Tag Archives: depression is a brain disorder

Depression is well established within the public mind as a reality

Depression is now well established within the public lexicon and the public mind as a reality, a real thing. A Google search for depression yields over a billion results. More than one million Google searches for depression are carried out each month. Articles on depression regularly appear in the media. It might therefore seem strange to even question the assertion that depression is real. 

Many celebrities now talk openly about their personal experience of depression. For example, actress Kristen Bell has spoken publicly about her depression. She has publicly stated that a brain chemical imbalance runs in her family, and that this is why she developed depression:

Medical authorities uniformly assert that depression is real – a legitimate medical illness

Medical sources that are widely assumed to be trustworthy and authoritative consistently claim that depression is real, a real medical illness. Here are some examples of this:

The World Health organisation:


The American Psychiatric Association:

The Royal College of Psychiatrists (UK):

The  National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, USA):


Mental Health America:


Trusting these seemingly authoritative sources, mental health professionals and the public understandably assume these and similar assertions to be true, and operate from that position.

However, something does not exist simply because people and/or groups say it does, no matter how apparently authoritative and trustworthy they are believe to be. 

Claiming that something is real does not make it so: Evidence is required – evidence-based

As a general rule, asserting that something exists does not of itself demonstrate that it exists. In order for something to be accepted as real, as a fact, confirmatory evidence is required.

This is perhaps even more relevant in situations where there is considerable trust, since high levels of trust can lull us into complacency regarding our instinctive need to check things out, to be sure that what we are being told is indeed correct.

High levels of trust – the medical profession are one of the most highly trusted professions worldwide – can also lead us to assume that those we trust have no vested interest, objective, and that their words can be taken as correct and true without a need to test their veracity.

I learned years ago that these were risky assumptions to make, particularly in relation to psychiatry. As I discuss elsewhere, psychiatry is far from objective, being heavily invested in its own priorities. For example, the repeatedly-stated assertion that so-called psychiatric disorders are fundamentally biological in nature is based not on the fact that such claims are true – they are not. 

So, to check the veracity to mainstream psychiatry claims that depression is a real medical illness, it is better to look to objective sources, that have no gain from and no vested interest in claiming depression to be a medical illness.

Since the type of illness that depression is most commonly claimed to be is a brain disorder, let us check with sources that are authoritative and reliable regarding brain disorders – neurology sources.

What do objective authoritative medical sources say?

1. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (USA)

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is, as the name implies, America’s national institute of neurological disorders, officially backed by the American government. 

Prominent on this Institute’s website is the most comprehensive list of brain and neurological disorders I have ever seen in 35 years as a physician.

So comprehensive is this list that it contains dozens of brain disorders so rare that I have never seen a case, and many others than I have never heard of. Rare those these brain disorders are, their place on this list is justified, since they meet the criteria for a brain disorder. That’s why they are on this list.

Depression – claimed to be a very common medical condition – is not included in this list.

Why? Simple really. What doctors refer to as depression does not meet long-established medical criteria for a brain disorder or a medical illness.

In the screenshot below of brain and neurological disorders on the neurological disorders list on the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website, the yellow arrow indicates where depression would be listed:

2. The WebMD website:

The WebMD website is a trusted source of medical information worldwide, consistently ranking in the top three most trusted sites for medical advice.

As the following diagram illustrates, the webMD website contains a  list of brain diseases: 

On the left hand side of the above image, several known brain diseases are mentioned – infections, trauma (physical brain trauma), strokes, seizures and tumours as ‘some of the main categories of brain diseases’.

Although depression – a claimed brain disorder – is asserted to be far more common than any of these brain diseases, there is no mention of depression here – or any other psychiatric diagnosis – as a brain disease. This is because depression is not a known and scientifically verified brain disorder.

On the right hand side of the above diagram, there are seven categories of brain disease: infections; seizures; trauma (physical brain trauma resulting from physical brain injury); tumours, masses and increased intracranial pressure; vascular conditions; autoimmune conditions’ and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimers disease.

Given that, according to proponents of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – the DSM, the foremost psychiatric diagnostic guide book, often referred to as ‘the psychiatrist’s bible’ – approximately 50% of the population would be diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder of the DSM was fully implemented, psychiatric diagnoses are made far more frequently than any of the seven diagnostic categories listed on this diagram of the WebMD website brain disease list. 

Yet there is no category for mental illness with the WedMD list of brain diseases. Nor is there a single reference to depression or any other psychiatric diagnosis as being a brain disease. Because they are not known verified brain diseases/disorders.

3. The Brain Foundation (Australia):

As the following statements from their website affirm,  The Brain Foundation is an independent objective organisation:

The (Australian) Brain Foundation explicitly focuses on neurological disorders, brain disease and brain injuries, as the diagram above clearly illustrates. 

The Brain Foundation website contains a list of brain diseases and disorders, organised in user-friendly fashion in alphabetical order. If depression is a known and scientifically verified brain disease/disorder, then of course depression would be included in this list. 

The following screenshot from the Brain Foundation website includes brain diseases/disorders beginning with the letters ‘B’ through to ‘F’. No mention of depression under ‘d’ here. Several of the conditions listed under ‘d’ occur far less commonly than depression is claimed to occur. 

Depression is not included in this list because it is not a known and verified medical brain disorder.

Depression is real, but not as we know it

Depression is not real, in the sense that what doctors refer to as depression does not meet the medical criteria for a medical illness or brain disorder.

The experiences, beliefs and behaviours that are regularly re-framed by doctors as ‘depression’ are very real,and often excruciating. 

These experiences should be addressed in their own right, rather than being erroneously lumped together as a medical illness that does not exist. 

Depression is real – that is, the underlying experiences, beliefs and behaviours are very real

The following are some of the experiences, beliefs and behaviours that are commonly present within people who become diagnosed as having depression:

Wounded sense of self; hopelessness; powerlessness; much wounding, and many consequences of wounding including various defense mechanisms such as hyper-vigilance and avoidance; great fearfulness; many needs not met in their life, with little confidence that they can get their needs met; unfinished emotional business; easily hurt; much emotion and distress; frequent overwhelm; greatly reduced sense of self, including self-confidence; self-expression; self-belief; self-generated security; great self-doubt, that permeated across most areas of their life; fear of risk, including fear of risking taking the steps they meed to make to progress their life.


As a medical illness, depression is not real. Depression is not a thing. It is not a known and verified medical illness.

However, the individual experiences, beliefs and behaviours themselves – that doctors collectively refer to as depression – these are very real and often excruciating and highly problematic.

A way forward:

Since what is referred to as depression is not a real medical illness, acting as if it is a real medical illness has many obvious limitations.

A way forward involves working with the individual experiences, beliefs and behaviours, not with the notion of ‘depression’. 

I have been working in this way for twenty years. Working in this way opens up many avenues of potential within the work that cannot become available when seeking to address something that does not actually exist – ‘depression’ – as if it does exist.

Regularly getting it wrong at first base in this manner, it is not surprising that the potential within mainstream mental health services for progress and recovery can become significantly limited. 

Depression: Its True Nature

If you would like to delve deeper into what depression really is – as opposed to what ‘depression’ is regularly asserted to be – my online course for mental health professionals – Depression: Its True Nature – for mental health professionals may be of interest to you. 

I also have a course on depression for non-professionals – including people diagnosed with depression – which you can access at Depression: Its True Nature – for the general public.

Depression is real – but not as we know it

As I have set out within this article, depression is real, but not in the way in which it is commonly understood. 

The experiences, beliefs and behaviours are real, valid and often very distressing. However there is no scientific basis for extrapolating that these experiences, beliefs and behaviours constitute a thing called ‘depression’.

Understanding the psychiatric diagnoses: Inconsistencies and contradictions abound within the prevailing medical view

29th August 2018:

The world of mental health is regrettably characterised by the assertion of ‘facts’ by supposedly authoritative sources, many of which are unfounded and unverified scientifically.

The result is the mass misinformation of an unsuspecting public who assume that the words of supposed mental health experts are accurate and trustworthy.

I originally wrote this article five days ago, on 24th August 2018.

Today I came across another blatant example of what I was talking about in this article – a 2018 article on bipolar disorder on the popular Healthline website. Here is an edited screenshot:

As you can see, this article was reviewed by psychologist Timothy J. Legg PhD and passed as correct and accurate.

This experienced psychologist apparently does not know that bipolar disorder is NOT a verified brain disorder. 

It would seem that Dr. Legg has completely bought into what he has heard from his psychiatrist colleagues on this.

Now, read on – everything I have written below in relation to depression applies equally to bipolar disorder.

It really is high time that mental health professionals committed themselves solemnly to truth – to ascertaining the truth, and them passing on (only) truth to the public, who rely so much on the words of mental health professionals.

24th August 2018:

I have been a physician for 35 years, a psychotherapist for 17 years. I have written four mental health books, created a mental health academy. I provide a recovery-oriented mental health service, primarily for people who have been previously given a psychiatric diagnosis.

For the past 30 years I have also been a keen student and observer of all things to do with mental health. My role as a physician facilitated my being in a position to study the medical approach to mental health in great detail. I have long since arrived at the conclusion that the medical approach to mental health – as practiced primarily by psychiatry and GPs/family physicians – is seriously flawed. 

Over the years I have read hundreds of books and articles (and listened to hundreds of radio/TVshows, podcasts etc) on mental health – written by psychiatrists, GPs, other mental health professionals, mental health groups and other individuals -on various aspects of mental health, particularly in relation to the psychiatric diagnoses, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, OCD, eating disorders, personality disorders, schizoaffective disorders and other psychiatric disorders.

Perhaps because I have psychologically removed myself from the brotherhood of medicine – within which one does not dare criticise the brotherhood, its ideologies and modus operandi – I can regular see major flaws of logic, untruths, contradictions, inconsistencies and poor/absent science in what I read/listen to that emanates from within the prevailing medical view of emotional and mental health. 

An example:

As illustrated in the following screenshot from a July 2018 article published in Psychiatric Times, according to the prevailing medical view, depression is the world’s largest health problem

(here is a link to this article)

Also in the screenshot above, you will see that depression is referred to as a disease. If depression is a disease, what kind of disease or disorder would it be? According to medical sources, depression is a brain disease.

People reading such statements by authoritative medical sources will understandably assume them to be true and accurate.

Let’s see how true and accurate this statement is.

Depression is classified by medical authorities as a ‘mental disorder’

Depression is regularly referred to by doctors and medical authorities as a mental disorder. For example, the American government-backed National Institute of Mental Health, arguably the most influential mental health institute in the world, describes depression as a ‘mental disorder’:

(Here is a link to this article) 

Also according to the National Institute of Mental Health, there is no doubt that all so-called ‘mental disorders’ – of which depression is considered to be one – are brain disorders:  

(here is a link to that article on the website of the National Institute of Mental Health):

Summarising this article thus far:

According to medical authorities, depression is the world’s largest health problem, the most disability-creating disease of all worldwide. Depression is a mental disorder, and since all mental disorders, depression is a brain disorder. 

Testing the ‘depression is a brain disorder’ assertions: 

The American government-back National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) contains the most extensive list of brain disorders I have even seen in 35 years as a medical doctor.  This list contains dozens of brain disorders I have never seen, and many that I have never heard of – but the place of these disorders on this list is justified as they meet the medical criteria for a brain disorder.

The NINDS website contains a user-friendly alphabetically-organised access to their list of brain and neurological disorders:

On their site, I clicked ‘D’ for ‘depression’. Below is a screenshot of some of the brain and neurological disorders that begin with ‘D’: 

If ‘depression’ really is a brain disorder, it would obviously be included in this list (Bipolar disorder doesn’t appear on this list -under ‘B’ – either). Since all brain disorders are listed in alphabetical order, it is easy to identify where depression should be included in this list:


Depression is not included anywhere on this list. Depression is not included, because depression is NOT a known brain disorder. This is the plain and simple explanation for the omission of depression on this most extensive list of brain and neurological disorders, on the website of one of the world’s most authoritative neurological institutes, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Depression does not appear on the list of brain disorders on the website of the Australia-based Brain Foundation  either. Below is an edited screenshot of the ‘brain disorders’ page of the website of the Brain Foundation:

Clicking ‘D’ on this page  on the Brain Foundation website takes us to here (the yellow arrow points to where depression would appear alphabetically (in reverse aphabetical order) if depression really is a known brain disorder): 

Depression does not appear in the list of brain diseases in the WedMD website either. Here is an edited screenshot of the the main ‘Brain Diseases’ section of the WebMD site (WebMD is currently rated the second most popular source of medical information  on the internet):

You will notice that, on the list of brain disease categories on the right hand side of the screenshot above, there is no mention of anything relating to psychiatric/mental disorders (The third heading in this list – trauma – refers to physical brain trauma such as head injuries).

Depression does not feature anywhere within this list of brain disorders, for the simple reason that depression is not a known brain disorder. 

In other words . . . 

The widely-made claims that depression is a brain disorder are untrue

Linking this to the beginning of this article . . . 

I began this article with a screenshot and quote from the Psychiatric Times in July 2018. In this article, it was unequivocally stated that (i) ‘depression is the world’s largest health problem’, and (ii) depression accounts ‘for more disability that any other disease worldwide’, a statement that clearly implies that depression too is a brain disease. Here’s that screenshot again:

Where does all this leave us?

Summarising all this: We are repeatedly told by supposedly authoritative medical sources that depression is the worlds largest heath problem, and that depression, like other so-called ‘mental disorders’, is a brain disorder. 

But the truth is that depression is not an established brain disorder, so all such claims are false, regardless of how apparently authoritative the sources of such assertions seem to be.

Depression is not a scientifically verified medical illness either.

What we are left with then is the bizarre situation whereby the so-called ‘disease’ that causes the most health disability of all on a worldwide scale is not actually a disease at all.

How can this be?

This is just one of many bizarre situations that characterise the prevailing medically-dominated global approach to mental health. 

Such bizarre situations occur because, fundamentally, there are many serious fundamental flaws in the ‘logic’ and ideology of psychiatry.

Inconsistencies, contradictions and lack of scientific evidence are frequent occurrences within the prevailing approach to mental health globally.

This is a serious situation. 

(There are no known brain chemical imbalances either, regardless of how many times you may have heard this about depression) 

If you would like to inform yourself about the truth in relation to depression, my 17-hour online course ‘Depression: Its True Nature’   has 3 principle components:

(i) a setting out of the prevailing understanding of depression

(ii) a detailed critique of the prevailing view of depression

(iii) a setting out of an understanding of depression that matches the experiences and behaviours that come to be called ‘depression’, honouring and explaining the strong emotional and psychological aspects.

Here is a link to the course information:- Depression: Its True Nature

Until the end of August 2018, the course is available at a 50% price reduction, as is my bipolar disorder course, Bipolar Disorder: Cracking The Code and my courses for mental health professionals, including Working Therapeutically With Clients With A Psychiatric Diagnosis.  

If you have any questions about the course of feedback about this article, you can email me at terry@doctorterrylynch.com (copy and paste this email address to email me).

Dr. Terry Lynch.


Keynote Speaker, William Glasser International Biennial Conference, Columbia, June 2018.

Guest Speaker, Irish Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy Annual Conference, October 2018.

Keynote Speaker, Samaritans Annual Conference, 2015.

Mental health professional, physician, psychotherapist, best-selling mental health author, provider of recovery-oriented mental health service.

Member of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy (formulated A Vision for Change (2006), Ireland’s official mental health policy document).

Member of the Implementation Group for A Vision for Change (2006-9), the Second Monitoring Group for A Vision for Change (2009-12), and the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) Expert Advisory Group on Mental Health (2006-8).