Mar. 18, 2013 — A new study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine suggests that depression results from a disturbance in the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. The study indicates a major shift in our understanding of how depression is caused and how it should be treated. Instead of focusing on the levels of hormone-like chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, the scientists found that the transmission of excitatory signals between cells becomes abnormal in depression.
Okay, no psychologically-minded person with an appreciation for mental life that runs deeper than a dried up puddle thought serotonin was causal in depression or regarded it as some sort of holy grail in the understanding of depression.
[...] According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2005 and 2008, approximately one in 10 Americans were treated for depression, with women more than twice as likely as men to become depressed. The most common antidepressant medications, such as Prozac, Zoloft and Celexa, work by preventing brain cells from absorbing serotonin, resulting in an increase in its concentration in the brain. Unfortunately, these medications are effective in only about half of patients. Because elevation of serotonin makes some depressed patients feel better, it has been thought for over 50 years that the cause of depression must therefore be an insufficient level of serotonin.
No one I know among my professional friends believes that depression is caused by serotonin deficiency. We didn't believe it yesterday, a year ago, or a decade ago, never mind what anyone believed fifty years ago. Just like we don't believe that anxiety and fear are caused by a Xanax deficiency. And when your car is stuck on the railroad tracks and a speeding train is bearing down, your panic is not caused by Adrenaline Oversufficiency Disorder. You're scared because you think you're going to die.