A reader writes:
I am enjoying Johann Hari’s Chasing the Scream very much. For the most part I find that the author backs up his views with solid evidence and logic.
However, the suggestion in Chapter 13 that a chaotic, abusive home and the parents’ failure to bond (attach) with the child is what causes addiction proves too much. Recent NIMH studies by Bridget Grant show that personality disorders persistently and robustly predict the persistence of substance abuse disorders. Grant’s work shows that roughly 50% of substance abusers meet the criteria for borderline personality disorder. There is good reason to believe that these individuals are quite resistant to treatment as usual.
It is fair to say that people with personality disorders feel isolated and alone. So, to that extent, Hari’s thesis has validity. And while early literature connected personality disorders to a chaotic home, abuse and a failure of attachment, the more current view is that these individuals may be so sensitive that they perceive chaos and abuse where others would not. And the failure to attach may be due to something inherent in the child rather the parent.
The point is that it is unfair, as Hari does in his book, to assume that because an addict feels isolated and reports an abusive or chaotic home, that this report is accurate. Sometimes, it is just the way the disordered person has misperceived the world.
I’ve gotten a little more than halfway through Hari‘s book, looking forward to actually being able to take part in the coming Book Club discussion, now never to happen. But the reading itself is worthwhile: What a marvelous book so far.
That it is. And don’t miss Johann on Real Time tomorrow night.