Against Depression
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Against Depression

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  300 ratings  ·  34 reviews
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 researc...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published July 25th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 2005)
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I read this several years ago, after recovering from a serious episode of depression. Peter Kramer addresses the sort of twisted love affair that western culture has with depression. He writes to combat the idea that melancholy and depression somehow make one heroic and interesting. My favorite part of this book is that he attacks the myth that famous artists would not have been or would not be the great artists they are without the mental torment and dark valleys of depression. Instead, he sugg...more
Sep 30, 2007 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: artists of all media
Shelves: health
in natalie angier's review for the new york times, she says, "Forget the persistent myth of depression as a source of artistry, soulfulness and rebellion. Depression doesn't fan creative flames. It is photophobic and anhedonic and would rather just drool in the dark." this is so important for artists to know: if you're depressed, it's an illness. if you treat your illness, you will not lose your artistry. you may in fact gain a greater capacity for creating the art that lies within you.
Feb 08, 2008 Kirsten rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kirsten by: Jen Tait
This is a magnificent book, definitely required reading for those who have suffered from major depression or anyone who has ever been close to a depressive. Kramer (the author of the also-excellent Listening to Prozac) makes it clear from the start that he believes that depression is an insidious disease that does not deserve the romanticization that has long surrounded it. He compares depression and the culture of melancholy to the way people used to romanticize tuberculosis, which used to be s...more
Sian Jones
Dr. Kramer presents the latest medical research into the progressive, systemic disease that is depression. He debunks the misplaced morality and flawed personality theory that colors any discussion of the disease in this culture. He even tries to figure out why we talk about depression, a physiological condition, as an individual spiritual failure. He tackles all of Western cultural history to account for how we got where we are, and poses suggestions for what the world would be if we treated de...more
According to Kramer, tuberculosis was once romanticized because it made its sufferers delicate and pale; today we link depression with creative genius and are reluctant to treat it. That's a fascinating analogy, but depression is not an infectious disease, no matter how much Kramer wants to believe it is.
A good book, but what I really love is his Listening to Prozac.

My Kindle highlights:

I used a test question: We say that depression is a disease. Does that mean that we want to eradicate it as we have eradicated smallpox, so that no human being need ever suffer depression again? In posing this challenge, I tried to make it clear that mere sadness was not at issue. Take major depression, however you define it. Are you content to be rid of that condition? It did not matter whether I was addressing...more
As I started reading this book, I also began to read and learn more about mood disorders in general. As a result, I felt that Kramer's use of "mood disorder" to refer to depression specifically was inappropriate. Mood disorders cover a wide range of mental illnesses. Different mental illnesses affect different areas of the brain and are treated using different medications and methodologies. (He touches on this in the prologue, but decides to use mood disorder as a synonym for depression, which i...more
Against Depression may be the most significant book I've read on the topic of depression, combining new scientific research with cultural and social criticism. The book chronicles new developments in the science of the brain, highlighting the lack of resilience in certain parts of the brain in the depressed.

Using this physical description of depression, Kramer argues persuasively that depression should be considering a disease in the same literal sense as other physical illnesses such as cancer....more
Jose Manuel
It is a great evaluation of depression on its many dimensions,including art and the cultural perception of the depressed. However it talks very little about pharmacological options or evaluations of the current psychiatric medications available to treat depression. It it packed with many important and interesting details about the illness, but the main approach of the author is a philosophical and medical defense of the prevalence of the disease.
This book convinced me that the opposite of depression is not happiness or complacency. The opposite of depression is resilience.

On the other hand, it takes him too damn long to say that. The first half or so of the book largely consists of him whining about various professional slights and conflicts arising out of the reception of his successful other book, "Listening to Prozac." When you set out to write a polemic against something as widespread as depression, it does no one any good to veer...more
This book contains the view of depression that I've been waiting to find--one that juxtaposes science with mythology and the reality of illness with the idealization of melancholy. Kramer starts with a central question that people always ask him at his presentations, "what if antidepressants had been available to Vincent Van Gogh?" and explores the assumptions behind this question from every angle. I expected the scientific detail but was pleasantly surprised by how deeply this book also delves...more
The author certainly knows about depression, but in this book his prose style and frequent tangents slow the reader down and are little more that detractors and fillers. You wonder if he is writing for himself: has he fallen in love with his writing style so that as many sentences as possible can be sretched out beyound usefulness. His message gets lost in these elongated thoughts, elaborate case histories that are overdrwwn as if he intends a shore story. See,for example case of the women who c...more
Kramer examines research into depression. In a reasonably readable (if not exactly exciting) manner he looks at studies that support the assessment of clinical depression as an actual, treatable disease. Associated as he is with anti-depressants because of his more famous work Listening to Prozac, it is perhaps unsurprising that he comes down on the side of treating the malady as a disease rather than as he describes it, simply heroic melancholy.
Mar 22, 2009 Ann is currently reading it
Shelves: nonfiction, abandoned
If Van Gogh had tuberculosis, we would not have hesitated to cure him with all the medicine at our disposal. Why then do so many people hesitate when asked if it would have been good to use medication to cure him of his depression? Thus asks Kramer, who believes that depression is not the essence of the depressed person but simply an overlay that keeps the real person from appearing and functioning, and that medication can and should remove. An interesting thesis and an interesting book, althoug...more
Kramer argues that depression is a medical pathology, similar to other illnesses and diseases that have physiological roots and symptoms. I think he's convinced me; at least, he's made me realize more of the pros of depression medication. Although extremely interesting and thought-provoking, parts of this book felt repetitive, especially the multiple sections devoted to dissecting and challenging the romantic idea that depression leads to self-awareness or that genius is often found among the me...more
Lynn Weber
The first few and first last chapters of this book are amazing. There's so much that I relate to, and so much about societal attitudes toward depression. It covers questions like the perennial "What if Prozac had been around in Van Gogh's day?" and "Why do we think that sorrow = depth?" But I give it four stars rather than five because the bulky middle of the book is very technical. It gets into the medical research done on depression, which is interesting to read but probably not for everyone.
This book was pretty dry reading for me since I have literally no background in psychology. (That's right, NYC Dept. of Ed... I never even took Ed. Psych. Come and get me!) As India points out, the main point comes through clear: depression makes Holes in Your Brain. When you really absorb this, it does make the whole glorification of artistic melancholy kinda sad and scary.
John McElhenney
Picking up where he left off in listening to Prozac, Kramer now turns to the subject of depression and our romantic notions of the empassioned and depressed artist. If you could cure depression once and for all, would you. Would Van Gogh been better off without his mania and depression. He might have kept his ear, but would he have painted Starry Night?
It was helpful to know that depression physically alters the brain making it less functional. Also to know that the cells in the hippocampus of the brain have the ability to regenerate and that activity in this region can make you happier. This book spurred me to get out of my emotional rut as fast as I could.
Erica Freeman
Sort of still reading this...part of me loves it because the science makes a lot of sense, and it's reassuring to see someone taking depression as seriously as it should be taken.

On the other hand, I've felt a lot of self-doubt in relation to this book...I'll say more in private if anyone's interested.
According to Kramer, tuberculosis was once romanticized because it made its sufferers delicate and pale; today we link depression with creative genius and are reluctant to treat it. That's a fascinating analogy, but depression is not an infectious disease, no matter how much Kramer wants to believe it is.
Kramer makes the case for depression as a purely biological illness, driven by nature rather than nurture. He also argues against the time-honored practice of romanticizing depression, tying it to the arts and to creativity. It's an interesting book, although a bit longer than it needs to be.
I was already against depression, and this is not as gripping (though more carefully and thoughtfully written and researched) as 'Talking to Prozac,' but it does make the important point that mental illness is the only disease we romanticize and suggest not-treating. TAKE YOUR MEDS.
Erin Smith
Another counseling course book. He makes a decent argument against the overuse of medication for depression and how many people often do not continue therapy with the medication, which should go hand in hand. A good read for anyone battling depression.
With a command of art, literature and his chosen profession of psychiatry, Kramer makes a compelling argument that depression has been romanticized throughout modern culture and shouldn't be.
Saleem Khashan
Good book for any one interested in depression, gives a different insight but longer than it should and I found it for unknown reason a bit Narcissistic.
How depressing!....and annoyingly compelling, I wanted to leave the topic behind but keept being drawn back in with more questions.
Can a book that crushes you with the weight of recognition also be liberating? I sure hope so.
Meh. Not much I didn't already know, and not a super engaging read.
Kinda dry writing but the research is interesting.
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