There are dozens of books on the market aimed at helping the general public recognize depression; there are far fewer that focus specifically on the more subtle forms of bipolar disorder. This disparity has its clinical parallel in the over-diagnosis of unipolar depression among patients who ultimately prove to have a bipolar disorder. Indeed, survey data suggest that there is typically a 7-year delay in the correct diagnosis of bipolar spectrum disorder.1
This new book by Dr Jim Phelps, a psychiatrist in private practice with extensive experience in treating patients with bipolar disorder, thus responds to a pressing need for increased public awareness. Indeed, it may also help many mental health professionals recognize the softer end of the bipolar disorder continuum,2 which is often missed in the patient who presents with symptoms of major depression.
Written in an informal, readerfriendly style, Dr Phelps' book still manages a detailed synopsis of the state of the art in detecting and treating bipolar spectrum disorders (BSD). The book covers not only the diagnosis of BSD, but also conditions that may mimic bipolar disorder, strategies the patient may use to assist the physician, guidelines for choosing optimal treatment, risks of antidepressants, and the role of psychotherapy in managing BSD.
Dr Phelps' tone is supportive and encouraging, but he does not talk down to the reader. The medical information presented is accurate and up-to-date. I believe that psychiatrists would be well-advised to offer their bipolar patients this excellent text as an adjunct to their regular meetings. I believe this book will also fill a critical information gap for those struggling with bipolar spectrum disorders.
1. Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. The face of bipolar illness. Available at: http://www. dbsalliance.org/Speeches_Testimony/FaceofBP.html. Accessed June 1, 2006.
2. Nassir Ghaemi S, Miller CJ, Berv DA, et al. Sensitivity and specificity of a new bipolar spectrum diagnostic scale. J Affect Disord. 2005; 84: 273-277.