Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: Coming of Age on Zoloft by Katherine Sharpe

You guys know I'm really open and up front about my depression on here, so you also probably know that this is a book that appealed to me right away.  It's about the use of anti-depressants among such a large portion of society with a focus on the fact that many people start using anti-depressants in their teens and how that affects the development of their personality.  Does the use of anti-depressants at a time when you are forming your most basic ideas of who you are as a person make a difference?

Writing
I feel like I'm having a hard time giving an objective review of the writing in this one because of my expectations going into the book.  I reread the publisher's summary and I don't think they necessarily got it wrong, I think the problem is more with me interpreting it the way I wanted it to be.  I thought the book would be very science-based.  I was expecting studies on the brain chemistry of teenagers and the long-term effects of anti-depressant use.  That's not what this book is about.  It does start with the history of the development of anti-depressants, which was very useful, but it quickly moves into memoir/anecdotal territory.  And as a memoir/summary of anecdotes, the book does a fine job.  There's no criticism of the writing, it just wasn't what I was expecting and I was disappointed.  Definitely not the author's problem, but it made it hard for me to enjoy the writing.  But like I said, for a memoir, the writing was fine and the science included at the beginning is well-cited.  I think the author succeeded at what she was trying to do.

Entertainment Value
Like I said above, I found the book less entertaining once I realized it wasn't about what I thought it was about.  It was still a good read, though.  I would still be interested in reading a more science-based take on the topic, but Sharpe expresses some of the very important issues regarding medicating teens for depression that I think go unnoticed.  She certainly brought up several issues that I hadn't considered, but that make sense.  I never went through a time of wondering whether or not I would be the same person if I hadn't started taking Prozac at 16, but I can see why it would be such a concern for many and I appreciate that aspect being introduced.

Overall
I was somewhat disappointed that there was less science and fewer empirical studies in the book, but I also got a lot out of it as a memoir.  On the one hand, I agree with the author that Americans are over-medicated, especially with anti-depressants, and in situations where it isn't necessary.  On the other hand, I feel like a complete hypocrite for feeling that way because I'm on anti-depressants and have been off and on since I was sixteen.  And they've made a HUGE difference in my life.  One huge thing that Sharpe makes a point of is the importance of therapy in conjunction with anti-depressant use.  Rather than just prescribing anti-depressants to everyone who is feeling sad, it's important for psychologists, counselors, and physicians to meet and talk for more than just 20 minutes to determine if anti-depressants are an acceptable approach.

I recommend giving this one a try, but with the caveat that you know it's mainly personal experience and opinion from the beginning.  I saw some other reviewers mention that they also were looking for more science, but if you know from the beginning that this is more of a memoir, I think it's a good read and brings up some important topics for consideration regarding the medication of teenagers.

I received a copy of this book for review from Haper Perennial.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with your review... I would have liked less thoughts from random people and more science. I'm a therapist and it horrifies me how quick psychiatrists are to prescribe any medication to anyone. I agree with you that many people really do benefit from it and could legitimately use them, but I think the attitude overall is way too relaxed.

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