Nassir Ghaemi

On Depression

In a culture obsessed with youth, financial success, and achieving happiness, is it possible to live an authentic, meaningful life? Nassir Ghaemi reflects on our society's current quest for happiness and rejection of any emotion resembling sadness. On Depression asks readers to consider the benefits of despair and the foibles of an unexamined life.

Too often depression as disease is mistreated or not treated at all. Ghaemi warns against the "pretenders" who confuse our understanding of depression—both those who deny disease and those who use psychiatric diagnosis "pragmatically" or unscientifically. But experiencing sadness, even depression, can also have benefits. Ghaemi asserts that we can create a "narrative of ourselves such that we know and accept who we are," leading to a deeper, lasting level of contentment and a more satisfying personal and public life.

Depression is complex, and we need guides to help us understand it, guides who comprehend it existentially as part of normal human experience and clinically as sometimes needing the right kind of treatment, including medications. Ghaemi discusses these guides in detail, thinkers like Viktor Frankl, Rollo May, Karl Jaspers, and Leston Havens, among others.

On Depression combines examples from philosophy and the history of medicine with psychiatric principles informed by the author's clinical experience with people who struggle with mental illness. He has seen great achievements arise from great suffering and feels that understanding depression can provide important insights into happiness.

Selected Works

Clinical Psychiatry
A new textbook on the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric conditions. Oxford University Press, 2019.
Psychiatry, psychology
Depression is complex, and we need guides to help us understand it, guides who comprehend it existentially as part of normal human experience and clinically as sometimes needing the right kind of treatment, including medications. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.
History/Psychiatry/Psychology
An investigation into the surprisingly deep correlation between mental illness and successful leadership, as seen through some of history’s greatest politicians, generals, and businesspeople. Penguin Press, 2011.
Ideas in psychiatry
A sequel and successor to The Concepts, the first book length critique of the BPS model. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.
A comprehensive survey of psychiatric thinking. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.
Clinical psychiatry
Accessible and clinically relevant, this book describes statistical concepts in plain English with minimal mathematical content. Cambridge University Press, 2008.
A clinical handbook about the diagnosis and treatment of depression and bipolar disorder. Wolters Kluwer, First edition 2003, Second edition 2008.

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