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Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease Paperback – February 8, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Science writer and psychotherapist Greenberg has suffered from bouts of depression himself, which eminently qualifies him to literately probe and analyze that pervasive modern affliction. Instead of dry polemics, he offers a witty and often very personal investigation into the roles doctors, drug companies, and patients themselves have played in casting depression as “the common cold” of American mental illness. In chapters entitled “Making Depression Safe for Democracy,” “Mad Men on Drugs,” “The Magnificence of Normal,” and so forth, Greenberg covers a wide swath of the history of melancholy, from Freud to shock therapy to the more recent discovery of such neurotransmitters as serotonin. He offers a measured dose of philosophy in contemplating whether unhappiness should be regarded as a disease or instead as an essential part of being human. Ultimately, his book is a sobering critique of the marketing wizards who have overhyped the dubious benefits of antidepressants and of an American public all too eager for quick fixes to life’s inevitable challenges and disappointments. --Carl Hays --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“A lucid and revealing book…an unusually amusing, moving, and spirited account.” —Adam Phillips, The Nation

“[Greenberg] is an unusually eloquent writer, and his book offers a grand tour of the history of modern medicine, as well as an up-close look at contemporary practices." —Louis Menand, The New Yorker

“A dizzying, dazzling critique. It is probably the most thoughtful book on depression ever written." —Jonathan Rottenberg, Ph.D., Psychology Today

Manufacturing Depression is full of fascinating stories...Greenberg's greatest contribution, though, is insisting on few certainties, and in offering himself to us." —Liz Else, New Scientist

“In a medicalized world of specious concepts where false hope has taken the form of a diagnosis and a pill, the only way to challenge current thinking is with a sledgehammer, or a copy of Manufacturing Depression. And best of all, this may be the funniest book on depression ever.” —Errol Morris, Academy Award-winning director of The Fog of War

“Greenberg[‘s] bouts of deep depressions [are] smartly conveyed here, including [his] participation in a clinical trial for an antidepressant…the author engages in extended, illuminating discussions of a host of therapeutic techniques, the confounding power of the placebo effect, the evolution of psychopharmacology and the ways in which expectations shape response. A humanistic, witty exploration of the human response to depression.” —Kirkus

“Greenberg elegantly dissects the medical-research-pharmaceutical complex….A splendid, witty analysis of how we came to give up the stories of our lives in favor of analyzing the alphabet of which the stories are made. An essential read for all invested in medicine and social science.” —Library Journal, starred review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (February 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416569804
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416569800
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,239,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

GARY GREENBERG has written about the intersection of science, politics, and ethics for many magazines, include Harper's, the New Yorker, Wired, Discover, Rolling Stone, and Mother Jones, where he's a contributing writer. His reporting has been widely reprinted and anthologized, including in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2002. He is also a practicing psychotherapist in Connecticut.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Ethan Watters on February 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first read Gary Greenberg's thoughts on depression in a Harper's essay that was passed from friend to friend always with the same insistence: "You've got to read this!" I'm pleased to say that the book is also a must read. It is a devilishly hard thing to see how one's culture informs one's sense of self. Some writers try to manage the trick by becoming vociferous critics of the psychological trends of their time, endlessly pointing out the mistakes of all the people not as smart as they are. Greenberg's approach is much more interesting. His approach is empathic, deeply personal and at many times filled with wonder and humor. Highly recommended.
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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful By warm on February 16, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Finally, a critical history of depression that illuminates the conditions and origins of the malady while advocating humanely on behalf of its sufferers. I loved this book! Combining narratives about his own experiences as both a depressed person and a professional therapist treating the depressed, along with a fascinating history of depression from the time of the ancients (including a wonderful reading of the Book of Job as an early record of depression) through modern melancholia all the way to the present biochemical understanding of the disease, Greenberg brings remarkable erudition, insight, and humanity into this deeply personal and problematic subject. In addition, he provides the most acute and detailed analysis of the nexus between the pharmaceutical industry and diagnostic trends that I've read so far. If its effect on me is any indication, reading this book will help anyone who has experienced depression (and the people who love them) to understand more fully the nature of their suffering and the limitations of current trends in treatment. While it is certainly critical of many aspects of the industry that's grown up around depression, and provides no pat answers or magic bullets for how to overcome it, the main message to me is deeply positive: that anti-depressants are clearly valuable tools in the battle against depression but we shouldn't shortchange ourselves by letting our identities or our suffering be defined by the pharmaceutical industry. Greenberg is one of the sharpest, most compassionate, and most entertaining minds currently exploring the intersection of psychology, science writing, and cultural studies--think Foucault with a great sense of humor and a big heart--and this intervention into the national conversation about depression and anti-depressants is long overdue.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By C. Billy on February 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Gary Greenberg has stepped into the 'treacherous waters of anti-depressant
research' and challenged the old-guard establishment, calling into question the
integrity of the entire healthcare industry - but he doesn't necessarily outline
a concrete remedy for the frustrating mess. And as we all know, the American
people don't mind if you enlighten them on the problem, but you'd better
follow that up with the ANSWER.

And Greenberg doesn't do that. He nudges, he suggests, he makes inroads, takes
detours, and will occassionally outright opine, but a sure-fire ANSWER - not
Greenberg's style.

But asking the questions, pointing out the gaps in reason and logic, exposing
falsehoods....that's just as important, isn't it? That at least gets us
somewhere more meaningful and substantial than the complacency spoon-fed us by
those ominous depression doctors (forget the spoon, these days it's a
multi-colored cocktail).

Of course, Greenberg has a powerful opponent, a Goliath to his David. Just ask
those Uconn guys who did all that placebo research and ruffled many a lab coat
feather. His may not be a popular message, but it is an important one. Like a powerful movie or a rousing speech, Manufacturing Depression challenges us to reconsider long-held beliefs and erroneous thinking - because the depression doctors sure as heck aren't going to do it for us...
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By M. C. Gardens on March 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Greenberg's writing style is easy to read, easy to understand. The book is a bit of a "slow starter." His premise so far seems to be that feeling sad used to be acceptable; now it's a reason to take a pill. For those with chronic mental illness, namely clinical depressive disorder, his writing will not be helpful, and may even cause more guilt and self-doubt, but for those who have cause/effect depressive symptoms, it may lead to some worthwhile self-examination and even validation of the experience of being sad for good reason.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Danno VINE VOICE on March 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Dr. Gary Greenberg is both a psychoanalyst and a person who has lived through several depressive episodes in his life, so he brings some unique insights (or axes to grind) to "Manufacturing Depression." As is evident from the introduction, Dr. Greenberg is highly critical of our current Prozac/Paxil/Zoloft culture but rather than focus exclusively on the marketing of antidepressant drugs, Dr. Greenberg takes a long-term historical approach which takes us from the origins of professional medicine and psychiatry in the 19th century up until the present day and cognitive-behavioral therapy. It's an unusual approach for the sort of general interest audience Dr. Greenberg is writing for, and as a result the book is often tiring to read for long periods of time. It's best to break it down chapter by chapter and - given that Dr. Greenberg does have a certain agenda to push - perhaps explore "Manufacturing Depression" within a weekly book club. This is definitely a book that generates discussion!

There's a lot of information in this book. Dr. Greenberg gets the historical details admirably right and makes the past as vivid as he can but misrepresents (or misunderstands) the purpose of statistical significance testing. This wouldn't be so bad if Dr. Greenberg were attempting to describe statistics and research methods in a neutral fashion; he is not a specialist. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Most of his discussion about this topic is embedded in excerpts from an article he wrote a few years ago about his experiences as a patient in a clinical drug trial and it's here that his tone veers from approachable and interesting to snarky and smarmy. It's also uncomfortably narcissistic.
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