“A Cure for Darkness” by Alex Riley

“Depression is something that I’m very familiar with, but the book isn’t just about me; it is not a memoir,” states science writer Alex Riley about A Cure for Darkness: The Story of Depression and How We Treat It. “It is a history of depression from around the world, how it manifests itself in different cultures and, most importantly, how we treat it. An estimated 315 million people live with depression and it is set to become the leading cause of disability bar none” (Alexriley.co.uk).

From the publisher, a little more introduction of Riley’s new book:

Since 2015, Riley has received both cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressants for his own depression. Throughout his treatment, he wondered—are antidepressants effective? Do short-term talking therapies actually work? And what treatments are on the horizon for those who don’t respond to these first-line treatments? Expanding from his own experience, he tracks treatments through history, from the ‘talking cure’ to electroconvulsive therapy to magic mushrooms.

A psychiatrist reviewing A Cure for Darkness on Goodreads notes that Riley first covers pre-1900’s history, which of course includes much about Freud, then 20th-century advances in both biological and talking therapies, and finally what’s happening today as well as what’s in our future. “For example, here, Riley talks about the insights from recent neuroimaging studies and the little-understood links between depression, inflammation and diet, as well as the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS) and psychedelic drugs in the treatment of the condition.”

A critique excerpt from Kirkus Reviews:

Treatments would rise and fall—e.g., various forms of lobotomies—and some would rise again (electroshock therapy). Riley discusses numerous studies and anecdotes to illustrate the positives and negatives of each approach to treatment, including modern-day investigations into cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoactive drugs (ayahuasca, LSD, etc.), and deep brain stimulation, often employed for patients whose ‘depression seemed intractable. A diversity of drugs—antidepressants, antipsychotics, tranquilizers, mood stabilizers—couldn’t budge their mental anguish.’

Although very favorably reviewed by many experts, some early lay readers have found A Cure for Darkness to be more textbook-like than they’d have preferred, particularly noting that this is not a self-help book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.