Lewis Wolpert had it all -- a successful scientific career and a happy home life --
when his struggles with clinical depression began. Although he had often dealt with
the blues, he had never been seriously depressed before the illness took over his life.
Overwhelmed, he was no longer able to think properly, let alone work, and his mind
turned to suicide. When eventually he recovered with the help of psychotherapy and
drug treatment, Dr. Wolpert had to confront the stigma and shame attached to what
he considered a terrible, but treatable, disease. It is an affliction that this accomplished
biologist and writer -- astonished that he was vulnerable to what is so often classified
as a mood or emotional disorder -- believed he had to try to understand in scientific
and human terms.
Frustrated by the lack of information available to those who battle depression,
Dr. Wolpert decided to go public with his carefully guarded secret and his search
for its causes. The result is Malignant Sadness, a uniquely empathetic international
bestseller that mines the core of one of society's most quietly pervasive illnesses.
Although one in five of us will endure its pain and helplessness, depression remains
obscured by a range of misconceptions.
Part memoir, part scientific and historical inquiry, Malignant Sadness carefully
weaves Dr. Wolpert's revelation of his own struggle with a succinct and humane discussion
of everything that is known about depression and its treatments, from the history of the
melancholy temperament to contemporary brain science. Is depression rooted in genetics,
bad parenting, a single trauma, or a combination of causes? Do different cultures experience
depression in different ways? Can it be avoided altogether? His wide-ranging exploration
of the two main ways science attempts to understand depression -- the biological and the
psychological -- convinced Dr. Wolpert that we need a more holistic approach to helping
those in its grip.