Can psychopaths suffer from chemical imbalances

Note !: Is the brain sick when the soul suffers?

When a person (or even an animal) suffers, then it makes sense to focus all considerations on the question of how best to be helped. Medicine serves the purpose of prevention (e.g. through vaccinations) and the healing of illnesses and injuries or the alleviation of illness-related suffering if healing is not possible. This also means that medicine is not responsible for all human ailments. However, in some cases it is difficult to differentiate, and nowhere is it more difficult than in the area of ​​so-called mental disorders.


The term "disorder" has been replacing the term disease in clinical psychology and psychiatry for several decades. Among other things, this was done with the intention of avoiding stigmatization of those affected: Terms that have been used for centuries such as mental illness, insanity, idiocy or insane asylum have largely disappeared from our vocabulary in favor of a sober, scientific and functional view of these phenomena. While the English word "disorder" simply means something that has gotten mixed up, the German word "Stör" has a strong technical-machine connotation. In addition, the cause of the disorder is not looked for somewhere in the system, but localized in the psyche of the person concerned: "mental disorder".

The mental disorders impress with their tremendous diversity: from eating disorders to depression, from phobias to suicidality, from alcohol addiction to dementia, from ADHD to psychopathy, from schizophrenia to kleptomania, from autism to post-traumatic stress reactions - an astonishing panopticon of painful human experiences and behavior. All of them are extremes in behavior and experience, which have lost a "reasonable measure" so that a "normal life" is no longer possible.

In view of this diversity, the high proportion of mental disorders in the overall incidence of illnesses is hardly surprising: in Europe, more than a third (38 percent) of all 18 to 65 year olds (corresponding to 165 million) reported the occurrence of a mental disorder in the past twelve Months. The most common disorders are anxiety disorders (14 percent) and sleep disorders and depression (7 percent each). Less than a third of those affected receive medical treatment. Mental disorders are the most important reason for early retirement (around 25 percent in Germany), and the proportion of mental disorders is also very high when it comes to days of incapacity for work (almost 10 percent in Germany, corresponding to 111 days of incapacity for every 100 employees). It is controversial among experts whether the increase in mental disorders, which is often quoted in the media, actually exists.

Mental disorders as brain dysfunction

Carl Vogt (1817-1895):

"Every natural scientist, I think, with reasonably consistent thinking, will come to the view that all those faculties that we understand under the name of soul activities are only functions of the brain substance; or, to express myself somewhat roughly here, that the Thoughts have the same relationship to the brain as the bile to the liver or urine to the kidneys.To accept a soul that uses the brain as an instrument with which it can work as it pleases is pure nonsense One would then have to be compelled to assume a special soul for every function of the body and so, because of the souls without bodies that rule over the individual parts, one would not be able to perceive the whole of life A part which has a peculiar composition must necessarily also have a peculiar function. " (Physiological letters for educated people of all classes, Vol. 2, 1846, p. 206)

"Mental illnesses are brain diseases" - this was already asserted in the 19th century by the psychiatric pioneer Wilhelm Griesinger (1817-1868), in line with a famous bon mot of the zoologist Carl Vogt (1817-1895; see box on the right). At the time, this statement was directed against the idea that other organ systems - e.g. heart, liver or lungs - were responsible for the development of mental disorders.

Building on this tradition, the head of the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Munich, Florian Holsboer, replied in an interview with the magazine G&G (12/2011, p. 37) on the question of whether all mental illnesses are always brain diseases as well: "Yes, of course. In essence, there is always an imbalance in the biochemistry of the cells of the brain", and then to the critical one Inquiry as to whether it is not too one-sided to see mental suffering solely as a disturbance of the brain metabolism, to specify: "No, especially not if you want to heal. Of course, the individual suffering of the patient is embedded in the respective living conditions. These influence again, how to deal with an illness and what specific help is available, for example in the family or in the work environment. The real problem, however, is rooted in brain processes, and this is where treatment must begin. "