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Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions

by Johann Hari

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-63286-830-5
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Mining the root causes of depression and anxiety.

Acclaimed British journalist Hari researched and wrote his bestselling debut, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs (2015), while pushing aside work on a subject that was much too personal to accept and scrutinize at the time. This book, the culmination of a 40,000-mile odyssey and hundreds of hours of interviews with social scientists and depression sufferers (including those who’ve recovered), presents a theory that directly challenges long-held beliefs about depression’s causes and cures. The subject matter is exquisitely personal for the author, since he’d battled chronic melancholy since his teenage years and was prescribed the “chemical armor” of antidepressants well into his young adulthood. Though his dosage increased as the symptoms periodically resurfaced, he continued promoting his condition as a brain-induced malady with its time-tested cure being a strict regimen of pharmaceutical chemicals. Taking a different approach from the one he’d been following for most of his life, Hari introduces a new direction in the debate over the origins of depression, which he developed after deciding to cease all medication and become “chemically naked” at age 31. The author challenges classically held theories about depression and its remedies in chapters brought to life with interviews, personal observations, and field-professional summations. Perhaps most convincing is the author’s thorough explanation of what he believes are the proven causes of depression and anxiety, which include disconnection from work, society, values, nature, and a secure future. These factors, humanized with anecdotes, personal history, and social science, directly contradict the chemical-imbalance hypothesis hard-wired into the contemporary medical community. Hari also chronicles his experiences with reconnective solutions, journeys that took him from a Berlin housing project to an Amish village to rediscover what he deems as the immense (natural) antidepressive benefits of meaningful work, social interaction, and selflessness.

In a sure-to-be-controversial book, Hari delivers a weighty, well-supported, persuasive argument against treating depression pharmaceutically.