Peter D. Kramer

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Peter D. Kramer (b. October 22, 1948), is an American psychiatrist, Marshall Scholar (1970-72) at University College, London (UCL), and faculty member of Brown Medical School specializing in the area of depression. He considers depression to be a serious illness with tangible physiological effects such as disorganizing the brain and disrupting the functioning of the cardiovascular system. He criticizes society for romanticizing depression in the same way that tuberculosis was once romanticized; these romantic notions involve claims of artistic sensitivity or of genius arising from depression. In his 2005 book Against Depression, he argues that the socio-economic costs of depression are so large and the effects so pervasive that modern societies should aim to eradicate the disease in the same fashion as it did with smallpox.

Kramer's most notable book is Listening to Prozac (1994). This work was grounded in the observation that, treated with antidepressants, some patients reported feeling "better than well." This result led Kramer to consider the feasibility of "cosmetic psychopharmacology," the use of medication in healthy people to induce personality traits that are desired or socially rewarded. In the book, Kramer considers the consequences for medical ethics and critiques the tendency of the culture to reward particular personality styles, namely those characterized by energy and assertiveness. The book is commonly but mistakenly believed to argue for the use of the medication.[citation needed]

From 2005 through 2006, Kramer served as principal host of the public radio program The Infinite Mind. He reviews books frequently (in Slate, Washington Post, New York Times Book Review) and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.



  • Freud: Inventor of the Modern Mind (2006)
  • Against Depression (2005)
  • Spectacular Happiness : A Novel (2001)
  • Should You Leave? : A Psychiatrist Explores Intimacy and Autonomy—and the Nature of Advice (1997)
  • Listening to Prozac (1993)
  • Moments of Engagement: Intimate Psychotherapy in a Technological Age (1989)

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