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The Depression Workbook: A Guide ...

by Mary Ellen Copeland

Reviewed by members of NAMI's Literature Committee

The Depression Workbook: A Guide for Living With Depression and Manic Depression by Mary Ellen Copeland. New Harbinger Publications: 1992. 302pp. NAMI Price: $13.27

This book should be put in the hands of anyone who suffers from a mood disorder. It offers a real tool in moving toward wellness and stability.

The author has an affective disorder herself. Before writing the book, she surveyed 120 persons with mood disorders from around the country to learn their thoughts and insights.

Too often, people who have a mood disorder see themselves as victims who can only be rescued by medications and therapy. This book places the task of getting well squarely on the shoulders of the consumer.

Chapter after chapter challenges the reader to examine all aspects of one's life, to take responsibility, experiment and make changes.

"I don't believe there is one answer for everyone," the author writes. "Controlling the symptoms must be dealt with first, then each individual must explore his or her own problem. Different people respond differently to different approaches. There's bound to be something that will work -- it just takes time to find it."

The reader is encouraged to make a chart of moods in order to learn early warning signs. The book teaches how to build a support system, how to address negative thinking, how to relax. Diet and exercise are shown to be very important.

Chapters explore the experiences of depression and mania, possible causes of mood disorders, coming down from mania, ways out of depression, finding support and appropriate health care professionals, developing a lifestyle that enhances wellness, and preventing suicide.

But the greatest feature of this book is the way it interacts with the reader. In the section on exercise, for example, questions are followed by spaces for the reader to fill in.

"What could you do for yourself that would make it easier to exercise when you are depressed?" is one question. "What are your early warning signs that you are on a downward spiral?" is another question, followed by a checklist.

Editing and layout are an improvement over the original spiral-bound version. While the resource list in the back includes some helpful books people might otherwise miss, it also includes titles only tangentially related to mood disorders.

The section on medications lists mainly older books from around 1980. This is a serious drawback in view of recent rapid advances in treatment. All in all, however, this is an empowering book.