Get e-book Listening to Prozac: The Landmark Book About Antidepressants and the Remaking of the Self

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Reported to turn shy people into social butterflies and to improve work performance, memory, even dexterity, does Prozac work on character rather than illness? Are you Since it was introduced in , Prozac has been prescribed to nearly five million Americans. Are you using it "cosmetically," to make people more attractive?

More energetic, more socially acceptable? And what does it tell us about the nature of character and the mutability of self? Get A Copy.

Listening to Prozac … And Hearing More

Paperback , Revised Edition , pages. Published September 1st by Penguin Books first published More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Listening to Prozac , please sign up.

I can't find it and I really want to read it. See 1 question about Listening to Prozac…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Aug 08, Patrick rated it it was ok. A review of Listening to Prozac by Peter D. This was a book with great potential, but it failed to live up to most of that potential.

The fundamental idea is a profound one that I wish more people would think about: What does cognitive science say about human nature? The problem is that Kramer is not a cognitive scientist, he is a practicing psychiatrist. All of his understanding of the brain and mind is filtered through that In desperate need of a cognitive scientist JDB PDT All of his understanding of the brain and mind is filtered through that lens; he spends most of the book explaining particular case studies in minute—sometimes excruciating—detail.

I had expected the title, Listening to Prozac, would be merely metonymous for psychopharmacology in general, or at least SSRI antidepressants in general; but in fact Kramer spends most of the book singing the praises of Prozac in particular, lending the entire book a strange parochial feeling—we are trying to assess the totality of human nature based on experiences with a single medication?

Kramer obviously struggles with the mind-body problem as do we all I suppose ; when he sees a drug affecting someone's behavior or personality, he suffers a kind of crisis of faith: If our minds can be affected by chemicals, how are they really minds? Are we just chemical automatons? No, I say; that is what everyone gets wrong about cognitive science. The Basic Fact does not say that our minds are false; it does not say that our lives are meaningless; it does not say that we are automatons.

The Basic Fact of Cognitive Science says that we are our brains, that everything we are—the things we really are, our thoughts, our feelings, our desires, our hopes, our fears—is made by our brains. The rainbow unweaved is still a rainbow. Likewise, when he sees a homologue between humans and other animals, he fears that it reduces people to animals—instead of considering the possibility that it elevates animals to people.

When he learns that rats and monkeys show the same behaviors and neurotransmitters we do under stress, depression, and loneliness, instead of realizing that this means they feel what we do, he instead tries to understand how it can be that human thoughts and feelings aren't real because they are made of animal parts. That is the message that I get from listening to Prozac, and it is the message we should have gotten from Listening to Prozac. Altering the chemistry of our brains can alter our conscious experiences? Of course it can, for it is the chemistry of our brains that makes our conscious experiences!

This fact should be no more surprising to us than the fact that running a magnet over your hard drive can erase your files, or the fact that smacking the side of an old UHF TV can sometimes clear the picture.

Indeed, the crudeness of medication shouldn't surprise us either; the numerous side effects, risks, and unpredictable results are exactly what you'd expect from running a magnet along a hard drive or smacking a UHF TV. You're trying to resolve a complex, subtle software problem with a brute-force hardware solution. By comparison, the crudeness of psychotherapy is much more disappointing.

It's obvious that it should be the right kind of solution—you fix software problems with software solutions—but we know so little about the underlying function of the human brain that we can't make it work. I guess we're better than cats walking across the keyboard, but we're something like EECS students who keep forgetting to close their parentheses.

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It's also possible that some more conventionally medical solution would be effective, but even then it won't be so "conventional"; we're talking about nanobots that deliver precision doses of serotonin reuptake inhibitor to particular nuclei in the amygdala. To use another machine analogy, filling your whole system with Prozac to treat depression is like fixing an oil leak by covering your car in oil. Indeed, if there is anything surprising about our current psychiatric medicines, it is that they work at all; they are so hopelessly crude that the only way they could possibly be working is if the brain is already equipped with extremely powerful self-repair mechanisms that only need a nudge in the right direction.

Further support for this view comes from the fact that electroconvulsive therapy sometimes works; it's the neurological equivalent of when a tech support intern tells you, "Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on? Feb 22, Kirsten rated it it was amazing Shelves: mental-health , own , psych-and-neuroscience , read-pre , non-fiction. This excellent book, written when Prozac and other SSRI antidepressants were relatively new, is at times a little dated but still extremely interesting.

Kramer is a phsychiatrist who had been treating patients with depression and other problems for years when Prozac became available. Prozac did not have the same severely limiting side effects that plagued the other antidepressants then available, which made it easier and safer to prescribe for patients who might normally have avoided medication.

Kramer and other psychiatrists soon began to notice something interesting and disconcerting: patients who took Prozac for one condition often experienced a change across the board. Previously painfully shy, one patient discovered that she suddenly was able to date and flirt. Many patients reported feeling "better than normal" -- happier, brighter, more confident. For Kramer and other psychiatrists, this raised a multitude of questions about what constitutes mental illness, and what the implications are when a medication can change a person's personality so drastically.

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Had these people who now felt "better than normal" been ill all their lives, and were now well? Where does one draw the line between illness and personality? Kramer explores all sides of the issue here, and while he is clearly impressed by the positive changes Prozac has wrought among his patients, he is also curious and concerned about the power of this antidepressant.

One of the things I liked about this book is that I got the impression that Kramer is willing to have his mind changed -- he has formed ideas and philosophies about the use of antidepressants, but he seems to be constantly looking at and weighing the evidence, and monitoring how his methods of treating patients have changed since the advent of Prozac.

I would like to locate a copy of the revised edition of this book, so I can read some of his commentary on this ever-changing issue in mental health. View 1 comment. Dec 17, Methanie rated it really liked it.

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For years and years, I believed the negative hype about anti-depressants. Even though I have friends who have benefitted from the use of the drug, I stayed skeptical. I am glad I came across this book. There was so much I didn't know about the history of the drug, how it came to be, how it works. The author also covers the background of psychotherapy in great depth, as well as research being done on the brain and how much of our anxiety and depression is a result of biological factors. Fascinatin For years and years, I believed the negative hype about anti-depressants.

And of course he covers the ethical questions behind the drug as well - that is a main theme of the book. He leaves the reader to make their own decisions based on the research and evidence. I love an author who admits that we don't have all of the answers.

Books by Peter Kramer

When it comes to the complexity of the human brain, we may never have all of the answers. It's not the easiest read, but most scientific books aren't easy to read. I walked away from this read feeling much more informed and with a much better perspective on anti-depressants which is a misnomer and how the brain works. Dec 07, Ann rated it really liked it. An interesting exploration of how drugs like Prozac change personality in some patients making shy people not shy in some cases and how human beings are biological creatures who can be changed by chemistry.

Most interesting for me since the book may be some what dated science wise were the passages about how contemporary life requires a certain kind of personality--outgoing, quick thinking, multi-tasking--that is a relatively recent development. Considering how certain personality types migh An interesting exploration of how drugs like Prozac change personality in some patients making shy people not shy in some cases and how human beings are biological creatures who can be changed by chemistry.

Considering how certain personality types might be more valued in contemporary culture but others not for instance, how a melancholiac personality was appropriate in certain Victorian circles was pretty interesting. His arguments that relate prozac and similar drugs to optional surgeries like breast enhancement were a little weak. Just because it makes an individual person "happier" doesn't mean we should necessarily use a drug in this way especially when the verdict on long-term effects is still a bit out. I am not recommending that people with serious depression not take medication--these SSRIs seem great for that for many people--but when he equites a mood enhancing drug with plastic surgery I am struck by the underpinnings of gender in his analysis.

What are the statistics on women on SSRIs? Is depression and thus medication more of a female thing? Would this "problem" be mitigated in a less misogynist culture? Should we be working on changing the culture or the individual people in it? I want a feminist sequel to this book. To give him credit, he does mention gender, but while most of his patients are female, he doesn't go far enough in his analysis.

Jan 17, Ray rated it it was ok. In exploring the role of experience on mood, in chapter five Kramer turns to various observations on "rapid-cycling. Kramer applies three models, which he sees are interconnecting, to this issue. First, Kramer summarizes the finding of Robert Post and his "kindling model. As time passes, Post's studies seem to indicate, ever smaller stimuli are needed to provoke ever severe episodes. While many biological processes operate in the opposite way, requiring ever greater amounts of stimulus street drugs, etc.

The second model Kramer discusses here is that suggested by stress research in rats pp. The rat studies "impl y that a variety of psychosocial stressors can serve as triggers" for the biologically encoded factors "kindled" in depression p. The third model examined in chapter five is the monkey-separation studies pp. Rhesus monkeys seem especially helpful in reflecting on human problems due to similarities between the species p. Kramer concludes from these studies that in the early stages of stress-induced kindling subjects will appear very normal, except that they will have a somewhat heightened sensitivity to loss p.


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Kramer concludes that pain brings scars, even when it does not seem to immediately result in depression p. He explains, "What distinguishes this view of depression from, say, traditional psychoanalytic models is the recognition that the scars are not, or not only, in cognitive memory. The scar consists of changed anatomy and chemistry within the brain emphasis added " p.

Jordan Peterson's opinion on Antidepressants

Kramer notes the implications of his neurobiological conclusions: "It seems that the neural pathways are like the joints in the musculoskeletal system. They are worn down over the years by inevitable trauma Age alone seems a trauma If diagnosed early enough, Prozac and SSRIs "can help prevent the progression of early mood disorder into florid illness" p. I do not know what to conclude about this. There are many who dispute this view of neurobiology. But even if Kramer is partly correct in these conclusions, as Ed Welch points out in Blame it on the Brain , the body is the mediator of moral action, not the initiator.

Bad thoughts and actions, in response to the temptations presented by stressful circumstances, can impact the body.


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  • Perhaps my failures to deal with trauma help cause the depression I suffer, and this depression may have permanent physiological effects. Prozac, or any other treatment that seeks to address the brain alone, can not hope to get at the critical heart issues involved in depression.

    Jan 03, Meadows13 Meadows rated it really liked it. I heard this author interviewed on NPR when the book first came out. I was fascinated by the concepts that he brought up regarding the ethical, philosophical, and sociological ramifications of treating minor mood disorders with psychopharmaceuticals Prozac just being one. I finally found the book in a used book store and enjoyed it very much. Some portions are more intersting than others, but that's SOP for a book of this type.

    It depends on I heard this author interviewed on NPR when the book first came out. It depends on what experience and interest you bring with you. I especially enjoyed the parts about how some users were made "better than well. Therefore, they wanted to stay on the drug even after their depression was alleviated. Is being more self-confident, out-going, and socially secure, a bad thing if it's the result of a pill and not of your basic temperament? What if the only difference is your body's natural brain chemistry, and the pill just help regulate that chemistry into the upper range of natural variation?

    After you read this, you won't look at people including yourself who take mood-altering substances quite the same as before; whether it's alcohol, pot, or Prozac. Is it bad to take a mood-altering drug like Prozac, but acceptable to need a drink or two at a party to get in the swing of things? How about that obligatory caffeine in the morning? Interesting questions always seem to have subtle implications and no simple answers. Oct 09, Chris Gager rated it liked it. I'm kind of bouncing around from book to book lately.

    My mother made a mild suggestion to me back in the early nineties I think that I investigate using Prozac. She must have read some article about how it'd turned peoples' lives around. Unfortunately, at the time I was still in my mode of mental-emotional disconnection from being able to see, feel and acknowledge my own burden of depression. I'd "only" ever had one episode of near-suicidal depression. That was in the mid's and I never tol I'm kind of bouncing around from book to book lately.

    Let's just say that I had a few nights when I understood why people wanted to kill themselves. I survived and moved back up to chronic and crippling depression for a number more years. Though it's worked very well for me and my life has been markedly better sine , when I began, I still have problems with depression brought on by anxiety etc.

    Reading this makes me wonder. This is not turning out to be as "easy" a read as I'd expected. Plenty of psycho-speak and pharma talk to wade through. It comes and goes. Still interesting, however. I've started reading this one again after setting it down for quite a while. Between then and now I've started taking a prescription anti-depressant. No horrible side effects thus far. View all 3 comments. Jul 24, Bryce rated it really liked it. Referred to as "the father of psychoanalysis," Sigmund Freud is credited with championing the "talking cure" and charting the human unconscious. Both revered and reviled, he was a brilliant innovator but also a man of troubling contradictions—sometimes tyrannical, often misrepresenting the course and outcome of his treatments to make the "facts" match his theories.

    Kramer—acclaimed author, practicing psychiatrist, and a leading national authority on mental health—offers a stunning new take on this controversial figure. Kramer is at once critical and sympathetic, presenting Freud the mythmaker, the storyteller, the writer whose books will survive among the classics of our literature, and the genius who transformed the way we see ourselves.

    Reviews Review Policy. Published on. Flowing text, Original pages. Best For. Web, Tablet, Phone, eReader. Content Protection. Learn More. Flag as inappropriate. It syncs automatically with your account and allows you to read online or offline wherever you are. Please follow the detailed Help center instructions to transfer the files to supported eReaders. Similar ebooks. See more. Spectacular Happiness: A Novel. In his bestselling Listening to Prozac, Peter Kramer asked how much happiness we have a right to expect, and how quickly we should demand it.

    In Should You Leave? Critics have praised his intellect and writing, comparing him to Roth and Updike, and have anticipated his turn to fiction. Now Kramer has made that transition. Spectacular Happiness is a daring, controversial novel about what constitutes the good life. Chip Samuels is a community college teacher and handyman on Cape Cod, loyal to the radical values his wife, Anais, introduced him to in the sixties.

    A patient husband and, above all, a loving father, his world has been shattered by Anais's decision to run off with their son in search of a more conventional life devoted to getting and spending. Spectacular Happiness opens when Chip is named as the chief suspect in a series of anarchist bombings of beachfront trophy homes. Meticulously planned, announced with fireworks, these explosions have caught the public imagination, and the irony is that Chip, now an outlaw-celebrity, is drawn into the publicity-based culture he is aiming to disrupt. His response: to assemble a memoir for his estranged son, a father's attempt to explain his motivations before the media distorts them.

    Chip has splendid allies: Sukey Kuykendahl, an upper-class Realtor with weaknesses for alcohol and overbearing men; Wendy Moro, a self-effacing defense attorney thrust into the limelight; and Manny Abelman, an aging psychotherapist disenchanted with his profession. But it is Chip's own voice that dominates the novel, concerned, searching, painfully aware of the absurd behaviors love can demand.