Don’t Say That Depression Is Caused by a Chemical Imbalance

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The idea of neurodiversity is not without its critics. Some have suggested that it may commodify and romanticize difference, while ignoring the suffering of those who are not high-functioning and do not have exceptional talents that come with their neurodivergence. Others have accused it of being anti-treatment and anti-cure.

There is little research about the effectiveness of this framing. However, early research is promising: one study found that those who know about neurodiversity tend to view autism as more of a positive identity. No research, to my knowledge, has looked at this framing in the context of mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. So, while there’s not yet enough evidence to make any strong claims about whether the “neurodiversity” frame works, it is a valiant effort to try to reframe the all-too-common and harmful tendency to talk about mental illness as if it were a “brain disease.”

As a wide body of psychological literature indicates, words matter, and the words we choose to use can powerfully influence how people think. If we choose the right words to frame difference, we can help fight stigma and potentially make the world more accommodating for the neurodiversity that exists within and all around us.