Manufacturing Depression

The Secret History of a Modern Disease

Manufacturing Depression

Am I depressed or just unhappy? In the last two decades, antidepressants have become staples of our medicine cabinets—doctors now write 120 million prescriptions annually, at a cost of more than 10 billion dollars. At the same time, depression rates have skyrocketed; twenty percent of Americans are now expected to suffer from it during their lives. Doctors, and drug companies, claim that this convergence is a public health triumph: the recognition and treatment of an under-diagnosed illness. Gary Greenberg, a practicing therapist and longtime depressive, raises a more disturbing possibility: that the disease has been manufactured to suit (and sell) the cure.

Greenberg draws on sources ranging from the Bible to current medical journals to show how the idea that unhappiness is an illness has been packaged and sold by brilliant scientists and shrewd marketing experts—and why it has been so successful. Part memoir, part intellectual history, part exposé—including a vivid chronicle of his participation in a clinical antidepressant trial—Manufacturing Depression is an incisive look at an epidemic that has changed the way we have come to think of ourselves.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 464 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416569800 | 
  • February 2011
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Manufacturing Depression  includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Gary Greenberg. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Manufacturing Depression
is psychotherapist Gary Greenberg’s look at how we came to have the common belief that depression is a biochemical illness. It starts with the revolution in medicine set off when doctors first discovered that drugs could target the molecular causes of disease, continues through the accidental, drug-fueled discoveries that led scientists to surmise that serotonin imbalances caused depression, and culminates with pharmaceutical companies' shrewd and wildly successful efforts to spin these discoveries into a theory that unhappiness is a disease for which they have the cure. 

The author details the way that doctors and drug companies advanced their chemical imbalance theory despite a lack of evidence, and how even now, when most scientists agree that depression is not a simple biochemical glitch, they continue to tell their patients that it is, and urge them to take antidepressants for the same reason that diabetics take insulin.  He also traces the idea th see more

About the Author

Gary Greenberg
Courtesy of the Author

Gary Greenberg

Gary Greenberg is a practicing psychotherapist in Connecticut and author of The Noble Lie. He has written about the intersection of science, politics, and ethics for many publications, including Harper's, the New Yorker, Wired, Discover, Rolling Stone, and Mother Jones, where he's a contributing writer.