Book Review: ‘Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families’

As bipolar disorder typically strikes its sufferers in their early 20s with little or no warning, coming to grips with the illness can be especially daunting. It’s also incredibly difficult for the family and friends of individuals dealing with the illness to cope with the fact that the person they’ve known for years has undergone a significant and abrupt life change. Luckily, Dr. Francis Mondimore’s book, Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families, contains a number of useful ideas about how to cope with this debilitating disease.

Bringing Clarity to a Complex Illness

Bipolar Disorder is so useful because it takes a holistic approach to manic-depressive illness. The book begins with an outline of the disorder’s symptoms and it goes deep into the different psychological states sufferers find themselves in, including manic, depressive and mixed. Dr. Mondimore also writes about how the illness is frequently misdiagnosed, the different classifications of the disease, and how the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder quantifies bipolar disorder. This section of the book will likely be very helpful to those recently diagnosed and their loved ones as it offers a clear and non-sensationalistic definition at a malady that most people are familiar from its exaggerated depiction in mass media.

A Ray of Hope

The second part of the book delves into the various treatment options that are available to those living with the bipolar disorder, with an in-depth look at the various drug courses that are now widely prescribed. Later, Dr. Mondimore exams the potential causes of the disorder and how it affects men, women and children in different ways. Finally, Bipolar Disorder wraps up with a number of strategies one can employ to cope with the illness in the long-term, like building up a strong support network, and how to deal with a family member or other loved who may be afflicted with the disorder without being aware of its effects. Dr. Mondimore effectively places the disease in the same context as any other chronic illnesses, in that it can be managed by adhering to a specific set of behaviors and by living within the limitations imposed by the illness.

The Difference A Few Years Makes

While the book is comprehensive, it is a few years out of date, so its discussion of treatment options doesn’t cover some of the recent breakthroughs in antipsychotic and mood stabilizing medicine. And while the text was last updated in 2014, the book doesn’t reckon with the effect the quantified self movement has had on medical technology. Still, Bipolar Disorder is packed with useful information that is outlined in clear, non-technical terms. There’s enough evergreen material in the book to make its purchase worthwhile, despite the occasional anachronistic hiccup.

Managing Our Responsibilities

With more than 5.5 million American adults currently suffering from bipolar disorder, Dr. Mondimore’s book couldn’t be more essential. Manic-depressive illness is a complex disease that can swoop in and completely disrupt an ordinary person’s life. The strain the disorder places on interpersonal relationships can be severe, especially when the person coping with the disease doesn’t fully understand the ins and outs of his particular dysfunction. More than clarity and context, Dr. Mondimore offers hope. While bipolar disorder can be painful, confusing and debilitating, it is treatable. With the help of a qualified medical professional and the support of family and friends, what may have initially seemed like a cruel and undeserved punishment can become just another adult responsibility that needs to be managed.