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.
Stress is usually characterized as an unpleasant and unwelcome feeling that expresses itself both physically and mentally. The effects of stress range from irritability and anxiety to raised blood pressure and heart disease. When you think of stress in these terms, it’s no wonder you spend so much time trying to manage or avoid it altogether.
But what if, instead of stressing over how to rid your life of stress, you focused on ways to use it to your advantage? What would happen if you perceived stress as a helpful companion with benefits to offer rather than as an irritating foe out to make your life harder?
As Dr. Kelly McGonigal describes in her book The Upside of Stress, it is this shift in mindset that allows you to have a healthier, even beneficial relationship with stress. Dr. McGonigal, a health psychologist, once shared the same stance a majority of health professionals have adopted: stress is bad and you need to eliminate it immediately before it affects your health. However, she discovered that perceiving stress through such a negative lens can actually be harmful to your health. On the other hand, when you view stress as a helpful tool and motivator, and learn how to harness it to your advantage, your health is less likely to be negatively affected. In fact, stress may actually be good for you if you learn to embrace it and use it properly.
Benefits of Stress
Often when you think of stress, the first thing to come to mind are its negative symptoms (i.e., panic, headache, tightening in the chest, etc.). But stress actually has an abundance of benefits to offer, such as:
Stress can serve as a great motivator for reaching goals or accomplishing simple tasks. Whether it’s landing a new job promotion, meeting a deadline, or tackling a to-do list, a little stress can push you to take action. If you didn’t feel any stress at all, you might not feel inclined to break out of your comfort zone, which is essential for personal growth.
When you experience small amounts of stress, you are actually building up your resistance to future stressors. According to the American Psychological Association, over time humans are wired to adapt to stressful situations by building personal coping systems.
Boosting Cognitive Function
A 2013 study from the University of California – Berkeley found that acute stress can generate new nerve cells in the brain, improving cognitive and mental performance. According to the authors of the study, a certain amount of stress can promote:
- Optimal levels of focus
- Improved memory
- Enhanced learning of new tasks
Using Stress to Your Advantage
If stress has its benefits, then how do you take advantage of them? How can you make stress work for you rather than against you?
Retrain Your Brain
As previously discussed, how you view stress can determine how it affects you. Retraining the brain to view stress as a helpful tool rather than a roadblock will take time as the latter has likely become deeply ingrained. While it will take some practice, it is possible to change your response when stress rears its head.
Replace the negative thoughts that typically arise at the first sign of stress with more positive ones, such as, I’m experiencing stress and welcome it fully. Then, think of how you could best use it to solve a problem or reach a goal. How can you make the stress work for you?
Tip: Don’t stress over trying to think of a way to best use stress! This strategy will get easier over time. If you’re unable to think of how to take advantage of whatever stressor you’re facing, simply accept that it’s there. Sit with it rather than flee from it.
Reframe Your Perspective
When you attach purpose to a difficult situation, it becomes easier to handle or, at the very least, motivates you to handle it. When you reframe stressors in order to add meaning to your life, you are giving your stress a positive purpose.
Perhaps its purpose is one of the above benefits discussed such as motivating behavior, building resilience, or boosting cognitive performance, or it could be something else entirely. Pairing stress with a purpose will allow you to broaden your perspective as to why it exists and the benefits it provides.
Sometimes you feel stressed and can easily identify the cause; other times you’re unsure where it stems from. Pinpointing the root cause of your stress puts you in a position to work with it rather than against it. When you feel the symptoms of stress, either physically or psychologically, but don’t know what’s brought it on, you may feel as though you aren’t in control of what’s happening. However, identifying its origins and approaching it within a more positive framework puts you back in the driver’s seat.
Stress is a part of everyday life, and as much as you might try to will it away, it will inevitably creep up again. By making stress your ally, you can learn to use it to your advantage and perhaps even learn something new in the process. So next time you’re feeling stressed, accept it as part of the journey and embrace it whole-heartedly. You might be surprised by the result.
How has your music developed from the first EP, and do you feel like you’ve grown as an artist since then?
“It took ages to make something after the first EP as it felt like we couldn’t really top it for the longest time. I was trying different methods to top it too, going back to recording in different ways. The same way with a new band ended up working with Affection [second EP], when we did that. But I think it’s a pretty close sound, just a refined version somewhat. I didn’t want to go too far off, so I suppose it hasn’t changed much. That sound has become my identity and I’ve just been making it tighter and sharper and as good as I can. As a person, I think I’ve just changed through seeing more of the world and the music’s brought that about. I feel like maybe I’ve gotten better at dealing with some things… but that I’m probably more detached too, cause it’s harder to have relationships and stuff like that if you’re on the road. Before, I had more long-term relationships, now on the road there is more of having to manage a long-distance kind of thing. Touring changes a person that way.”
What’s the favourite song you’ve written, and your favourite song to perform?
“It’s probably ‘I’m a Firefighter’. That one took a lot longer than usual, and it feels really cinematic to me – in the sense that while each image is about falling out of love, it’s elaborated upon in a way that is much more imaginative. The other songs are more like retellings of real stories. Take for example ‘Affection’ or ‘K’ – those kind of line by line describe things that have happened to me. In them I’m telling the story almost 100%, like a memoir. But ‘I’m a Firefighter’ uses an emotion and turns it into some kind of story. I really like that aspect of the song; it’s different from the other stuff. It’s actually based on a really true feeling; a break up I was going through. So I like that one. I also like singing it too, because the way it was written, it feels like it’s a really good place for my voice. I like the way the two work together – the lyrics and my vocals.”
Who or what would you say were your major influences?
“For the first EP (I), we were inspired by primarily the Cowboy Junkies. They did a record called Trinity Session – I love the sound of ‘Sweet Jane’ – and I figured out when I read about the album that they recorded over the course of just one night, live, with just one mic. And I thought it was great, and that we should do a record like that. I began doing it that way because I felt like I was wasting too much time in the studio overdeveloping stuff and I just wanted to do something live and just have it over with. I in a sense was totally spontaneous, and that’s become the style of the band – we always record live now. It was kind of a happy accident. So that was a big stylistic one.
I was also listening to ‘Fade Into You’ by Mazzy Star a lot, and revisiting Red House Painters’ ‘Katy Song’, along with a lot of 60s records, like the Paris Sisters’ ‘I Love How Your Love Me’, music with that really romantic kind of feeling. Françoise Hardy is a big influence too because of how soothing her music is and how it’s really mysterious and beautiful. Those are the main ones; you put those together and you kind of get what we’re doing. We’re a good mash up of those and, oh – Cocteau Twins – that was also a good one!
Lyrically I was also inspired by Richard Brautigan. He had this collection of poems called The Pill vs. the Springhill Mine Disaster, and our lyrics are kind of taken from that vibe. It’s in how he says somewhat bluntly sexual things, but manages to find a way to make them kinda sweet and kinda funny, so that was a big thing.
I was also inspired by romantic films like L’Avventura, or French New Wave films, like A Woman Is a Woman – the feeling in those films was the feeling I wanted for our music.
You’re very popular on YouTube – ‘Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby’ has garnered over 30 million views – how would you say online platforms have affected your career?
“YouTube’s the main one, definitely – it seems to have made all the difference for us. We kinda get confused actually as to how that happened, because the EP came out in 2012 and it was online, we toured for it, but no one really cared about it much. There was just a really small cult of fans I would talk to – maybe every month someone would send me an email saying the music changed their life, or that it was really helpful for them. But then someone took it upon themselves to post our music on YouTube (as I wasn’t really involved in it at the time), and when we finally announced Affection that was something of a catalyst that made everything take off. It seems like it was a sort of word-of-mouth thing. People said they got to our music through recommended videos on YouTube, sometimes even through music that hasn’t got much to do with us – through Black Sabbath and Nirvana and the like. It’s quite a mystery. But YouTube definitely made us.
Where do you see Cigarettes After Sex in 5 years?
“Pretty much doing the same thing, just more traveling the world and more recording, in bigger places and hopefully more exotic places, too. People seem to want us to tour to India and Japan, so I figure maybe we’ll go to those places. Hopefully this time next year we could do Singapore, South Korea, Tokyo and Thailand. We meet a lot of fans from Thailand at our shows in the States. Basically it’ll be just an extension of how it is now for us – I really love how things are going at the moment, so I just want it to build into a stronger, more powerful version of itself!”
Cigarettes After Sex’s eponymously named ‘Cigarettes After Sex’ debut album is out now. For more from the band, head to Facebook.com/cigarettesaftersex
Political ignorance is far from the only factor that must be considered in deciding the appropriate size, scope, and centralization of government. For example, some large-scale issues, such as global warming, are simply too big to be effectively addressed by lower-level governments or private organizations
political leaders and influential interest groups often use public education to indoctrinate students in their own preferred ideology rather than increase knowledge.
indoctrination was one of the major motives for the establishment of public education in the first place.
A smaller, less complicated government is easier to keep track of.
Democracy and Political Ignorance is not a complete theory of the proper role of government in society. But it does suggest that the problem of political ignorance should lead us to limit and decentralize government more than we would otherwise.
The informational advantages of foot voting over ballot box voting strengthen the case for limiting and decentralizing government.
1 Ilya Somin, Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013), ch. 1.
3 Tony Blair, A Journey: My Political Life, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010), 70-71.
6 Bryan Caplan, The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007).
8 Ibid. 110-17. For an important recent defense of this kind of argument, see Hélène Landemore, Democratic Reason: Politics, Collective Intelligence and the Rule of the Many, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
The Liars’ Gospel by Naomi Alderman
‘This happens because the means or mechanisms by which public attention is attracted and sustained is almost irrelevant to the modern MassMedia.. This internal inconsistency arises simply because the specific content of media is subordinated to the guiding necessity to attract and sustain public attention in a competitive media environment.’
Nietzsche: ‘What does not kill us will make us stronger’.