Rosie O’Donnell: Hanging skepticism upside down

Well, not exactly “no comment.” You know that Orac, being the annoyingly obnoxious skeptic that he is, has to put at least two cents in.

This one’s just plain odd. I knew Rosie O’Donnell’s not exactly the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, and she also borders on being a creduloid, at least with respect to almost buying the myth that mercury in vaccines causes autism (although she does get props for slapping down David Kirby) and waxing antivax about Gardasil, the new vaccine against human papilloma virus. But last week, she revealed that she has been using “inversion therapy” for years to battle depression.

What is “inversion therapy”? It’s hanging upside down for 15-30 minutes a day. Is there any evidence that this does anything for depression? In a word, no. Nor is there any evidence that it “really releases the serotonin,” as Rosie claims.

Now, given Rosie’s level of intellect, one might argue that anything that produces more blood flow to her brain, even for less than a half hour a day, would be a good thing (although in reality it probably does nothing more than slightly increase intracerebral pressure by impeding venous return without producing any increase in blood flow to the brain; our vascular system is designed to provide blood flow to the brain while the head is above the level of the heart, after all). Unfortunately, the fact that she’s using her celebrity to push a dubious and unproven “treatment” for depression is just as bad as Oprah Winfrey credulously lapping up what psychics have been laying down and shamelessly plugging what looks to be 2007’s big entry in the sweepstakes for destroying what little is left of skeptical thought in this country, The Secret. It’s depressing. Oprah, at least, should know better. At least Rosie, unlike many who use conventional therapy and alternative therapy, doesn’t attribute her recovery only to the alternative therapy:

Anyone concerned about the stigma of taking medication for depression should know that “it saved my life,” she said.

When she began taking antidepressants, O’Donnell, 44, said she began yoga and “inversion therapy,” where she hangs upside down by a swing for 15 to 30 minutes a day.

I’ll at least give her that much credit.

One thing that lifts my depression at the state of critical thinking in this country is to look at Rosie, actually demonstrating her “inversion therapy”: