Dr. Peter Kramer, MD
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.
 
"[Spectacular Happiness] 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 and Oprah. 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 Articles
Selected 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)
For more information on Peter Kramer and his work please go to www.peterdkramer.com.



[Listening to Prozac is] One of the most important and provocative books on psychology I’ve seen in years…asks us to question all our assumptions about what the self is, what therapy has been and can be, and about the role of drugs in affecting behavior and personality.

Psychology Today



Dr. Kramer seems to be writing about the therapeutic credos of our time. The result is entertaining, provocative . . . and often originally insightful.

The New York Times Book Review 



A wise and unflinching examination of the ramifications for society—and for the individual—when the capsule replaces the touch.”

Kirkus Reviews



Here one of our most thoughtful psychiatrists attends a wide-spread psychological malady - the bouts of melancholy that afflict so many individuals, laying them low in mind and spirit. This book offers much critical wisdom, even as it is written with a grace and sensitivity that will endear its words to the reader.

Robert Coles, Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Humanities, Harvard Medical School




In Against Depression, Peter Kramer opens our eyes once again to a fresh, important and humane understanding of the human condition. His bold rethinking of the condition we call ‘depression’ gives us a clear-eyed scenario for freedom from the grip of this soul-searing disorder.

—Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence



Peter Kramer is an analyst of exceptional sensitivity and insight. To read his prose on virtually any subject is to be provoked, enthralled, illuminated.

—Joyce Carol Oates