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

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3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  304 ratings  ·  64 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
Paperback, 314 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Harper Perennial
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Jessica
May 12, 2012 Jessica rated it 5 of 5 stars 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,...more
Holly
ETA: I read some of the other reviews showing up later that weren't from the BFF<3 of the author. It sounds like maybe a slightly different topic than the summaries presented, or else I was in a bad mood the other day when I wrote my (p)review. Who even knows, really? I'm assuming that other people read reviews on here before they read/purchase books, just like me, so don't go reading this review and think I actually read the book. I haven't even seen a copy of it in real life.

As a general ru...more
Lesley
Jun 12, 2012 Lesley rated it 5 of 5 stars 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
Jason
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
Jenny
Taken from my blog at www.takemeawayreading.com

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...more
Julie (julie37619)
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
Susan
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
Tara
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
Alexis
Jun 25, 2012 Alexis rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Shana
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...more
Alasse
Sep 12, 2013 Alasse marked it as to-read
Maybe, eventually? I'm so not a biography reader, but this is one of those subjects that really bugs me, because I don't have a formed opinion about it. I should, because I'm a practicing physician and I have a little brother who's taking venlafaxine. But I'm still not sure where I stand here. Are we medicalizing normal life issues, or should normal life issues stop being normal when we have the tools to help? I keep telling my patients that there's no need to live with physical pain if you can...more
Becky Crowe
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
Jaime
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.
Kim
This book gave me anxiety too much going on.
Marjorie Elwood
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
Mitchell
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...more
April
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
Ariadna73
Here is my review in Spanish: http://bit.ly/ScpoN2
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...more
Beth
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...more
Craig
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...more
Maureen
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
Chris
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...more
Kristen
Very insightful interesting read but I was very disappointed that she blatantly leaves out the biological and hormonal causes of depression for adolescent girls. There's an entire chapter on gender issues and how developing identity and self esteem contributes to depression in the formative years and why that may be why depression often first appears during puberty but nothing, nothing?!?! on how hormonal changes might also be a cause. That's a huge error in my view.
Vasil Kolev
The author has taken her own experience, a lot of interviews with people who have (or still are using) anti-depressants or other psycho-pharmaceuticals, and combined that with a lot of research on the topic. The book is great on a lot of levels - it explores the technical side (a bit) of the drugs, their rise in the media and the role of Big Pharma in pushing them to the people (redefining or muddling the baseline of "normality"), and also does a great job of showing the lives of the people and...more
Anna Kristina
An enlightening and balanced perspective on our generation's relationship to antidepressants and it's impact on how we live and view the world. She acknowledges that medicine is important for many people and appreciates that it has contributed to removing the stigma of mental illnesses. However, she also has a very thoughtful critique to viewing the issue as one dimensional, and medicine as the simple solution (she argues it should be part of more holistic treatment, not a stand alone quick fix)...more
Kristi
I think when I picked up this book I expected it to be even more anecdotal and less scientific and about the research Sharpe did as well as the facts about the use of antidepressants in America. Even so, for the most part, the book was interesting and some of the information presented is good to know, even of it wasn't all that well presented. Sharpe doesn't seem to lean too much one way or another, and for someone like me who has never taken antidepressants and knows little about them, that was...more
Emily
This book isn't merely about antidepressants and the culture surrounding them; more deeply, it looks at the two-sided coin that is the de-stigmatization and pathologization of extreme emotions. Sharpe does not judge, nor does she prescribe a certain way of approaching depression and other difficult mental health issues. Instead, she compassionately examines the choices we make, and the choices she herself has made, the culture and economy surrounding these choices, and the trends in the mental h...more
Alexis
This was an excellent blend of memoir and literary journalism, with the different threads woven so expertly, I was never conscious of the moment she'd go from a personal story to research and interviews. What I appreciated the most was that, for such a sensitive topic, she does not simply present one view and go off on that. The author highlights multiple viewpoints equally, without proclaiming one as better than the other, without claiming one view is "right." The writing was engaging and the b...more
Anita
Sensitive, well-written book, asking almost all the right questions. I wanted to like this book more because I liked the author's voice so much and her awareness from the outset that the memoir aspects are interesting not because her experience with antidepressants/depression is unusual- it's almost a forcefully banal experience- but because it's so common in the author's and my generation. And I loved her essayistic musings on how people have to rewrite their personal narratives, as well as our...more
Becky Roper
A non-fiction look at the history and use of antidepressants, primarily by teenagers and young adults. It explores how these commonly used medications affect this age group, who are trying to define themselves. It looks briefly at some other therapies besides medications, and at some different medications, but does not cover this too deeply. I thought the author gave a fair and unbiased account of this subject even though she has been a user of these meds herself. I learned a few things, and fou...more
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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 ScienceBlogs.com, and the online editor of ReadyMade. Her writing has appeared in n+1, Washington Post Magazine, GOOD, Seed, ReadyMade, The...more
More about Katherine Sharpe...
400 Words, Issue 1: Autobiographies Walking the Line Between God and Satan N+1 Issue 8: Recessional

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