Am I happy enough? This has been a pivotal question since America's inception. "Am I not happy enough because I am depressed?" is a more recent version. Psychotherapist Gary Greenberg shows how depression has been manufactured - not as an illness but as an idea about our suffering, its source, and its relief. He challenges us to look at depression in a new way.
In the 20 years since their introduction, antidepressants have become staples of our medicine chests. Upwards of 30 million Americans are taking them at an annual cost of more than $10 billion. Even more important, Greenberg argues, it has become common, if not mandatory, to think of our unhappiness as a disease that can---and should---be treated by medication. Manufacturing Depression tells the story of how we got to this peculiar point in our history.
©2010 Gary Greenberg (P)2010 Tantor
Greenberg blends gonzo journalism, scientific literacy, and wry critical thinking into an engrossing, enlightening, and provocative work of art. Another reviewer called this book a rant but it is the opposite of a rant; the author never repeats himself but instead constantly reassesses his beliefs according to the evidence at hand, tweaking them to conform to his changing experiences. Instead of a rant, the book is a dialectic, a series of conflicts and resolutions, the backbone to a great story. In addition, Greenberg isn't afraid to explore the idea that treating depression with drugs could be yet another concession that democracy makes in the face of advanced capitalism. Greenberg is not a timid writer. He is also astonishingly smart about how to analyze the facts of his subject not only in the best terms that science promises (not mystifying jargon but razor-sharp logic and metacritical rumination) but also in terms of the (frankly fascinating) history of science. I cannot recommend this book highly enough and I an shocked that The Emperor of All Maladies received so much press whereas it was pure chance that I heard about this book. Yes, The Emperor of All Maladies is a very good book, but Manufacturing Depression takes more risks by drawing narrative steam from the engine of the romantic-self and the democratic society rather than the lachrymal-melodrama of the cancer ward.
The content is important but this book is overloaded with personal anecdotes and irrelevant trivia. In addition, the author is so negative about everything, that it's hard to know if he could say something worked if it did.
An enlightened ascetic who loves language and learning.
This is arguably one of the deepest discourses on depression that has been articulated in modern times. If the aforesaid declaration is overstated or erroneous, then all the better. For it would mean that there is elsewhere a more masterful exposition on the meaning of melancholy that remains to be read or heard by me. But of this I am doubtful.
When one assumes the responsibility of a Psychotherapist for over a quarter century and earnestly endeavors to acquire the insight and information that will enable one to alleviate the anguish of one’s patients (and peers perhaps), one deserves to be taken seriously by anyone aspiring to become a competent Counselor or who similarly seeks to understand emotional suffering and its attenuation. When such a Psychotherapist is forthcoming with his failures—the defeatism, despondency, and even death of patients—he deserves to be taken seriously. When such a Psychotherapist assumes the role of an expert Investigative Journalist and devotes his exemplary intelligence, endurance and energy to exploring the ideational (and economic) underpinnings of Depression—a diagnosis that dominates our modern era along with the odious aliment of Anxiety—he deserves to be taken seriously. When such a Psychotherapist candidly confesses to have suffered dual debilitating bouts of Depression and courageously offers us an in depth description of its qualia, of “what it is like to be depressed”, he deserves to be taken seriously and indeed admired. Lastly, Dr. Greenberg deserves to be applauded for his willingness to honestly declare and confront the darkness inherent in human existence and for his disinclination to dismiss this dismal darkness as an essential, ineradicable element in the origin of melancholy, a darkness that no drug can dispel and no medical diagnosis can diminish or do proper justice to. Despite critical condemnation from some quarters, Dr. Greenberg is not unduly dark. Rather, the Universe is dark and indifferent to our existence.
Dr. Greenberg defensibly decries the duplicity of Daniel Amen for his misguided materialism and coarse commercialism combined with puerile pretentiousness. It is the materialistic reduction of melancholy to mere molecules meandering through the myriad modules of the brain that bespeaks the baseness of much of modern Medicine, Psychopharmacology and the burgeoning arena of Clinical Neuroscience. I share some of these sentiments. Presumptuously, I perceive that I am in a privileged position permitting me to proffer palliative solace to such skeptics as our sullen Psychotherapist who, while repudiating material (and medical) reductionism, feel unfit to furnish formidable philosophical explanations for the ostensible interdependency of matter and mind. Essentially, I espouse an alternative, obverse reductionism—Immaterial Monism. Since it would be impractical to expound on the elements of an intricate metaphysical model of mine in the context of this book review, I shall only elaborate the essential idea and refer interested individuals to the text, “Mind, Matter, Mathematics, and Mortality (M4)” (Amen-Ra, 2007). M4 maintains that matter, molecules and all things “physical” in character are constituted by quantum entities that are infinitesimal and, perforce, immaterial. Importantly, it argues from fundamental findings of modern physics that such infinitesimal, immaterial entities exhibit an irreducible element of awareness at their core. Clearly, the convergence and concatenation of such ‘pseudo-sentient’ (or ‘Proto-Percipient) particles can produce what we properly consider “consciousness” in the course of time and under the orderly “instruction” of Evolution over eons. Empirical evidence for this admittedly astounding idea is amassed in my monograph and I welcome all intelligent, informed critique of its content. The insinuation of this Author’s ideas into the present analysis is appropriate (in my estimation) insofar as the author of “Manufacturing Depression” alleges the absence of valid explanations for the mysterious interplay of “matter” and “mind” and understandably excoriates individuals who presume to prescribe physico-chemical treatments for the correction of mental maladies, melancholic and otherwise. But if, fundamentally, there be no such physico-chemical entities, if the medicinal molecules that manifestly modulate our mood and mental operations are as immaterial as the mind (for Dr. Greenberg openly acknowledges that drugs alter emotional states and perceptive propensities), then there is no inherent metaphysical mystery—there is merely a deficiency of detail and depth of understanding on our part presently. [Or perhaps perpetually, if Dr. Colin McGinn be believed. See the latter’s “Mysterious Flame” for the Philosopher’s formulation of Mysterianism.] Such scientific ignorance would be unfortunate, but not epistemologically apocalyptic or overwhelming. Confessedly, this conception is edifying to my mind and I wish simply to share it with other serious-minded individuals such as the sagacious Psychotherapist, Dr. Gary Greenberg, and his admirers. I am one of them.
Dr. Nun Sava-Siva Amen-Ra, Ascetic Analyst
26 August MMXIV
Damascus, Maryland USA
the best listen so far
I was "treated" by ignorant family doctor with antidepressants when in fact I had Lyme disease.. recently diagnosed and apparently too late for a chance of getting cured fast and easy. I lost years of my life because incompetent doctors found it easier and more convenient to feed me antidepressants instead of sending me fore more diagnosis investigations.
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