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Book Review: Lost Connections by Johann Hari

by Abi Opall

· Book Reviews

When I consider some books I have read in the past few months, since the beginning of the year, I have to say ‘Lost Connections: Why You’re depressed and How to Find Hope’ by Johann Hari has been one of the most incredible.

This book is incredible because it attempts to get to the heart of causes, issues and possible solutions to depression and anxiety. It sought to answer questions that I believe is in many hearts, though given the society and cultural norm we now live in, many may not outrightly say or ask.

For example, questions like,

  • How do I get out of this low state?’
  • How do I fix this pain?’
  • ‘How do I find peace, love or joy when everything I have been told will make me happy does not work?’, 
  • How do I connect or reconnect to society, to the world around me?’
  • ‘How do I find me again and find purpose?’.

In Lost Connections, Hari argues the prevalence use of antidepressant drugs as a treatment to depression, while research and pharmaceutical trials report presented in this book done under high scrutiny suggests that in actuality, antidepressant drugs do not treat depression. But only temporarily suppress the symptoms of depression, resulting in dependence on them for years. Also, it highlights that antidepressants do not work for the majority.

Hari discusses his personal experience with depression and use of antidepressants for 14 years – even though clinical trials showed that the antidepressant he was prescribed was not suitable for his age group at the time, though this information was withheld from the public.

While the book acknowledges through researches and findings that antidepressant pills do work for a few and is not advocating for discontinuing use of antidepressant, it does state a case of consideration for other solutions to depression, which also includes how people are diagnosed and what people have been made to believe about the cause of their depression.

Hari argues that majority have been made to believe that depression is as a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain, looking historically. However, quite recently ‘the United Nations – in its official statement for World Health Day in 2017 – explained that the “dominant biomedical narrative of depression” is based on “biased and selective use of research outcomes” that “cause more harm than good, undermine the right to health, and must be abandoned.” There is a “growing evidence based”, that there are deeper causes of depression, so while there are some role for medications, we need to stop using them “to address issues which are closely related to social problems.”’

Hari proposes that instead of just ‘focusing on chemical imbalances’ and considering mainly only the biological causes of depression and anxiety, we should realign and look at social and psychological causes because based on research findings presented in this book, while it does not negate biological factors, it would appear social and psychological factors trigger biological causes.

So, for example, if someone has a gene for depression because it is in the family for instance, for that gene to be activated, for the person to be chronically depressed, there have to have been a social or and psychological decline that resulted to that depression.

So, if I am inclined to be obese due to genetics, I do not become obese without the input of food. My eating habits, if poor, will impact my obesity. So if I have a gene for depression, unless something in my environment is causing me to be depressed, then that gene cannot be randomly activated.

Through his research and findings, Hari proposes nine causes of depression:

1. Disconnection from meaningful work

2. Disconnection from other people

3. Disconnection from meaningful values

4. Disconnection from childhood trauma

5. Disconnection from status and respect

6. Disconnection from the Natural World

7. Disconnection from a hopeful and secure future

8. & 9. The Real Role of Genes and brain changes

One of the things I love about the book apart from the author’s witty writing style is the extensive research that has been used to support his claims and findings. I am astonished that he not only relied on literature from old researches carried out but also physically travelled around the world, sought out scientists and other health professionals for personal interviews to discuss their works. In addition to meeting with individuals for their personal experiences (study/research participants and personal friends and acquaintances).

In my opinion, the research presented and personal interviews add credibility to Hari’s findings and make his suggestions to counteract depression and anxiety a worthy one to consider.

In this book Hari proposes that the solution to depression and anxiety is for us to reconnect to our world; to each other, society, the natural world, find meaningful work, take a closer look at our values, look into solution for depression in our lives, instead at antidepressant pills where it may not be needed.

He encourages us to develop an entirely new culture, away from the ones we have been conditioned to in the last few decades - the culture of individualism, the culture of consumerism, the culture that is dependent on drugs instead of addressing real-life social issues.

Hari invites us to a call for change. Change in how depression and anxiety are diagnosed and treated.

While the author rightly so, acknowledges that some of the suggestive solutions for depression proposed in this book will require more than just an individual or the individual alone to solve the issue of depression, and this just being beginning to healing our society, the suggestions in this book I believe are worth employing, even if just an individual at a time.

The Seven Solutions Proposed by Hari:

1. Reconnection to other people

2. Social Prescribing

3. Reconnection to meaningful work

4. Reconnection to meaningful values

5. Sympathetic Joy and Overcoming Addiction to the Self

6. Acknowledging and Overcoming Childhood Trauma

7. Restoring the future

This book, in my opinion, is the beginning of a journey for many to recover from depression and not just recovery, but that chance and opportunity of connection again.

I believe that if this book would be widely received, it poses to be a start of a social change that will, in the long run, create a new world intended at making life more comfortable and better for some, where it is most needed.

Lost Connection is a book I believe everyone should read, from the layman to politicians, social and health professionals, corporations and companies alike, profit and non-profit driven organisations. It is a book that is not just for those with diagnosed depression. It is a book for society and for everyone.

Every person dealing with depression I believe should read this book as it proposes to be a great tool to really coming to or getting to the root cause of your depression and a possible way out apart from solely medication, if at all.

I love the author’s use of circular narrative as he took us on a journey to bring us right back home where the message is clear. And the message is simply this, depression and anxiety are a cue to us that something is wrong and we need to address the root cause of our problems, not just silence them with antidepressants but also deal with them as a collective issue.

Hari puts it this way,

‘You need your pain. It is a message, and we must listen to the message. All these depressed and anxious people, all over the world – they are giving us a message. They are telling us something has gone wrong with the way we live. We need to stop trying to muffle or silence or pathologize that pain. Instead, we need to listen to it and honor it. It is only when we listen to our pain that we can follow it back to its source – and only then, when we can see its true causes can we begin to overcome it.’

- Abi Opall

You can find the book here at www.TheLostConnections.com

About The Author...

Abi Opall is a wife, a mother of two and a lifestyle blogger & podcaster at abiscope.com. An avid writer, book lover, and motivator, based in the U.K. She is passionate about supporting people to reach their full potential.

Connect with Abi on Facebook, Twitter or at her Official Website at www.Abiscope.com

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