On Depression: Drugs, Diagnosis, and Despair in the Modern Worldby S. Nassir Ghaemi
In a culture obsessed with youth, financial success, and achieving happiness, is it possible to live an authentic, meaningful life? Nassir Ghaemi, director of the Mood Disorder Program at Tufts Medical Center, reflects on our society's current quest for happiness and rejection of any emotion resembling sadness. On Depression asks readers to consider the/i>
In a culture obsessed with youth, financial success, and achieving happiness, is it possible to live an authentic, meaningful life? Nassir Ghaemi, director of the Mood Disorder Program at Tufts Medical Center, reflects on our society's current quest for happiness and rejection of any emotion resembling sadness. On Depression asks readers to consider the benefits of despair and the foibles of an unexamined life.
Too often depression as disease is mistreated or not treated at all. Ghaemi warns against the "pretenders" who confuse our understanding of depression—both those who deny disease and those who use psychiatric diagnosis "pragmatically" or unscientifically. But experiencing sadness, even depression, can also have benefits. Ghaemi asserts that we can create a "narrative of ourselves such that we know and accept who we are," leading to a deeper, lasting level of contentment and a more satisfying personal and public life.
Depression is complex, and we need guides to help us understand it, guides who comprehend it existentially as part of normal human experience and clinically as sometimes needing the right kind of treatment, including medications. Ghaemi discusses these guides in detail, thinkers like Viktor Frankl, Rollo May, Karl Jaspers, and Leston Havens, among others.
On Depression combines examples from philosophy and the history of medicine with psychiatric principles informed by the author's clinical experience with people who struggle with mental illness. He has seen great achievements arise from great suffering and feels that understanding depression can provide important insights into happiness.
Ghaemi (director, Mood Disorders Program, Tufts Univ. Sch. of Medicine; A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness) emphasizes the relationship between therapist and patient. His vigorous critique of psychoanalysis, prescription drugs (“Pharmageddon”), and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) stands out among recent books on the decline of psychiatry, a profession that now occupies “the same place scientifically as medicine did at the end of the nineteenth century.” Ghaemi puts to good use his knowledge of the pioneers of medical history, e.g., Hippocrates, Galen, Philippe Pinel, and William Osler. His appreciation of 20th-century therapists Viktor Frankl, Rollo May, and Elvin Semrad, philosopher Karl Jaspers, and his own mentors, psychiatrist Leston Havens and historian Paul Roazen, is heartfelt as well as intellectually rich. In his penultimate chapter, “The Banality of Mental Health,” Ghaemi examines norm, normal, and ideal. Normal is often mediocre, while among the outstanding and creative are many who suffer from mania and depression. “Who can say which is better?”
Verdict An informed, challenging, and readable approach to a vital subject. Despair is in the title, but readers will rejoice in the reading.E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
- Johns Hopkins University Press
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- 18 Years
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Meet the Author
Nassir Ghaemi, M.D., M.P.H., is a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine and the director of the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. He is author of the bestseller A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness, as well as The Rise and Fall of the Biopsychosocial Model: Reconciling Art and Science in Psychiatry and The Concepts of Psychiatry: A Pluralistic Approach to the Mind and Mental Illness, both published by Johns Hopkins.
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