It is well-known that depression is caused by a combination of childhood trauma and neurobiological imbalances. The social causes of depression, however, are less well known. Social isolation, alienated work, inequalities of income, status, and wealth, and estrangement from nature and meaningful values are all known to cause depression as well. Johann Hari describes these social dimensions of depression as instances of what he calls “lost connections.”
Most forms of child abuse arise from a mechanism called “identification with the aggressor” in which a developing child becomes like his/her abuser as a way to feel safe and to maintain an attachment to the abuser. This process is common in individuals but also in groups, e.g. most forms of hazing and the need of one disadvantaged social group to put down another group.
When we can’t influence our environment, can’t control important aspects of our lives, we’re suffering from “learned helplessness? In modern society, too many facets of our lives are resistant to our intentions and control. This painful state of affairs accounts for much of the high incidence of depression in our society.
Pathogenic beliefs form the core of all psychopathology. They are formed in childhood and take the form of rules about reality and morality, about what “is” and what’s supposed to be. Pathogenic beliefs predict that if the child pursues normal developmental aims, he or she might threaten relationships with caretakers. Health aims are thus given up or compromised.