Speaking of Sadness: Depression, Disconnection, and the Meanings of Illness (Updated and Expanded Edition)

ISBN : 9780190260965

David A. Karp
424 Pages
140 x 210 mm
Pub date
Dec 2016
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Combining a scholar's care and thoroughness with searing personal insight, David A. Karp brings the private experience of depression into sharp relief, drawing on a remarkable series of intimate interviews with fifty depressed men and women. By turns poignant, disturbing, mordantly funny, and wise, Karp's interviews cause us to marvel at the courage of depressed people in dealing with extraordinary and debilitating pain. We hear what depression feels like, what it means to receive an "official" clinical diagnosis, and what depressed persons think of the battalion of mental health experts-doctors, nurses, social workers, sociologists, psychologists, and therapists-employed to help them. Ranging in age from their early twenties to their mid-sixties, the people Karp profiles reflect on their working lives, career aspirations, and intimate relationships, and confide strategies for overcoming paralyzing episodes of hopelessness. Throughout, Karp probes the myriad ways society contributes to widespread alienation and emotional exhaustion. In a new and extensive introduction since the original publication of Speaking of Sadness twenty years ago, Karp evaluates the state of and social movements for the depression experience. He traces his personal depression journey along with the reception of his readers since the book's original publication. In addition, he offers a clear perspective on the consequences of wholesale medicalization permeating cultural treatment of depression, and calls towards a movement to listen to and to voice the experiences of the marginalized. Speaking of Sadness remains distinctive in its dedication to recounting stories and discovering clear patterns in them. Karp pierces through the terrifying isolation of depression to uncover the connections linking the depressed as they undertake their personal journeys through this very private hell. This book will bring new understanding to professionals seeking to see the world as their clients do, and provide vivid insights and renewed empathy to anyone who cares for someone living with the cruel unpredictability of depression.


Introduction: Voices and the Politics of Illness
1. Living with Depression
2. The Dialectics of Depression
3. Illness and Identity
4. The Meanings of Medication
5. Coping and Adapting
6. Family and Friends
7. Sickness, Self, and Society
Postscript: Sociology, Spirituality, and Suffering
Appendix: Thinking about Sampling

About the author: 

David A. Karp, PhD, is a Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Boston College where he taught for 42 years. He has written or co-authored ten books and more than fifty journal articles and book chapters. His work appears in such periodicals as Symbolic Interaction, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Journal of Qualitative Health Research, the Gerontologist, and the International Journal of Aging and Human Development. His work has largely clustered in three areas: urban life and culture, aging, and the study of mental health and illness.

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