The New York Times bestseller from the author of Chasing the Scream, offering a radical new way of thinking about depression and anxiety.
What really causes depression and anxiety--and how can we really solve them? Award-winning journalist Johann Hari suffered from depression since he was a child and started taking antidepressants when he was a teenager. He was told that his problems were caused by a chemical imbalance in his brain. As an adult, trained in the social sciences, he began to investigate whether this was true-and he learned that almost everything we have been told about depression and anxiety is wrong.
Across the world, Hari found social scientists who were uncovering evidence that depression and anxiety are not caused by a chemical imbalance in our brains. In fact, they are largely caused by key problems with the way we live today. Hari's journey took him from a mind-blowing series of experiments in Baltimore, to an Amish community in Indiana, to an uprising in Berlin. Once he had uncovered nine real causes of depression and anxiety, they led him to scientists who are discovering seven very different solutions--ones that work.
It is an epic journey that will change how we think about one of the biggest crises in our culture today. His TED talk, "Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong," has been viewed more than eight million times and revolutionized the global debate. This book will do the same.
Journalist Hari (Chasing the Scream) explores common causes of anxiety and depression in contemporary society, proposing that antidepressants do not address the true nature of the problem. Critiquing the chemical-imbalance theory of depression as an idea sponsored by the self-interested pharmaceutical industry, he quotes one psychologist as saying, "The symptoms are a messenger of a deeper problem." Hari interviews numerous psychologists who explain how factors such as loneliness, work-based dissatisfaction, and consumer culture can fuel mental-health issues. Chasing possible solutions to these problems, Hari's research takes him throughout the world. He stops in a Berlin housing project where tenants waged a yearlong protest against rising rents, fostering a sense of empowerment and unity among themselves. He also visits a London mental-health clinic where doctors prescribe community volunteer projects instead of pills and a Baltimore bicycle shop that uses a nonhierarchical workplace to give employees a sense of having a voice in the business. Hari aims to demonstrate that the feelings of depression and anxiety experienced by individuals are symptomatic of a larger societal ailment that must be addressed. He makes a good case for this theory, supplying the reader with overwhelming (and engrossing) evidence, though his preferred solutions are somewhat grandiose and utopian.
Good, not great
The hype is overdone. There is value here, especially in understanding what is wrong with the kneejerk prescription drug approach to treating depression, but this is not new information. And prescription drugs can and have helped a lot of people. The core points here about what causes depression are an echo of the Buddha (the cause of all suffering is craving something in the material world). And the concept of loss as a cause of depression has been explored in modern psychology for decades. Still, this book is a good reminder, if you've been sidetracked by an excessive focus on medication and brain chemistry.