Book review: Mending the Mind by Oliver Kamm
The journalist looks at his experience of severe clinical depression from a ‘biomedical perspective’
This startlingly honest book by the journalist Oliver Kamm “documents his experience of – and recovery from – severe clinical depression”, said Stuart Ritchie in The Times. It was after a romantic break-up in 2013 that the “darkness started coming”. For nearly a year, Kamm was seized by a “constant, crushing sense of dread and self-hatred”. Entire days would be spent “sitting at his desk in tears or on the verge of them”. In the end, by combining antidepressants with cognitive therapy, Kamm recovered. In this book, he moves beyond his own story to consider the various possible causes of depression – but acknowledges that the research remains “disconcertingly inconclusive”.
Even so, Kamm is sure of one thing, said Sophie McBain in the New Statesman: that depression is a “disorder of a physical organ” – the brain. This “biomedical perspective” is understandable, but it sometimes seems like a way to fend off any suggestion that his illness was a “personal failing”. At the very least, the fact that talking therapies can be so successful for treating it suggests that “if depression is a biological disease, it is unlike any other”.
Weidenfeld & Nicolson 320pp £16.99; The Week Bookshop £13.99
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