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Coming of Age on Zoloft: How Antidepressants Cheered Us Up, Let Us Down, and Changed Who We Are Paperback – June 5, 2012

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Coming of Age on Zoloft: How Antidepressants Cheered Us Up, Let Us Down, and Changed Who We Are + Saving Normal: An Insider's Revolt Against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life + Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062059734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062059734
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #258,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Intuitive and investigative, personal and historical, narrative-rich and fact-packed….Part of what makes this book riveting is the way Sharpe sets her own story within the larger context of cultural, social, and psychiatric changes that moved depression (along with other mental illnesses) into the medical spotlight.” (Elle)

“Sharpe is excellent at detailing the positives and negatives of these drugs … But she is best at probing broader societal issues … This is a fine book that nicely weaves together personal, sociological, and philosophical perspectives for a thoughtful view of how antidepressants are shaping many people’s lives.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A knowing account of what it is like to grow up on psychiatric medications....Balanced and informative--an education for any parent considering psychiatric medication for a troubled adolescent.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Beautifully written. . . . This is a book for anyone taking or thinking about taking antidepressants, anyone who prescribes them, anyone who wonders about their suitability-or anyone who wants a mirror held up to our time.” (Dr. David Healy, author of Let Them Eat Prozac)

“A fascinating look at how drugs and trends have shaped the identities of individuals and of a generation-provocative without being sensationalistic, skillfully written, and totally necessary.” (Emily Gould, author And the Heart Says Whatever)

From the Back Cover

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 percent of Americans over the age of six use an SSRI antidepressant.

In Coming of Age on Zoloft, Sharpe blends deeply personal writing, thoughtful interviews, and historical context to achieve an unprecedented portrait of the antidepressant generation. She explores questions of identity that arise for people who start medication before they have an adult sense of self. She asks why some individuals find a diagnosis of depression reassuring, while others are threatened by it. She presents, in young people's own words, their intimate and complicated relationships with their medication. And she weighs the cultural implications of America's biomedical approach to moods.

More About the Author

Katherine Sharpe is the former editor and community manager of Seed magazine's, and the former online editor of the DIY lifestyle rag ReadyMade. Her writing has appeared in n+1, GOOD, Seed, Washington Post Magazine, The Village Voice, The Brooklyn Rail, L Magazine, and Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney's Book of Lists, among other publications. Her long-running print zine, 400 Words, was featured in Utne and Newsweek, and made the "McSweeney's Recommends" list on She lives in Brooklyn.

Customer Reviews

The book is very well written.
This made the discussions of the history of anti-depressants and the research much more personal.
briahnkelly brennan
Good read for anyone who has struggled with this.
Colby D. Renfro

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Hummingbird on June 10, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is not your typical hack job against drugs -- this book is thoughtful and well researched. I love the way she integrates her own experience with information, like how antidepressants were discovered, the problems with defining depression anyway, and thoughts about how we as a whole culture feel about happiness and success. A long time ago, I came to realize that parents who say "I only want my child to be happy" are the most demanding parents of all. My own children have both had "happiness" problems and I wish I had had this book a long time ago. It doesn't tell you that antidepressants are uselesss -- quite the contrary. She talked to a lot of people with different experiences. But this book makes you think, and if you or your children need to take antidepressants, this book will help you talk about it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By C. P. Anderson on October 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book starts out like an up-to-date Bell Jar. A smart young woman spends the summer before she goes off to college pondering life and veering toward a breakdown. (Luckily, she gets prescribed anti-depressants this time - and not electroshock.)

From there, though, it takes a quick turn through the history of anti-depressants. The author then introduces the stories of some fellow depression sufferers, typically organized around particular themes. Finally, the book discusses some of the issues with anti-depressants - in particular, those centering around anti-depressants and personal identity.

Overall, it's a pretty effective organizational scheme. Between that and the author's excellent writing style, this book equates to a very good read.

The one thing I didn't like about it, however, is how the author's own experiences color the parts of the book that aren't just memoir. What do I mean? Well, she happened to be one of those depression sufferers who couldn't wait to get off her meds. She also happened to have a great experience with her therapist. So, when discussing these two topics, though she bends over backwards to make sure all viewpoints are discussed, it's pretty obvious what side she's on.

There's also really little here that is new or earth-shattering. That said, it is a good summary and also very effective at relating one person's viewpoint and experience.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Libby Lowe on August 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
Katherine Sharpe has written a compelling book for people who want a more nuanced understanding of interactions between emotions, personal identity, pharmaceutical companies, and American culture. She infuses personal memoir with a critical look at pervasive beliefs about mental illness and pharmaceuticals. At the same time, her writing style proves accessible to readers who have not yet ventured into literature about antidepressant usage. The openness of her writing is created by weaving her personal story with interviews, scientific literature, and philosophy to the effect that she engages rather than alienates people who suffer or have suffered from depression and/or anxiety.

Young adults, their friends, family, and university staff can all benefit from better understanding common dilemmas antidepressant-users face, and Ms. Sharpe thoroughly outlines them. For example, she addresses questions like, `Is the anti-depressant masking the person I am, or am I more myself with the medication?', or even, `How do I know who I am when I have taken antidepressants from an early age?' Her book also subtly challenges the reader to abandon categorical thinking and strict adherence to cultural myths. For example, she explains that the all-too-common belief that `I am broken because I suffer from sadness' is reinforced by cultural messages that college students should feel and act happy. She asserts that we can better support young adults by recognizing and validating their experiences with increasing societal pressures, then assisting them to find the treatment best for them.

Importantly, Ms. Sharpe does not portray antidepressants as `good' or `bad', but rather offers important points to consider when thinking about beginning, continuing, and ending their use.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John D. Massey on July 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
Katherine Sharpe goes beyond the polarizing rhetoric on a deeply divisive topic by offering a more nuanced and sensical approach to issues surrounding the healing of mind and heart-an approach forged in the fire of experience and deep personal reflection. I immensely profited from the author's transparency and even-handed perspective on the issues surrounding the use of medication to treat anxiety and depression. Her candor is refreshing, and her insights regarding the proliferation of psychotropic pharmaceuticals are incisive. I could not agree more that depression and other mental health struggles are not only biological-medical but also involve a complex mix of environmental and individual causes that one can address through human interaction with a skillful and sympathetic guide. Love the emphasis on the need for connectedness, community, and safe life coaches. I believe that God created us in His image, part of which means the need for connection with Him and others. It seems that our humanity wilts when this essential element is missing from life. Ms. Sharpe reminds the reader of the complexities and depth of human nature and issues a counter-cultural call for those suffering from anxiety and depression to shun quick fixes and seek treatment for the whole person. In the context of her own struggles, she offers a much needed cultural analysis and critique of the conditions that have given rise to the widespread use of anti-depressants. A must read for our generation!

John Massey, Ph.D.
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