Excerpt from Against Depression by Peter D. Kramer, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Against Depression

by Peter D. Kramer

Against Depression
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2005, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2006, 368 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

What It Is to Us
One
The Final Memoir

SHORTLY AFTER THE PUBLICATION OF Listening to Prozac, twelve years ago, I became immersed in depression. Not my own. I was in my forties and contented enough in the slog through midlife. But mood disorder surrounded me, in my contacts with patients and readers. Messages from parents with depressed children and husbands with depressed wives filled my telephone answering machine; letters dense with personal history crammed the mail slot. In their volume, in their particularity, these contacts were sobering, overwhelming, disorienting. Less intimate overtures came my way. Reporters and talk show wranglers approached me about the significance of drug company initiatives, antidepressant-related lawsuits, and mental health legislation. Colleagues invited me to join colloquia on particular therapies. Advocates of partisan views of mood disorder e-mailed me with propaganda, asking me to sign on.

Immersion has a passive sound to it. I experienced my relationship to depression in that way, being swamped by a tide. I would have denied that I had brought this condition on myself. Yes, in my book I had discussed depression—but only en route to raising issues that stood at some distance from the treatment of mental illness. Listening to Prozac grew out of a claim that certain of my patients had made: On this medication, I am myself at last. These men and women had taken an antidepressant and experienced a dramatic response. Their episode of depression ended—and they reported another change as well. Temperamentally cautious and pessimistic, even before their first encounter with depression, these patients moved, on medication, toward assertiveness and optimism. This self-assured state, so they believed, represented their identity, themselves as they were meant to be.

I had used this report—myself at last—as a jumping-off point for speculation. What if future, similar medications had the potential to modify temperament in people who had never experienced mood disorder? There were reasons to believe that even current antidepressants might sometimes alter personality traits, making the hesitant decisive. Given access to such drugs, how should doctors prescribe? The inquiry moved from medical ethics to social criticism: What does our culture demand of us, in the way of assertiveness? Assessing my patients' attitude toward antidepressants required, I thought, attention to grand, perennial questions. How do we identify true self? Does the path matter, in the journey to contentment?

It was the medications' extra effects—on personality, rather than frank disease—that provoked this line of thought. After all, for centuries, doctors have treated depressed patients, using medication and psychological strategies. When those efforts succeed, restoring health, we are grateful. The ethical dilemmas that interested me lay elsewhere. Strange though it may sound, I never imagined that I had written a book about depression.

But authors cannot predict or control the fate of their books, any more than parents can determine the direction of their children's lives. Listening to Prozac emerged into an era of marked interest in depression. Everything about it had the power to fascinate: diagnosis, treatment, health care politics, gender issues, intimate experience. When Listening to Prozac found readers, it became the best-selling book about depression. In stores, it was shelved beside how-to manuals on recovering from mood disorder or living with those afflicted by it. I had never intended for my book to be useful. But readers wrote to say that Listening to Prozac had guided them to one or another resolution of their depression—through taking medication or steering clear.

Excerpted from Against Depressionby Peter Kramer. Copyright 2005 by Peter Kramer. Reproduced by permission of Penguin Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Stalin's Daughter
    by Rosemary Sullivan
    "There is something fatal about my life. You can't regret your fate, though I do regret my ...
  • Book Jacket: A Certain Age
    A Certain Age
    by Beatriz Williams
    Lovers of high-society gossip, there's a new set of players in town. A good 20 out of 23 of our...
  • Book Jacket: The Romanovs
    The Romanovs
    by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    The Romanovs chronicles the reigns of the 20 individuals who were considered members of that dynasty...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    All Is Not Forgotten
    by Wendy Walker

    This is fast-paced psychological suspense/thriller at it's very best.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Imperial Wife
    by Irina Reyn

    A smart, engaging novel that parallels two fascinating worlds and two singular women.

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Fair Fight
by Anna Freeman

A page-turning novel set in the world of 18th century female pugilists.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!