Department of Sociology
McGuinn Hall 426B
140 Commonwealth Ave
Chestnut Hill MA 02467
Current Book: Is It Me or My Meds?
By the millennium Americans were spending more than 12 billion dollars yearly on antidepressant medications. Currently, millions of people in the U.S. routinely use these pills. Are these miracle drugs, quickly curing depression? Or is their popularity a sign that we now inappropriately redefine normal life problems as diseases? Are they prescribed too often or too seldom? How do they affect self-images?
David Karp approaches these questions from the inside, having suffered from clinical depression for most of his adult life. In this book he explores the relationship between pills and personhood by listening to a group of experts who rarely get the chance to speak on the matter—those who are taking the medications. Their voices, extracted from interviews Karp conducted, color the pages with their experiences and reactions—humor, gratitude, frustration, hope, and puzzlement. Here, the patients themselves articulate their impressions of what drugs do to them and for them. They reflect on difficult issues, such as the process of becoming committed to medication, quandaries about personal authenticity, and relations with family and friends.
The stories are honest and vivid, from a distraught teenager who shuns antidepressants while regularly using street drugs to a woman who still yearns for a spiritual solution to depression even after telling intimates “I'm on Prozac and it's saving me.” The book provides unflinching portraits of people attempting to make sense of a process far more complex and mysterious than doctors or pharmaceutical companies generally admit.
The Burden of Sympathy: How Families Cope with Mental Illness
A compassionate exploration of how to maintain one’s own mental health while caring for another's.
What are the limits of sympathy in dealing with another person's troubles? Where do we draw the line between caring for a loved one, and being swallowed up emotionally by the obligation to do so? Quite simply, what do we owe each other? In this vivid and thoughtful study, David Karp chronicles the experiences of the family members of the mentally ill, and how they draw “boundaries of sympathy” to avoid being engulfed by the day-to-day suffering of a loved one.
Working from sixty extensive interviews, the author reveals striking similarities in the experiences of caregivers: the feelings of shame, fear, guilt and powerlessness in the face of a socially stigmatized illness; the frustration of navigating the complex network of bureaucracies that govern the mental health system; and most of all, the difficulty negotiating an “appropriate” level of involvement with the mentally ill loved one while maintaining enough distance for personal health. Throughout the narratives, Karp sensitively explores the overarching question of how people strike an equilibrium between reason and emotion, between head and heart, when caring for a catastrophically ill person. The Burden of Sympathy concludes with a critical look at what it means to be a moral and caring person at the turn of the century in America, when powerful cultural messages spell out two contradictory imperatives: pursue personal fulfillment at any cost and care for the family at any cost.
An insightful, deeply caring look at mental illness and at the larger picture of contemporary values, The Burden of Sympathy is required reading for caregivers of all kinds, and for anyone seeking broader understanding of human responsibility in the postmodern world.
Speaking of Sadness: Depression, Disconnection, and the Meanings of Illness
A moving portrait of the face of depression
“Even though depression has periodically made me feel that my life was not worth living, has created havoc in my family, and sometimes made the work of teaching and writing seem impossible,” writes David Karp, “by some standards, I have been fortunate.” Indeed, depression can be devastating, leading to family breakups, loss of employment, even suicide. And it is a national problem, with some ten to fifteen million Americans suffering from it, and the number is growing. In Living with Sadness, Karp captures the human face of this widespread affliction, as he illuminates his experience and that of others in a candid, searching work.
Combining a scholar's care and thoroughness with searing personal insight, 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. We learn the personal significance that patients attach to beginning a prescribed daily drug regimen, and their ongoing struggle to make sense of biochemical explanations and metaphors of depression as a disease. Ranging in age from their early twenties to their mid-sixties, the people Karp profiles reflect on their working lives and career aspirations, and confide strategies for overcoming paralyzing episodes of hopelessness. They reveal how depression affects their intimate relationships, and, in a separate chapter, spouses, children, parents, and friends provide their own often overlooked point of view. Throughout, Karp probes the myriad ways society contributes to widespead alienation and emotional exhaustion.
Living With Sadness is an important book that 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. It 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.
- Draws on a remarkable series of candid interviews with fifty people suffering from depression
- Vividly explores what it feels like to live with depression
- Includes an insightful examination of depression from the point of view of those who relate to the depressed—spouses, children, parents, and friends
Being Urban: A Sociology of City Life
This volume examines the dynamic interplay between what theoretical perceptions tell us about urban life and how ordinary people interpret and respond to the actual experience of living in cities. Major focuses are the primacy of social interaction for an understanding of urban life, and the strategies people use to create "community" in environments which, many theorists believe, promote only alienation and social disintegration. This new edition incorporates a strongly interdisciplinary perspective and includes new chapters on significant topics that have received little critical attention in the field.
Sociology in Everyday Life
Traditional introductory topics grounded in the stuff of daily life! The authors' goal in this volume is to present students with a conceptual framework--based on symbolic interactionism--that can be used to expose and explain the patterned regularities that underlie everyday social experiences. Sociology's value lies in its ability to provide fresh insights into events and situations that people might take for granted. Each chapter of this highly regarded text shows that there are underlying patterns to everyday life and that these patterns become obvious only when we begin to look very hard at everyday phenomena and then apply sociological concepts to them.