Mother Jones contributing editor and self-described “old-fashioned psychotherapist” Greenberg (The Noble Lie: When Scientists Give the Right Answers for the Wrong Reasons, 2008, etc.) ponders depression and its treatment through the ages.
Thirty million Americans now take antidepressant medications. Is this sudden epidemic of depression “not so much the discovery of a long-unrecognized disease but a reconstitution of a broad swath of human experience as illness?” Life is tough, the world is an insecure and often merciless place, and there are bewilderments of loss, stresses and frustrations, not to mention the “melancholy cultivated through fifty years of absorbing life’s quotidian blows.” Call it the human condition, and Greenberg is the first to say the condition can be crippling; he has suffered bouts of deep depressions for years, smartly conveyed here, including participation in a clinical trial for an antidepressant. However, the author is suspicious that the drug came first and then a vast market was created for them through the interplay of pharmacological and insurance companies, doctors and the FDA. He is also distressed about the drugs’ exaggerated claims and sleight-of-hand efficacy statistics. Greenberg focuses heavily on the human element lurking behind the symptoms of depression and their context and meaning. During this tour of depression, 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.