Synopses & Reviews
A decade ago, with his breakaway bestseller Listening to Prozac
, Peter Kramer revolutionized the way we think about antidepressants and the culture in which they are so widely used. Now, he returns with a profound and original look at the condition those medications treat depression. He asks: If we could eradicate depression, so that no human being ever suffered it again, would we hesitate? Kramer knows the answer we're most likely to give is yes. But should it be?
Depression, linked in our culture to a long tradition of heroic melancholy, is often understood as ennobling a source of soulfulness and creativity. Kramer traces this belief from Aristotle to the Romantics to Picasso and present-day memoirs of mood disorder and suggests that the persistence and prevalence of this hard-to-treat illness have distorted our sense of what it is to be human. There is nothing heroic about depression, Kramer argues and in his signature thought-provoking way, he walks the reader through the latest research and explores how recent findings might affect our tastes, our values and our sense of self.
Frank and unflinching, About Depression is a deeply felt, deeply moving book, grounded in time spent with the depressed. As his argument unfolds, Kramer becomes a crusader the author of a compassionate polemic that is fiercely against what depression really is a disease capable of devastating life. Like Listening to Prozac, Against Depression will offer hope to millions who suffer from depression and profoundly affect the debate on its treatment.
"What is depression really, and how does society define it? Kramer, a famed psychiatrist and author of the 1993 bestseller Listening to Prozac, says he has written 'an insistent argument that depression is a disease, one we would do well to oppose wholeheartedly.' In making his argument, Kramer examines the cultural roots of notions about depression and underscores the gap between what we know scientifically and what we feel about the illness. Kramer traces depression from Hippocrates through the Renaissance and Romantic 'cult of melancholy' to advances in medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy, and at last to the disease we now know it to be. Kramer's curiosity drives the book forward as he ponders why we value artwork and literature built on despair: 'certain of our aesthetic and intellectual preferences have been set by those who suffer... deeply.' The book maintains the perfect balance between science and human interest, as the author details both psychiatric studies and personal experience. A comparison of the biochemical workings of depression with the physical and observable symptoms serves as an intellectual trip for readers and provides a thorough exploration of what Kramer dubs 'the most devastating disease known to humankind.' The book is rich with questions that engage the reader in an active dialogue: Why is society captive to depression's charm? And will this infatuation change with the emergence of more evidence regarding depression's severely disabling effects? Kramer leaves off with these questions to ponder. Resolute but not preachy, this book is an important addition to the growing public health campaign against depression. As for how we should define depression perhaps it's best understood by its opposite: 'A resilient mind, sustained by a resilient brain and body.' One Spirit and Discover Book Club selections. (May 9) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"While not predicting that depression will be eliminated anytime soon, Kramer brings hope to those afflicted by it. A clear, valuable exposition of the progress researchers are making in understanding an all-too-common disease." Kirkus Reviews
"[A]n excellent summary of current biochemical theories of depression. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"There is more breadth of evidence than innovative thinking in Against Depression. Nonetheless, this book successfully advances the cartography of a (quite literally) gray area between physical and mental illness." Janet Maslin, the New York Times
An eloquent, absorbing book. (The New York Times Book Review) Deeply felt... [Kramers] book is a polemic against a society that accepts depression as a fact of life. (O, The Oprah Magazine) Kramer makes an eloquent case for considering depression a disease... Captivating, convincing and thorough. (San Francisco Chronicle)
"An eloquent, absorbing book." —The New York Times Book Review
"Deeply felt... [Kramer's] book is a polemic against a society that accepts depression as a fact of life." —O, The Oprah Magazine
"Kramer makes an eloquent case for considering depression a disease... Captivating, convincing and thorough." —San Francisco Chronicle
In Against Depression, Peter Kramer opens our eyes once again to a fresh, important and humane understanding of the human condition. His bold rethinking of the condition we call 'depression' gives us a clear-eyed scenario for freedom from the grip of this soul-searing disorder." —Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
"There is nothing romantic in the suffering of depression. Kramer shows us the horrific reality of the illness, dispelling myths that pervade popular culture. This book should usher in an era when the disordered chemistry of the brain is viewed with the same concern and care that mark the treatment of any malady." —Jerome Groopman, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
"Here one of our most thoughtful psychiatrists attends a wide-spread psychological malady—the bouts of melancholy that afflict so many individuals, laying them low in mind and spirit. This book offers much critical wisdom, even as it is written with a grace and sensitivity that will endear its words to the reader." —Robert Coles, Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Humanities, Harvard Medical School
"Our treasured sense of self is often challenged by neuroscience—how do you wedge 'Self' in among neurons and synapses and neurotransmitters? No one has written about these issues in a more sensitive, thought-provoking and accessible way, and has touched more people in the process, than Peter Kramer." —Robert Sapolsky, Professor of Biological Sciences, Stanford University
The bestselling author of "Listening to Prozac," which revolutionized the way the public thinks about antidepressants and the culture in which they are so widely used, returns with a profound and original look at the condition those medications treat--depression.
In his landmark bestseller Listening to Prozac, Peter Kramer revolutionized the way we think about antidepressants and the culture in which they are so widely used. Now Kramer offers a frank and unflinching look at the condition those medications treat: depression. Definitively refuting our notions of "heroic melancholy," he walks readers through groundbreaking new research—studies that confirm depression's status as a devastating disease and suggest pathways toward resilience. Thought-provoking and enlightening, Against Depression provides a bold revision of our understanding of mood disorder and promises hope to the millions who suffer from it.
About the Author
Peter D. Kramer, whom The New York Times has called "possibly the best-known psychiatrist in America," is the author of Should You Leave?, Listening to Prozac, and Moments of Engagement. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where he is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University.
Table of Contents
What It Is to Us
1. The Final Memoir
3. What If
7. More Charm
9. Obvious Confusion: Three Vignettes
What It Is
10. Altogether Again
11. Getting There
16. Here and Now
What It Will Be
17. The End of Melancholy
19. The Natural
21. After Depression
Review A Day
is partly a critique of the West's propensity for romanticizing depression, partly a survey of the latest research on the illness and its possible causes and cures, and partly a meditation on what our culture would look like if we stopped equating depression with refinement, profundity, insight and intelligence....In some ways Kramer, a subtle and perceptive observer, is the ideal person to consider the many facets of our infatuation with depression. However, his looping and elliptical prose style can make his arguments hard to follow, and sometimes he misses the obvious." Laura Miller, Salon.com
(read the entire Salon.com review