mood apparantly there must have been a problem with my brain which was fixed by the self-administered cure in the form of liquid happiness. The only thing that proves is that the mind and the brain aren't seperate entities and subjective experience and brain chemistry mutually influence each other.
The argument that neurotransmitters have 'antidepressant' qualities has grown rather stale: clearly they regulate mood to a certain extent but little is known about them and medication which aims to elevate the levels of serotonine etcetera do not have a statistically significant effect on happiness, at least not without taking into account the placebo-effect as shown by double blind studies. Basically a whole industry is growing rich by selling people chemicals that do not 'heal' anything and rely on belief in order to produce measurable effects.
A correlation between stress, cortisol and feelings of unhappiness doesn't prove in any way your thesis of objectively verifiable conditions known as mental illnesses. No-one doubts that suffering exists, nor that it can be both physical and mental.
Perhaps in your next post you could try to explain why psychiatry is not a form of (secular) religion because to me it clearly is. In lieu of undeniable evidence (obtained in the same way cancer and other illnesses are diagnosed: through lab results) which you clearly failed to provide it all boils down to belief. Do I want to believe or not? If you find it easier to cope with life's problems (which for some are clearly more difficult to bear than for others) by accepting this belief fine but then at least be intellectually honest enough to admit your position relies solely on pragmatism. If you want to use drugs in order to cope fine and they might have positive effects on mood and behaviour but do not claim they fix anything or constitute proof of a physical problem.
PS: "So do most doctors" is not a valid argument (a position is not true because it is held by many people even if they have university degrees in the field, it is true or untrue based on the facts), do you have sources to back up the claim that GP's and specialists outside of psychiatry actually subscribe to this view?

June, 7 2015 at 9:18 pm

Hi, I'm currently in college researching for a formal essay "some people believe that mental illness does not exist."
What sites or books did you use for your research or what would you recommend?
Thanks a lot! The information on your blog is also very helpful :)

August, 14 2014 at 12:41 pm

Hello. Are there specific biological/physical tests that I can ask my doctor or hospital to do that would demonstrate (at least to myself) I have a biological basis/cause for my mental illness? like blood tests or MRI or maybe other tests? And can it also show what diagnosis or type of mental illness I actually have? Just wondering because over the years my diagnosis has changed and so have the medications. Maybe I can have a medication that bests matches my condition, because they don't seem to work or if they do only for a short while. Thank you.

March, 31 2014 at 8:41 pm

I agree that people should be thoughtful when making comments, namely, because people are probably not completely informed about bipolar yet, and are looking for quality information to learn and share. However, you are wrong when you say people are "susceptible" (may be just semantics, but it I don't think this word applies, well - anywhere. Not even sure what you are getting at). Also, I would say people, in general, are probably more complex than simple - except maybe people who come onto boards like these mainly to bash and harrass people here. I would say they really are the ones who are simple - as most ignorant people typically are.

March, 31 2014 at 3:25 pm

Very interesting I agree with Rochelle, we must as people try to be careful how we deliver opinions as many who come to these sites for help can be highly susceptible. There are times when our egos need to be checked at the door and remember we are dealing with human beings who can be simple in some areas and complex in others. We may not fully understand and that is ok we are only all human after all...

March, 15 2014 at 3:52 pm

I would like to know what studies you refer to that suggests "mental illness" is genetic? I personally have my doubts with this whole article it raises more questions than providing concrete evidence. I would say to you all of your studies suggesting "mental illness" is genetic are by vested interests of the drug companies or psychiatrists. You have my email I look forward to your response.

June, 13 2013 at 6:49 pm

send me your references. again these images could represent anything it proves nothing. you seem a smart girl why don't you speak about the "gut theory" and how diet affects behaviours "mental illness". I never hear people like yourself say serotonin is one of many chemicals which has a continuous producion by the brain through the eating cycle. You can never have to much or to little serotonin except by SSRI.

February, 18 2013 at 1:25 pm

The amoeba would be modeled as a sphere.
Seriously, though, when I was at a major university, the math dept. offered free statistics help and nobody in medical research took advantage of it. The math dept. offered this help because they found the medical study designs and analysis to be extremely flawed. It serves no one but big pharma (or whomever else seeks to profit) when deeply flawed research is done.

February, 17 2013 at 6:33 pm

Physicists and mathematicians may laugh at the type of research done by health sciences, but that's only because they could only come up with a treatment if it was for an amoeba in a vacuum in zero gravity.

February, 17 2013 at 6:08 pm

I hope I'm not totally off base with this post, but here goes. It's not totally based on what I read here on this blog and in comments. I've seen this issue many places.
I don't understand why those who think mental illness has mostly biological causes think that those of a different opinion are denying their suffering and struggles. Most do not deny that there is terrible suffering.
The truth is, people who do research in the physical sciences and mathematics laugh at the medical researchers with their lousy studies and poor knowledge of statistics. The fact the research is horribly done is no reflection upon the people who are suffering (including myself). I don't know why it gives people comfort to think that they have a defective brain, that they genetically inherited, rather than some other cause. I don't know what the cause is. NOBODY knows.
I think a lot of people want to believe there is a biological and genetic basis so they can point to some scientific reason to feel less responsible for their troubles. Therefore, when others deny a biological cause, it feels like an attack on their character, when it was not usually meant that way.
Even though many psychiatrists say that bipolar disorder is caused by genetics and changes in the brain, the evidence for that is terrible! Patients shouldn't be taught this stuff as fact, because nobody knows what the causes are. We do not know for a fact that any mental illness is caused by some physical defect in the brain. That's the reason the mental illnesses are shunted to psychiatry. Otherwise, the neurologists would take over.
Don't let confirmation bias keep you from reading and absorbing studies that contradict what you may want to believe. This idea of a biological basis is FAR from settled. If bipolar was so darned genetic, the genes would have been found by now. Maybe there are 10 different causes of bipolar, or 100, or maybe it's not genetic after all. Maybe it is an epigenetic illness. I really don't know. That doesn't make my depression problems fake. And I don't think anyone would be posting on this blog if their problems were fake. It is a mistake to be too sure of your facts, when they aren't really facts at all.

February, 16 2013 at 1:37 pm

If you feel more comfortable NOT being mentally ill and decided that your physical symptoms were the cause of your mental symptoms, well, that is up to you. But why deny the suffering of others just because you have denied your own? You don't know what their personal, medical and hormonal profiles are. You have extrapolated a bit too far on very little data.

February, 16 2013 at 7:13 am

Despite all that you have mentioned, I do not believe mental illness exists. I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and panic disorder. In the end, i found out that it was just hormonal imbalance that has cause the symptoms. Therefore, i did not have any mental illness after all. The psychotherapeutic drugs did not work even when they were switched from one to another. However, I do agree that cortisol helps balance with the adrenals in our body and prevents a burn-out. And that does not necessarily linked to "depression", as it is more of physical health. With that being said, there is no reason to rebuke the so called "common interest group" that voice out to say that there is no biological evidence for mental illness.
I believe that it is all about hormones, diet on the physical side and one's personal upbringing and the ability to take stress that causes the so called symptoms of mental illness which can be easily resolved by counseling or psychotherapy.

Mr. Jones
August, 7 2012 at 2:22 pm

There is no correspondence between mental states and neurological activity, only coincidence. Consider that both psychology and astrology are pseudo-scientific in that they ponder the metaphysical (see Karl Popper*). This is not to say that either are incapable of issuing valid, truthful claims, however, it is to distinguish the difference between what can and cannot be falsified empirically.

Kaitlin Panda
July, 7 2012 at 9:16 am

I agree with Amanda completely.
I could go on a long rant about Elpenor's close-minded comments, but instead I will just say this.
While the theory that people are trying to get out work by saying they're mentally ill is "interesting", I know for a fact that it's not true for most of us. How would you explain getting accepted into a prestigious school, interning at the job of your dreams, doing great, loving life, only to find your chemicals have gone unbalanced again and you're forced to put your dreams on hold to be stuck in bed every day? Bipolar doesn't care if your life is going well or not.
I think I speak for most of the bipolar community when I say that one of the worst things about being mentally ill is most of the people who don't have it don't understand it.
I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

July, 3 2012 at 11:47 am

Elpenor, as true as it is that there is no concrete evidence that depression exists as biochemical, there is also no proof that it ISN'T. If you're so sure it doesnt exist, show me the proof. There isnt any either way. Keep an open mind that you may also be wrong. There are a lot of people suffering from something, whether it be real or imagined. How would you feel if you found out that you misjudged these people who are suffering and how would you feel when you realized you contributed to making them feel more suppressed, ridiculed, and scorned. Im not saying what I think either way because I dont know. If theres even a slight chance you're wrong, have some compassion.

January, 10 2012 at 1:06 pm

COMMENTERS - Please be aware that many of the people who are reading your opinions, on this website, have one, or more, mental illnesses, and are in constant search for what is going to work, for their treatment, and their life. It's one thing to deal with one or more debilitating symptoms, and how they may have affected their life, on a daily basis, as people with other chronic illnesses do, but the "mental illness" stigma is what is the most damaging, and, as is the case with alcoholism, the largest barrier to people seeking help. Due to family, and society's lack of understanding, or compassion, many people are forced to develop, and then maintain, a "super-human level" of determination, and persistence, all alone, without help, and or support from their family, and/or closest friends. Ironically, the very organ wherein lies the problem, is the very same organ that, in the absence of the understanding, help, and compassion of others, is required to function well enough to navigate all the opinions, the misinformation, the doctors, in order to becoming well, including the self-determination to
historical facts can remind us that the treatment of people with these illnesses, throughout time, has been guessing, if anything at all. Depending on their own history, their education about their illness, plus how they are feeling at the time, comments that are made by folks who are stuck on one idea, or opinion about this topic. It's obvious that this is an emerging area of understanding, much further behind that what is known about any other part of the body & that

Elpenor Dignam
January, 10 2012 at 9:29 am

"Because of the cost of neuroimaging studies, only small-scale study data is available and most studies don’t have overlapping results due to subjects and neuroimaging methods selected."
Wow sound just like the excuses I hear from the alternative health woo-woo doctors as to why they have no biological evidence to support what is unfounded opinion. There is no rational hypothesis for any mental illness having a biological basis, and until Psychiatry can prove beyond doubt that this is biological then medicine should stick to physical illness. The truth is the only evince you have is qualitative and the vast majority of this is funded directly or indirectly by the pharmaceutical industry.

Elpenor Dignam
December, 16 2011 at 9:10 pm

@Natasha Tracy
This is typical of the type of simplistic nonsense we hear of biopsychiatry zealots, you misrepresent my point by suggesting I do not wish to get out of bed and work, an obvious judgement on your part. If I spend 9 years in training and studying at own expense for a profession and the government decides to cut my job in order to bail out criminal financial agencies, why should I then be expected to work flipping burgers in fast food restaurant? How about if you find yourself in a position where the only means available to feed your family were to sell your body to rich businessmen, how would you feel about that, would you get out of bed for that, or would you lie there in a depression? Yet these are the choices faced by many in our neoliberal anti human societies, where job opportunities for a large section of the population are declining year on year as corporate profits increase. These people are victims of our society but rather helping them in any practical sense the medical industry supported by government labels and drugs them. Medical models for mental illness totally eliminate the social causes, allowing government and society avoid its responsibility.
"Trauma doesn’t equal mental illness."
No but it can lead to it if repressed, trauma can eat away at an individual , leading to depression, alcoholism and drug addiction, where allowed to fester. Speak to any combat veteran who returns from a war totally dehumanised or a victim of rape or abuse, who do these people turn for support in order to heal their emotional wounds, a psychiatrist?
"If you would rather have a dead brother, or mother, or friend, than a medicated one, well, again, that’s your business, but mot people wouldn’t make that choice."
Actually most normal human beings would rather a happy unmedicated family member than a family member so unhappy in their lives that the only thing preventing them from killing themselves are prescription drugs, They would support and empower their family member helping them to get positive recovery focused counselling or psychotherapy. Also many mental health issues have their origins in the family bullying, abuse, religious or social coercion etc, so here again biopsychiatry becomes another way of disempowering the victim to protect the abuser by suggesting the victim suffers from a mental disease.
Biopsychiatry is a unquestionably a construct of the pharmaceutical industry, who pump money into research departments, to generate academic cheerleaders for their cause, the profit motive. Individuals such as yourself should be aware of the damage you do by proselytising for them.

Natasha Tracy
May, 25 2011 at 9:58 am

You are certainly welcome to that opinion. If you do not wish to get out of bed and get a job, that's your business, but it seems like you would be homeless fairly quickly. If you don't have a problem with that, then that's up to you.
Some people have trauma in their background and have a mental illness, some do not. Some people do not have a trauma and do not have a mental illness, some do. People are unique. Trauma doesn't equal mental illness. Many people with a mental illness work very hard at dealing with whatever their particular life experiences have been, that doesn't necessarily make a mental illness disappear.
Well, if you would rather lose an ear and paint, well again, that's up to you, but I rather like my ears. Keeping my ears isn't about "society" or "convention" it's about the fact that I want my ears. And arms. And pretty much everything else I was born with.
And for all the people who committed suicide, that isn't about "fitting in" either, it's about saving their lives. If you would rather have a dead brother, or mother, or friend, than a medicated one, well, again, that's your business, but mot people wouldn't make that choice.
I wrote that mental illness is only a problem when it causes problems in your life.…
- Natasha

Elpenor Dignam
May, 25 2011 at 1:02 am

Psychiatry is about treating behavior that society does not approve of so if I refuse to get out of bed to work and go to a job I detest then I must be clinically depressed. People who openly challenge the status quo are doomed to a diagnosis of some sort. Look at the list of behaviors of any psychiatric label and you'll see what I mean. Psychiatry is about making people compliant. All people who suffer serious mental illness have been abused or traumatized at some point. If you actually look into their backgrounds whatever they're going through has been triggered by some event or events, however that's not what psychiatry is about, getting to the heart of the matter rather, it's about ticking off a list of behavioral symptoms diagnosing and medicating.
As for genes even if in Van Goghs case if they were to identify the set of genes that made him stand out from the norms what would that gene be, a biopolar gene or a gene for artistic creativity? What then? Give someone like van Gogh a drug that switches off the respective bipolar/creative genes so he can be like everyone else and spent his life working 9-5 as an office clerk.

Dr Musli Ferati
April, 15 2011 at 9:30 am

It is evident that neuroscience investigation, the last two decades, have made great inventions, that will contribute in successful treatment of mental disorders. Depression as the most frequent mental illness isn't exception. The researches have confirmed that mental diseases are descended from disorders of brain as organic substratum of psychological functions. It seems simply to agree with this ascertainment, but in clinical psychiatric workout we face with many difficulties and primitive attitudes as well. In this antipsychiatric movement, unfortunately, are included patient and doctors. By me, the main reason for this sceptic state in Mental Health Service is overload inheritance in century-old mistreatment of psychiatric entities. It should to constrain for a substantial promotion of mental health; its maintain and its current treatment. Otherwise, depressive patient as others mentally ill patient wouldn't take required medication, even this is in disposal. There are many misunderstandings that should to explore in concordance with epochal achievement of biological evidence for mental illnesses.

Jaime | UP Your Awesome
April, 9 2011 at 2:07 pm

Thanks so much for this article! I have always wondered if cortisol levels were elevated in patients with depression. I have OCD and Bipolar and wondered why I always felt stressed. I guess that explains it!

Natasha Tracy
April, 9 2011 at 1:45 pm

Hi rsl,
I think you're missing my point.
While yes, I'm the kind of person that finds research interesting, it's not terribly useful to me. If it doesn't help me personally get better, it's of limited personal value.
This information is less for me than it is for every person with a mental illness who has to stand up to people saying mental illness isn't real. It doesn't exist. Mental illness is just "normal emotion." And so on.
Legally, mental illness is already an illness, legality has nothing to do with it. What it has to do with is dispelling myths. Brain scans don't change my life one whit.
- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
April, 9 2011 at 1:42 pm

Hi Shirley,
That's the idea. Glad you found it helpful.
- Natasha

April, 9 2011 at 11:18 am

Thank you for the update. I can respect your enthusiasm with the theories. If lack of mental heath or stability is proven biologically it is a brave new world indeed. However, I am on the other side of the aisle on this. I will rant and muse now on these things. What would change if a bipolar disease gene was actually discovered?
Would medical, legal, and political laws change? How so? To what degree? Would civil and religious authorities be more merciful to diseased offenders and as a consequence less so to their healthy victims? By what percentage? Who would decide?
What new tests would apply? What old tests would be validated? "Maybe he/she is just an undiagnosed or untreated bipolar?" Would a cruel act by someone with a mental disease diagnosis now be less cruel? Would a kind or courageous act be even more kind or courageous? Would a contract signed by someone with mental disease now possibly be less legal?
Would having such a gene make one less mature or less responsible or excuse poor hygiene or table manners or bad debts or social graces or watering flowers or patience with children? Maybe a lack of confidence or excessive pride is just due to a bipolar disease gene. Is there a gene marker for that? A graded difficulty factor? How about with exercise or volunteering or vitamins figured in?
What test can currently be applied to prove conclusively someone has a bipolar disease? Would the test hold up in a bar room discussion or in a court of law? Are unhappy or abusive or abused people less stable generally and more rude more often than happy people simply because of a gene?
Does a bipolar disease gene possibly contribute to make you sad or angry or greedy or jealous? Does another gene than make you joyful or loving or kind?. Does another one make you a quitter or lazy or fat? More apt to make impulsive choices with unhappy consequences? Is it a question of personal behavior or of social conduct or is it mainly biology? Is there a "scientific cure" for the way some people relate to or respect others or themselves? Could a medical drug or a surgery fix this. If so, prescribe me one please.

April, 9 2011 at 6:38 am

Hi Natasha!
Thanks for this article. Lot's of insights, resources, links and the like that dispel the myths of depression as something that's "all in the mind", tantamount to eliciting preconceived (and erroneous) notions from people about how "easy" it may be to handle.

Natasha Tracy
April, 7 2011 at 4:52 pm

Hi Steven,
Yes, the article references 88 other publications. It's a pretty good overview of where mental illness is right now. We're far from knowing enough, but we do know some things.
- Natasha

steven schwartz
April, 7 2011 at 4:23 pm

There are those who want to treat the brain as a separate organ from the rest of our body, especially in regards to mental illness. Maybe it is the feeling of lack of control" or maybe because there is little environmental causation. Again like always would these folks say cancer does not exist? There are some who say that but are usually publicly mocked.
Now that you show that there is "Real" science from "Real Institutions" the anti psych crowd can only go personal. Science removes their argument so like a child they get personal. Keep fighting them with science, shine a light into their empty theories.

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