Secularized Salvation

David Well's writes in "Losing Our Virtue" that in our individualistic, self-centered, consumer-driven culture, the twin healers of the day are "psychotherapists and advertisers." This is no doubt true, and we have the merging of the two with the plethora of commercials about psychotropic drugs. You have seen the commercials: smiles, confidence, joy, the mending of broken families, contentment with work, with your spouse, with life. Redemption is here...in a bottle! Sin and salvation have been psychologized. "Are you tired, unmotivated, ready to quit? Do you suffer from anxiety, shame, or guilt? You may have _____?" Fill in the blank. Never mind asking your doctor (or pastor) about symptoms and the proper treatment. Just come right in and ask for our product. And your doctor probably won't mind dishing out the prescriptions. After all, that particular drug representative just took him out for lunch and a round of golf last Friday!

All this to say, I read a fascinating article today from the public library of science showing the disconnect between what is advertised on television, and what scientific data actually says concerning SSRI's (Paxil, Zoloft, etc). The title is "Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature." Here are some excerpts:

"In fact, there is no scientifically established ideal “chemical balance” of serotonin, let alone an identifiable pathological imbalance."
"To our knowledge, there is not a single peer-reviewed article that can be accurately cited to directly support claims of serotonin deficiency in any mental disorder, while there are many articles that present counterevidence. Furthermore, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association and contains the definitions of all psychiatric diagnoses, does not list serotonin as a cause of any mental disorder. The American Psychiatric Press Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry addresses serotonin deficiency as an unconfirmed hypothesis, stating, 'Additional experience has not confirmed the monoamine depletion hypothesis'"

"Yet, as previously mentioned, there is no such thing as a scientifically established correct “balance” of serotonin. The take-home message for consumers viewing SSRI advertisements is probably that SSRIs work by normalizing neurotransmitters that have gone awry. This was a hopeful notion 30 years ago, but is not an accurate reflection of present-day scientific evidence."

"The incongruence between the scientific literature and the claims made in FDA-regulated SSRI advertisements is remarkable, and possibly unparalleled."
For a great read on America and its psychologized salvation, see "Losing Our Virtue" by David Wells and "One Nation Under Therapy" by Sommers and Satel.