The Other Depression: Bipolar Disorder

The Other Depression: Bipolar Disorder

The Other Depression: Bipolar Disorder

The Other Depression: Bipolar Disorder


Bipolar disorder is more common and deadly than we think it is, and does not look like what we think it looks like. The misconceptions about this illness are prevalent in our culture and even permeate the medical and psychiatric communities. How does bipolar disorder manifest itself? Who are the people who suffer from it? Why are so many patients misdiagnosed?
In The Other Depression, Grieco and Edwards help people understand what life is like for those afflicted with bipolar disorder, what conditions seem to exacerbate it, and how it is diagnosed. Their discussion includes genetic signatures, environmental stresses, and the underpinnings of this disease, along with how it alters the functioning of the brain and how it can be treated. Separate chapters are dedicated to different populations, such as children, adolescents, and the elderly. The authors also introduce resources available to people with bipolar disorder and their families and suggest strategies for coping and getting on with life. Inserted generously throughout the book are case studies and examples of people who have suffered with bipolar disorder, sometimes for decades, before being properly diagnosed. Through these clinical examples, readers come to recognize the effects of the illness and understand treatment options that can provide hope and peace of mind to sufferers and their loved ones.


It’s never as easy as they say it is. The enticement in 1987 was, “Depression is common in primary care settings. Treating depression with antidepressants is straightforward and effective.” Really?

Bob Grieco and I apparently booked the same cruise to the same destination. We met each other on deck, as it were, and found ourselves telling the same stories. We had independently stumbled onto a secret known to the ancients and a few contemporaries in the field of psychiatry, but to almost no one in primary care. All depressions are not the same.

After a year or two in private practice, I found using antidepressants satisfying at times, confusing at others, and downright dangerous on occasion. Several years after our “cruise” began, there were books: First, Peter Kramer’s Listening to Prozac, then Peter Breggin’s Talking Back to Prozac, and finally Breggin’s, Toxic Psychiatry. Apparently others were catching on, too. Nuevo-psychopharmacology was changing lives, altering personalities, and in some cases making matters worse.

The lion’s share of this conundrum can be laid at the feet of undiagnosed bipolar disorder. It is more common than you think and often not what you were expecting. It is less classically manic, more depressed, angrier, and often manifested by coexisting manic and depressed moods laced with anxiety and panic states. Bipolar disorder is the reason you cannot put Prozac in the water supply, as was joked about in the early 1990s. I read Kramer’s book and suspected several of his patients’ “personality changes” on Prozac were due to antidepressant-mobilized hypomania. Breggin’s analysis was overly shrill, but correct in at least this—our over-enthusiasm around the potential for . . .

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