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Against Depression Paperback – July 25, 2006
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While he draws from a number of recent studies on depression, the book is not meant to assist in the diagnosis or treatment of individuals, except in a very general sense. Instead, Kramer adds the findings of those studies into his thoughts on how patients modify medication doses for depression as they wouldn't for purely physical diseases, and looks into future possibilities of genetically modified stress hormone transmitters that could work to prevent a slide into chronic depression. In the arts, he examines the work of philosophers, painters and writers in relation to the reputation their personal lives have earned (critics and consumers alike believe that pain equals genius and lack of pain equals lack of depth). Adding Dineson, Bellow, Updike and Kierkegaard to the list headed by van Gogh, Kramer shows a variety of ways we live with the assumption that creative genius does not function without severe emotional strain.
While he does include a few stories from a patient to illustrate specific treatments, most of the book is slow and thoughtful, without ever being dry or pedantic. Useful to families or individuals who have encountered depression, this book offers excellent support for anyone--creative genius or otherwise--who struggle to define their talents as existing separately from their illness. Jill Lightner --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
With his heightened sensitivity to depression, a new wave of depressed clients pounding his door, and countless speaking engagements and seminars, Kramer became aware that the medical condition of depression carried an aura of mystique and superiority that would never be tolerated in other disorders such as diabetes or cancer. Yes, individuals with painful diseases can grow in character through surgeries, chemotherapies, or deprivations. But no one actively cultivates the condition of cancer as an enhancement of the human situation.
Perhaps an irreverent title for this work might have been "A Tale of Two Prozacs," for the author divides his work into the misconceptions and canonizations of depressed mood, on the one hand, and the hard reality of this disease on the other. There is, he contends, a prevailing belief that mental health disorder and/or substance abuse unleashes creative energy and expands the life experience. As a psychotherapist myself, I do not need to revert to stories of Hemingway or Van Gogh. Nearly every teenager on psychotropic medication raises the question of whether "I'll still be myself.Read more ›
This is not a self-help book. It doesn't address itself to depressed people in particular. It doesn't advise on treatment alternatives. It is not an alternative to Richard O'Connor's books. What it is is a plea for depression to be treated as the serious, progressive, frequently fatal illness that it is, and treated aggressively. In particular, Kramer discusses and refutes the ideas that depression is romantic, that it makes its sufferers better or deeper people, or that eradicating it would deprive humanity of works of art. This discussion ranges through science, literature, philosophy and biography. Although I have suffered from depression all my life, I don't think you need to have a personal connection with the subject to find it interesting and enlightening, or to be persuaded by its arguments.
While touring for his previous books, he would often be asked a question, "what if Van Gogh had taken prozac?" The real question he's being asked is whether depression should be cured, or whether curing depression would take away something that is an essential part of being human.
The book is really making the argument "against depression" - there is nothing romantic or especially meaningful about it.
He writes, convicingly, that depression is a disease that has specific physical indications. The physical causes of this disease are close to being understood.
He writes that other diseases - such as tuberculosis (then called consumption) - used to have romantic implications. They are now considered just ordinary diseases that need to be cured.
While making this point, he touches on treatments for depression - some of them incredibly clever - that may be coming out over the next 5 to 20 years.
If you have suffered from depression and are not sure how you think about it - along the lines of the book: "should I be cured, or if I get treatment will I lose 'part of myself'?" then I'd highly recommend this book. Also recommended if the underlying question is interesting to you - maybe you know someone who suffers from depression, or are just curious about the human condition.
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.
Assuming that depression is, in fact, a disease, Kramer wonders why the culture still romanticizes depression in a way that it doesn't for other diseases. In particular he addresses the supposed role of depression in art. He argues that difference, not depression in particular is valuable to writing and art. He believes that certain aspects of both the artistic and the depressive temperament, such as feelings of alienation from society, can still be valuable to art, as long as the feeling of alienation is not simply a product of a depressive illness. Kramer's longstanding interest in literature and the arts was particularly engrossing to this reader.
He argues that depression is one of the most pressing health concerns confronting the world, with major depression being more debilitating than many other, more obviously "physical" illnesses, and often striking much earlier in life. Particularly noteworthy is that Major Depression is a progressive illness in the same sense as cancer; if not treated properly early on, recurrences tend to be more frequent and more severe. Non-treatment can eventually lead to permanent debilitation.
Kramer covers all of this ground in a sparkling prose style that raises Against Depression above other purely academic tracts on the topic. The book includes a wealth of information while being extremely readable and engaging at the same time.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I think this was a very important book which has expanded my compassion and concern for those struggling with depression. Dr. Kramer is a humble observer of impressive intellect. Read morePublished 24 days ago by Amazon Customer
Physician-author Kramer tells how depression endangers nerve cells, damages the heart and blood vessels, and interferes with parenting and family life. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Loyd Eskildson
This book and Peter Kramer's other books have had positive reviews. He is intelligent and does say some useful things but I don't find his work worth reading in general. Read morePublished 5 months ago by doug korty
I have been depressed for years and must say it was not empowering to read Kramer's summary (accurate) of my childhood, my youth, my maturity, and the present and his sad... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Mark Thrice
Good book, I have had depression for years this gave a new and helpful light to the disease.Published 18 months ago by JD
Not interested. To wordy and not something I would usually purchasePublished 24 months ago by judith pillifant
It is a great evaluation of depression on its many dimensions,including art and the cultural perception of the depressed. Read morePublished on July 25, 2014 by Jose Salgado
Kramer offers a new, clear, and responsible approach to depression and to those who suffer from it. The information is precise, practical and useful.Published on October 31, 2013 by SFrealtor