The story of journalist Johann Hari, the novelist of The New York Times’ bestseller “Lost Connections,” is a convoluted and fascinating tale.
Born in 1979, the British-Swede’s journey as a writer has always been a bit tumultuous and showered in mystery – a topic long enough for its very own article.
In January 2012, after leaving The Independent as a journalist, Hari set out on a journey to write an extensive overview on the “War on Drugs” which, in 2018, became a best-seller entitled “Lost Connections.”
In “Lost Connections,” the writer cites his personal struggles with depression and anxiety as the cornerstone that prompted his extended search for answers regarding the insidious beast that is mental trauma.
While Hari is somewhat vague about the trauma inflicted on him as a child, he claims it took numerous psychologists, numerous psychiatric drugs, and finally an “ah-ha” moment to realize there actually WAS a situational link to his depression. Not too surprisingly, it had very little to do with a “neurological or hormonal disorder” – as is the most cited reason by psychiatrists to explain away – and consequently prescribe medicine – any struggles associated with depression.
There are a few things to keep note of before we explore Hari’s findings, as some of his beliefs are certainly controversial. Some criticize Hari for his alleged use of other people’s research, such as the biopsychosocial model which has been both known and recognized by scholars alike for decades prior to Hari’s findings.
That, however, does not eradicate the accuracy of his findings. The evidence is so strong, it’s worth looking into, regardless of who originally came up with the idea
As a guest speaker, Johann Hari hosted a 2015 TED talk special entitled “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.” In it, he makes the controversial statement that most addictions are functional responses to experiences and a lack of healthy and supportive relationships, rather than a simple biological need for a particular substance
His summation was the result of an extensive study in which he interviewed some of the top scientists, neurosurgeons, behavioral analysts, psychiatrist, and psychologists in the world to find out what the basis was behind these claims that anxiety and depression were largely serotonin-imbalances.
According to many psychiatrists, the lack of regulation of this hormone can be the cause of most mental issues, predominantly depression and anxiety. As a result, drugs called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can help alleviate and cure those who suffer from certain mental illnesses.
Hari claims this is utter nonsense.
During his initial years of suffering from the debilitating pain that is a hallmark of mental illness, his doctors gave him a pill that fell under the same umbrella. And it DID work. For a little while. Then the efficacy dwindled, and he would have to take more and more over the course of years because it stopped working as well. His doctor continued to increase the dosage until Hari was on the highest dose available. When THAT stopped supplying the desired effect, he knew he had to come up with a more long-term solution that hopefully didn’t involve medication.
His desire to figure out the underlying cause of most people’s mental struggles took him on a journey across the globe, interviewing some of the top specialists in neuro and behavioral abnormalities. This included countless research on studies that have had been around for some time.
One of the more interesting (and possibly most profound) studies done on the topic of disease was spearheaded by a man named Vincent Feletti, a research professor in San Diego in the mid 1950’s, that stumbled upon an accidental – but totally relevant – insight into the window of the tortured soul that is still being explored today.
In brief, one of Feletti’s study groups he was following had participants who were significantly overweight. While in the program, virtually every single one of his patients experienced astounding life changes: they all were able to lose weight efficiently and quickly. What was alarming was that roughly 50% of these patients ended up leaving as soon as they really started to see progress.
One woman, in particular, dropped to about 138 pounds, demonstrating extreme willpower and advancements in her journey. She seemed thrilled. But suddenly, one day, she simply dropped out of the program and almost immediately returned to her sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits.
Upon protocol follow-up, when asked what promptly derailed her progress, she admitted she has recently started being hit on by men – something she was not used to and this triggered something within her. Upon further coaxing, she admitted she had been raped at the age of 11.
This seemingly irrelevant information regarding her relationship with food years later proved to be quite the eye-opener for Feletti and his team. They were able to determine the correlation between her sexual attack and her affinity toward food. About the time this young lady was violated, she began her unhealthy obsession with food. The theory is that she was subconsciously trying to sabotage her body to avoid being sexually attractive to other people.
The epiphany ultimately restructured the way Feletti addressed depression and anxiety, ultimately causing him to believe that mental struggles were typically the manifestation of childhood drama and coping methods (or lack thereof) to deal with trauma.
Hari’s argument is no different regarding mental treatment. According to him, much of mental illness has nothing to do with a lack of regulating neurotransmitters – it’s an inability to address childhood trauma that manifests itself later in life.
That’s not to say pharmaceutical drugs don’t have their place – they unequivocally have helped and possibly saved many lives. However, it’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem for many people.
If you really want to relieve anxiety and depression, there is a good chance you’ll have to face your demons. While that’s terrifying for almost anyone, it’s almost a must if you want to get to a place of peace in your heart and your head – particularly if you want to stop relying on drugs to make you feel normal.