Major Limitation #5:
Dr. Brogan Presents a Limited, Narrow, One-Sided View of Depression
In her new book, “A Mind of Your Own,” Dr. Kelly Brogan is a cherry-picking conspiracy theorist who chooses non-credible resources to promote her negative views of the “medical industrial complex,” the derogatory name she refers to the Western Medicinal system which she liberally bashes while generously profiting from. Perhaps the most major limitation of her book is that she presents a very limited, narrow, one-sided view of depression.
Dr. Brogan selects her “depressed” patients in such a way that it’s questionable whether these patients would meet the clinical guidelines to have an appropriate diagnosis of depression in the first place. Depression is a mood disorder and mental illness which completely affects one’s ability to perform normal activities of daily living (ADLs) due to a major loss of energy. Despite the fact that major health organizations such as the Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) define depression as a “mood disorder,” Dr. Brogan states that this is not true. However, after reading her book, (which she practically begs her Facebook page followers to buy), it’s obvious that Dr. Brogan intentional deviates from the knowledge which all of the major medical organizations present to the public about depression. Dr. Brogan has never done any research on depression nor has she published any of the data from her patients, so she has no evidence to back up her refutations of a definition recognized by everyone in the medical community except for her.
Patients who are experiencing clinical depression lose interest in activities they previously found enjoyable, become socially withdrawn and often cannot complete tasks like filling the application which Dr. Brogan requires of patients before they can be seen as a patient. Dr. Brogan’s case studies of her patients which she shares in her book don’t illustrate the vast variety of patients which present to hospitals in need of psychological care. Dr. Brogan presents arguments for changing the definition and treatment for depression, the most common mental illness which affects 40 million people annually or 18% of the population, based on a few examples of women she’s supposedly “cured” in just four weeks. It’s overwhelmingly apparent that Dr. Brogan hasn’t stepped foot into a hospital in a while and I’d like to challenge her to try her therapies on hospitalized patients and present those results.
According to the Mayo Clinic, depressed patients have trouble keeping commitments as they have trouble sleeping and may go through cycles of sleeping all the time versus experiencing insomnia. A truly depressed patient might experience great difficulty in going to laboratories to get all of the extensive blood work which Dr. Brogan orders, coming in for frequent office visits and completing her rigorous four-week program, which includes frequent exercise activities. Further, Dr. Brogan’s very detailed and specific meal plan is not only expensive but would take a lot of energy to put into to place and follow on a daily basis. Dr. Brogan states that she will fire a patient if they don’t follow her meal plan, which would effectively weed out any of the clinically depressed or financially strapped patients who lack the energy or finances to complete her program. If a doctor demanded that all of his patients with Parkinson’s disease be able to jog one mile a day before they could continue to be under his care, then it would be easy for that doctor to claim that he has found the cure for Parkinson’s Disease as he has weeded out all of the progressed cases in which a patient would not be able to jog and therefore didn’t fit into his narrowly selected, one-sided views of the illness he has claimed to found a cure for.
“As you’re about to find out, with one fell swoop, how meditation, sleep, and exercise can accomplish what pharmaceutical companies could only dream about.” (page 170) It turns out that as Dr. Brogan learned in medical school, there are a whole host of illnesses and diseases for which none of the above will do anything for, so perhaps Dr. Brogan is the one who is dreaming. For example, a type-1 diabetic can meditate, sleep well and exercise regularly and none of that will still change the fact that her life depends on insulin as her pancreas will not make this life-saving chemical, even if Dr. Brogan willed it to.
Dr. Brogan states, “Essentially, all of “modern” medicine needs to go back to the drawing board” (page 78). However, the American Psychological Association (APA), the major organization which regulates her field of psychology appears to differ wildly with Dr. Brogan’s view on depression, so perhaps she is the one who needs to revisit her roots of education and hospital training. The APA states that a combination of antidepressants and therapy will help cure depression. While depression can have a sudden, situational onset and be remedied by minor changes, clinical depression is often a life-long illness for which meditation and Dr. Brogan’s diet changes will do nothing for.
Dr. Brogan claims that her diet program will cure depression and offers an entire chapter, Chapter 3, to discuss gut theory and how she believes it relates to depression. Dr. Brogan basically advocates that should an individual eat the “right” foods, they basically don’t need health insurance. “This is also why food choices are so fundamental to immune health, and by implication brain heath: eating the wrong foods for you could spell disaster from the perspective of the gut-based immune system, whereas eating the right things could literally act as a health insurance policy.” (page 79). However, this is an extremely narrow, limited view of depression because Dr. Brogan completely neglects the fact that the causes of depression can be extrinsic in nature and completely out of one’s control. What could Dr. Brogan’s diet program possibly do for a woman experiencing divorce, homelessness, financial duress, the loss of a loved one or a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy?
In the beginning of her book, Dr. Brogan tells readers that she’ll offer many peer-reviewed studies to back up her claims that gut composition causes depression, and then links readers to a study which turns out to be a PubMed abstract which cannot be viewed without purchase (page 71). It’s worth noting that she never links readers to the APA or any other major medical organization to gather information about depression.
Dr. Brogan refers to “so-called Proteobacteria”, the theory that all life on earth originated as unicellular organisms which eventually evolved into the complex organisms which populate earth today (page 78). However, she doesn’t refer to her own “so-called” theories that depression is solely related to “inner disequilibrium” and completely ignores that fact that extrinsic factors such as divorce, death of a loved one, financial duress and war, could also cause depression. Dr. Brogan states that humans are suffering from an “evolutionary mismatch that fuels debilitating mood disorders” but of course doesn’t offer any evidence to back up this claim or present similar statements by reputable colleagues in her field (page 87).
Dr. Brogan states, “…it’s also no surprise that high blood sugar is one of the biggest risk factors for depression. Women with diabetes are nearly 30 percent more likely to develop depression.” Page 109. It’s also entirely plausible that a woman who is diagnosed with diabetes will suddenly experience a whirlwind of changes including monitoring every single meal she eats, pricking her finger beforehand to check for glucose levels, not being able to have a snack without worrying about insulin needs or medication, watching every single thing she eats, not being able to enjoy the foods she once shared liberally with her family and friends, worrying about her weight more than ever, watching her toes and feet for cuts, not being able to wear cute, trendy shoes any longer and so on. Couldn’t all of these changes lead to depression as well? Dr. Brogan never explores this option at all in her book, which is a major limitation.
“Thyroid dysfunction and blood sugar disorders are just two of the psychiatric pretenders that often go unidentified and unresolved when a person is labeled as depressed; others come from external sources, such as the beauty products you buy and the pills you pop for heartburn.” (page 111). Dr. Brogan states that the symptoms of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can be similar to those associated with depression. (page 110) While this is true, hypoglycemia is a medical emergency and if the patient who is diabetic does not restore their blood sugar, they can end up in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), fall into a coma and die. It’s unlikely that a patient who has been frequently experiencing low blood sugar episodes but was mistaking them for depression would continue to make that mistake when the problem was quickly corrected by consuming food. Further, type-1 diabetic patients would beg to differ with Dr. Brogan that there is no “magic pill” or solution as synthetic insulin is the fluid which keeps them alive. Patients who have clinical depression would not experience a sudden relief of symptoms if they drank some orange juice and ate a cracker with peanut butter.
Dr. Brogan deviates from the American Psychological Association (APA) as well as every other major medical organization on their widely-accepted definition of depression and presents a very narrow, one-sided view of depression throughout her book. Further, her presentation of case studies and her claim that a diet will cure depression in just four weeks illustrates that Dr. Brogan needs to leave her Manhattan office and spend some time in the hospital again to be reminded that her thoughts and diet will do nothing for the 40 million American’s suffering from depression in the United States.
Stay tuned for next time when I discuss how Dr. Brogan stomps on infection control and promotes ideologies which are harmful to public health. In case you missed them:
Part 1: Dr. Brogan is a conspiracy theorist
Part 2: Dr. Brogan is a cherry-picker
Part 3: Dr. Brogan utilizes non-credible resources, most of which she profits from
Part 4: Dr. Brogan promotes unnecessary fear and misconception of Western Medicine
Angela Quinn, BSN, RN is a registered nurse on Long Island, NY. She is passionate about nursing and public health and is involved with a number of projects which promote life-saving vaccines. Angela volunteers as an Executive Board Member in Vaccine Advocacy for Nurses Who Vaccinate, is the founder of this blog, Correcting the Misconceptions of Anti-Vaccine Resources and is the creator of Future Nurse Abby.