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New Hope for People with Bipolar Disorder, Fawcett, Jan, M.D., Golden, Bernard, Ph.D., and Rosenfeld, Nancy. Roseville, Calif.: Prima Publishing, 2000. Paperback, 333 pages.
A collaboration between a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a writer-patient, New Hope for People with Bipolar Disorder is written for the layperson and has basic, reader-friendly information about bipolar disorder. Like most books of this type, it provides a general overview of the illness, medications and therapies, and tips for living with the illness. Also included is a brief section on children and adolescents, a subject that was often ignored. Unlike Adult Bipolar Disorders, reviewed above, it mentions only two alternative medicines (supplements): St. Johnâ€™s wort and the omega-3 fatty acids.
This book claims to be an authoritative guide to bipolar disorder. However, the authors fall short of this goal, contradict accepted theories, and present complementary therapies not mentioned in other books on the subject. The dubious thinking of the authors is shown when they expound on â€śauthoritiesâ€ť who failed to handle the illness appropriately. Among these are Danielle Steel (ignorant of the danger in her sonâ€™s illness) and Judge Sol Wachtler (the Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals who was ultimately convicted and jailed for his behavior). Chapter 8, entitled â€śOptimism, Hope and Transcendence,â€ť discusses the works of Czikszentmihalyi, Seligman, and Coleman (names this reviewer has not come across before in her reading), with their ideas on observing our emotions and thinking as strategies â€śto directly observe and alter our emotional life in a positive way.â€ť Most of the section on psychotherapy is devoted to cognitive therapy, although coping skills and problem-solving therapy are also mentioned. A final example of the bookâ€™s shortcomings is in the chapter on medication, in a brief overview of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). The authors state, â€śAlthough it is vastly safer and more humane today than it was in the past, it is still a controversial and seldom employed therapy.â€ť
Although the book is easy for the layperson to read, New Hope for People with Bipolar Disorder falls short of the authorsâ€™ claims of â€śproven methods of managing your life & your work.â€ť In fact, the promised â€ścutting-edge treatment modelsâ€ť ignore many proven methods in use by practitioners.
By Marion Ehrlich
The Complete Guide to Psychiatric Drugs: Straight Talk for Best Results, Drummond, Edward, M.D. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2000. (Paperback, 314 pages, $17.95)
The Complete Guide to Psychiatric Drugs: Straight Talk for Best Results, by Edward Drummond, is a useful handbook for the layperson attempting to sort through the myriad of psychiatric drugs on the market. One section provides, in alphabetical order, a general description of each drug, its generic and brand names, and the condition it is used to treat. Included are precautions necessary when taking the drug, possible side effects, doses, interactions, how to monitor your use, and what to expect when you stop taking the drug. Other helpful information includes how to proceed when you have missed a dose and the effects of drinking alcohol while taking the drug. In a clear style, the author skillfully integrates this information without raising undue fear in the reader. The author addresses many questions that patients and family members may have about medication treatment.
The Complete Guide to Psychiatric Drugs deals with all psychiatric syndromes, not just affective disorders. It discusses disorders of anxiety, attention deficit, development (such as autism), drug dependence, Alzheimerâ€™s, eating, and sleep.
The chapter that should be the most important in the book, â€śWhat to Discuss with Your Doctor before You Start Medication,â€ť unfortunately does not live up to its title. The reader is left with the impression that it is up to the patient?not the expert, the doctor?to consider treatment plans and choose the best.
The Complete Guide to Psychiatric Drugs can probably be found in the self-help section of your libraryâ€”a placement with which this reviewer finds fault. Despite the hype on the front and back covers, i.e., â€śHow to decide if drugs can help you,â€ť â€śHow to start and stop drugs safely,â€ť and â€śYour complete guide to choosing and using medication,â€ť medication treatment for psychiatric disorders is not a self-help issue. The book is a good guide for educational purposes or for an intelligent discussion with the doctor. It is not, however, the definitive answer to medication treatment.
By Marion Ehrlich
Ed. note: Bruce Hershfield, M.D., and Sallie Mink contributed to this review.
Depression and Anxiety, The Johns Hopkins White Papers 2002, Margolis, Simeon, M.D., PhD, and Swartz, Karen L., M.D. New York: Medletter Associates, 2002. (Paperback, 72 pages, $19.99)
The Depression and Anxiety 2002 White Paper, like others in the Johns Hopkins White Paper series, is geared to audiences who want authoritative current information about a particular illness. The publication of a new edition each year allows for the inclusion of a significant amount of new material. The new material supplements the comprehensive text about the illnesses, which remains basically the same from year to year. The result is a publication that provides both comprehensive and up-to-date information about depression and anxiety.
The main text provides extensive information about 10 types of depression and anxiety and a wide range of pharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatments. This material is well organized and detailed. One significant gap, however, is the failure to emphasize the absolute importance of obtaining a correct diagnosis before initiating treatment. In the section about mental health professionals, the word â€śdiagnosisâ€ť appears only in a brief paragraph about the role of the primary care physician.
Information that is new for this edition appears in easily identified columns and boxes throughout the publication. This 2002 White Paper includes 14 columns headed â€śNew Research,â€ťeach summarizing a journal article published in 2000 or 2001. This feature serves readers who want to keep up on the latest research, even when a single study is not conclusive in itself. This yearâ€™s research columns include studies showing that sertraline (Zoloft) is effective for panic disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); St. Johnâ€™s wort is ineffective for major depression; depression and anxiety increase the risk of heart disease; and antidepressants can cause psychosis or mania.
Additional new material about specific subjects (which change each year) is presented in short, boxed articles. In contrast to the more formal style of the main text, some of these articles are written in a more pro-active, magazine style, addressing the reader as â€śyouâ€ť and including lists of doâ€™s and donâ€™ts. Articles this year include â€śExercise: A Treatment for Depression and Anxietyâ€ť; Evaluating Mental Health Information on the Internetâ€ť; â€śSerotonin Syndromeâ€ť; and â€śWhen Does Grief Become Depression?â€ť This yearâ€™s edition includes a helpful glossary.
The great strength of the Depression and Anxiety White Paper 2002 is that within a very limited space, it presents a wealth of up-to-date information about depression and anxiety in a straightforward and factual manner.
By Delphine Peck
This and other Johns Hopkins White Paper titles may be ordered by writing to:
The Johns Hopkins White Papers
P.O. BOX 420083
Palm Coast, FL 32142-9264
Further information is available from www.HopkinsAfter50.com.
The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, Solomon, Andrew. New York: Scribner, 2001. (Hardback, 576 pages, $28.00)
As its title implies, this book approaches depression from all directions, from historical and medical terms to social, political, and economic impact. The reader learns about the growing importance of depression, an ancient malady that is steadily increasing throughout the world. Mr. Solomon travels to Greenland, Senegal, and Cambodia to report how depression is viewed and treated in various cultures, as well as in Western society. Numerous treatment modalities are surveyed: from our standard drugs, psychotherapy, and ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) to the many experimental and alternative therapies, including sleep deprivation, psychosurgery, and homeopathy. In fact, in the chapter entitled â€śAlternatives to Treatment,â€ť Mr. Solomon discusses support groups, citing DRADA as one of the organizations facilitating such groups (though DRADA considers support groups as supplemental to professional treatment). Mr. Solomon notes that DRADA â€śpublishes a particularly good newsletter called Smooth Sailing.â€ť
Noonday Demon, like William Styronâ€™s Darkness Visible and Dr. Kay Redfield Jamisonâ€™s An Unquiet Mind, is a memoir of the authorâ€™s illness, the details of daily strains and anguish that turn everyday living into unrelenting challenge, distress, and despair. The book is lengthy, reflecting the monumental amount of research done in preparation. Yet the authorâ€™s articulate style and wit continue to intrigue the reader through the myriad of issues addressed, including suicide, addiction, and treatment.
Mr. Solomon uses anecdotes from his own life and the lives of hundreds of people he interviewed while writing the book. He does not judge, yet he is not afraid to expound his theories. For instance, in the chapter on suicide, Mr. Solomon distinguishes between â€śwanting to be dead, wanting to die, and wanting to kill yourself. Most people from time to time wished to be dead, null, beyond sorrow. In depression, many want to die to undertake the active change from where they are, to be freed from the affliction on consciousness. To want to kill yourself, however, requires . . . a great deal of energy and a strong will in addition to a belief in the permanence of the present bad moment and at least a touch of impulsivity.â€ť Mr. Solomon is able to verbalize what many other people suffering with the illness are not.
At times, Mr. Solomon seems to purposely shock and titillate the reader. Although perhaps cathartic for him, the details of his familyâ€™s euthanasia assistance for his mother, a cancer patient who killed herself at age 58, contributes nothing to a book on depression. Perhaps this section would be more appropriate in another New Yorker articleâ€”like the one that launched the writing of this book.
The Noonday Demon has a broad appeal not only to mental health professionals and others touched by the illness, but to the general population as well. In fact, the book won the 2001 nonfiction National Book Award. Mr. Solomon ends his book with a chapter on hope. He notes, â€śthe opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality, and my life as I write this is vital, even when sad. I may wake up sometime next year without my mind againâ€¦Every day, I choose, sometimes gamely and sometimes against the momentâ€™s reason, to be alive.â€ť
By Marion Ehrlich
Ed. note: Sallie Mink and David Seaman contributed to this review.
Surviving Manic Depression: A Manual on Bipolar Disorder for Patients, Families and Providers, Torrey, E. Fuller, M.D., and Knable, Michael B., M.D. New York: Basic Books, 2002. Hardback, 395 pages.
A comprehensive, clearly written book examining many aspects of manic-depression (a term the authors prefer over the DSM III designation, â€śbipolar disorderâ€ť). In defining the illness, the authors review the various states of the disorder and explore the differences and similarities among manic-depression, depression, and schizophrenia. A chapter is devoted to the important distinction between manic-depressive illnesses and conditions that might be confused with it, such as mania caused by drugs, head injuries, and other illnesses. There is a thorough discussion on medications, including drug interactions, treatment strategies for different phases of the illness, and frequently asked questions. â€śTen Special Problemsâ€ť examines social and compliance issues associated with the disease, including suicide, homelessness, and the difficult problem of â€śthe seduction of maniaâ€ť-patientsâ€™ enjoyment of manic states, which often causes them to resist treatment.
Although the book provides much useful information on manic-depressive illness and dispels some myths, it also perpetuates a few myths. The authors cite reports claiming that most successful Wall Street stock traders have a form of manic-depressive illness called the â€śCEO disease.â€ť They mention high-publicity, violent criminal cases in the 1990s that involved individuals with manic-depression. However, if one were to compare those with the total prevalence of violent crimes committed throughout the United States, any difference in percentage is probably minuscule. The authors also claim that psychotherapy is not necessary for many patients with the illness, and that the treating physician can be an internist or family practitioner.
Keeping in mind the aforementioned short-comings, Surviving Manic Depression is a well-written guide to help the reader understand a difficult illness.
By Marion Ehrlich
The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide, Miklowitz, David J. Ph.D. New York: Guilford Press, 2002. Paperback, 322 pages.
Suitable for the layman, this clearly written book focuses on lifestyle changes and taking chargeâ€”empowering to patients. Its emphasis on these issues may be a welcome alternative to â€śpill books.â€ť However, some readers may miss more lengthy discussion of medications.
By Francis M. Mondimore, M.D.