Tuesday, January 21, 2020



Introduction and purpose.

It is often said that serious mental illnesses, e.g., depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia are a result of or caused by a “chemical imbalance” in the brain. While this idea seems likely to many people in Western cultures, it is in fact arbitrary and unscientific.  Perhaps the best evidence of this comes from Ronald Pies, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University, Lecturer on Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and author of several leading textbooks on psychiatry and psychopharmacology.  As one of America’s most eminent and prestigious psychiatrists, Pies has argued repeatedly since 2011, that the so-called “chemical imbalance” theory was always an urban legend, and it was not primarily promulgated by knowledgeable psychiatric experts.

Nevertheless, the urban legend of the chemical imbalance continues to thrive.  There is considerable evidence that this idea is quite unhelpful for the development of rational public policies to advance scientific research, education, mental health, and juvenile and criminal justice.

This survey is intended to help sort out why an unhelpful idea continues to be so widely and frequently repeated.  It should be directed to celebrities, thought leaders and influencers who have been noticed to repeat or refer to the “chemical imbalance” explanation of mental illness in recent years.  We may publish the results, however we will not identify any individual participants in the survey.

We believe that anyone who participates will find the experience to be self enlightening and personally useful.


1.) Do you believe that such problems as mental illness, depression, anxiety or ADHD are related to a chemical imbalance in the brain?
2.) Does treatment for any of these problems consist in some measure of correcting a chemical imbalance?

Then, if so:

3.)  How do you know about this?
4.)  Who first told you or suggested to you that a chemical imbalance in the brain causes mental/emotional/behavioral problems?
5.)  When did that person or source first tell you about this?
6.)  Where were you when that person or source first suggested this to you?
7.)  What exactly was said (as best you can recall)?
8.)  Who else told you or suggested to you that a chemical imbalance in the brain causes mental/emotional/behavioral problems?
9.)  Repeat when? where? and what exactly? for this person or source.


10.) Recall other persons or sources who told you or suggested that a chemical imbalance in the brain causes mental/emotional/behavioral problems, as well as when, where, and any other details, for as long as you find it interesting.  If anything occurs to you that you hadn’t thought of before, or if you remember something surprising or something that seems especially significant, please make a note of it!

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