Too much pleasure causes pain

A fresh perspective on why anxiety, chronic pain and depression have been on the rise

Happiness has been declining precipitously in the West for 30 years, despite better access to healthcare and education and decreases in poverty and violence. Groundbreaking Stanford psychiatrist and author of Dopamine Nation, Anna Lembke, provides a fresh perspective on why anxiety, chronic pain and depression have been on the rise, locating the problem in a mismatch between the modern world and our brain’s pain and pleasure apparatus.

 

As a practicing psychiatrist in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley for more than two decades, I’ve seen growing numbers of patients struggling with depression, anxiety, and chronic pain, despite otherwise good health, loving families, robust social networks, financial privilege, and access to elite education … all the things we’ve come to associate with the ‘good life’.

My clinical experience broadly mirrors what is happening in the rest of the world. Global happiness surveys show that people today are

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