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Against Depression

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  468 ratings  ·  42 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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3.88  · 
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 ·  468 ratings  ·  42 reviews

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I like the overall thesis of this book: that depression isn't something glamorous or romantic or necessary for artistic creation. It's a disease and it's terrible and if we could eradicate it, we should. I just don't like all of the stuff that's stuffed into the other 300+ pages. It's just one of those books that's so obviously written by an older white guy. So much philosophical rambling about dead white male philosophers. So much artistic rambling about dead white male artists. So much pontifi ...more
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
May 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
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.
Oct 16, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Probably my giant intellectual crush on Kramer is clouding my views on this book -- which, if I'm being honest, meanders too much and is about 75 pages too long. But I don't care. Take all five of my stars.

In a series of section (What It Is To Us, What It Is, What It Will Be) Kramer argues that our current understanding of depression is colored by our past love affair with melancholy. It probably would have been helpful to read Listening to Prozac before Against Depression, as this book seems t
Sian Jones
Mar 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Feb 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychiatry
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.
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.
Jan 03, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Lydia H Stucki
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wheaton
This book is a must-read for anyone with depression or anyone who knows someone with depression (read: everyone).

Some people, when the idea of curing depression is brought up, object, saying that if Van Gogh, an assumed depressive, had had access to antidepressants, wouldn't his art be less rich? Therefore, some even go as far to say that Van Gogh shouldn't be cured because it would take away from the world of art. Kramer discusses this problem with subtlety and nuance, but also absolute clarity
Kate Wyer
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is essential reading for anyone who has/is experiencing depression, or who has a loved one who is. It documents the way our culture romanticizes the illness, and opened my own eyes to how I think about my own tendencies. It also details the real, physical damage the disease does on the heart, the brain, the nervous system as a whole, and the stress response. Please do not tolerate depression, or think that is it part of your personality. Seek treatment. Your body, your memory, and your ...more
Ana Isabel Lage Ferreira
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
How seeing depression as a "proper" disease can actually help all the ones who succumb to it and also the ones with whom they interact.
Depression is not nostalgia, is not a character trait and is not an artistic disposition. It's a disease that combines body and mind and this is why it's so hard to fight it.
With research and validated evidences Kramer opens new avenues to understand, treat and .... maybe one day erradicate depression.
Not advisable if you're expecting lay language.
Mar 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
May 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Lynn Weber
Jul 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Jul 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jose Salgado-Wiggin
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.
Aug 25, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Jun 22, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Matt Hamilton
Sep 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is excellent. It covers the new neuroscience of depression as a very real, measurable disease of the brain. It challenges the concept that depression is good for art and a rich life experience and makes a compelling argument for the eradication of depression as a goal for our society. A fascinating read that is well-written and easy to read. Highly recommended.
John McElhenney
Aug 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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?
Erica Freeman
Oct 12, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
Sep 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychiatry
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.
Feb 27, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Sep 14, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, own
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.
Jun 17, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
How depressing!....and annoyingly compelling, I wanted to leave the topic behind but keept being drawn back in with more questions.
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