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Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease Hardcover – February 2, 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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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


"What a felicitous coincidence -- to be...designed for happiness in a land dedicated to its pursuit! In these words, Gary Greenberg illustrates our dilemmas, using examples from the Book of Job to our recent financial crises, and reveals with uncommon eloquence the uncomfortable consequences of this pursuit. Readers beware -- you have an unsettling journey ahead through an alarming underworld but your guide is dependable." -- David Healy, M.D., author of Mania and Let Them Eat Prozac

"Gary Greenberg has become an oracle of the modern age. Where most explanation trends toward, well, the trendy, he proves once again that mere skepticism may not be enough. 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 and The Thin Blue Line

"An irreverent and entertaining but ultimately devastating account of how and why ordinary unhappiness and life problems have been redefined as the omnipresent disease of depression. Manufacturing Depression is a classic work of American skepticism and common sense. Somewhere Walker Percy and Mark Twain are smiling." -- Charles Barber, author of Comfortably Numb

"Gary Greenberg is a philosopher disguised as a psychotherapist, with the style and timing of a stand-up comic. Nobody this intelligent should be permitted to be this funny." -- Carl Elliott, M.D., author of Better Than Well

"Manufacturing Depression is required reading for anyone taking, prescribing, advertising, or regulating antidepressants. But more than that, it is food for thought, indispensable in the debate on just how overmedicated and hyper-pathologized we are becoming as a society." -- Julie Holland, M.D., author of Weekends at Bellevue

“[A] lucid and unusually revealing book…[depression issues] are discussed both implicitly and explicitly with shrewd tact by Greenberg…what distinguishes Manufacturing Depression is that Greenberg never needs to take the upper hand….a useful history of psychiatric diagnoses of depression interwoven with a riveting account of his own depression and his participation in an antidepressant drug trial…an unusually amusing, moving and spirited account.” —Adam Phillips, The Nation

"Manufacturing Depression is a brilliant, provocative, delightfully idiosyncratic—and engagingly readable!—personal and intellectual odyssey through twentieth-century psychiatry's expansive love affair with depression. Anyone interested in depression will be challenged to think harder about what it all means for the kind of people we want to be." —Jerome C. Wakefield, PhD, DSW, coauthor of The Loss of Sadness

“[A] blistering, rambling and entertaining attack on the biomedical disease model of depression….[a] lyrical history…[Manufacturing Depression] is more than a dizzying, dazzling critique of the biomedical disease model of depression. It is probably the most thoughtful book on depression ever written for a lay audence.” —Jonathan Rottenberg, Ph.D., Psychology Today

“[Manufacturing Depression] is thoughtful and well written…full of fascinating stories...Greenberg's greatest contribution, though, is insisting on few certainties, and in offering himself to us…With Greenberg, you are free to call your sorrow a disease, or not, to take drugs or not—to see a therapist, or not. All he asks is that you ‘don't settle for being sick in the head...you can tell your own story about your discontents’.” —Liz Else, New Scientist

“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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416569790
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416569794
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #648,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book tackles a pretty interesting issue: whether the psychiatric/pharmaceutical/medical community has redefined the sadness and regret that is often just part of life as a disease known as "Depression" - a disease for which they stand ready to dispense expensive pills for "treatment". Most people who are involved in any way with the depression debate - through personal experience, that of family members or friends, etc. - know that there is a real issue here. On the one hand, every unfulfilled housewife is popping depression and anxiety pills, having gotten them with ease from doctors who, themselves, have bought into the sadness-as-disease notion. It's clearly gotten out of hand. There are tens of millions of people who are pill-popping while not addressing the fundamental causes of their sadness, and the solution they will get from the medical community will be: more pills, different pills, better pills. On the other hand, the ability to diagnose and label different types of depression-related conditions enables hospitals and doctors to treat people who might become suicidal or cause harm to others. This book is therefore focused on a very interesting and important debate. The author's take, in a nutshell, is that sadness has been redefined as a clinical disease and that it's harmful in the end - not least of all to the patients themselves. It's worth noting that he is at odds with much of the medical community. I found it a worthwhile read, but did not find the kind of convincing, data-driven arguments that I was seeking, for such a controversial topic. 3 stars for tackling a tough issue from a human, empathetic perspective but ultimately making an unconvincing case.
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