Top critical review
33 people found this helpful
"My purpose is to try and understand this dreadful affliction in scientific terms."
on 20 August 2008
Hence, as the subtitle of the book, `The Anatomy of Depression', suggests, Wolpert is essentially trying to bring some objective security to the diagnosis of depression, where in his experience of it he found confusion and helplessness. Personally, I found a little unseemly his frantic grasping for every fact, every statistic that allowed him to say that something was now `known' about the condition, a discomfort only added to by his almost hysterical bias against any kind of phenomenological approach to understanding oneself as a depressive. Wolpert still approaches depression as an illness you catch, rather than a condition you live with or through; anyone whose read Laing will remember his injunction, `one cannot catch schizophrenia, one becomes schizophrenic.' Similarly, we should be talking about depressive states and tendencies, their recognition and therapeutic engagement, rather than treatments or cures.
Anyway, that aside, the book is well written in terms of its own perspective. There are three rough sections; the first six chapters define the whats and wherefores, seven through nine provide major theories in the areas of genetics, evolutionary psychology, attachment theory and cognitive behavioural therapy. The longest chapter (predictably) centres on discussion of brain regions and their interactions through a complex system of neurotransmitters, auto-receptors and hormone imbalances. The final three chapters are an overview of current treatments, medicinal and therapeutic. Interestingly, Wolpert admits that none of the current treatments are any more effective than each other, and suggests that a mix of treatments based on an individual assessment would be most appropriate.
I'm surprised this book has been so well received, to me it seemly disappointingly one-dimensional. At no point does the author attempt to portray in his own words his experience, at no point does he offer any ground to those who might find a narrative engagement with the self important. He seems to be of the opinion that the more statistics he throws into the pot the more appealing his argument; I might have swapped a couple of chapters for one sentence I felt I could believe in. Be sure to read around, this is far from the complete and sympathetic picture the subject deserves.