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Book Review of: Bipolar II

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Review of Bipolar II, by Dr. Ronald R. Fieve (Hardcover, 2006)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

If you don't know what a bipolar disorder is (and you probably think you do but don't really know), this book will explain it. It will also explain how Bipolar II differs from Bipolar. But it's not just for some small group suffering from a specific illness.

We all know someone with some kind of mental illness or disorder, and probably none of us can say we've never had any dysfunction ourselves. I've known two people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorders, and both have much to offer the world. Unfortunately, they have had to suffer both stigma and a lack of understanding and support.

It annoys me that so many behavior problems are a matter of choice and discipline but are labeled a "disease." This is true of most people with obesity and inattention problems. It's not, however, true of people with bipolar disorders. So, it's good to read a book by an expert who has the big picture and accurately discerns what is what on the spectrum of mental conditions.

It's obvious that Fieve intended for this book to be profoundly useful. It is full of tools and information that will help a person who is dealing with a Bipolar-affected individual to understand what to look for and what to do. The book is also laced throughout with sidebars that list tips or that sum up material in that section of the book.

Like most laypersons, I want information--as opposed to misinformation or disinformation--and have to contend with many "snow jobs" along the way. That isn't helpful, but this book is. Properly presented and vetted information helps me form a framework for understanding what to do when faced with a problem I have neither the expertise nor the resources to solve. In reading this book, it quickly became obvious Fieve knows how to properly present and vet information.

Most people with Bipolar (and its cousin, Bipolar II) Disorder simply do not get the treatment that would help them. There are many reasons for this. One reason for this is the stigma. None of us wants to be thought of as a person who has "something wrong" with us. My personal take: there is no shame in having a bipolar or related disorder. The shame is in not taking care of it.

It's important to understand that such a disorder is not the affected person's fault. Many people assume it is, that a "Bipolar person" just lacks discipline or whatever. But in fact, doctors have reams of evidence--brain scans, chemical assays, MRIs, and so forth--showing this is a physical issue. There are things a person can do to treat a bipolar disorder and to avoid triggers--but the disorder itself isn't something the person is at fault for. We don't know what causes bipolar and related disorders.

The good news is such disorders treatable. The bad news is very few people with such a disorder can or will obtain treatment without the help of someone who knows what to look for and what to do. Partly, this is because the disorder itself affects the person's judgment in a way that s/he can't tell there's a problem. Worse, once an affected person begins to improve, s/he often feels "cured" and stops complying with the protocol.

The field of mental health is complicated. A close friend of my mother's has known me my whole life, and she's a mental health professional. I've gained an immense appreciation of this field by listening to her for all these years, and by also seeking her counsel occasionally on personal matters. One of the principles she espouses in dealing with other people is this. You can try to help them save themselves from drowning, but don't let them pull you down with them.

I think this book makes for one heck of a life preserver. Of course, that comes with a few caveats. The first is to realize that no book is going to make you a mental health expert. I am sure there are some people who will read this and then go around "diagnosing" other people. These are the same kind of folks who read some book on relationships and then tell you what's wrong with your marriage. They would both misunderstand and misapply this book.

This book is an excellent tool for developing the understanding you need to recognize the danger signs and to know how to proceed with the next steps. It does not claim to make you an expert, and no reader should infer that. Used properly, the information in this book will indeed help readers save others without being pulled down. Even if you aren't presently dealing with someone whose behavior gives you cause for concern, this book will prove useful for helping you understand more about people and maybe even yourself. That alone makes it worth reading.


A note on the writing: form is important, as it dictates readability. Fortunately, this book scored very well on substance and on form. This book actually uses Standard Written English (SWE). This was a refreshing change from the Pidgin English that so many of today's authors slop onto our reading palettes. The care taken in writing this book shows that the author and publisher actually cared about the reader. That's a huge plus.


About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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