Conventional wisdom presents us with several different — often contradictory — theories as to the causes of depression. We may see depression alternately as a genetic predisposition, a faulty neurochemical mechanism in the brain, a response to childhood circumstances, or to current adverse life conditions. Research has pointed the way to several effective approaches to alleviating depression, including psychotherapy, exercise, mindfulness meditation, and antidepressants (judiciously used). But it seems as though little attention is paid to the idea of a meaning or a message buried within depression.
In the book, Lost Connections, journalist Johann Hari takes aim at the antidepressant industry and the story it sells – namely, that depression is a physical ailment, a chemical imbalance in the brain, correctable with medication. Hari begins by relating how, as a severely depressed teenager, his doctor told him his depression was a physical problem that could be corrected with a pill. The antidepressant helped at first, despite an array of unpleasant side effects, but a year later, Hari found himself as depressed as he was before. The writing of Lost Connections became Hari’s quest to come to terms with his own experience, and to investigate why it is our modern understanding of depression is failing to mitigate what has become a societal epidemic.