"That's our next step with depression. We would like to be able to say, ‘Yes, you have five symptoms for two weeks at a moderate level, but actually you have an imitator, whereas the person across from you has only four symptoms but we know from the biological marker that it really is depression.'"
Beyond the scientific questions and debates that Kramer explores in Against Depression, he also raises moral, ethical and philosophical issues. "The idea I'm considering is what it means to embrace the notion that depression is a disease and what kind of window that gives us on our culture. For two millennia or more, human beings have been looking at other human beings with depression or experiencing depression themselves, thinking about it and writing about it, but not being able to influence it very much. Depression relates to all kinds of theories about what the good society or bad society is," he said. "The book is really about how it would change our thinking as a culture just to begin thinking of depression as a disease, and how it would change it more if we really got better at treating or ideally preventing it."
For his next book project, Kramer is writing a brief biography of Freud. It will be part of a biography series called Eminent Lives, edited by James Atlas. The book will probably not be published until 2007, Kramer said, since he has "a lot more reading to do about Freud." Beyond writing books, Kramer has written reviews, commentaries and articles for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate and Salon, as well as many medical journals.
Currently, Kramer still works as a clinical psychiatrist four afternoons a week, and many patients come because they or their referring clinician have read one of his books. "Because of Listening to Prozac and Against Depression, probably most of the new referrals are people with ambulatory mood disorders. Should You Leave brings me some couples for counseling," he said.
This year, Kramer also was named host of "The Infinite Mind," a National Public Radio show focusing on mental health. Already, he has covered such issues as Asperger's syndrome, electroconvulsive therapy, and food and mood. In prior years when he was a guest host, two of his programs--"In Any Language: Mental Health Care for Immigrants" and "Domestic Violence"--won awards.
Looking toward his future, Kramer expects to put more of his energies into writing.
"I am a doctor for the long run. I really do enjoy it," he said. "But I could imagine myself retiring from medicine and just writing, whereas I could not imagine myself retiring from writing and just practicing, so I think the more loyal tie is to writing. Both feel very much like privileges."