Moody & Gaitskill on capitalism & sadness

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Thu Aug 17 09:58:15 PDT 2000

Just a note. Moody writes:

<<< As for sex and antidepressants, I have less experience of it than you, I figure, because I have been drug-free since before the existence of the Prozac family of medications. After my experience with major depression, which was mainly alcohol induced in my case, I was on an earlier antidepressant, a tricyclic, I think, called Norpramin. It didn't make me happy at all, though in its maw I didn't want to be dead, and that was an improvement. It had little or no effect on me sexually, but maybe that was because it didn't elevate my mood but simply lopped off my extremes.>>>

This exhibits the error which reduces this whole essay to gibbering nonsense. They seem to think that anti-depressants are supposed to elevate one's mood. That is like thinking an antibiotic is supposed to increase one's bone density.

State A: One feels that the only rational course is suicide.

State B. One feels pretty lousy (almost as lousy as before) but thinks that probably it's worthwhile trying to live a bit longer.

The whole understanding of "Depression" (the mental illness) is profoundly distorted by calling it depression. In fact it has very little to do with such emotions as sadness, melancholy, depression, etc. I was sad, indeed depressed, when my first wife died. I was sad, indeed depressed, when a friend since grad school who also taught at ISU died of a massive stroke. But (a) I was not, in either case, even remotely "depressed" in the technical medical meaning of that term, and (b) my feelings when I am in a fit of depression are not remotely similar to the depression I felt after those deaths. Moreover, no anti-depressant would ever help anyone who had just lost his/her spouse feel a bit better (unless, as sometimes happens, that death had triggered the medical condition of depression).

Secondly, by this account Gaitskill has had far more experience with anti-depressants than his friend, who informs us that she had taken Zoloft for three days. Zoloft has *no* effect until one has been taking it at an adequate dosage for at least 10 days (and usually longer). And usually the first dosage is too small and has to be upped. I would say very few people get any particular benefit from anti-depressants unless they take them regularly at the prescribed dosage for two months or more. Her reaction to Zoloft must have been psycho-somatic. She didn't take it long enough for it to have a chemical effect. Tricyclics are seldom prescribed any more, and I do not know whether they cause sexual disfunction. But the Moody-Gaitskill thesis is obvious bullshit, because SSRIs cause sexual disfunction *even if* they don't work as anti-depressants. Moreover, while there is still very limited knowledge as to precisely how anti-depressants work when they do work, it *is* known that their sexual effect is strictly mechanical and has no connection to mood, happy or unhappy. Incidentally, after achieving the proper blood level, one can skip an SSRI (Prozak, Zoloft, etc) for a day or two without its function as an anti-depressant being affected, and a day or two is all it takes for its impact on sexual function to be neutralized. It's no fun to have to predict sex 48 hours in advance, but this clearly shows that the sexual effect of an anti-depressant is quite separate from its impact on mood.

I skip for now the idiocy of the pair's literary criticism -- they belong back in the '30s with those Marxist critics who thought Jazz was degenerate.


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