Johann Hari – Causes of Depression
9 factors causing depression (7 are psychosocial, and 2 are biological)
Psychological reasons and upsets give rise to the physical symptoms of depression.
Disconnection from work that gives meaning and purpose (little control or autonomy in your work).
Disconnection from people (feeling profoundly lonely). Not sharing any meaningful experience with any other people.
Disconnection from meaningful values. Focusing on materialism, and doing things purely for extrinsic rewards instead of intrinsic reward.
Disconnection caused by childhood trauma. For every traumatic experience, you go through as a child it significantly increases the likelihood of a later diagnosis of depression.
Disconnection from respect. Modern life cultivates the view that status, celebrity and wealth are what denote success and anxiety over the loss of financial security and status often are underlying constant stress in people.
Disconnection from the natural world. Faced with the vista of the natural world we feel ‘small’ not ‘big’, and we feel like we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. Animals in captivity rock, lose interest in sex (why they are so hard to breed in captivity) and show other compulsive and depressive behaviors they don’t exhibit in the wild. We are animals. We need to be outdoors. Rates of depression when exercising in the natural world, and spending time outdoors all reduce in comparison to time spent outside. We often feel ‘more alive’ when outdoors in nature. Grounded.
Disconnection from loss of hope for a better future.
The role of genes and biology in depression. Neuroplasticity means the brain is continually growing and changing and does not stay the same. This means the concept of a ‘broken’ brain that cannot be fixed is not supported by current scientific evidence. However, distress from the external world and brain changes occur together which lead to depression. Johann Hari in his book “Lost Connections” on page 146, says that these changes in the brain can then “acquire a momentum of their own that deepens the effects from the outside world.”
Scientists have discovered that for depression there is a 37% genetic inheritance, BUT for those who carry the gene and are born with it — the inherited gene HAS to be activated by your environment.
It is WHAT happens to you in life that determines if that gene for depression is switched on or not.
Biological factors can influence depression as it has been proven that suffering either glandular fever or underactive thyroid can significantly increase the rates of depression in people who are vulnerable.
Some forms of bipolar are seen by some (not all) scientists as having a greater biological component, but psychosocial factors are still seen as influencing and affecting all forms of depression.
When I studied psychology at university, I learned about the bio-psycho-social model about mental health. However, when I went to the doctors with acute symptoms, not one doctor has ever asked me:
“What happened to you?”
What has happened in your life?
What happened in your childhood?
What happened to you in the last year that has been a major trigger?
What support systems do you have in your life?
Do you have friends?
Do you have a family? Do you have a supportive family?
How is your marriage?
How are your children? What is happening to them?
How is your job? Are you fulfilled at work?
A psychiatrist that I was referred to 20 years ago when I had attempted suicide asked me all these questions over the period I saw her. I do not think I would be alive today if it were not for her superb care and attention to help me create new meaning rebuilding my life.
But the doctor gave me a prescription for some pills, and I was out the door in 10 minutes. I was given a chemical solution.
None of them ever fully worked. I increased the dosages to the maximum each time.
I stayed on the medication for over five years the first time.
I lost my sex drive.
I put on weight.
I felt flat and numb.
But I felt I could not exist without the medication. At least I was alive. That is how I felt.
It felt like my emotional pain increased too much when I tried to come off the tablets.
I went back on medication nearly a year ago. This new antidepressant does not affect libido and is meant to have no side effects when you come off it (no withdrawal symptoms). I tried to go off it a few months ago and started to get panic attacks and so started it again.
I then started to see a therapist who does body somatic therapy based on the work of Dr. Peter Levine on healing people from complex PTSD.
I can feel huge changes within my body and my ways of thinking since I have been exploring this healing modality on a regular basis.
I was told by my doctor to stay on the antidepressant for a minimum of one year before I tried to come off it. So I am going to do that.
What do I make of all this research as put together and researched by Johann Hari?
It all makes complete sense to me.