Monday, May 08, 2006

Dreams and Depression: Was Sigmund Freud Correct? -

Sigmund Freud was one of the most influential people of the 20th century. He claimed that depression and anxiety are influenced by factors that affect us in childhood, and that interpreting dreams can lead us to the childhood causes. He felt that psychotherapy could make emotionally sick people heathy by getting them to understand that what happens in childhood can cause them to develop depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.

For 50 years, Freud was one of the most revered scientists on earth. Then scientists discovered neurotransmitters, chemicals that pass messages from one nerve to another. They found that people who hallucinate and are not able to think clearly are schizophrenic because their brains make too much dopamine or glutamate; that people are depressed because their brains make too little norepinephrine and serotonin; that people who shake with Parkinson’s disease do so because their brains make too little dopamine; and that people who lose their ability to reason and remember because they suffer from Alzheimer’s disease have too little acetyl choline. So now these diseases are treated with drugs that raise or lower brain levels of neurotransmitters. Drugs, like Mirapex, raise dopamine levels to treat Parkinson’s disease. Drugs such a Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft to raise brain levels of serotonin and treat depression. Modern psychiatrists know that you cannot treat chemical depression, schizophrenia or anxiety just with talking. You treat mental disorders with drugs to correct abnormal brain levels of neurotransmitters.

But wait a minute. Because today psychiatrists treat depression, anxiety and schizophrenia with drugs, doesn't mean that Freud was wrong. Psychiatrists cannot talk people out of mental disease, but new scientific marvels called pet scans, electroencephalograms, MRIs and so forth show why Freud was right. When you go to sleep at night, your eyes are still. After a while, your eyes dart from side to side rapidly. This is called Rapid Eye Movement sleep or REM for short, and during REM you have dreams. If you wake up, you can report your dreams, but if you try to remember your dream a few hours later, you usually can’t. During REM sleep, the part of your brain that governs emotions and visual imagery are activated, while the part of you brain associated with rational thought and reasoning are turned off. So dreams may uninhibit you so you can think about things that may be too painful to think about when you are awake. Or dreams may allow you to discover things about yourself that you would never tell directly to anyone, let alone your doctor.

So, 100 years after Freud published his Interpretation of Dreams, we can see that he may be right because dreams can be a clue to why we feel depressed, anxious and may reason poorly. But psychotherapy, by itself, has not been shown to be an effective treatment for most cases of depression, anxiety or schizophrenia. On the other hand, psychotherapy plus medication is more effective than medication alone to treat anxiety and depression. Psychotherapy can help people cope better with their problems and interpreting dreams can help them understand why they are what they are. Even though many theories proposed by Freud one hundred years ago appear to be wrong, Freud remains one of the most brilliant contributing intellectuals of the 20th century.

Read my Good Food Book FREE, with 100 healthful recipes.

Dr. Gabe Mirkin has been a radio talk show host for 25 years and practicing physician for more than 40 years; he is board certified in four specialties, including sports medicine. Read or listen to hundreds of his fitness and health reports at

Free weekly newsletter on fitness, health, and nutrition.

Article Source:,_M.D.

No comments: