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Behind The Scenes: The Chemistry of Depression

Xiao, Sophia. “Taking Depression Seriously: What Is It?” Scope, 28 June 2023,

It's long been accepted that chemical imbalances in the brain are the driving force behind depression. This hypothesis formed the basis of many anti-depressants, which function by altering levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin in the brain. However, recent findings suggest this is likely untrue, and the theory's popularity has been declining within medical and scientific communities.

Research from the journal Molecular Psychiatry (Moncrieff et al.) reveals little evidence to support the chemical imbalance theory. The study also found significant connections between traumatic events and the onset of depression. Depression is an exceedingly complex disorder, and the new research solidifies existing theories that it is caused by a cocktail of factors rather than one main factor.

Researchers are pursuing new avenues for depression treatment, including other neurotransmitters and receptors. However, it is important to note that this doesn't mean current anti-depressants are ineffective. A Harvard article suggests that mood improvement may be related to the growth and connections of nerves and that anti-depressants speed up this process. Improving people's understanding of the many factors that can contribute to an increased risk for depression might help people feel more motivated and empowered as they manage their condition. What works for one person will not necessarily work for another.


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