Bestselling Author │ Psychiatrist │ Novelist
"What if Van Gogh had taken antidepressants? Would we still have Starry Night
?"—Dr. Peter Kramer
More than a decade ago, Dr. Peter Kramer revolutionized the way we think about antidepressants with his enormously popular and influential bestseller Listening to Prozac
(Viking, 1993). Thoughtful and provocative, Kramer’s work explored what it means to have medicines that alter the essence of personality and how this impacts our understanding of self.
Since its introduction in 1987, Prozac has been prescribed to million of Americans. But what is Prozac—a medication, or a mental steroid? A cure for depression, or a drug that changes personality? Reported to turn shy people into social butterflies and to improve work performance, memory, even dexterity, does Prozac work on character rather than illness? Are we using it “cosmetically,” to make people more attractive? More energetic, more socially acceptable?
Adeptly addressing the philosophical and ethical issues surrounding the treatment of personality disorders and notions of character and the self, Listening to Prozac
ushered in a decade characterized by revolutionary shifts in the scientific and popular understanding of depression.
In Against Depression
(Scribner, 2005), Dr. Kramer returned with a profound and original look at the condition—depression—that medications like Prozac are used to treat. Providing fascinating insights into the latest scientific findings, he explains how depression not only affects mood and judgment, but also harms the mind and body, causing brain atrophy, degeneration of the vascular system, and damage to many other internal organs.
Kramer argues that depression is a debilitating, multi-system disease that impacts more than just the individuals it afflicts; it has sweeping consequences for society and major implications for the field of public health. And yet we still have difficulty recognizing depression as a serious illness. Dr. Kramer suggests that Western society has a tradition of mythologizing “heroic melancholy”—a millennia-long romance with the idea that imagination, creativity, sensuality, and introspection are inextricably linked to ennobling anguish and sadness.
Dr. Kramer’s other critically acclaimed works include Moments of Engagement: Intimate Psychotherapy In A Technological Age
(Norton, 1989) and Should You Leave?
(Scribner, 1997), an empathetic exploration of the challenging nature of intimacy and the complexities of partnerships.
Described by The New York Times
as “possibly the best known psychiatrist in America,” Dr. Kramer is a widely sought-after and respected expert on the human mind, brain, and behavior and for several years served as the host of The Infinite Mind
, an award-winning syndicated radio show that was aired weekly on more than 200 public radio stations across the U.S. and Canada. With drama, wit, and a breadth of learning that extends from Freud to neurobiology to the novels of Mark Twain and Virginia Woolf, he allows us to see how psychiatry—that mystifying amalgam of science, art and simple empathy—works.
Kramer’s gifts extend far past his expertise in the field of psychiatry and his adroit analysis of the impact of antidepressants on the way we live and think. Critics have also praised his literary writing, comparing him to Philip Roth and John Updike, and have anticipated his turn to fiction. His first novel, Spectacular Happiness
(Scribner, 2001), a daring, controversial tale of what constitutes the good life, was published to rave reviews. Dr. Kramer has also been invited to present at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
] breathes life into a certain kind of radical politics in a way that makes you wish Kramer had tried fiction sooner. None of our more practiced leftish novelists--including Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, and E.L. Doctorow--has generated as tantalizing a vision of contemporary radicalism minus dogma…This elegantly crafted novel restores faith in politics."
--The American Prospect
Dr. Kramer is a gifted and engaging speaker who is able to share his ideas as skillfully with lay audiences as with healthcare professionals. Drawing from the fields of psychotherapy, neuroscience, and medicine as well as patient cases, he also uses examples from literature and the fine arts to create interdisciplinary presentations whose appeal and importance extend far beyond the field of medicine.
Kramer has an MD from Harvard University and is a professor of clinical psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University. He has appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Charlie Rose, Fresh Air
. He has written extensively for the popular press, most notably for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement,
and U.S. News & World Report
, in addition to a regular column in Psychiatric Times
. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and is currently working on a new book.Selected ArticlesSelected Books
- Freud: Inventor of the Modern Mind (HarperCollins, 2006)
- Against Depression (Scribner, 2005)
- Spectacular Happiness (novel, Scribner, 2001)
- Should You Leave? (Scribner, 1997)
- Listening to Prozac: A Psychiatrist Explores Mood-altering Drugs and the Meaning of the Self (Viking, 1993)
- Moments of Engagement: Intimate Psychotherapy In a Technological Age (Norton, 1989)