Anatomies of Melancholy
- New York Times
July 2, 2000
Anatomies of Melancholy
A science writer offers an overview of depression, and a psychiatrist argues
against some of the drugs used to treat it.
By ABRAHAM VERGHESE
The Anatomy of Depression.
By Lewis Wolpert.
196 pp. New York:
The Free Press. $24.
Overcoming the Dangers of Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Other Antidepressants With
Safe, Effective Alternatives.
By Joseph Glenmullen.
383 pp. New York:
Simon & Schuster. $25.
There was a time when depression (or melancholia, as it was called) was rarely
mentioned in public. These days the merits of Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil are
debated as often outside medical circles as within. Tony Soprano takes Prozac,
and the Marlboro Moment has given way to the Zoloft Day. (''A great day for
Dad. A great day for Mom. A terrific day for the family. Make it happen. The
First Chapter: 'Malignant Sadness'
First Chapter: 'Prozac Backlash'
Malignant Sadness : The Anatomy of Depression
by Lewis Wolpert
Hardcover - 196 pages (March 2000)
Free Press; ISBN: 0684870584
AMAZON - US
AMAZON - UK
After he captures the essence of his subject so succinctly in his title, it's a
wonder that noted scientist Lewis Wolpert went on to write a whole book.
Luckily for us, Malignant Sadness: The Anatomy of Depression lives up to its
title, explaining the state of our knowledge and enlightening bystanders who
have never been crippled by psychic pain about just what they're missing.
Wolpert's training as a developmental biologist helps him sift through the
scientific literature, while his devastating episode of depression is the base
of his eloquent descriptions of its subjective experience. Far from a deficit,
his lack of psychiatric training allows him to explore more freely the unclear
and ambiguous depths of our understanding of this all-too-common ailment.
Given his background, one would expect Wolpert to emphasize biological causes
and relief, but he gives psychological and environmental factors their due. As
anyone with a debilitating disease will agree, any course of action promising
recovery is worth pursuing, and Malignant Sadness carefully looks into many
alternate explanations and therapies. Evolution, psychotherapy, Prozac and its
ilk, and non-Western medicine all play roles in Wolpert's drama, and his
engaging prose keeps the reader intrigued throughout. Either you or someone
close to you is practically certain to be struck by some form of depression
during your lifetime--read Malignant Sadness and be prepared. --Rob Lightner
London-based medical researcher Wolpert draws on his scientific knowledge and
personal experience to explain the overwhelming disease that depression can be.
He concentrates on unipolar depression rather than the bipolar form, in which
bouts of depression alternate with bouts of mania. He discusses depression
historically, drawing on Galen and other major figures, especially Robert
Burton in his Anatomy of Melancholy (1621^-51). Of the recent works in the
field, Wolpert relies heavily on the... read more
Lewis Wolpert had it all -- a successful scientific career and a happy home
life -- when his struggles with clinical depression began. Although he had
often dealt with the blues, he had never been seriously depressed before the
illness took over his life. Overwhelmed, he was no longer able to think
properly, let alone work, and his mind turned to suicide. When eventually he
recovered with the help of psychotherapy and drug treatment, Dr. Wolpert had to
confront the stigma and shame attached to... read more
Prozac Backlash : Overcoming the Dangers of Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Other
Antidepressants with Safe, Effective Alternatives
by Joseph Glenmullen
Hardcover - 320 pages (March 2000)
Simon & Schuster; ISBN: 0684860015
AMAZON - US
AMAZON - UK
It seems like it was just yesterday that Prozac was a miracle pill, a
medication that could not only make sick people well, but "better than well."
By the end of the 1990s, Prozac and similar drugs--Paxil, Zoloft, and
others--were being prescribed for everything from depression to anxiety to drug
addiction to ADD. About 70 percent of prescriptions for these antidepressants
were being written by family physicians, rather than psychiatrists.
Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, a psychiatrist who has a private practice and also works
for Harvard University Health Services, sees this antidepressant mania as
dangerous, even reckless. He notes that these drugs can have severe side
effects, including uncontrollable facial and body tics, which could be signs of
severe and permanent brain damage. About 50 percent of patients suffer
often-debilitating withdrawal symptoms from them, and about 60 percent end up
with sexual dysfunction. And Prozac may make a small number of people homicidal
or suicidal, or both.
But there are alternatives: in Germany, for example, St. John's wort outsells
Prozac 25 to 1, showing that doctors and patients there understand that the
herbal remedy works as well as the synthetic ones for mild to moderate
depression. [Editor's note: St. John's wort has been shown to interfere with
the actions of the transplant rejection drug cyclosporin and the AIDS drug
indinivir.] And diet, exercise, 12-step programs, and good old-fashioned
psychotherapy can work well, too. Even for severe depression requiring
medication, Dr. Glenmullen shows how the drugs can be used with other
treatments and then discontinued after a year or less.
Moreover, Prozac Backlash discusses exactly what depression is and isn't; Dr.
Glenmullen reviews hundreds of scientific studies, and discusses numerous case
studies from his practice and others. Because of that detail, medical
professionals may be this book's most likely readers, but anyone who has been
on an antidepressant, or is close to someone who is, will also want to give
Prozac Backlash a careful read. The brain you save could be your own. --Lou
From Kirkus Reviews
PROZAC BACKLASH: Overcoming the Dangers of Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Other
Antidepressants with Safe, Effective Alternatives Simon & Schuster (384 pp.)
$25.00 A psychiatrist cites research and his own clinical experience to sound a
compelling warning about the hazards of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor
(SSRI) antidepressants. Glenmullen (The Pornographer's Grief and Other Tales of
Human Sexuality,1993), a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School, uses
the term "Prozac backlash" to... read more
Roughly 28 million Americans -- one in every ten -- have taken Prozac, Zoloft,
or Paxil or a similar antidepressant, yet very few patients are aware of the
dangers of these drugs, nor are they aware that better, safer alternatives
exist. Now Harvard Medical School's Dr. Joseph Glenmullen documents the ominous
long-term side effects associated with these and other serotonin-boosting
medications. These side effects include neurological disorders, such as
disfiguring facial and whole-body tics... read more