Coming of Age on Zoloft
(Harper Perennial, 2012)
When Katherine Sharpe arrived at her college health center with an age-old complaint—a bad case of homesickness—she received a thoroughly modern response: a twenty-minute appointment and a prescription for Zoloft—a drug she would take for the next ten years. Her story isn’t remarkable except for its staggering ubiquity. When Prozac was introduced in 1987, taking psychiatric medication was a fringe phenomenon. Twenty-five years later, 10 percent of Americans over the age of six use an SSRI antidepressant. Sharpe and her peers constitute the first generation to have literally grown up taking psychiatric drugs.
In Coming of Age on Zoloft, Sharpe blends deeply personal writing, thoughtful interviews, and historical context to achieve an unprecedented portrait of the antidepressant generation. She explores questions of identity that arise for people who start using consciousness-altering medication before they have formed an adult sense of self. She asks why some individuals find a diagnosis of depression comforting, while others are threatened by it. She presents, in young people’s own words, their intimate and complicated relationships with their medication. And she weighs the cultural implications of America’s biomedical approach to moods.
Praise for Coming of Age on Zoloft:
It is difficult to do justice to Katherine Sharpe’s beautifully written memoir and reflection on her rite of passage with Zoloft and other antidepressants—she wonderfully conveys the profound issues these drugs raise. This is a book for anyone taking or thinking about taking an antidepressant, anyone who prescribes them, anyone who wonders about their suitability for someone they know, or anyone who wants a mirror held up to our time.
—Dr. David Healy, author of Let Them Eat Prozac
Katherine Sharpe asks questions about identity and society that have probably occurred to most people her age who’ve taken medication for depression, but unlike most people, she has worked to seek out answers. Coming of Age on Zoloft is a fascinating look at how drugs and trends have shaped the identities of individuals and of a generation—provocative without being sensationalistic, skillfully written and totally necessary.
—Emily Gould, author of And the Heart Says Whatever
Sharpe’s book was one of the few of this genre that told me something new, and it did so quite beautifully.
—Gary Greenberg, author of The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry
In many years of reading books of every imaginable type about mental health and mental illness, Coming of Age on Zoloft stands out—for its supple and evocative writing, its nuanced and thoughtful arguments, its avoidance of every trap into which people who write on this topic routinely fall, and its beautifully titrated optimism about the true possibilities of mental health.
—Gail A. Hornstein, Professor of Psychology, Mount Holyoke College