Problematizing the neurochemical subject of anti-depressant treatment: The limits of biomedical responses to women's emotional distress

Simone Fullagar, Wendy O'Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
132 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

In this article we situate empirical research into women's problematic experiences of anti-depressant medication within broader debates about pharmaceuticalization and the rise of the neurochemical self. We explore how women interpreted and problematized anti-depressant medication as it impeded their recovery in a number of ways. Drawing upon Foucauldian and feminist work we conceptualize anti-depressants as biotechnologies of the self that shaped how women thought about and acted upon their embodied (and hence gendered) subjectivities. Through the interplay of biochemical, emotional and socio-cultural effects medication worked to shape women's self-in-recovery in ways that both reinscribed and undermined a neurochemical construction of depression. Our analysis outlines two key discursive constructions that focused on women's problematization of the neurochemical self in response to the side-effects of anti-depressant use. We identified how the failure of medication to alleviate depression contributed to women's reinterpretation of recovery as a process of 'working' on the emotional self. We argue that women's stories act as a form of subjugated knowledge about the material and discursive forces shaping depression and recovery. These findings offer a gendered critique of scientific and market orientated rationalities underpinning neurochemical recovery that obscure the embodied relations of affect and the social conditions that enable the self to change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-74
Number of pages18
JournalHealth: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

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