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The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

by Andrew Solomon

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,509375,826 (4.08)39
The author offers a look at depression in which he draws on his own battle with the illness and interviews with fellow sufferers, researchers, doctors, and others to assess the complexities of the disease, its causes and symptoms, and available therapies. This book examines depression in personal, cultural, and scientific terms. He confronts the challenge of defining the illness and describes the vast range of available medications, the efficacy of alternative treatments, and the impact the malady has on various demographic populations, around the world and throughout history. He also explores the thorny patch of moral and ethical questions posed by emerging biological explanations for mental illness. He takes readers on a journey into the most pervasive of family secrets and contributes to our understanding not only of mental illness but also of the human condition.… (more)
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» See also 39 mentions

English (36)  Dutch (1)  All languages (37)
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
Why are so many books about depression written by people like this? They always seem to have someone to help them, someone to put an arm around them and comfort them, someone to talk to about what’s happening to them, someone to listen—and wouldn’t last five minutes living the sort of life most of its sufferers are forced to. “My father”, “my family”, “my circle of friends”; “my literary agent”, “my publisher”, “a journalist / director / professor I know”; “my analyst”, “my therapist”, “my psychopharmacologist”… Most depressed people have none of these, and none of the money this author clearly has either (“my psychopharmacologist”???).
    True, The Noonday Demon is comprehensive, thoughtful, some of the writing wonderful—and there were one or two memorable details: depression among the Inuit inhabitants of Greenland for instance (where an incredible 80% of the adult population suffers from it). The chapter about the history of the condition was interesting too: the ancient Greeks had a surprisingly modern and sympathetic view of depression (particularly their doctors, most notably Hippocrates) and it was the Christian worldview—converting an illness into a sin—which saddled it with the stigma it’s been stuck with ever since.
    Overall, though, I learned precious little in return for slogging my way through 512 pages. Above all, it just made me bloody angry. During one of the author’s own depressive episodes for example: “Some dear friends, recently married, moved into my house and stayed with me for two months, getting me through the difficult parts of the days, talking through my anxieties and fears, telling me stories, seeing to it that I was eating, mitigating the loneliness…my brother flew in from California…my father snapped to attention…” This guy is living on another planet. ( )
1 vote justlurking | May 15, 2023 |
Didn't finish because I wasn't looking for a memoir on depression.
  pacbox | Jul 9, 2022 |
The author is a good writer, especially when he presents a human interest story. I feel the best parts of the book are where he recounts his depression and breakdowns (Ch. 1 and 2), and his mother's suicide (Ch. 7). Very moving. (But perhaps depressing to read. I don't recommend people feeling depressed read these parts of the book. You will feel worse than before.) The second best parts are where he presents and explains the many existing treatments for depression (Ch. 3 and 4). He is very knowledgable and informative on this subject. I learned a lot! The rest of the book is.....a lot of random facts/history/political views/conjectures/anything in tangent regarding depression. Not as moving or eye-opening to read about. The chapter that tried to explain why depression persists in human beings in the process of evolution is very unconvincing (I think the author found the arguments he collected from evolutionary biologists unconvincing as well. He pretty much said so. Not sure why he kept that chapter in the book.)

Some (out of the many) things I learned from this book: 1. Research shows talking therapy will work when the patient experiences good rapport with the therapist and trusts the therapist knows what he/she is doing. The therapist's professional training doesn't matter XD ; 2. The most effective way to relieve depressive symptoms is to shock the brain with electric currents, but the side effect is memory loss; 3. To this day, we don't know exactly how/why depression medication works. We just know the symptoms are indeed relieved after taking the medication for some time. Since it takes some time for the drugs to take effect, we know that it is not a direct effect; 4. Religion helps patients recover. While not very helpful during severe breakdowns, religious truths serve as doorposts that help guide the patient move away from their negative thinking; 5. Depression has many different symptoms, no one's combination of symptoms is exactly the same as other people's. And it's often difficult to others to see these symptoms and believe the patient is ill, unless the patient actually has a public breakdown; 6. The author's suggestion for what friend and family of patients can do is to "be there for them" even when they push you away; 7. When you're severely depressed, you're not suicidal, because you don't want to do anything. It's not until you slightly recover and can actually take actions to do things that you are in danger of suicide. ( )
  CathyChou | Mar 11, 2022 |
Good book that I unfortunately lost the will to finish. Fascinating insights on depression and anxiety but the time given to personal accounts, just for the sake of showing struggles people have began to get tiring.

Watching his TED talk might be easier for some. ( )
  zbdd | Oct 31, 2021 |
"I lost a great innocence when I understood that I and my mind were not going to be on good terms for the rest of my life."

It is going to be dashed difficult to separate the experience of reading this book from the experience of living with depression, just as it was impossible for the author to separate writing about it from living with it.

The great innocence lost that is referred to in the first quotation taken from the book is the sense of being able to rely on your own mind, at least, even when you feel like you can't rely on anything or anyone else. And finding that this mind has a mind of its own and can work against you instead of for you is probably the bitterest disappointment and letdown that I don't wish on anyone.

Therefore, I'd like to argue that the most authoritative voices on depression are those of sufferers themselves. Andrew Solomon tackles the subject from a variety of perspectives, ranging from the deeply and painfully personal to the medical and societal, all told with grace and depth.

We are introduced to the many ugly faces of depression, and more importantly, the many voices of depressed people, because each case is different from the rest, and in each case a different combination of factors has conspired to bring about the unwanted result, politics/policy and poverty amongst those Solomon explores.

"Sometimes I wish I could see my brain. I’d like to know what marks have been carved in it. I imagine it grey, damp, elaborate. I think of it sitting in my head, and sometimes I feel as if there’s me, who is living life, and this strange thing stuck in my head that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. It’s very odd. This is me. This is my brain. This is the pain that lives in my brain. Look here and you can see where the pain scratched this thing, what places are knotty and lumped up, which places are glowing."

Among other new and fascinating things, this book introduces one of the most captivating theories for the cause of depression: the explanation of depression as a relic of evolution. It all serves to show admirably that this condition is valid and should be as visible as physical ailments, because the forces at work behind it are very real and cause almost unimaginable suffering to an unimaginably high number of people.

However, not all is bleak, because, as any good Wikipedia article will tell you, depression is highly treatable, and experience with it will teach you how to live with it. Nobody is happy all the time, not even those who, fortunately for them, don’t add depression to their list of medical problems. On the converse, however, nobody can be sad all the time either. There’s much comfort in the thought that feeling bad all the time is just physiologically unsustainable. The rain and the sun, you know, and all that rot. But, once again, Solomon makes a good point in explaining it:

"The opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality, and my life, as I write this, is vital, even when sad."

Vitality in the face of being unable to get out of bed yet again. Just because life is low doesn't mean it stops. Depression is here to stay. So what? Like moving in with a new flatmate, your best bet is to get to know them. And now they have an entire atlas written about them.

Highly recommended for depressed people, those who think they might be, as well as their family and friends. ( )
  ViktorijaB93 | Apr 10, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
''The Noonday Demon'' is a considerable accomplishment. It is likely to provoke discussion and controversy, and its generous assortment of voices, from the pathological to the philosophical, makes for rich, variegated reading. Solomon leaves us with the enigmatic statement that ''depression seems to be a peculiar assortment of conditions for which there are no evident boundaries'' -- exactly like life.
 
Depression is a country that the undepressed can't enter, but Solomon, who has travelled there and knows it well, bends all his energy and talent as a writer to sending us snapshots from this terrifying land (mood, he writes, 'is a frontier like deep ocean or deep space'). The result is scary but far from dispiriting; at times, Solomon's voice, calling to us from beyond the frontier, achieves a lonely rapture.
added by melmore | editThe Guardian, Nicci Gerrard (May 5, 2001)
 
A reader’s guide to depression, hopelessly bleak yet heartbreakingly real.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Solomon, Andrewprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
リカ ツツミTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bartosik, JolantaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Campello, MyriamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Çapçı, BernaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davids, TinkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dedeağaç, GülderenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
민승남Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
鄭慧華Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grinde, HeidiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holl, Hans GünterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Στουπάκη, ΑγγελικήTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mateo, FernandoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Richetin, ClaudineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sørensen, Lisbeth W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schroderus, ArtoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tatar, FundaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tissoni, AdriaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zetterström, GunTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
李凤翔Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Дорман, АлександрTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
יוסי מילואTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Everything passes away—suffering, pain, blood, hunger, pestilence. The sword will pass away too, but the stars will still remain when the shadows of our presence and our deeds have vanished from the earth. There is no man who does not know that. Why, then, will we not turn our eyes toward the stars? Why?
—Mikhael Bulgakov, The White Guard
Dedication
For my father,
who gave me life not once, but twice
First words
Depression is the flaw in love.
Quotations
"I will not have to seek far if I decide to kill myself, because in my mind and my heart I am more ready for this than for the unplanned daily tribulations that mark off the mornings and afternoons."
"Depressives have seen the world too clearly, have lost the selective advantage of blindness."
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Wikipedia in English (1)

The author offers a look at depression in which he draws on his own battle with the illness and interviews with fellow sufferers, researchers, doctors, and others to assess the complexities of the disease, its causes and symptoms, and available therapies. This book examines depression in personal, cultural, and scientific terms. He confronts the challenge of defining the illness and describes the vast range of available medications, the efficacy of alternative treatments, and the impact the malady has on various demographic populations, around the world and throughout history. He also explores the thorny patch of moral and ethical questions posed by emerging biological explanations for mental illness. He takes readers on a journey into the most pervasive of family secrets and contributes to our understanding not only of mental illness but also of the human condition.

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Colpito da una violenta crisi depressiva a venticinque anni a causa della morte della madre, lo scrittore Andrew Solomon raccoglie in queste pagine non solo la sua esperienza personale, ma soprattutto un'indagine su una malattia dai contorni sfuggenti e dalle manifestazioni spesso ambigue e indecifrabili. Andando alla caccia delle ragioni della propria sofferenza e riportando le testimonianze di altre presone passate attraverso la stessa esperienza, Solomon offre al lettore una ricostruzione di tutte le implicazioni sanitarie, culturali, sociali e politiche della sindrome depressiva.
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