Today in the U.S. it seems the predominant narrative available to make sense of much internal suffering is a scientific narrative, the belief that, much like diabetes or cancer, mental illness can be “found,” accurately identified through formal diagnostic procedures, and addressed through scientifically vetted treatments. Much as we colloquially understand diabetes to be an imbalance in, or a compromised capacity of the body to interact with, insulin, one recent narrative of depression is that there is a similarly challenged relationship between the brain and serotonin. More generally the common colloquial explanation for much of what we categorize as mental illness has become that it is, or is often caused by, “a chemical imbalance,” a graciously vague statement which most of us could accurately use to describe as a major influence of our mood before having our morning coffee.
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