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Coming of Age on Zoloft: How Antidepressants Cheered Us Up, Let Us Down, and Changed Who We Are

3.52  ·  Rating Details  ·  495 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
When Katherine Sharpe arrived at her college health center with an age-old complaint, a bad case of homesickness, she received a thoroughly modern response: a twenty-minute appointment and a prescription for Zoloft—a drug she would take for the next ten years. This outcome, once unlikely, is now alarmingly common. Twenty-five years after Prozac entered the marketplace, 10 ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Harper Perennial
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May 12, 2012 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: college girls who have considered paxil when the serotonin's not enuf
Recommended to Jessica by: Katherine Sharpe
First off, full disclosure: I went to college with Katherine Sharpe, I know Katherine Sharpe. Katherine Sharpe is a friend of mine. And you, honey, are no Katherine Sharpe.

Only... well to be honest, if you're under age thirty-five and on this website, there's a fair chance that you more or less are.

When I first heard Katherine was writing a memoir about growing up on antidepressants, I secretly felt a small twinge of dread. As you may know, I hold a perhaps unreasonable prejudice against memoir,
Jun 12, 2012 Lesley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mental health clinicians and anyone who has taken antidepressants or known someone who has
Shelves: psychology
I picked up this book in the psychology section of my local bookstore -- unfortunately and unintentionally chasing a portly middle-aged man away from the shelves upon my approach -- and I've spent the past three afternoons blasting through it. This is a really great and significant book. In addition to being a beautifully written, entertaining, and informative read, it's also surprisingly non-polemical and really effectively captures a broad range of experiences with medication through intersper ...more
Sep 14, 2012 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Katherine Sharpe's investigation into the causes and effects of the current explosion in anti-depressant usage is both academically responsible and confessionally intimate. It offers a well-rounded treatment of the implications of these drugs from the personal, the medical, and the socio-political standpoints. It does not take sides, or come down too hard in any direction, but it also doesn't shy away from the inherent importance of feelings and anecdotal testimony where the medicating of our mo ...more
Jun 09, 2012 Jenny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
Taken from my blog at

Although I'm not as passionate about the topic of medication as I once was, it's still a subject I find interesting and that, at times, still does enrage me. It's not that I think medication is bad. On the contrary, I think it is very beneficial for some people. But I have also found that we live in a society that relies on them too much and that has allowed medication to become a quick fix (specifically as it relates to children). My first job out
Julie - Book Hooked Blog
You guys know I'm really open and up front about my depression on here, so you also probably know that this is a book that appealed to me right away. It's about the use of anti-depressants among such a large portion of society with a focus on the fact that many people start using anti-depressants in their teens and how that affects the development of their personality. Does the use of anti-depressants at a time when you are forming your most basic ideas of who you are as a person make a differen ...more
Nov 18, 2012 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I heard about this book through a starred review in a professional library journal. Although I found the book interesting, it was not quite what I expected. I thought it was going to delve more deeply into what it means for a child's development and personality to be on drugs like Zoloft during the important and formative years of adolescence, and in turn, what it means for society that so many children are on these drugs during these years. Although the book did touch on all of these issues, it ...more
This book could have been far more interesting, it felt very repetitive and wordy at times. I felt like yes she went through a difficult period in her life, but I find it difficult to understand whether anti-depressants change the way young people see themselves, as my personal experience has not allowed me the "luxury" to ponder such questions, because I have been far too occupied with finding the right medications to help me in my daily functioning, which is something she discussed towards the ...more
Jun 25, 2012 Alexis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I am so glad that Katherine wrote this book. Finally, there's a book about anti-depressants, that embraces my experience as a depressive. I think that a lot of people could benefit from reading this. Katherine talks about the power and the ambivalence that many of us experience in regards to anti-depressants. She talks about the rise of antidepressants and how they became more popular and why. She talks about how life circumstances can propel people towards antidepressants, how depression can co ...more
Sep 22, 2012 Shana rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was really excited to read this book because it seemed to be centered around a vital and controversial issue that is not only pertinent to those with mental health concerns, but to everyone.
The author tries to write from a very informed perspective, but anyone who has researched SSRIs extensively can tell that most of her "evidence" is hokey at best. Even evidence from reliable sources is clearly not always well-understood by the author.
The anecdotes and interviews were not compelling for me
Jodi Bishop
Jun 21, 2015 Jodi Bishop rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a fascinating look at how antidepressants have changed our world and the problems that come with that. My view may be different as a consumer of SSRIs and a stroke survivor with a known physiological change in brain function, but overall an interesting look at how we as the world view depression
Jul 15, 2012 Becky rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Eh: first 25% is good, historical information and whatnot, then it devolves into random snippets of personal accounts amidst the author's oh-so-average I was depressed as a teen, I didn't know what I wanted to do, I went on and off meds as my life went up and down. Skimmed the rest, more of same. The brief touch on ADHD meds was far more interesting to me (special educator, elementary), but was the briefest of touches while talking about US's embrace of meds and multiple meds while dispensing wi ...more
Aug 14, 2012 Jaime rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wish I could give this 2.5 stars. The end sort of veers off into other pharmaceutical issues, and it wasn't until 3/4 of the way through that she acknowledged that the esoteric questions she was asking about meds were luxuries, compared to those who needed the drugs to function and live. Mixed feelings all around about this one.
May 01, 2016 Paige rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely a phenomenal read. Anyone interested in the rise in antidepressant and related medications in youth in the 1990s and 2000s should read this book. Part memoir, part sociological cross-section of society, this was a beautifully put-together book on the complexities of treating mental illness, both with medications, with therapy, and with a combination of the two. It focuses on young people being treated with medications and how it impacts the quest all young people go on to find themsel ...more
Jan 13, 2015 Athena rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm really grumpy that I took the time to read this entire book. The premise is that the author took antidepressants on and off for about 10 years, beginning in college, and she wants to explore what's lost or gained when one comes into adulthood on medication. This should obviously just have been an essay, but instead she stretches it out through interviews with people with very similar backgrounds and life experiences as herself to make very predictable points that she clearly already had in m ...more
Aug 25, 2012 Kim rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book gave me anxiety too much going on.
Nov 06, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unlike Andrew Solomon's "The Noonday Demon," this thoughtful exploration of depression and some of its treatments mostly focuses on the questions surrounding the use of antidepressants for those whose symptoms and situations allow for the contemplation of such questions. Throughout the course of the book, the author becomes fully aware that the use of prescription antidepressants is not a choice for many, no matter what the possible long-term effects of the drug(s) may prove to be. But Sharpe do ...more
This is pegged as a memoir, but it's surprisingly full of information and detailed interviews alongside the author's own experiences. This is an effective style because it keeps the topic from becoming too stagnant or repetitive. It's a good blend of personal musings from the author, accounts from others, and factual information surrounding psychiatric medications (anti-depressants in particular).

I also expected this to be very anti-psychiatry, and while it there are certainly criticisms, it's s
Melody Schreiber
Once, I sat in the office of a new psychiatrist, who asked about a very personal incident in my childhood. Like pushing upon a bruise, I felt the pain all over again, and immediately began crying. She picked up her prescription pad and said, "I'm prescribing an antidepressant."

I was surprised. "You think I'm depressed?" I asked. "But I'm here for anxiety and OCD."

"You're crying," she said, looking surprised. "Of course you're depressed."

In Coming of Age on Zoloft, Katherine Sharpe had similar is
Marjorie Elwood
Aug 31, 2012 Marjorie Elwood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
A very interesting book about the culture of taking antidepressants. It started off slowly, for me, because I thought the author was a little too gung-ho about how fabulous antidepressants are. But that merely mirrored her initial experiences of no longer feeling depression once she started taking them. From then on, the complexity of thought and the issues brought up gave me a great deal to chew on, without any pat answers. I was impressed by the theories that she brought forth about antidepres ...more
Entertainingly frightening. I really don't know how to take this book at all. It is basically a coming-of-age memoir around the concept of anti-depressants - with a bit of non-scientific inclusions from a set of people with relatively similar experiences. In the context of sending my oldest off too college it has been a bit upsetting.

I recall pieces of my first year of college pretty vividly - much more so than other periods of my life. It barely occurred to me to go to the health center when I
I really wanted to like this book but somehow it didn't really enhance the knowledge I already have re: mental health in the U.S. I appreciate Sharpe's approach in trying to combine history and a review of the scientific literature of anti-depressents with anecdotal first-person narratives (including her own), but for me it ultimately falls short. She has a compelling premise: Do the benefits of SSRIs and the like outweigh the obvious costs? In the end, she lacks a conclusion, opting to take the ...more
Here is my review in Spanish:
Katherine Sharpe grew up taking one pill of Zoloft every day. She did it because a professional doctor told her to do so in order to cope with the normal problems of life. It makes things easier they said to her; and this is a reflection of the convenience culture that affects the western world. We want it all; and we want it now. Apparently; the world couldn't afford to wait until Katherine matured at her own pace and found out that the situatio
Sep 03, 2013 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
At points, I really wanted to throw this book against a wall-- but I resisted, since I was reading it on my Nook. Seriously though, at some points I started plotting my 2 star review, but kept hoping it would redeem itself. And eventually, it did--at least partially.

This book is half memoir, half research and interviews with those in their 20s/early 30s who have experienced anti-depressants. The memoir parts are interesting, and so are the researched parts.. but if you want a really truthful, b
This was a fantastic read. Through personal opinions and the interviews of many individuals across the country, Katherine gives the reader a incredible insight into what it is like to "come of age" on Zoloft. She begins her book with an outline of what depression and anxiety are, how they are defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, and what percentage of the population is currently diagnosed.

Katherine then moves into her own personal journey of being diagnosed with depression during he
Apr 29, 2016 Matthew74 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Both personal and objective. Most of the book is the authors thoughts about taking antidepressants using interviews and research, but the memoir is what gives these substance. It's a good example of how first hand experience allows one to be more balanced and usefully insightful. The book is engaging and interesting because it is about Sharpe and the people she interviews, people we can relate to. It isn't "shocking", "raw", or "polemical", but it is real in a very healthy and honest way.
Apr 03, 2013 Maureen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. If you've ever taken (or take), or know someone who takes/en anti-depressants, it is well worth the read. Thoroughly researched, if a little awkwardly presented at times. She includes a lot of quotes/testimonials from people she interviewed throughout her research, and they all begin to run together. I can't remember from one chapter to another who "Kate" or "Adam" was, so when they are suddenly referenced, I had no context. It didn't matter to make her point, but it was a consisten ...more
Leigh Stein
Jan 17, 2016 Leigh Stein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, binders
As someone who was prescribed medication as a young teen in the late nineties, this book gave me a fascinating overview of the rise of SSRI's in the nineties. The author also raises provocative questions about the complicated relationship between young adults and medication. Would recommend to other young adults who've suffered depression, and fans of Andrew Solomon's A Noonday Demon.
Jan 28, 2015 Michelle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A very interesting look at both facts and anecdotes relating to the rise in antidepressant use among young Americans. Although without any spiritual component, this might still be a helpful resource when it comes to understanding the role of medication in dealing with depression.
Jul 01, 2012 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: goodreads-arc
I received this book through a goodreads giveaway. As someone who has been on the antidepressant roller coaster, I really enjoyed this book. Not only is it a memoir of the author's experience with depression and antidepresaent usage, but stories from many other people who have also been there.

I felt this book was very informative and well researched. I also didn't feel like the author was biased as to whether people should or should not use antidepressants. I do, however, agree with her that tal
Everyone who goes to college in America- even if it is not a 4 yr college- ought to read parts of this. And not just a chapter; BIG parts of Sharpe's book ought to be required...Just as HIV touches lives of most of us, the use of Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Prozac (fluoxetin), Abilify and others are rising in our culture. Nearly everyone is touched by them... yet we don't understand how they do their work!
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Katherine Sharpe was born in Arlington, Virginia. She attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she studied anthropology and English. She has a master’s degree in literature from Cornell University. Previously she worked as the editor of Seed magazine’s, and the online editor of ReadyMade. Her writing has appeared in n+1, Nature, Prevention, the San Francisco Chronicle, The ...more
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“This was the dilemma of cosmetic psychopharmacology: we wanted to be happy but we worried that maybe there was something even more important than happiness that we’d unwisely be giving up in the bargain.” 0 likes
“Elliott argues that enhancement technologies fascinate and aggravate us because they alert us to a contradiction in our national value system. On the one hand, America prizes success, and life here is organized around the heated pursuit of it. America is a democracy with a high degree of social mobility; we’re all searching for anything that might give us a competitive edge over our neighbors. (We are also, most likely, looking over our shoulders at whatever our neighbors might be using to get ahead, simultaneously judging them for using it, and wondering where we can get some ourselves.) On the other hand, Americans are also devoted to the idea of personal authenticity. We believe it’s important to be our “real” selves and are ever fearful of losing touch with our inmost natures in the push of worldly ambition. Self-discovery and self-actualization aren’t just enjoyable activities; they’re social demands. In America, Elliott believes, we tend to think of life as a never-ending process of figuring out “who we are” and then striving to live in such a way that we can enact the interests and proclivities that make us unique. This focus on the self as a guiding principle may partly stem from the secular nature of our society. In America since the late nineteenth century, Elliott writes, “finding yourself has replaced finding God.”29 Being who we really are is nothing short of a moral imperative—maybe the strongest one we modern Americans have. These two drives—on the one hand, to succeed; on the other hand, to be who you really are inside—often come into tension.” 0 likes
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