April's Reviews > Coming of Age on Zoloft: How Antidepressants Cheered Us Up, Let Us Down, and Changed Who We Are

Coming of Age on Zoloft by Katherine Sharpe
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Aug 04, 12

bookshelves: coming-of-age, generation-y, history, memoir, middle-class, public-health
Read from July 27 to August 04, 2012

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 pluralistic/relativistic position of "only each individual truly knows whether drugs help/harm them.

This is a good 101 book for those with little to no orientation to the American mental health system and are middle class and white. Most obviously lacking in the anecdotal evidence are stories from low-income people, people of color and immigrant/refugee populations (high prevalence of axis I mood disorders; I've seen it firsthand).

The main insight I got from this book is that I am pretty much hanging by a thread in terms of a generalized anxiety or mood disorder diagnosis. I mean, maybe I'm just a functional neurotic person--but in the first-person accounts I felt like Sharpe was holding up a mirror because I could see myself in almost each person, only to a less intense degree. Sharpe writes about those with anxiety and depression issues: "I began to notice how many of these people...possessed a certain cluster of traits: they were sensitive, moody, empathetic, creative, funny, demanding of themselves, self-absorbed at times, but also capable of joy and a deep interest in the things that moved them" (162).

The second insight I got was that for people who tend toward being anxious/depressed, it's really a matter of being gentle on yourself--not expecting so much from yourself and understanding your limited capacity--in order to stay functional. Sharpe writes, "I had to be nice to myself; no one and nothing else was going to do it for me" (208).

Kudos to Sharpe. Not many women in their 20s are able to publish a non-fiction memoir.
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message 1: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Raymer april. april. your reviews are amazing. they are so amazing.

i feel like i got everything i wanted without reading the book. hahahaha.

i'm sad that there wasn't much of a cross section in terms of status, race, culture etc. but maybe she was just going for a complete 101 approach, like you said. i guess her title is kind of misleading. it sounds like it's directed at people who have, well, come of age on 'zoloft'. but it seems like she didn't have much to add for people who are already familiar with the scene (the middle class white part of the scene...).

lol, her conclusion. it's true, though. there isn't any way to get more conclusive about a topic like this when we're still, honestly, lacking in knowledge about the real cause. sometimes just therapy works, and sometimes people need drugs (for whatever scientific or mental reason).

thanks for reviewing this! i think i'll take it off my to-read list... hahahaha.


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