I recently read a book called “Lost Connection: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression-and the Unexpected Solution”. Written by Johann Hari, who previously wrote a book about addiction titled “Chasing the Scream”. “Lost Connections” is a very personal book, beginning with Mr. Hari sharing his own journey of living with depression, treated with medication, for over 13 years.
The book is divided into 3 distinct and easily digestible parts and based on a vast array of validated research. He trekked across the globe for 3 years collecting this research, talking to social scientists, research psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health professionals, and those who live or have lived with depression and anxiety. It is important to note that this book is as much about anxiety as it is about depression and what he uncovers as the clear link between the two.
Part 1, entitled “The Crack in the Old Story” explores in depth the belief, first introduced widely to the public in the early 1990’s, that depression is a disease of the brain, a dysfunction in brain chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. This story was introduced to the public simultaneously with trained medical doctors, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals across the globe by pharmaceutical companies. He shares his own strong identification with the chemical imbalance belief, first introduced to him at age 18 when a well-meaning psychiatrist prescribed an SSRI and explained to him that his depression, which he could remember experiencing since he was a small child, was not all in his head, a sign of laziness or poor character, as he had believed up to that point. He felt almost immediate relief and became a zealot of this story, encouraging anyone who mentioned a symptom of depression to go get some drugs. One of the more interesting stories he tells is of sitting in his therapist’s office, years into his drug journey, sharing how grateful he was for the existence of anti-depressants — only to have his therapist observe that he was still exhibiting symptoms of depression. It took years for him to notice the pattern — he would be given a medication, feel better for a while, then his depression would return. His dosage would be increased, he would experience relief, but again, only temporarily. Then his dosage would be increased again. Many people reading this will recognize this frustrating cycle. And so, began his journey into researching the true cause and cure for depression and anxiety. Sort of. He actually kept putting it off, admittedly afraid that he might learn that the chemical story was not the real one.
I will not go into great depth discussing every aspect of what he learned and shares in part 1. I do, however, want to offer what seem to me to be the most important revelations. First, he discusses how a Harvard psychiatrist, a full believer in the chemical imbalance narrative, began researching the studies conducted by pharmaceutical companies and provided to the FDA for drug approval. What he initially uncovered was that, across all the studies used to approve drugs, the results indicated that of those who recovered, 25% were due to a natural recovery, 50% a placebo effect, and 25% could be attributed to the chemicals provided by the drugs. He offers a number of other studies and there is great detail included in the book as to just how the research was conducted. It seems that drug companies are allowed to conduct as much research as they wish, then selectively present to the FDA only those results that cast their drug in a good light. Another section of part 1 discussed research into the idea of a chemical imbalance correctable by drugs being a primary cause of depression. What is revealed is that the information upon which this belief rests is based on scientists misreading data, that pharmaceutical companies know this, but continue to use this incorrect information to sell the world on the magic of their cure. Most of the public and a very high percentage of general physicians, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, still believe this myth is true.
Part 2 “Disconnection: Nine Causes of Depression and Anxiety reveals what Mr. Hari has concluded, based on his research along with that of prominent scientists, as the true causes of depression and anxiety.
The nine causes of depression:
- Disconnection from meaningful work
- Disconnection from other people
- Disconnection from meaningful values
- Disconnection from childhood trauma
- Disconnection from status and respect
- Disconnection from the natural world
- Disconnection from a hopeful or secure future
- The real roles of genes and brain changes
I doubt that these will create surprise in those who experience depression and anxiety or work with those who do. What this section offers is a chapter on each of these topics in which the reasons why they can be proved to be a contributing factor.
In part 3 “Reconnection. Or, a Different Kind of Antidepressant” we learn the 7 ways one can find relief from their depression without the chemicals that he proved don’t actually work. Again, I doubt that these will be shocking. I do however believe that for many it may feel “easier” to continue to believe that depression and anxiety are solely brain diseases passed to us through our genetics. And the pharmaceutical companies are invested in our continued clinging to this belief.
The seven aspects of reconnection:
- Reconnection to other people
- Reconnection through social prescribing
- Reconnection to meaningful work
- Reconnection to meaningful values
- Reconnection through sympathetic joy and overcoming an addiction to the self
- Reconnection through the acknowledgment of childhood trauma
- Reconnection by restoring the future
In conclusion, I highly recommend this easy-to-read, well-researched, interestingly written book to anyone who has a direct connection to depression and anxiety, through personally experiencing it, through a relative or close friend, or through healing work as a medical physician, psychiatrist or mental health professional. I suggest you consider the difference between Mr. Hari’s motivation to do this research and write this book in contrast with Big Pharma’s motivation to continue to sell you the chemical imbalance story through advertisements and sharing with healers only the research that supports their story.
I offer this information not as an encouragement to stop your medication. This is a decision that only you and your doctor can make. I offer it as insight into the importance of arriving at an understand of the roles of connection and disconnection in any emotional distress you may experience.
The therapists at Life Skills Resource would be honored to help you with this discovery. The first step is to call our office at 407-355-7378 or to directly contact one of your therapists.
Each of our team members offers a FREE phone consultation where you will have to opportunity to discuss your counseling need.