David Karp



David Karp grew up in the Boston area where he attended Boston Latin School and then Harvard College. After receiving a Ph.D. from New York University in 1971, he returned to Boston and Boston College where he is currently a Professor of Sociology.

His earlier books on cities, everyday life and aging reflect an enduring interest in how people invest their daily worlds with meaning. These same themes are reflected in his 1996 book on clinical depression entitled Speaking of Sadness: Depression, Disconnection, and the Meanings of Illness. Speaking of Sadness was the 1996 winner of the Charles Horton Cooley Award from the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction.

In 2001, his book entitled The Burden of Sympathy: How Families Cope with Mental Illness was published. This work examines how family caregivers to emotional ill people construct and negotiate moral boundaries of caring. Professor Karpís most recent book on mental illness appeared in 2006. Like the previous two books, “Is It Me or My Meds? Living with Antidepressants” is based on in-depth interviews. This book explores the particularly powerful relationship between psychiatric medications and personal identity; the link between pills and personhood.

Professor Karp has two children Peter, a 1993 graduate of Boston College, and Alyssa who work in the area of international development in West Africa. He lives in Chestnut Hill, MA with his wife Darleen.

Current Book: Is It Me or My Meds?

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.

See more of David Karp's books.

© 2007 David Karp