This book on bipolar disorder is written specifically for teens and young adults with the condition. I chose to read it because I work in the education field and it is helpful to have some knowledge of the condition.
It is a very easy book to read and has many helpful tips to follow. It contains seven chapters, in addition to the introduction, which starts with a neat description of the symptoms from the point of view of the person experiencing the disorder. This makes it very easy to understand and makes the readers feel comfortable.
Chapter One deals with the basics and explains depression and mania, using easy-to-read, informative case vignettes. Perhaps the weakness was the overly-inclusive definition of moods which, like all vague, all-encompassing definitions, end up defining very little. However, this chapter also includes a checklist for the reader to use to help them recognize the symptoms of mania and depression.
Chapter Two focuses on how to get help and what young people can expect from professionals. I liked the fact that the authors offered examples of useful questions to ask of various professionals, as well as the type of questions young people likely will be asked by those same professionals. There also was a helpful description of medications and their side effects.
Chapter Three is crucial. The authors dedicated a whole chapter to the issue of accepting the illness. This has a decisive initial role in commitment to therapy. They illustrated this with Ashley’s moving story and her fears of revealing her diagnosis to the wider world, and her all-too-well-known pattern of discontinuing medication. It helps the reader to understand bipolar’s effects on their lives, and how to live with the diagnosis.
Chapter Four is about tools. “You don’t have to be a passive passenger being swept down the bipolar river” is one of the evocative sentences the authors used to introduce the key elements of successful recovery: creating a structured life; managing stress; getting good sleep; and learning to self-monitor.
Chapter Five addresses whether to tell others about the illness. It stipulates that total secrecy is probably not good at all, while exercising some discretion about confidants also is a good measure. The issue of a “helping team” is emphasized. It consists of a close circle of family, friends and trustworthy coworkers.
Chapter Six demonstrates that the book has been written for young people. “Managing Your Independence” focuses on academic overcommitment in college, dealing with ample opportunities for experimenting with drugs, alcohol and excessive partying, and the issues of psychiatric and psychological continuity.
Chapter Seven, “Looking Forward,” addresses the painful reality that sometimes long-term academic and professional goals might not be achieved. The reality of bipolar disorder sometimes forces young people to rethink important life plans. Finding the fine line between being too fatalistic and overly optimistic appears to be a challenge. Focusing on the individual’s strengths rather than weaknesses, the authors propose, will help in finding the optimal middle ground. And even if things don’t go well, ‘picking yourself up’ appears to be a skill required to enjoy quality of life if you have bipolar disorder.
Overall, this is a good book and would be helpful for young adults diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The vignettes are among the highlights. They are clear, relevant, and at times very moving. This will maximize the possibility of getting through to young people; frequently they relate much more effectively when the emphasis is on experiences.
Fortunately, academic accuracy has not been sacrificed in the name of accessibility. Important findings in the expert literature also are covered.
Facing Bipolar: The Young Adult’s Guide to Dealing with Bipolar Disorder
By Russ Federman, PhD and J. Anderson Thomson, MD
New Harbinger: February 2, 2010
Paperback, 176 pages