Review: The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide


Review: The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide- What You and Your Family Need to Know, 2nd Edition by David J. Miklowitz, PhD


Does it seem as if more people are being diagnosed with bipolar disorder? I never heard of the condition until about 15 years ago. Now I hear about people being diagnosed as bipolar regularly. It may be someone who is arrested for a crime, a neighbors child, and even colleagues and co-workers. It seems as if being bipolar is the new “thing” in psychological diagnoses. While browsing Amazon for a book on the topic I came across a title that caught my attention: The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide – What You and Your Family Need to Know by David J. Miklowitz, PhD.

In fact, I was stunned by a statistic presented in the first chapter of the book. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder affecting 1 in every 50 people and as many as 1 in 25 people by some estimates! No wonder we hear more and more about the topic because more people are being diagnosed with the problem. This book is written for those who think they may have a significant mood disorder or have a loved one dealing with it.

The Premise

The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide addresses many questions that often go unanswered by medical professionals. This leaves patients wondering if their diagnosis is correct, if they are being over-medicated, or if they should comply with their doctor’s protocol. The author’s goal is to help patients and families understand the facts about bipolar disorder so they can learn how to live with it, in fact, embrace and benefit from some attributes of the disorder.

What often happens is a patient doesn’t have a clear understanding and they stop taking prescription medications. Often patients continue to have symptoms of bipolar, but because they don’t understand the condition or the purpose of the medications they attribute the problem to the meds and stop taking all or some of them. When this happens they fall back into a more confused state, take on more extreme behaviors, and may have thoughts of suicide.

Many bipolar patients blame themselves for their illness believing it some personal character flaw or genetic breakdown. Today it’s believed that the disorder is impacted by genetic background, stress, and the individual’s biochemistry. Dramatic mood shifts are caused by miscommunications in brain nerve cell receptors and neurotransmitters. People with parents diagnosed with “nervous breakdown” or “manic depression” may have a genetic predisposition to bipolar disorder.

Book Organization

Part 1: The Experience and Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder

Review: The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide

The four chapters in this section include patient experiences with the disorder and the diagnosis. Symptoms of bipolar disorder vary depending on which end of the spectrum the patient hits. Patients may experience severe mania which can be euphoric and high energy. Or they may be constantly tired and unable to function. There are five stages:

  • Severe mania
  • Hypomania
  • Balanced mood
  • Mild depression
  • Severe depression

It is critical patients and family members have a clear understanding of the underlying neurological factors affecting the patient as well as the symptoms associated with the various stages. In these chapters, you will learn how to identify whether a mood or symptom is a normal pattern or associated with the various mood disorders of the bipolar patient.

Part 2: Laying the Foundation for Effective Treatment

In this section you’ll learn that the condition is a combination of genetic, biological and environmental factors. It’s not just a bad batch of genes. This is why most effective treatments involve a combination of medications to treat biological factors which may include antidepressants, anti-psychotics and newer methods. The complete protocol includes psychotherapy to help patients identify and cope with changes in moods. In this section, the reader learns why it is so critical for patients to stay on their medications.

Part 3: Practical Strategies for Staying Well

This section is devoted to teaching the people how to derail cycling into mania or depression. There is a chapter devoted to dealing with thoughts of suicide and how to get immediate help from others when suicidal thoughts occur. Another chapter is for “Women Only” and what women need to understand about bipolar disorder and their health. Unfortunately, bipolar patients are prone to alcoholism particularly women. 

Who Benefits

Bipolar disorder is not self-healing. When left untreated, the lives of patients and their families can be destroyed by the complications caused by bipolar conditions. These include:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Legal problems
  • Financial problems
  • Relationship troubles
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Poor work or school performance
  • Absenteeism
  • Suicide

People who feel they may have a mood or bipolar disorder, members of their family and even co-workers will benefit from better understanding of the bipolar patient. After reading The Bipolar Survival Guide you should have a much clear understanding of:

  • the symptoms, diagnosis and causes
  • effective treatments
  • self-management techniques
  • how to improve family and work environments

Medical Conditions Leading to Depression


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