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The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

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Sometimes, the legacy of depression includes a wisdom beyond one's years, a depth of passion unexperienced by those who haven't traveled to hell and back. Off the charts in its enlightening, comprehensive analysis of this pervasive yet misunderstood condition, The Noonday Demon forges a long, brambly path through the subject of depression--exposing all the discordant views Sometimes, the legacy of depression includes a wisdom beyond one's years, a depth of passion unexperienced by those who haven't traveled to hell and back. Off the charts in its enlightening, comprehensive analysis of this pervasive yet misunderstood condition, The Noonday Demon forges a long, brambly path through the subject of depression--exposing all the discordant views and "answers" offered by science, philosophy, law, psychology, literature, art, and history. The result is a sprawling and thoroughly engrossing study, brilliantly synthesized by author Andrew Solomon. Deceptively simple chapter titles (including "Breakdowns," "Treatments," "Addiction," "Suicide") each sit modestly atop a virtual avalanche of Solomon's intellect. This is not a book to be skimmed. But Solomon commands the language--and his topic--with such grace and empathy that the constant flow of references, poems, and quotations in his paragraphs arrive like welcome dinner guests. A longtime sufferer of severe depression himself, Solomon willingly shares his life story with readers. He discusses updated information on various drugs and treatment approaches while detailing his own trials with them. He describes a pharmaceutical company's surreal stage production (involving Pink Floyd, kick dancers, and an opener à la Cats) promoting a new antidepressant to their sales team. He chronicles his research visits to assorted mental institutions, which left him feeling he would "much rather engage with every manner of private despair than spend a protracted time" there. Under Solomon's care, however, such tales offer much more than shock value. They show that depression knows no social boundaries, manifests itself quite differently in each person, and has become political. And, while it may worsen or improve, depression will never be eradicated. Hope lies in finding ways--as Solomon clearly has--to harness its powerful lessons. --Liane Thomas


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Sometimes, the legacy of depression includes a wisdom beyond one's years, a depth of passion unexperienced by those who haven't traveled to hell and back. Off the charts in its enlightening, comprehensive analysis of this pervasive yet misunderstood condition, The Noonday Demon forges a long, brambly path through the subject of depression--exposing all the discordant views Sometimes, the legacy of depression includes a wisdom beyond one's years, a depth of passion unexperienced by those who haven't traveled to hell and back. Off the charts in its enlightening, comprehensive analysis of this pervasive yet misunderstood condition, The Noonday Demon forges a long, brambly path through the subject of depression--exposing all the discordant views and "answers" offered by science, philosophy, law, psychology, literature, art, and history. The result is a sprawling and thoroughly engrossing study, brilliantly synthesized by author Andrew Solomon. Deceptively simple chapter titles (including "Breakdowns," "Treatments," "Addiction," "Suicide") each sit modestly atop a virtual avalanche of Solomon's intellect. This is not a book to be skimmed. But Solomon commands the language--and his topic--with such grace and empathy that the constant flow of references, poems, and quotations in his paragraphs arrive like welcome dinner guests. A longtime sufferer of severe depression himself, Solomon willingly shares his life story with readers. He discusses updated information on various drugs and treatment approaches while detailing his own trials with them. He describes a pharmaceutical company's surreal stage production (involving Pink Floyd, kick dancers, and an opener à la Cats) promoting a new antidepressant to their sales team. He chronicles his research visits to assorted mental institutions, which left him feeling he would "much rather engage with every manner of private despair than spend a protracted time" there. Under Solomon's care, however, such tales offer much more than shock value. They show that depression knows no social boundaries, manifests itself quite differently in each person, and has become political. And, while it may worsen or improve, depression will never be eradicated. Hope lies in finding ways--as Solomon clearly has--to harness its powerful lessons. --Liane Thomas

30 review for The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    hands-down the best nonfiction book i've ever read, _the noonday demon_ is exhaustive in its examination of depression and mental illness, weaving the author's and others' experiences with "major depressive breakdown" with rigorous research on scientific, anthropological, evolutionary, political, artistic and historical perspectives on the emotion/disease. solomon engages difficult philosophical questions like whether the blunting of depression by SSRIs is worth its cost in human emotional plasti hands-down the best nonfiction book i've ever read, _the noonday demon_ is exhaustive in its examination of depression and mental illness, weaving the author's and others' experiences with "major depressive breakdown" with rigorous research on scientific, anthropological, evolutionary, political, artistic and historical perspectives on the emotion/disease. solomon engages difficult philosophical questions like whether the blunting of depression by SSRIs is worth its cost in human emotional plasticity; whether depression is a disease of category or degree; whether suicide is a fundamental civil liberty or an action to be prevented at all costs; and how we might best address mental illness from a public health perspective, including why we don't treat it preventatively, as we do some other diseases. solomon's brutal honesty about his own breakdowns and some of the shocking actions he took in often-misguided attempts to mitigate them is synthesized with heart-wrenching anecdotes drawn from thousands of interviews with depressives across all races, geographies, socioeconomic classes, ages, etc. to create a picture of a disease that is universally experienced and universally destructive, yet deeply individual/personal in its manifestations (social withdrawal being one of its primary symptoms). written over five years, including the author's third (of three) breakdowns, _the noonday demon_ is not only extremely informative, but deeply elegant as a work of prose, using brilliant analogies, literary quotations, and an overarching tenor of compassion to explore depression with exceptional nuance. everyone should read this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Leo .

    Down, so down, oh! The sorrow, I could drown Overwhelming emotions, crowding my mind It gets me down, this mundane grind Like groundhog day, perpetual recurrence Day in, day out, such annoyance I'm starting with the man in the mirror, the Abyss Lose the Ego, and find my bliss Depression sucks! I suffer with acute insomnia as a symptom. This is when I do a great deal of my writing during the witching hours. Here is one of my many rhymes: Insomnia:  Tick Tock... Tick Tock...Tick Tock In my head or simply on Down, so down, oh! The sorrow, I could drown Overwhelming emotions, crowding my mind It gets me down, this mundane grind Like groundhog day, perpetual recurrence Day in, day out, such annoyance I'm starting with the man in the mirror, the Abyss Lose the Ego, and find my bliss Depression sucks! I suffer with acute insomnia as a symptom. This is when I do a great deal of my writing during the witching hours. Here is one of my many rhymes: Insomnia:  Tick Tock... Tick Tock...Tick Tock In my head or simply on the wall the sound of the clock Watching the hands go round and round The constant repetition of that sound   Thoughts reverberating through my head Over and over feelings of dread Never ending like a silent pest Will I ever get some needful rest   A crescendo of noise like a freight train through the night racing A caged Tiger maddened and continuously pacing An orchestra of voices distracting for sure Falling asleep is such a chore   Oh! My sanity is waning for goodness sake This feeling of being forever awake Will I ever fall into slumber? Just a little sleep And dream nice dreams and have memories to keep   The walls are watching, the ceiling, the floor Oh! Is there anything that can cure? This Insomnia that plagues me through the night Eyes wide awake until it gets light   It's Four O'clock and outside birds are singing And still in my mind bells are ringing Yet deafening the silence around and within Sleep! Sleep! Sleep! My consciousness needs healing     Just a snooze, even if fleeting But all I can hear is my own heart beating Eyes are sore and forehead throbbing It's a forlorn melancholy like a Baby sobbing   My cat opens one eye with a curious look As I churn through another chapter of a book Yet tiredness does not descend on me still Only a shudder from a sudden chill   Insomnia eats away at one's Soul Black and endless like an ever expanding hole It's the Witching Hour as I write this verse I'll only sleep when I am lead in a Hearse   In a few hours it'll be time to rise...Oh! the emptiness and pain And when the day is through...I'll do it all over again   By Leo.🐯👍 Depression: Man it sucks! My soul, it is broken, will it ever be mended I was once happy go lucky but, it has all ended An empty shell, a void, a deep blue, a dried up husk Once the life and soul of the party, from dawn to dusk Now a sad-sack, melancholy, forlorn, no self esteem Worthless, useless, no bloody good, unloved, without No matter how I try, there is no doubt I will fail, always, cos' that is what I do Everything, every outcome, no hope it is true I only hurt the ones I love, my family and my friends This feeling of despair, repetition, it never ends No sleep at night, thoughts racing through my mind Monkey chatter, worries, scenarios of every kind What if this? What if that? What will I do? Is it real? If this happens, or that happens, fills me with a chill A panic attack, a meltdown, spiraling out of control Manic, incoherent, embarrassed, left feeling a fool Stuck in a cycle, a box, a chasm, a rut A recluse, the crazy old man, a loner, a nut Watching the clock, tick, tock, tick, tock Wasting away, no inspiration, or motivation, writers block Hoping to escape the mediocrity, get recognition, the ball rolling, a start Show my prose, the way I write, exclusively from my Heart By Leo🐯👍👹 I remember an extreme episode of bipolar when a friend was criticising a book I like, no memory of the book but my response I will never forget. "May I suggest try reading the book again only this time backwards. It might undo the heartache you have suffered." I can be quite cutting and it really hits home. Can't see the woods for the trees or have no reason.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    "The survivors stay on pills, waiting... We go on. You cannot choose whether you get depressed and you cannot choose when or how you get better, but you can choose what to do with the depression, especially when you come out of it."This was an incredible book that took me months to read, a dense mighty tome about depression. It weaves together the author's personal experience of multiple breakdowns and decades of treatments with other narratives, scientific research, historical background, and s "The survivors stay on pills, waiting... We go on. You cannot choose whether you get depressed and you cannot choose when or how you get better, but you can choose what to do with the depression, especially when you come out of it."This was an incredible book that took me months to read, a dense mighty tome about depression. It weaves together the author's personal experience of multiple breakdowns and decades of treatments with other narratives, scientific research, historical background, and social context (and sometimes- literature!). Rather than try to summarize depression, he lets it stay messy as it really is, different for each person, with no clear path for treatment. I learned a lot, and hopefully my increased understanding will make me a better boss, a better faculty advisor, and a better friend. This was also discussed on Episode 009 of the Reading Envy Podcast. Google document of marked bits

  4. 4 out of 5

    Наталия Янева

    Гледах за пръв път Андрю Соломон в една негова лекция за TED, наречена ‘Depression, the secret we share’ . Стори ми се леко странен човек, който гледа твърде втренчено и говори сравнително бавно, но подхожда с дълбочина и проникновение към темата. ‘The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression’ може да ви прозвучи като помпозно заглавие, но ви уверявам, че Соломон наистина не е написал нищо по-малко от изчерпателен атлас на това така недоразбрано психическо разстройство. ‘The most accurate statement Гледах за пръв път Андрю Соломон в една негова лекция за TED, наречена ‘Depression, the secret we share’ . Стори ми се леко странен човек, който гледа твърде втренчено и говори сравнително бавно, но подхожда с дълбочина и проникновение към темата. ‘The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression’ може да ви прозвучи като помпозно заглавие, но ви уверявам, че Соломон наистина не е написал нищо по-малко от изчерпателен атлас на това така недоразбрано психическо разстройство. ‘The most accurate statement that can be made on the frequency of depression is that it occurs often and, directly or indirectly, affects the lives of everyone.’ Често съм се питала защо, когато някой преживее лична трагедия, после става посланик именно за страдащите от същото. Твой близък починал от рак на гърдата, ти започваш да се занимаваш с благотворителност за хора с рак на гърдата. Ясно, боли те и искаш да помогнеш с нещо, но защо не помагаш на всички болни от рак? Или на инвалиди? Те по-малко ли заслужават? Доста по-късно осъзнах, че, разбира се, осмисляме света през някакво свое изкривено огледало – съзнание, душа, каквото щете, и вероятно такова нещо като пълно универсално състрадание няма, за жалост. Разбирането, което получаваме и можем да дадем, след като преживеем нещо конкретно, не може да се сравни със случайния избор на кауза или суховатото познание, натрупано по дадена тема. Убедена съм, че Андрю Соломон щеше да напише също толкова брилянтна книга за шизофренията например. В нея обаче щеше да липсва живецът на личното преживяване и прозренията на човек, който е стоял в преддверието на ада с надеждата никога да не види какво има от другата страна. Надежда, която не се е оправдала. ‘You don’t think in depression that you’ve put on a grey veil and are seeing the world through the haze of a bad mood. You think that the veil has been taken away, the veil of happiness, and that now you’re seeing truly. You try to pin the truth down and take it apart, and you think that truth is a fixed thing, but the truth is alive and it runs around.’ Винаги особено съм се впечатлявала, когато някой е създал нещо, влагайки исполински труд, а не просто съшивайки разни свити оттук-оттам кръпки, колкото за парите и славата. Депресията си става все по-модерна, макар и още замитана под килима тема, та вероятно доста нескопосани книги за нея се продават. Соломон ще ви разходи из всякакви аспекти на своето мащабно проучване – от това какво е да навлезеш в тежък депресивен епизод, през различни популации с депресия, ще покрачи внимателно по тънкия лед на темите за депресията и бедността и депресията и самоубийството, и ще ви преведе до методите за лечение и дори до така чаканата в края глава за надеждата. Ще намерите всякакви начини за справяне с депресия – антидепресанти и жълт кантарион, но и „десенситизация и повторна преработка на информация посредством движение на очите“ (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)). Ще прочетете и подробно описание на церемонията ndeup, която се извършва от местни жени в Сенегал. Включва коч, завиване на депресирания човек с двадесетина одеяла заедно с коча, заколване на коча и танци на жените около завития с коча човек, докато той бива налаган с млад петел (не помня дали петелът беше жив, надявам се, че не). Дано върлите привърженици на PETA да не са припаднали дотук. И да, Соломон лично се е подложил на тази церемония и я описва доста подробно, защото тя също е част от търсенето му как се справя светът с депресията. ‘It is often said that depression is a thing to which a leisured class falls prey in a developed society; in fact, it is a thing that a certain class has the luxury of articulating and addressing.’ Не е лесно да поседиш тихо в мрака на нечий ум, пише Андрю Соломон. Нърдът в мен веднага се присети за приятно злокобната игра Limbo , изградена изцяло от силуети и сенки, от които тръпки те побиват (ако имате арахнофобия или непоносимост към многокраки твари, моля, подходете с внимание към линка). Непознатото ни плаши далеч повече от ужасите, на които виждаме ясно всички пипала и очи. Често сме заложници на неща, които никак не разбираме. Това ми напомня и за диалога между Скрудж и призрака на съдружника му Марли в „Коледна песен“: ‘Why do you doubt your senses?’ ‘Because,’ said Scrooge, ‘a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.’ Накрая исках да напиша няколко думи за надеждата. Така завършва и Андрю Соломон своята книга. Той съвсем открито признава всичките си недостатъци, но и вярва, че депресията го е направила по-стойностен човек – по-състрадателен, внимателен и неосъдителен. Казва, че е благодарен на депресията за познанието за себе си, което му е дала, макар в най-тежките си моменти никак да не е чувствал подобно извисяване на духа. Фройд смята, че меланхоличните хора имат по-остро око за истината от останалите. Има едно хубаво кратко клипче на BBC за депресията, в което едно момиче казва ‘I wouldn’t be who I am without depression and I love the person I am’. Някъде напред във времето бъдещите суперхора сигурно ще се чудят как не сме могли да лекуваме психични заболявания и ще съжаляват ограничените ни възможности, както ние днес съжаляваме средновековните люде, някога умирали на по 30-ина години от настинка. Без значение дали депресията е рудиментарна еволюционна останка, бъг на ума или необходимият сигнал за някого да спре и да потърси отново изгубената връзка със себе си, на нас, хората, винаги ни трябва мотивация да се вгледаме по-дълбоко в същността си. Понякога болката ни се струва безсмислена, друг път я приемаме, защото по-добре оценяваме щастието след нея. Шопенхауер твърди, че ако се събудим в някаква Утопия, ще умрем от скука или сами ще се обесим, че болката е естествен и необходим спътник в живота. Аз вярвам, че преди всичко не трябва да преставаме да търсим и да учим. За себе си и за света, за другите около нас, без значение дали това ни носи щастие или мъка. ‘Every day, I choose, sometimes gamely and sometimes against the moment’s reason, to be alive. Is that not a rare joy?’

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cari

    After slogging through a large chunk of The Noonday Demon, I've come to accept I just can't see it through to the end. This book is lethal: alternately depressing readers, boring readers, and making readers roll their eyes so hard they pop out of their heads. First: depression on any level, mild or major, brief or chronic, is a painful, crippling ailment. Anyone who pulls themselves up and fights automatically earns a bit of my respect. I know how hard the attack is and how hopeless it can seem. T After slogging through a large chunk of The Noonday Demon, I've come to accept I just can't see it through to the end. This book is lethal: alternately depressing readers, boring readers, and making readers roll their eyes so hard they pop out of their heads. First: depression on any level, mild or major, brief or chronic, is a painful, crippling ailment. Anyone who pulls themselves up and fights automatically earns a bit of my respect. I know how hard the attack is and how hopeless it can seem. Too bad Solomon's battle resulted in this book. Self-absorption is a trademark of the genre; I expect that. But self-absorption is different from (and more tolerable than) self-pity, and Solomon's writing is solidly wallowing in self-pity whenever he's talking about himself. (And try be a little grateful, sir, for your good fortune to be born into privilege. Most of us weren't so damned lucky. Even the self-absorbed know when they've been handed a gift.) A lot of the science, studies, and numbers discussed in The Noonday Demon are extremely outdated. Solomon used the best information he had at the time, but if you want up-to-date information of that sort, look elsewhere. While there's nothing wrong with exploring alternative medicine, there's quite a bit of pseudo-science bullshit presented here, mixed in with actual facts, jumbled together in a way that could be downright dangerous. Very concerning. And beyond all of this? So much of The Noonday Demon is dry and downright boring. The few engaging passages are nice, but a reader has to manage to stay awake first, and even then there's a sense that many of his personal anecdotes are told simply to be shocking, very much in the "Look how fucked up I was! Be amazed!" category. Maybe that works for some readers, but I'm not one of them. I've learned many things from my own battle with major depression, one of which is appreciating the time I have to experience life. That's why I'm putting Solomon's work to the side: life's too short to waste it on finishing books like this.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    A piercing, painful, and oh-so-necessary book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression examines depression through a cultural, personal, and scientific lens. Andrew Solomon, well-known for his TED Talks and his varied publications, reveals the agonizing depths of the illness as well as its progression through time. His thoughtful and insightful perspective supplements his extensive research, and he analyzes several of depression's facets: how it spans different parts of the world, how it affec A piercing, painful, and oh-so-necessary book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression examines depression through a cultural, personal, and scientific lens. Andrew Solomon, well-known for his TED Talks and his varied publications, reveals the agonizing depths of the illness as well as its progression through time. His thoughtful and insightful perspective supplements his extensive research, and he analyzes several of depression's facets: how it spans different parts of the world, how it affects the brain and its neurotransmitters, its part in politics, its relation to suicide, and more. Solomon pairs facts with his own experience of depression and discusses the disease in unique ways, ranging from the gender dynamics of depression to its presence in those who live in poverty. My one qualm with this book comes from Solomon's attitude toward those who face mental illness and commit violent acts. While I feel empathy for those who act out of an anger they cannot control, I repudiate any acceptance of abuse, physical or emotional, toward anyone. Solomon writes that he "[does] not accept" such hurtful behavior, but I wanted more of a stance than that. Despite this issue, Solomon's hope for reform and revitalization impressed me throughout the book, even in the face of bleak circumstances. Recommended to those with even a remote interest in depression. Read The Noonday Demon if you want to understand a friend or family member's plight without asking them or pestering them; read this book if you want to understand a disease that devastates a great number of people. I cannot wait to read more of Solomon's writing.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kasia

    And this ladies and gentlemen, is how you write about depression.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Meaghan

    This was a good book, but I found it more scholarly, less readable and harder to get through than similar books such as Peter Whybrow's A Mood Apart and Lewis Wolpert's Malignant Sadness. Perhaps this is because Solomon cites a lot of philosophers. He has extensive notes, but the book itself isn't footnoted; you have to go to the back and sort of guess what bits in each chapter the notes are referring to. That's frustrating. I do, however, think this book is valuable, particularly the chapter on This was a good book, but I found it more scholarly, less readable and harder to get through than similar books such as Peter Whybrow's A Mood Apart and Lewis Wolpert's Malignant Sadness. Perhaps this is because Solomon cites a lot of philosophers. He has extensive notes, but the book itself isn't footnoted; you have to go to the back and sort of guess what bits in each chapter the notes are referring to. That's frustrating. I do, however, think this book is valuable, particularly the chapter on illicit drugs and depression (unlike most people, Solomon doesn't just issue a blanket "don't do it" on substances but analyzes each one and what they can and can't do for depression), and his chapter on depression and poor people.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    especially recommended for anyone who has ever dealt personally with depression. the scope that solomon attempts is vast, covering literature, history, psychology, sociology, politics, anthropology, etc etc. though many questions go unanswered, from the start he is honest about the intention of the book and it is not to give answers. if anything it is to raise questions. what we get is a valuable overview of a complex and misunderstood mental illness that can only help to further the dialogue.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    Probably the best book I have read for a long time. The War and Peace of depression. A compelling, comprehensive, personal, tightly written, passionate and well researched exploration of depression in all its darkness at noon dimensions. I read it too fast in a few sittings, because I found it so compelling. And I found huge insights in his experience;even the most extreme of his experiences, because he writes like a traveler back from a largely unexplored, often denied, uncomfortable not well r Probably the best book I have read for a long time. The War and Peace of depression. A compelling, comprehensive, personal, tightly written, passionate and well researched exploration of depression in all its darkness at noon dimensions. I read it too fast in a few sittings, because I found it so compelling. And I found huge insights in his experience;even the most extreme of his experiences, because he writes like a traveler back from a largely unexplored, often denied, uncomfortable not well reported on remote region deep inside at least a third of the population or 80% of Greenland Inuit who are clinically depressed...I particularly liked his insight that while much of our depression is rear-ward facing about past loss and trauma; there is also anxious darkness looking forward. Anxiety as forward looking depression. Seems obvious, but helpful. And the author tried almost every imaginable way to mitigate his massive, recurring depressive mental breakdowns: chemical, talking, spiritual, ECT; you name he tried it. Not a book for the faint-hearted or for those who think that the journey deep inside the self, or deep inside other peoples' horrendous depressions, is somehow self indulgent as I saw one reviewer write. And of course many people could not believe he was devoting years to writing about this topic, though in private, hundreds of people opened up to supply him with incredible accounts of their experiences, despite the societal discomfort with the whole subject. One of his colleagues even denied that he suffered from depression because he had such an obviously 'good life'. Yeh right.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I bought this book a few months ago at an amazing used bookstore in New Orleans. I guess it had been improperly shelved in the religion section. Amazing book for anyone who has struggled with clinical depression or has family/friends with depression/bipolar disorder. Addresses the subject partially anecdotally, but also from sociological, biological, economic, and historical perspectives. There have many eloquent and accurate reviews of this book (by Joyce Carol Oates, William Styron, Edmund Wh I bought this book a few months ago at an amazing used bookstore in New Orleans. I guess it had been improperly shelved in the religion section. Amazing book for anyone who has struggled with clinical depression or has family/friends with depression/bipolar disorder. Addresses the subject partially anecdotally, but also from sociological, biological, economic, and historical perspectives. There have many eloquent and accurate reviews of this book (by Joyce Carol Oates, William Styron, Edmund White, Harold Bloom, James Watson, Naomi Wolf and many others), however I particularly like Christine Whitehouse of Time Magazine's review: "The book for a generation...Solomon interweaves a personal narrative with scientific, philosophical, historical, political and cultural insights...The result is an elegantly written, meticulously researched book that is empathetic and enlightening, scholarly and useful...Solomon apologizes that 'no book can span the reach of human suffering.' This one comes close."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joy

    I first read this shortly after it came out, and I remember liking it then. Apparently I have become a much pickier reader of nonfiction in the last decade, as I liked it much less this time around. The Noonday Demon is unsatisfactory on a number of fronts. As science writing, it's insufficiently rigorous and awfully anecdotal; it tends toward summary and eschews proper footnotes in the name of "readability". I like footnotes and citations; I find most arguments for avoiding them in this kind of I first read this shortly after it came out, and I remember liking it then. Apparently I have become a much pickier reader of nonfiction in the last decade, as I liked it much less this time around. The Noonday Demon is unsatisfactory on a number of fronts. As science writing, it's insufficiently rigorous and awfully anecdotal; it tends toward summary and eschews proper footnotes in the name of "readability". I like footnotes and citations; I find most arguments for avoiding them in this kind of writing disingenuous at best. As memoir, it's too self-absorbed. No doubt this is partly a symptom of his condition, but Solomon's frequent blindness to his own privilege doesn't exactly help his case. And I care a lot less about Solomon's sex life than he appears to think I should. On the other hand, it does succeed in capturing the raw experience of depression. The chronology of Solomon's breakdowns is especially effective. And Solomon does know how to turn a phrase. Not a bad read, but not a good one. It's more a memoir than the subtitle might lead you to think; reader, be warned.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sunny

    Another incredible book by a clearly incredible soul. I read “far from the tree” by Andrew Solomon first and was blown away by the granularity of his detail and clearly erudite research that had gone into that absolute tome of a book and this was no different. He writes in an incredibly detailed way and yet his writing is totally engaging and readable. Andrew is a pretty interesting person himself. He had 3, I believe, catastrophic depression incidences during his life and maybe one even during Another incredible book by a clearly incredible soul. I read “far from the tree” by Andrew Solomon first and was blown away by the granularity of his detail and clearly erudite research that had gone into that absolute tome of a book and this was no different. He writes in an incredibly detailed way and yet his writing is totally engaging and readable. Andrew is a pretty interesting person himself. He had 3, I believe, catastrophic depression incidences during his life and maybe one even during the writing of the book which clearly increased the tone of honesty that seeps through the pages. Andrew had 3 angles to him. He was openly gay, Jewish and depressed. They were 3 identities that he related to and consequently the world reacted to in many ways also. I guess the key theme to the book was his triumvirate with which he recommended that one could fight the demon of depression. 1. drugs and use of ECT type techniques. 2. talking and the benefit that therapy could bring to anyone who is suffering. 3. belief in a God or whatever higher form you believed in. A combination of those three Andrew proposes is one of the best techniques to combat depression. Some of the best bits from this 570 page book are: • “Listen to the people who love you. Believe that they are worth living for even when you don't believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it's good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds. Eat when food itself disgusts you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason.” • A lady who survived the Khmer Rouge helped other women / men who were suffering from lots of depression. She had 3 simple steps to help them. 1. She taught them to try to forget what had happened. 2. When they had forgotten she taught them to work. 3. When they had mastered work, she taught them to love. • An experiment done on baboons found that those ones with high cortisol levels. What this means it that they can’t work out the difference between a mild threat and a major one. They were as likely to fight as fiercely over a banana as they were over their life. • Psychotherapy sees depression as something aligned to the character of a person while psychopharmacology looks as depression as something that can be cured quite separately from the effect that it has on the personality. • “Imagine a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy then gives them the drugs to take away their unhappiness. This isn't science fiction. It is already happening to some extent in our own society. Instead of removing the conditions that make people depressed modern society gives them antidepressant drugs. In effect antidepressants are a means of modifying an individual's internal state in such a way as to enable him to tolerate social conditions that he would otherwise find intolerable.” Kaczynski • EMDR therapy (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) was an incredible new method of dealing with depression. I still don’t fully understand how this works but its sounds incredible – check it out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_mov... • 18,000 Americans killed themselves in 1997. Seriously, what the fecking feck is all that about. • The Greek words for black bile are “malaina chole”. • Hippocrates was also a bit of a psychologist, he believed in the curative properties of advice and action. He cured the depression of King Perdiccas 2 by analysing his character and persuading him to marry the woman he loved. • The best remedy for all these evils is exercise / labour. One of the reasons I advocate boxing so strongly. Doing 10x3 min rounds on a punching bag with one minutes rest in-between each round is one of the best helps towards (not cures) for so many mental diseases I personally believe. • Childhood is an important part of life and goes a long way in forming / deforming the psyche of a child. One study showed that those children that don’t have parents don’t have a sounding board to gauge their limits against, both physically and mentally. Especially the latter which can be devastating to the psyche of a child. Limitless freedom is no freedom at all. • “...we live in an era of dazzling, bewildering technologies, and we have no concrete grasp of how most of the things around us work. How does a microwave function? What is a silicon chip? How do you genetically engineer corn? How does my voice travel when I use a cell phone as opposed to a regular phone?” • “Major depression is far too stern a teacher: you needn’t go to the Sahara to avoid frostbite. Most of the psychological pain in the world is unnecessary; and certainly people with major depression experience pain that would be better kept in check. I believe, however, that there is an answer to the question of whether we want total control over our emotional state, a perfect emotional painkiller that would make sorrow as unnecessary as a headache…To give up the essential conflict between what we feel like doing and what we do, to end the dark moods that reflect and its difficulties—this is to give up what it is to be human, of what is good in being human.” • “Do not urge your friends under the disease of melancholy to things which they cannot do. They are as persons whose bones are broken and that are in great pain and anguish and consequently under an incapacity for action … if it were possible by any means innocently to divert them, you would do them a great kindness” Timothy Rogers The book also spoke about: breakdowns, treatments, alternatives, populations, addiction, suicide, poverty, politics, evolution and hope.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mahmut Homsi

    هذه المراجعة هي تلخيص و ليست تقييماً للكتاب الاكتئاب قديم قدم الإنسان .. حينما بدأ الإنسان يعي ماحوله و يعي نفسه بدأت معه معاناة الاكتئاب الاكتئاب المرض الذي يستحي منه الجميع ! يخجلون به و كأنه ضعف شخصي أو فشل اجتماعي الاكتئاب الذي يختزل الماضي و المستقبل في الحاضر .. لا نتذكر متى كنا سعداء آخر مرة .. و لا نستطيع أن نتخيل أن نكون سعداء مرة أخرى الاكتئاب ملازم للحب .. هو آلية إنسانية للحب .. نحن نحزن على خسران من نحب .. الاكتئاب هو هذا الحزن .. هو آلية هذا الحزن الاكتئاب هو الغطاء الذي يمنعنا من سماع هذه المراجعة هي تلخيص و ليست تقييماً للكتاب الاكتئاب قديم قدم الإنسان .. حينما بدأ الإنسان يعي ماحوله و يعي نفسه بدأت معه معاناة الاكتئاب الاكتئاب المرض الذي يستحي منه الجميع ! يخجلون به و كأنه ضعف شخصي أو فشل اجتماعي الاكتئاب الذي يختزل الماضي و المستقبل في الحاضر .. لا نتذكر متى كنا سعداء آخر مرة .. و لا نستطيع أن نتخيل أن نكون سعداء مرة أخرى الاكتئاب ملازم للحب .. هو آلية إنسانية للحب .. نحن نحزن على خسران من نحب .. الاكتئاب هو هذا الحزن .. هو آلية هذا الحزن الاكتئاب هو الغطاء الذي يمنعنا من سماع صوت الطيور .. من التمتع بدفء الشمس .. يحجب عنا معنى الحياة الاكتئاب ليس عكس السعادة .. بل هو عكس الحياة.. الاكتئاب يمنعك من أن تكون حيّاً قد نظن أن المجتمعات المتقدمة و الغنية هي وحدها من تُصاب بالاكتئاب .. و أن الاكتئاب مرض الرفاهية و ضريبة الحياة المترفة قد نجد فعلاً في الإحصاءات أن نسبة الاكتئاب في العالم الغربي مثلاً مرتفعة عن نسبته في العالم الشرقي .. ربما و لكن هل هذا يعني أن نسبة الاكتئاب عندنا أقل ؟ حتماً لا في العالم الغربي هناك إحصاءات دقيقة.. معظم الناس إن كانت فعلاً مكتئبة ستجيب بنعم.. جزء كبير من علاج المشكلة هو إدراكها و أما عندنا للأسف .. فلا أحد يجيب.. قد يكونون مكتئبين و هم غير مدركين لذلك.. قد يظنون أن الاكتئاب هو دليل على نقص الإيمان.. قد يستحون من الإجابة هناك أسباب عديدة تدعو الإنسان المشرقي لإنكار أنه مكتئب.. و لهذا لا يوجد إحصائيات دقيقة ذات مصداقية لانتشار الاكتئاب في العالم العربي نقطة أخرى حساسة هناك شعور عام بأن الاكتئاب سببه البُعد عن الله.. و التفلت الأخلاقي و عدم الالتزام بالدين و أن المؤمن لا يُصاب بالاكتئاب ! و كأن الاكتئاب هو عقوبة إلهية طبعاً الناس المتدينون أقل عُرضة للاكتئاب و أسرع شفاء إن أُصيبوا به لماذا ؟ لأن الدين ببساطة يجيب عن الأسئلة التي لا جواب لها .. لأن الدين له أرضية صلبة لأن الدين يجعلنا نحتمل ما لا يُحتمل .. لأن الدين مبني على فكرة الآخرة و العدل و أن كل ظلم في الدنيا سيصفى حسابه يوم القيامة و لكن هذا لا يعني أن المؤمن لا يُصاب بالاكتئاب .. الاكتئاب هو سرطان الذهن .. كما أن للجسد سرطان .. للروح سرطان أيضاً الاكتئاب له ميل وراثي .. الأم المصابة بالاكتئاب قد تورث لأطفالها هذا المرض قد تورثه لهم عبر الجينات .. أو عبر التربية أيضاً هناك أشخاص قابلون للإصابة بالاكتئاب أكثر من أشخاص آخرين.. هناك من يستطيع التغلب عليه .. و هناك من لا يستطيع العوامل الخارجية و الظروف لها تأثير كبير بالاكتئاب .. و لكن أحياناً ينشأ الاكتئاب من غير سبب هناك أناس مكتئبون مع أن حياتهم تمشي كما يريدون.. و لكنهم مكتئبون كيف تطور الاكتئاب ؟ هناك 4 نظريات تفسر سبب تطور الاكتئاب عند الإنسان أولها: أن الاكتئاب قد كان موجوداً عند أجدادنا البشر الذين عاشوا مهددين بأخطار خارجية كثيرة و طوروا هذه الآلية لحماية أنفسهم و أخذ حذرهم و لم نعد الآن بحاجة له لأن الحضارة البشرية تقدمت و انتقلنا من العيش في الغابات و الكهوف للعيش في المدن ثانيها: أن الضغط و الهموم التي تمليها الحياة المدنية الحديثة غير متناسبة مع قدرة الدماغ على التحمل و التأقلم فالإنسان الآن معرض لضغوط نفسية و اجتماعية كبيرة بالإضافة إلى وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي و العولمة هذه الحياة تتطلب منا أن نكون كالحواسيب أو كالروبوتات .. كل شيء مجدول و مخطط ضمن مواعيد و إملاءات زمنية ثالثها: أن الاكتئاب هو آلية مفيدة تؤدي بالإنسان إلى النضج و النمو و تجعله يبتعد عن الأخطاء التي وقع فيها سابقاً و تفرض عليه أن يأخذ حذره جيداً في المستقبل رابعها: الجينات المسؤولة عن إطلاق عملية الاكتئاب مسؤولة أيضاً و بنفس الوقت عن إطلاق عمليات أخرى مفيدة كالحزن مثلاً .. أو الندم .. أو الألم فالاكتئاب إذن جزء من عملية معقدة لا تتجزأ ما هو علاج الاكتئاب ؟ هناك عدة علاجات للاكتئاب تختلف باختلاف حالة المريض المكتئب و مدى شدة اكتئابه هناك أولاً العلاج الذاتي: هناك مرضى يعالجون أنفسهم بأنفسهم من خلال الوعي الذاتي يحددون منشأ مشكلتهم .. ما دوافع اكتئابهم ؟ ما هي مشاكلهم و همومهم ؟ هل هذا الاكتئاب و القلق منطقي ؟ أم أنه مبالغة ؟ يغيرون من طريقة كلامهم مع أنفسهم .. يتذكرون النعم التي يتمتعون بها و يحاولون جاهداً ألا يكونوا سوداويين و هناك ثانياً العلاج الإدراكي : جلسات محادثة مع طبيب نفسي مختص .. يتحدث المريض بصراحة مع الطبيب عن حياته.. ظروفه .. مشاكله .. و يوجهه الطبيب و يستمع له أحياناً الاستماع وحده قد يكون كاف للعلاج .. أحياناً جو الثقة و الأريحية قد يشفي المكتئب فالاكتئاب يزداد كلما عزل المكتئب نفسه عن المجتمع و احتفظ بهمومه لنفسه و أحياناً يوجه الطبيب المريض لاتخاذ خطوات معينة تساعده على تجاوز حالته و هناك ثالثاً: العلاج الدوائي.. مجموعة من الأدوية التي تؤثر في الجملة العصبية في المخ يشرحها الكاتب بشكل تفصيلي و هي تؤدي إلى إعادة التوازن الكيميائي العصبي للمخ و خصوصاً الناقل العصبي الذي يدعى بالسيروتونين و هناك رابعاً جلسات العلاج الكهربائي و هي للحالات المتقدمة و ذات تأثير أكبر و الآثار الجانبية أقل و هناك أخيراً الجراحة العصبية.. بالتداخل على بعض المناطق المخية المسؤولة عن إطلاق عملية الاكتئاب طبعا إلى الآن لا يوجد علاج شاف للاكتئاب.. و ليس هناك حل جذري للتخلص منه فما دام الإنسان واعياً باكتئابه لا يمكن لدواء أو كهرباء أن تقنعه بأنه سعيد ! و لكنها مفيدة جداً و تحسن من حالة المكتئب و تجعل حياته قابلة للتحمل هناك مرضى يتعالجون طوال حياتهم بأدوية الاكتئاب و لا يستطيعون ترك العلاج لأنهم بمجرد تركه يعود الاكتئاب لهم و المشكلة في العلاج الدوائي أن له آثار جانبية .. و أكثر من ذلك أن الشخص يتغير بعد علاجه لذلك كثير من المرضى لا يلتزم بالعلاج لأنه يشعر بتهديد لهويته.. يشتاق لنفسه القديمة.. يحس أنه مزيف

  15. 5 out of 5

    Randy Mcdonald

    Andrew Solomon’s 2001 book The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression is the book that made Solomon’s name internationally, a survey of depression that avoids the survey’s flaws of superficially recounting its symptoms, its history, its treatments. The Noonday Demon is a comprehensive survey of the issue that begins powerfully by recounting his own experiences: when his depressions began, what triggered it, what it felt like, what worsened it, what could start to make it better. Without his person Andrew Solomon’s 2001 book The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression is the book that made Solomon’s name internationally, a survey of depression that avoids the survey’s flaws of superficially recounting its symptoms, its history, its treatments. The Noonday Demon is a comprehensive survey of the issue that begins powerfully by recounting his own experiences: when his depressions began, what triggered it, what it felt like, what worsened it, what could start to make it better. Without his personal admissions, the book would have been a useful tome, a survey of depression’s treatments and history and sociology written in the clear entertaining style one would expect from a writer for The New Yorker. Solomon’s accounts of his depression made it more than this, describing the subjective experience of depression to his non-depressed readers. The experience of depression is such a hard thing to communicate to one’s well-meaning friends and partners and families, the ways in which life loses its interest and its balance, either accelerated into a frenzy as the sufferer looks for some sort of distraction or decay into the hopeless lethargic passage of painful moments. Depression has been too often been presented in a romantic fashion; Solomon strips the romance away and presents the experience of depression in print perhaps as well as anyone can. After his feat of autobiography, Solomon goes on to describe the disease in full. Depression, he demonstrates, is fundamentally a biological disease, a product of the failure of neurons and neurotransmitters, and is often very successfully treated on those terms. Depression also has to be understood as a cultural phenomenon, though, as an illness that has often been seen as a cultural artifact—others have seen depression as laziness, as malaise or boredom, even as something fashionable—and as an illness that is the product of isolation of one kind or another. Solomon’s examination of the different populations that have been especially prone to depression—the poor, subjected to terrible suffering and isolation; women, treated at best as second-class citizens and more frequently as objects who should know their place and be politely quiet; gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, despised because of the people they happen to love; ethnic and racial minorities, suffering the experience of knowing that they’re not wanted by the societies where they live—makes it clear that depression is at least as much a function its sufferers’ social experiences as of their physical ills. Sometimes, there are good reasons for people to be depressed; sometimes, it would be surprising for someone not to be depressed. That’s why I found it heartening that The Noonday Demon went on to explore the many different ways in which people can recover from depression, by finding ways to talk about their experiences and to have other people react in constructive ways. Self-help groups led by Inuit community leaders in Greenland, shamanistic rites among Senegal’s Wolof, talk therapies like group therapy and cognitive behaviour therapy, public health bureaucracies which identify mental health as a serious problem—there are any number of ways to deal with and to help heal depression, all of which involve recognizing it as a serious but treatable health issue. My single biggest issue with The Noonday Demon is the degree to which Solomon talks about depression itself as a cure of sorts, as something that people can learn from and use to better themselves. Maybe—certainly the treatments available help people understand their psyches better. That’s all that they do, however. Some people may survive depression intact, some people might even thrive with the skills they’ve acquired, but what about all the people who don’t make it? Surviving a serious illness like depression might be cause for celebration, but any improvements come at too high a price. Still, Solomon has succeeded wonderfully. He introduced his readers to depression via his own personal experiences; he examined depression’s origins; he examined ways different people coped; he examined the hopes for effective treatment. Solomon succeeded in his project of explaining depression, indeed defining it in a way that the world can understand. I’m so glad that he did that. If you’re interested in mental health issues, or even if you’re curious about the human mind, pick this book up.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Atila Iamarino

    Não fazia ideia do quão debilitante a depressão pode ser. Ótimo apanhado de causas, consequências e histórias por trás da depressão, em um embrulho auto-biográfico e com entrevistas que dão o lado humano da depressão. Menos acadêmico do que costumo ler, mas por isso mesmo deve interessar mais gente.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lily ☁️

    Before you read on, be aware that the paragraphs I quote could have potentially triggering content, so please skip those if need be. Your mental—and physical—health are what is most important. “Every second of being alive hurt me.” Reading The Noonday Demon was an incredibly enlightening, educational, ingratiating, and above all emotional experience. It is not an easy book to read, and it is definitely not suited for people who aren’t willing to commit to the entirety of the ups and downs it so Before you read on, be aware that the paragraphs I quote could have potentially triggering content, so please skip those if need be. Your mental—and physical—health are what is most important. “Every second of being alive hurt me.” Reading The Noonday Demon was an incredibly enlightening, educational, ingratiating, and above all emotional experience. It is not an easy book to read, and it is definitely not suited for people who aren’t willing to commit to the entirety of the ups and downs it so thoroughly presents, the dark situations and mindsets it lays bare, as well as the various stories from different people who have gone through, and/or are still going through depression. “(…) it’s dark. You are falling away from the sunlight toward a place where the shadows are black. Inside it, you cannot see, and the dangers are everywhere (it’s neither soft-bottomed nor soft-sided, the abyss). While you are falling, you don’t know how deep you can go, or whether you can in any way stop yourself. You hit invisible things over and over again until you are shredded, and yet your environment is too unstable for you to catch onto anything.” Its almost 600 pages contain twelve different chapters that are all rich in detail—often overwhelmingly so—and each examine different aspects of depression, swiftly demonstrating how it is part of everyone’s lives—not just of that of the depressed person—infiltrating it knowingly, or unknowingly (but predominantly the latter). Andrew Solomon details his own descents into the depths of his depression, as well as other depressives’ stories of their experiences with it, and it made this book so much more than mere scientific research; The Noonday Demon’s contents ring true, at times all-consuming with their bleakness. “(…) a loss of feeling, a numbness, had infected all my human relations. I didn’t care about love; about my work; about family; about friends. I found myself burdened by social events, even by conversation. It all seemed like more effort than it was worth. I felt my control over my own life slipping.” It is so incredibly important that mental illnesses not be stigmatized, and actually be recognized as an illness, rather than something “to get over”. People who are sick with the flu, have a broken bone, or suffer from migraines, all elicit sympathy and compassion—people who suffer from depression, or any mental illness for that matter, should, too. No matter how much of this atlas of depression you read, whether you decide to skip parts—it is so worthwhile. We may not always be able to help someone in the way we want to, and most mental illnesses are here to stay as long as the person who is afflicted with it, but we can always remember to be kind and understanding. Blog ¦ Bloglovin’ ¦ Tumblr ¦ Instagram

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Depression: more complicated than the Lexapro ads would have you believe. An intelligent and very thorough interdisciplinary introduction, but with a publication date of 2002, it hews pretty close to the serotonin-oriented theories of depression (although Solomon does a nice job of explaining how very little is known about how Prozac-generation antidepressants actually work, even though they clearly DO work). Since then, medical research has gone on to explore models of depression that explore t Depression: more complicated than the Lexapro ads would have you believe. An intelligent and very thorough interdisciplinary introduction, but with a publication date of 2002, it hews pretty close to the serotonin-oriented theories of depression (although Solomon does a nice job of explaining how very little is known about how Prozac-generation antidepressants actually work, even though they clearly DO work). Since then, medical research has gone on to explore models of depression that explore the role of early and repeated stressors -- models with similarities to post-traumatic stress disorder that explore the role of chemicals like adrenaline in depression. None of that is in this book. Still, Solomon's work on the social contexts of depression is what makes this worth reading. Solomon is at his best when he puts religious notions of the sins of accedia and sloth, and puritan ethics of hard work, careful forethought and stoicism together with the puzzle of a "brain disease" that would render someone incapable of adhering to those standards. NB: if you're currently experiencing depression, this is not the book for you, both because of its density and because Solomon is drawn to cases of idiomatic or treatment-resistant depression, meaning that the prognosis for depression winds up looking a bit bleaker than it is for the general population.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bleak Mouse

    Harrowing, fascinating, moving -- and depressing. My sole problem, if indeed it is a problem, is that the author (as he remarks of Robert Burton embraces the paradoxes and contradictions rather than reconciling them. So prepare to be a bit confused by too much information, although all of it is vital -- in one context or another.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Richard Bernstein of the New York Times referred to this book as "All-encompassing, brave, and deeply humane." This is why he gets the big bucks: with those few words, he succinctly captures the essence of Solomon's approach to his subject. "All-encompassing" because Solomon breaks down the science of depression's condition and treatment, unpacks its global history, examines its sociology both via population statistics and cultural context(s), and illustrates all of it with stories of real peopl Richard Bernstein of the New York Times referred to this book as "All-encompassing, brave, and deeply humane." This is why he gets the big bucks: with those few words, he succinctly captures the essence of Solomon's approach to his subject. "All-encompassing" because Solomon breaks down the science of depression's condition and treatment, unpacks its global history, examines its sociology both via population statistics and cultural context(s), and illustrates all of it with stories of real people with real depression, including himself. The book's well-referenced to a mixture of scholarly articles, world literature, philosophy, and other non-fiction works; he's just as apt to quote Thomas Aquinas's Summa theologiae as the New England Journal of Medicine. This catholic approach means that If there's an aspect of depression you're specifically interested in, or a mode in which you're accustomed to thinking, Solomon gives you an easy way in. You probably won't come out the same way. "Brave" because Solomon tells his own story and that of others with unflinching detail, using real names and direct quotes from conversations and interviews, medical reports and emails. He's not afraid to explore the unconventional with the conventional, undergoing a ndeup in Senegal with the same willingness and open mind that he researches ECT and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The ndeup highlights a particular bravery: lack of embarrassment. Naked, smeared in animal blood, dancing in a strange land surrounded by strangers, Solomon doesn't waste any time talking about feeling silly. I get the sense that this spareness isn't natural to a guy who writes with the lushness he does: that depression has taught him where to pare away inessentials, to conserve his resources. He has no energy to spare for embarrassment, a luxury. Shame he's familiar with, the loss of self and agency, but his description of that is almost dispassionate, an assessment of his illness's symptoms, not a reaction in the moment. Moreover, Solomon's unafraid to examine questions of will and character, the intersection of morality and biology, and the difficulty of assessing the working of will in a damaged mind. This is stuff a lot of people wouldn't want to touch. "Deeply humane" because despite his research into the biological mechanisms and political machinations of depression as an illness and an issue, Solomon has a depth of feeling for those suffering from depression, those he knows personally and the people who might be helped by his book. He takes pains to point out that while some treatments have statistical bases for usefulness, individuals have a wide range of responses to identical therapies. He pooh-poohs nothing. I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand more about depression and its place in modern culture. To find out if you'd enjoy the book, download the first chapter for free at his website.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joseph D. Walch

    I know depression is a great malady in this postmodern nihilistic world, but reading this book gave me wonder how somebody who was born into privilage with all the leisure and worldly advantage that is denied 99.9% of the worlds population (who don't have private horse-riding lessons and attend posh private schools--who don't have the opportunity to fall into deep depression while on a 3 month tour of Europe, who may choose to end their lives slowly with alcohol instead of flying to London to pu I know depression is a great malady in this postmodern nihilistic world, but reading this book gave me wonder how somebody who was born into privilage with all the leisure and worldly advantage that is denied 99.9% of the worlds population (who don't have private horse-riding lessons and attend posh private schools--who don't have the opportunity to fall into deep depression while on a 3 month tour of Europe, who may choose to end their lives slowly with alcohol instead of flying to London to purposely have indiscriminate, anonymous homosexual orgies with people who are suspected to carry HIV in order to end one's life), how can somebody with all the advantages Andrew Solomon had in life not find meaning beyond the hedonistic or epicurean delights that were so plentiful. Happiness is a serious problem for some people. There are energy, stress components, but there are also philosophical/behavioral components to depression. I know it can be a challenge to those suceptible to bouts of melancholy. Personally, however, I prefer the philosophies of Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning" to the somewhat depressing view I took from Solomon's book as a guide to taking responsibility for one's happiness (just as one should take responsibility for their learning, capacity for work, etc.).

  22. 5 out of 5

    sarafem

    The best book on depression I've seen; I had to hold myself back from photocopying so many of the passages to pass out to friends and family, to say THIS IS WHAT IT IS LIKE. The only reason I can't give it five stars is because it was so heavy it took me months to get it through it. Its importance goes far beyond 5 out of 5 stars though.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alegra

    I really liked this book. I'm on a psychology major and it really gave a different perspective to my studies. It explains absolutely every topic you can relate to depression. It is not depressing in itself, rather informative. What best way to tackle an enemy if not by learning all you can about it? I loved this book, and I really love the friend that refered it to me!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Morgan Blackledge

    This is an amazing book by an amazing writer and all around lovely, soulful human being Mr. Andrew Solomon. The subject is utterly important, as all of us either have or have had depression, or know someone who has or has been afflicted. It's a serious matter in which lives may hang in the balance, making this unique insiders view absolute required reading. That being said, I am sooooooo dang glad to be finished with this book. I'm not trying to scare anyone away from the book, but I would feel r This is an amazing book by an amazing writer and all around lovely, soulful human being Mr. Andrew Solomon. The subject is utterly important, as all of us either have or have had depression, or know someone who has or has been afflicted. It's a serious matter in which lives may hang in the balance, making this unique insiders view absolute required reading. That being said, I am sooooooo dang glad to be finished with this book. I'm not trying to scare anyone away from the book, but I would feel remiss if I neglected to equip the would-be reader with the necessary info to make an informed choice. Simply put, this book is really really depressing. A Chinese proverb states that those with weak stomaches should not overturn rocks in the grass [because there's usually hella gross bugs under them]. I paraphrased the first part and added the last part. But I remain faithful to the analogy which essentially refers to the fact that; if you go digging around in to difficult material, expect to encounter difficult feelings, reflections, realizations etc. If you're familiar with the process of psychotherapy, you may agree that this can be transformative. But if you're susceptible to depression you also know that exposure to certain narratives (your own or others) can stoke the smolder of melancholia. Noonday Demon is not for the cowardly, or faint of heart. But if you're willing to paddle into the heart of everyday darkness, than by all means, come aboard. Noonday Demon is good, really really good. But it's not as good as his most recent book Far From The Tree. There......I said it. Why beat around the bush. It's just not quite as masterful, wise, mature, ambitious etc. But it is excellent and I'd say essential at this juncture if you're interested in the subject. My chief complaint about the book is that it's a bit dated. The focus on psychoanalysis is so last millennium. Listening to psychoanalytic explanations for depression is like listening to nails on a chalk board. Which might have been forgivable if it weren't for the dearth of fair coverage of other (actually) effective treatments for depression, like CBT (particularly behavioral activation and recent third wave variants). It's not the authors fault. Neuroscience and psychology have advanced tremendously in the 15 or so odd years since the book has been written. But still. There's other, more recent books out there that do cover depression in a more up to date way, and I would hate for any reader to take what is written in this book as the final word. The interviews, historical work and autobiographical sequences is where this book shines. The authors experience as a novelist shows. Like Nabokov, Solomon gives you the POV experience of the depressive. By the end you'll have increased empathy. Anyone who has ever told someone to "cheer up" or "just snap out of it" should be court ordered to read this. You literally can't read this book and maintain that attitude. It's like telling a paraplegic to get up and dance. Anyway. Read it. Expect some dark feelings to seep into your daily life. Don't worry it's worth it. By the end you'll be enriched.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    I've had recurring major depression for almost 2 years now, and it's been just over a year since I took a medical leave from college to address it at home. I can't even begin to explain how overwhelmingly impossible it can feel to talk about my depression, even with my family, or even acknowledge it honestly to myself when I'm having a better day than usual and can do basic daily activities that most people don't even think twice about (outside in public no less!). Considering what I've experien I've had recurring major depression for almost 2 years now, and it's been just over a year since I took a medical leave from college to address it at home. I can't even begin to explain how overwhelmingly impossible it can feel to talk about my depression, even with my family, or even acknowledge it honestly to myself when I'm having a better day than usual and can do basic daily activities that most people don't even think twice about (outside in public no less!). Considering what I've experienced, I am amazed and inspired by Andrew Solomon's brave accomplishments of revealing his personal experiences and breakdowns with such candor and detail. Not only that but to have the strength and compassion to immerse himself so deeply into the lives of others struggling with such dark symptoms of depression so that he could bring an image and voice to such an isolated and unseen community - my hope to one day have a similar courage to act for the mental health and wellness of others is what gives me faith and reason to see the next day. Clearly I greatly admire Solomon's character but I also can't say enough about his writing skill. I was first introduced to his writing in his newer book, Far From The Tree. If you ever come across a physical copy of it or can sneak a peak on Amazon, just take 1 minute to read the first paragraph. My reaction to just that small introduction was literally, "oh my god, this book is going to be such a wealth of knowledge". I've read a good amount of non-fiction, particularly in neuroscience and psychology, and now that I look back most of those works had repetitive and "filler" material between the really interesting and thought-provoking chunks. However, I feel that Solomon's writing is so concise and again, refreshingly candid considering the stigma surrounding the topic, that every single sentence was a point worth making and worth my time reading. The only other book in which I found the information as equally well-researched, outlined, and presented is Sheena Iyengar's The Art Of Choosing (which I really recommend!). I'm into the second chapter of Far From The Tree now, and I can confidently say that my zeal for Atlas of Depression is not just because of how relevant the topic is to me. These are the first 400+ page non-fiction books that I can enthusiastically say I look forward to having the pleasure of rereading time and time again. Also, though this is the 34th book I've catalogued on Goodreads as having completed, it's the first one I've cared enough to review.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chun Mei

    I love this book for many reasons. Andrew Solomon talks about depression in the context of biology, history, politics,and poverty. He also shares his own story of longterm depression and the stories of individuals and communities in the US, Cambodia and Greenland. The book is more for people who want to gain a greater understanding of depression rather than people who want to be lifted out of a depression. But don't worry, the book itself is focused too much on how people experience and overcome I love this book for many reasons. Andrew Solomon talks about depression in the context of biology, history, politics,and poverty. He also shares his own story of longterm depression and the stories of individuals and communities in the US, Cambodia and Greenland. The book is more for people who want to gain a greater understanding of depression rather than people who want to be lifted out of a depression. But don't worry, the book itself is focused too much on how people experience and overcome depression to actually be depressing. Although, understanding depression can certainly help lift a depressed person out of depression or at least make it more bearable. From the book: Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair...It is the aloneness within us made manifest, and it destroys not only connection to others but also the ability to be peacefully alone with oneself. Love, though it is no prophylactic against depression, is what cushions the mind and protects it from itself... Andrew Solomon's comparison between his experience with depression to the experience of a tree being taken over by an aggressive vine: I saw an oak, a hundred years dignified, in whose shade I used to play with my brother. In twenty years, a huge vine had attached itself to this confident tree and had nearly smothered it. It was hard to saw where the tree left off and the vine began. The vine had twisted itself so entirely around the scaffolding of the tree branches that its leaves seemed from a distance to be the leaves of the tree; only up close could you see how few living oak branches were left, and how a few desperate little budding sticks of oak stuck like a row of thumbs up the massive trunk, their leaves continuing to photosynthesize in the ignorant way of mechanical biology...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    I took this book on vacation because I knew I would want to be able to read it thoughtfully. I admired another book by Mr. Solomon- Far From the Tree - and I wasn't disappointed with this earlier work about depression. The author writes with great intelligence, empathy and the ability to articulate many angles of complicated problems. He is very candid about his own struggle with depression and sympathetically relates the stories of other people. I wish this could be required reading for everyon I took this book on vacation because I knew I would want to be able to read it thoughtfully. I admired another book by Mr. Solomon- Far From the Tree - and I wasn't disappointed with this earlier work about depression. The author writes with great intelligence, empathy and the ability to articulate many angles of complicated problems. He is very candid about his own struggle with depression and sympathetically relates the stories of other people. I wish this could be required reading for everyone involved in health care spending decisions.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Cerretti

    This book was a doozy (as evidenced by the fact it took me over a month to read). I'm still thinking about some of the personal stories and I really liked the chapter on evolutionary theories about depression. It's definitely not a light read but I learned a lot about a disease many of us struggle with in one form or another.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Buhs

    Deep in the book, Solomon confronts the spiritual ancestor of his own tome, Robert Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy," and his assessment of it is also an assessment of "The Noonday Demon": mixing "a millennium of thought and a steady supply of scattered personal intuitions, [Anatomy] is a subtle, self-contradictory, badly organized, hugely wise volume." The NoonDay Demon purports to be an atlas, which is a genre not widely written or read anymore--atlases are reference material. But this is a book Deep in the book, Solomon confronts the spiritual ancestor of his own tome, Robert Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy," and his assessment of it is also an assessment of "The Noonday Demon": mixing "a millennium of thought and a steady supply of scattered personal intuitions, [Anatomy] is a subtle, self-contradictory, badly organized, hugely wise volume." The NoonDay Demon purports to be an atlas, which is a genre not widely written or read anymore--atlases are reference material. But this is a book that is meant to be read, rather than used to get a lay of the land (or overview of some topic). Solomon had written for the New Yorker by the time this book came out, and his style showed the hallmarks of 1990s New Yorker-style: a really hungry Jack Webb. Not "Just the facts, ma'm," but "all the facts, ma'm," and a visible straining for Important Cultural Insights (TM). Which is to say the book is over-written in the extreme, stuffed with anecdotes and every manner of detail. Which is not to say the book doesn't have its subtleties, hidden among the vast acres of verbiage. Solomon does as good a job as possible of describing what depression is like for those who suffer it, reaching for a succession of metaphors: falling, vines, rusting, while admitting that these metaphors are limited in their explanatory power (29). It made me think of Elaine Scary's "The Body in Pain" and how pain is such a brute, primitive fact that it cannot be put into words except in the form of cliche; depression is pain of different sort: soul pain, Solomon suggests, and so also escapes transformation into words. He notes both in the early chapters and the the last--on hope--that there is something about depression that makes it recalcitrant to explanation. Cognitive Behavior Therapists want to make it into a series of "errors of thought," but it is more than that, something that sucks meaning from the inside, leaving the sufferer empty and unconnected. Demon is as good a metaphor as any--perhaps better than most--and Solomon senses this connection, obviously, with the title, but he doesn't follow it up. Which is a problem more generally with the book: that the subtleties are not fully developed, but remain half-whispered. The book is clearly of the time, published in 2001, but written the five years before, it is impossibly entangled with the question of SSRIs and drug therapies, which so consumed the nation during that decade. (Anyone remember "Prozac Nation?") Drugs brought up a lot of questions about the nature of depression: was it really an organic disorder, or should sufferers just buck up? Was this a "fake" pathology, like chronic fatigue syndrome (which is not fake, but was thought to be)? Were Americans just looking for a quick, technomedical fix to something that needed more intensive intervention? For many sufferers, the drugs legitimized the disease--it's real, like diabetes!--but were also loathed: making sufferers dependent, maybe even addicted, and twisting their other, seemingly innate, emotions, their sex drive, their sense of joy when they weren't depressed. Solomon's fixation on drugs--heightened no doubt by the fact that his father worked for a pharmaceutical company that puts out one--limits in many ways what he has to say about depression. He is expansive in his definition of what counts as depression--linking bipolar disorder here, too, which feels odd--and relying on scientific definitions. He is insistent that depression is not a disease of modernity but can be found throughout history--which is debatable, but fine. The problem comes from his unwillingness to contextualize the different understanding of disease (except in one Balkanized chapter), treating it as a transhistorical category, one that would always, everywhere be amenable to drugs. He does very little, in short, to challenge prevailing notions of depression, which means that the disease is always weighted with the moral freight it has carried for a long time. He acknowledges this but cannot quite escape the dilemma, though he tries. He has an extended chapter on "alternative" treatments that has him trying out an animistic cure in Senegal. He doesn't think much of the philosophy behind it, but does like the ritual and connection it engenders. Indeed, buried in the book is an etiology of depression that escapes much of the talk enforced by discussions of drugs. That depression comes from a lack of connection; and that even faking connection, or doing work, can help overcome it: work and connection forcefully creates meaning where none seem to exist. It is another one of the subtle threads Solomon does not follow. Which is a shame, because his best chapters are the ones where the subtle critique breaks through, and Solomon challenges the very categories that his atlas seeks to reify: the paired chapters on addiction and suicide. Solomon covers in these his own extensive experience with drugs and alcohols, and his own suicidal thoughts, measures these against prevailing ideas, and finds the common sense wanting. Addiction, he notes, is very sharply culturally dependent--drunkenness accepted in widely different amounts across space and time--and that therapists and clients often want very different thinks when trying to treat addiction: the therapist aims for abstinence, the addict for control--the ability to imbibe again, to get the high, without letting the drug take over. He also rejects out of hand the notion that suicide is necessarily tied to depression, or that it is always and forever a sign of insanity. Sometimes it is impetuous; sometimes it comes from errors of thought; sometimes it is a reasonable option. One wishes, reading this book, that these ideas could have been made in a shorter span, not only condensed but re-organized--the book's organization as an atlas is frustrating to generating meaning and full understanding. Why is the history of depression its own chapter, way at the back of the book? Why is there a chapter on populations, but then a separate one on poverty? Does the just-so stories of sociobiology provide any real insight into depression? (It must have been selected for. It must serve some reproductive advantage?) Is this chapter pushed toward the end because of embarrassment? It really makes no sense coming after a chapter on politics. The separation of themes, the scattering of stories, these disguise the fact that the book itself is self-contradictory. Like his spiritual ancestor Robert Burton, Solomon sees no problem with proposing a thousand different points, but not bothering to really reconcile any of them. That is true with the way historical understanding of the disease is not separated from the experiential description of depression--in Solomon's hands, it is only big thinkers influenced by history, But individuals, too, have a historical understanding of their disease, right or wrong. The clearest contradiction, though, is in the place one would most likely find it: the introduction and conclusion. Solomon presents his thesis in the very first sentence. It is not a big enough thesis to encompass all he will discuss, but it does seem to be the red thread he will try to follow throughout: "Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair." I don't really buy that description, but there it is, his idea. Except that when he concludes, more than four hundred pages later, he offers this: "The opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality." These are both poetic expressions,which hides the slippage between them. How does vitality solve love's flaw? It's never quite clear--just as, even after all these pages, it's never quite clear what Solomon is trying to say. And yet, and yet, there is huge wisdom, there is bravery, and there may even be clues to an answer. Solomon is willing to strip himself bear and expose the many hardships of his depression: not only the depression, the raining of meaning from his life, but the things he did under its influence, unprotected sex in hopes of contracting HIV, the many drugs, the self-loathing for being indolent when he had no excuse, no reason for being messed up. He describes the many people who have suffered depression under varying conditions--including an extended description of a woman who tried to piece her life together after the horrors of surviving Cambodia' Killing Fields. He notes--page 27--the Depression in its modern version is often partly the result of measuring our lives against an insane model of happiness promoted by the media; he points out how susceptible depression is to placebo: since it is a cyclical process, it will resolve on its own, leaving the sufferer to thank whatever activity they were doing at the time; he butts up against William James's idea that the best solution to depression is belief--even if the belief is forced or fake--though he otherwise gives James short-shrift (both 137); he is fascinated by Schopenhauer ("Life is a business whose returns are far from covering the cost") and points to his remedy: work (316); he is aware of the orectic monster that is pharmaceutical capitalism, and the surreal world which it creates--for itself and others--though he stops short of using that as a reason to be skeptical of its creations (which may be a reasonable response) (396); he does confront--even if he's not sure what to do with--the "complicated ways that particular vulnerability [to depression] interacts with personality" (428): meaning it's never clear what depression will reveal about a person, once it sets in, and again when it leaves, though he mostly thinks it makes good people better and bad people worse (431). He recognizes the need for humor, even in the face of depression, which seems impossible, but underlines it with the existential point that any depressive would understand: you don't get the time back (430). He even acknowledges that depression may have its rewards--though he is not so deluded that he thinks it is worth it, none of this I am so glad I got this debilitating disease crap. Rather, he understands that depression makes a person see the world form a different perspective, one denied other people. Depressives, for instance, often have a more accurate view of the world and themselves than others. Mild over-optimism is common trait, just not one shared by most depressed people (433). Depression will often make people more sensitive, more empathetic, and more ready to experience joy when it finally comes to them. This last thought is what leads him to think vitality is the solution to depression, but makes me think in a very different way. (It's a sign of a good book that it offers evidence both for its author's views and for other ways to think.) Again and again, I was struck by how often the word "I" is used in the book. Depression, for everything else it might be, is a kind of solipsism, an unwavering gaze on a person's self, and the many ways to doesn't measure up to the world, and the many ways it no longer fits into a world which has no (inherent) meaning. So one solution is vitality--to insist on meaning--even if this don't solve the problem as it was set out to begin with. Another way, though, is to give up on the idea of the self, and its need to be coherent and whole and happy. To understand that the self is not a single unit, but arises each moment, depending upon conditions, and disperses the next, carrying some of what was in the past, losing much, and gaining other things. This answer is more radical than the one that Solomon offered, and may not work for everyone. But it is a solution that may have been hiding in plain sight.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Miri

    I really loved this book and would've given it five stars but for two issues: 1. It was really only about severe depression, not depression in general. While those stories are obviously important and deserve to be told, the majority of people who suffer from depression do not have major breakdowns, lose their jobs and friends, get hospitalized, or undergo ECT or psychosurgery. It would've been nice if the book gave more attention to those with milder forms of depression. 2. The fact that Solomon d I really loved this book and would've given it five stars but for two issues: 1. It was really only about severe depression, not depression in general. While those stories are obviously important and deserve to be told, the majority of people who suffer from depression do not have major breakdowns, lose their jobs and friends, get hospitalized, or undergo ECT or psychosurgery. It would've been nice if the book gave more attention to those with milder forms of depression. 2. The fact that Solomon decided to give space in his book to wacky alternative treatments really, really disappointed me. He was clearly hoping to give hope to many people. Giving them hope in the form of unverified quackery seems irresponsible to me. The huge passage about some creepy African ritual involving ram's blood also seemed unnecessary and a bit voyeuristic. That said, I'm really glad that the book used real names and discussed the connection between depression and poverty. But the author does come from a place of incredible privilege, and you have to take that into account when reading this.

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