Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Chronotherapeutics for Affective Disorders. A Clinician’s Manual for Light and Wake Therapy. Wirz-Justice A, Benedetti F, and Terman M. Karger, 2009

When it comes to mood disorders, American psychiatry, by and large, lacks rhythm. That is, it lacks an interest in research on circadian rhythms, the relevance of circadian neurobiology for understanding the pathophysiology of affective disorders, and in the application of such studies to generating new treatment techniques. Several European countries, in contrast, appear to feel this groove and have generated decades of clinical research in this area. So what gives?

For those of us interested in this area, the source of this rhythm agnosia, apathy and apraxia has been infinitely perplexing. Is it the absence of financial support from Pharma which limits research and clinical work in this area? Is it the absence of insurance reimbursement for therapies that are neither psychotherapeutic nor psychopharmacologic? Is it the lack of cross talk between basic scientists studying human timing and clinicians treating mood disorders? Or is it the lack of sexiness in the ultra low-tech nature of these treatments? Whatever the reason, and I’m sure there are many, this book is an initial attempt to help clinicians in this country understand and better use information about biological rhythms in our clinical work with affective illness.

Having set the stage, my capsule summary: A long-overdue, wonderful first step.

Chronotherapeutics for Affective Disorders is a neat, concise book which provides a very basic review of circadian neurobiology along with a how-to section that explains both the evidence for these treatments and a simple explanation of how they are to be conducted. As per my introduction, it is no surprise that two of the three authors of this little gem are European. Collectively, they represent leaders of the field and they have an unmistakable agenda to promote the use of circadian-modifying interventions.

Chronotherapies (from Greek Mythology, Chronos, for time) are any treatment that manipulates circadian rhythms for symptomatic benefit. While the focus of this book is on their use in the treatment of affective disorders, these strategies are also used for neurologic, sleep, and other conditions. The major forms of chronotherapy used today and the ones with the most empiric validation are sleep deprivation (rechristened Wake Therapy to avoid nasty connotations), light therapy, and sleep phase advance. Each is reviewed in clear and simple language that is enhanced by helpful diagrams and figures. Think Stephen Stahl-type clarity and exposition.

Always starting with the basics, the reader is carried from what is more common knowledge to more rarefied and detailed explanation. For example, information on the use of light therapy for seasonal affective disorder is leavened with practical guidance on what types of light to use, length and timing of administration, potential side-effects and non-seasonal mood indications and contraindications for this treatment. Similarly, though most of us know that keeping our depressed patients up for a full night can effect a rapid but transient remission, this book reviews a substantial body of literature on the use of various augmenting measures (concurrent use of lithium, SSRI antidepressants, sleep phase advance and/or bright light therapy), how these measures cement and preserve the initial antidepressant response, and thus makes the case that these wake therapy packages are some of the fastest, most effective and safest methods currently available. Making their survey complete, the authors include brief sections on dark therapy, melatonin and other chronobiotics, and chronotherapeutic strategies for children and the elderly. An appendix provides valuable diagnostic instruments used to rate and track rhythm-influenced mood disorders and circadian phase status.

Shortcomings? This is a very introductory primer. Those wanting more depth will not be satisfied with this book alone. If this shoe fits you, consider The Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine, 4th Edition; the sections on circadian rhythms provide a deeper foundation in the basic sciences.

In sum, this is a small work with a large agenda. It aims to educate mental health clinicians about the basics of circadian timing and how alterations in these intrinsic oscillations can contribute to mood disturbances. It then provides step by step guidance on how to use circadian-modifying strategies to treat depression, mania and mood instability. It’s not easy helping people develop a sense of rhythm. This book provides much-needed and elementary dance lessons for those who haven’t been able to appreciate the beat.

Bipolar II Disorder. Modelling, Measuring and Managing. Gordon Parker. Cambridge University Press. 2008

Finally, a book devoted to the other bipolar disorder. Bravo! Gordon Parker, the Australian psychiatrist, researcher and head of the venerable Black Dog Institute in Sydney, deserves credit on this basis alone. But this is far from the only virtue of this monograph. Here we get a rich, quirky wonderful assemblage of opinion from the leading authorities on this prevalent and understudied form of manic depression. The combination of being the first publication out of the gate on this important area together with its quality, diversity and depth make this required reading for all clinicians and those patients and significant others thirsty for knowledge of this bipolar subtype. For this group, here’s the bottom line: Read this book!

First, the layout. Eschewing the standard APA format of blandly compiling the accumulated data in an area and striving for a deadening impartiality, Parker chooses an all together different and creative alternative. Rather than draining the lifeblood out of the subject, he makes room for the full cacophony of opinion, debate, agreement and conflict that constitutes the field of research at this time. He specifically includes authors with differing viewpoints and distinct emphases. Even better, he puts forth his own, unique outlook in living color, warts and all. The result is less a compilation than a real-time, streetfight amongst respected colleagues. very real portrait of how medicine exists and evolves.

The second delightful aspect of the book’s format is who and what Parker has chosen to include. Clinicians and patients are given voice alongside of the more typical research-weighted authorship. Chapters reviewing the data on atypical antipsychotics alternate with vivid, first person accounts of disturbed mood states. Clinical experts are given the chance to present compelling arguments based on their treatment experiences. Models of well-being are described from sufferer, physician and research perspectives. Omega 3 fatty acids receive their fair share of attention. And the psychotherapies get equal billing with other psychoactive interventions. Here again, the result is a blooming circus of opinion stretching out in multiple directions.

The book is divided into two main parts. The first section starts with one of the most vivid first-person accounts of this illness that I have ever read. It is followed by a concise but richly detailed history and evolution of ideas about this disorder and where it fits in relation to other psychopathology. The next twelve chapters present short reviews of various points pertaining to diagnosis and treatment. Clinical expert James Phelps reprises his fascinating argument to reverse the default diagnostic bias of affective disorders, making bipolarity the baseline standard and only identifying unipolar illness in the absence of evidence for cyclicity or mixity. Parker then suggests an isomeric model that differentiates bipolar I from bipolar II exclusively on the basis of psychotic symptoms. The reader then gets the chance to see radically different viewpoints on the role of antidepressants in this mood subtype authored by Parker and Joseph Goldberg. Overall, this first section is well-written and the editing gives it a smooth, coherent feel.

The second section, however, is outstanding. Taking the lead, Parker describes a multidimensional treatment package for bipolar type II that emphasizes antidepressants, psychoeducation and well-being plans. And he’s not just talking SSRI’s for bipolar depression; they’re his first line choice for mood-stabilizing agents as well! With this as the set-up, the next twelve chapters allow the leading experts in the field to wrestle with the editor’s contentions.  Among the best responses are those of Post, Ghaemi, Goldberg and Ketter who emphasize the intrinsic recurrence and mixity of bipolarity and the corresponding indication for mood stabilizers over antidepressants. It is here in the noisy and well-reasoned squabbling that the book’s strengths truly shine. Not content to serve up the standard pablum, Parker forces the reader to weigh alternatives, consider the evidence and decide where they stand.

Kudos to this Aussie who has the wherewithal to show our field in all its messy beauty.

Bipolar Depression. A Comprehensive Guide. El-Mallakh RS & Ghaemi SN. American Psychiatric Publishing, 2006.

One sentence opinion: A necessary but typically uninspiring review of an important subject.

Is there a need to devote a book specifically to the depressed phase of bipolar disorder? Absolutely. Should it present data from each of the important research areas on this subject? Of course. Does it need to do so in a formulaic and bland fashion? Judging from the products of the major psychiatric publishers, the unfortunate answer appears to be yes. With a few rare exceptions, such as the stellar Manic Depressive Illness by Goodwin and Jamison or A Mood Apart by Peter Whybrow, review books on psychiatric topics are all too often poorly written, uncreative amalgams of multi-authored chapters without a coherent editorial voice or viewpoint. The result is reading that becomes as dutiful as the writing.

Ok. Now that that’s out of my system, let me return to some specifics about this book.

Despite my overall take on this work, several chapters rise above the tepid baseline. Ghaemi’s pleasure in challenging the prevailing nosology of mood disorders in American psychiatry is evident in the introductory chapter. It is fun and informative. Likewise, the sections on suicide, mood stabilizers and antidepressants show similar signs of life while conveying important information.

The rest of the book is a painful slog. Data is presented in dense and rote fashion. Too many of the references are dated, even for the 2006 publication date.

The chapter on neurobiology is the most disappointing. The emphasis is on neurotransmitter studies of bipolar illness, many dating back to the 1970’s. More recent research on 2nd messenger systems, functional neuroimaging, and kindling are paid token attention in single paragraphs that feel like afterthoughts.

While this book is indeed, so much less than it could have been, it did have one significant stealth asset: at the time of it’s writing, it was the first work published specifically on bipolar depression. Readers interested in this subject are, fortunately, no longer constrained by this former exclusive status.

Treating Bipolar Disorder. Ellen Frank, Ph.D., Guilford Press, 2005

Though almost 5 years old, Treating Bipolar Disorder, by Ellen Frank is still one of the first and most frequent reading recommendations that I make for newly diagnosed patients. Written in plain, easy to understand English, this little gem asserts that affective relapse in bipolar disorder follows from disruptions in social and circadian rhythms. This theory led to the development of a disorder-specific therapy, Interpersonal Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT) whose case-based description is the mainstay of this book.

Frank starts with a review of existing theories and empirically-validated treatments of bipolar disorder, In so doing, both this book and her treatment model include a healthy serving of psychoeducational information about this illness. Given that this is one of the most potent and, perhaps, a common element of all psychotherapies for bipolar conditions, this inclusion makes good sense.

The model of IPSRT is presented next. In formulating this model, Frank essentially connects two different research areas into a single causal pathway of affective relapse: the association of interpersonal conflicts with unipolar depression and the literature emphasizing circadian disruption in affective relapse of bipolar disorder. Rather than viewing these as separate contributory factors, she proposes that changes in social routine lead to altered biological rhythms (especially sleep) which form the final common pathway to the onset of new mood episodes. Using this model of relapse, IPSRT intervenes both at the level of social discord and circadian disruption to stabilize disordered rhythms.

The remainder of the book details these two fundamental components of IPSRT.

Beginning with a history-taking that seeks to demonstrate the relationship between social and biological rhythm havoc and episode onset, Frank walks the reader through the treatment process and its different modules. The IP component identifies and then addresses the most salient relationship problems the individual is experiencing. The SRT module, however, is what’s new and most interesting here.

Using a standardized tool, the Social Rhythm Metric, patients are asked to note and record the time of a host of daily activities such as sleep onset, awakening, meals, when one leaves home, physical exercise, exposure to sunlight, level of socializing, etc With the initial data as a baseline, therapists and patients work together to increasingly standardize fluctuations in these behavioral indices. Research studies are presented documenting the effectiveness of this approach in reducing relapse in patients with Bipolar Disorder Type I.

This book is readable, engaging and encouraging. The IPSRT model gives patients a new perspective and sense of empowerment in confronting their illness. No longer a disease which strikes randomly and without warning, IPSRT provides patients with a strategy to monitor, anticipate and modify social and biobehavioral rhythms and thereby exert better control over their lives. Not a bad thing.

Postscript: An article from February, 2009, published in the Journal, Bipolar Disorders, by Holly Swartz, Ellen Frank and colleagues at the University of

Pittsburgh, examined the efficacy of IPSRT as a monotherapy for Bipolar II depression. Yes, monotherapy, meaning only IPSRT and no psychoactive medications. Though the study was small, had a high number of drop-outs and no control group, about 40% of the treatment cohort experienced significant improvement.  Is it possible that a subset of bipolar patients can be managed through biologically-stabilizing psychotherapeutic interventions alone??? Stay tuned.

Wiley Concise Guides to Mental Health: Bipolar Disorder. Brian Quinn, LCSW, PhD. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2007.

This is an excellent overview of bipolar illness and is written for the practicing clinician. It covers bipolar types I and II as well the more subtle “soft” bipolar spectrum disorders.  The comorbid medical, psychiatric and substance abuse problems associated with bipolar illness are examined in detail.  Treatment interventions including pharmacologic, psychotherapeutic, and psychosocial are explained clearly and concisely.  I would highly recommend this book for any clinician, therapist, etc. who works with bipolar patients.  Informed lay people could also benefit from this book as well.

Manic Depressive Illness

Goodwin and Jamison, 1990
The bible on MDI circa 1990, this book reviews and summarizes all scientific info on all aspects of this disease (genetics, diagnosis, pathophysiology, subtypes, treatment, etc…) Not an easy read and generally, not for the lay public. Unsurpassed reference work.

Manic-Depressive Illness. Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression. 2nd Edition. Goodwin FK & Jamison KR. Oxford University Press, 2007.

The long awaited follow-up to the 1990 definitive and comprehensive text has finally been updated.  The second edition not only maintains the overall quality of authorship of the original, it surpasses its forerunner in presenting its data in more succinct and readable form.  The result is the highest level of scholarship wherein dense levels of information are made palatable by simple but elegant synthesis and writing.  As with the first edition, this book is mainly intended for a professional audience. Starting from the beginning, the 2nd edition adds the subtitle “Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression.”  A subtle but hardly insignificant change.  This shift emphasizes the author’s belief that recurrent affective disorders, regardless of the presence of mania/hypomania, share fundamental diagnostic, etiological and pathophysiologic attributes and that they should rightfully be classified together.  This contrasts with the prevailing American model of diagnostically prying apart mood disorders on the basis of episode polarity.  With this change, Goodwin and Jamison place themselves squarely in the spectrum’ camp of those that see recurrence as the defining essence of bipolarity.

The organization of this text adheres to the same basic layout as the original version.  Chapters are organized sensibly with clinical description and clinical studies preceding and setting the stage for subsequent sections on pathophysiology and treatment. A tribute to its editors, this work does not suffer from the redundancy that is typical of other comprehensive texts.  Summaries of each chapter distill the major points into bite-sized manageable conclusions.  The references are exhaustive and thoroughly up-to-date.

There are, I think, two potential uses for this book.  The easier of the two is as an authoritative reference work.  Used in this fashion, the text provides an accessible place to gain an initial foothold, quickly review a body of literature, or mount a more thorough exploration of virtually any topic in this arena.  When serving this function, the book is a delight:  the right place to go, the best place to start, equally good for both a glancing refresher as an in-depth review.

The second, more challenging role for this work is as an advanced textbook for psychiatrists and psychologists seeking to gain an extensive grounding in the field of recurrent affective disorders.  In this role, both graduate and post-graduate classes could be designed around a complete reading of this book.

The editors strive for an impartial tone in the presentation and summarization of the research findings.  I did not get the sense that they are ideologues nor that they champion certain positions on various controversies in the field.  Their allegiance to disease-specific empiricism (ie, data derived from randomized, controlled trials) is, however, obvious.  This allegiance contributes to an unfortunate constriction in the scope of this work resulting in a failure to include some very relevant psychoanalytic literature on affect and affect regulation, attachment theory and development research on affect.  But perhaps this is too much to expect from any single work.

Concluding summary:  it doesn’t get any better than this.  In terms of modern psychiatric textbooks, this writing sets a new standard for our field.  It will be the new definitive work in this area for years to come.

Why am I still depressed? Recognizing and Managing the Ups and Downs of Bipolar II and Soft Bipolar Disorder. Jim Phelps, M.D. McGraw-Hill, 2006.

Responding to the general absence of information for the lay public on the less acute forms of manic depressive illness, this book provides a helpful overview of the symptoms, course and diagnosis of these less well-known bipolar subtypes.  Written in ultra-basic, simple language, by Dr. Jim Phelps, the Corvallis, OR psychiatrist behind the incredibly useful website, this work is designed to familiarize readers with the characteristics of Bipolar Disorder Type II.  But there is another, larger agenda here:  to present a different diagnostic viewpoint on bipolarity itself, one that emphasizes illness course, and specifically recurrence, as the hallmark of the illness.  This, in contrast to the current American schema, exemplified in DSM IV TR that sees episode polarity, specifically mania/hypomania, as the defining essence of the condition. Dr. Phelps explains in a clear, pain-staking and repetitive fashion the rationale for using recurrence as the defining standard, the implications this has for diagnosis (it vastly broadens the scope of the condition to include all other recurrent mood disorders such as recurrent depression, SAD, PMDD, etc…) and for treatment.  With regard to treatment, Dr. Phelps repeatedly emphasizes the hazards that can occur from both antidepressant monotherapy (using antidepressants alone without a mood stabilizer) and using antidepressants in combination with mood stabilizers.  My only quibble here is that this is presented as fact rather than the actual, active controversy that surrounds this issue today.  In my opinion, we are far from agreement on the appropriate role of antidepressants in the treatment of the bipolar depression.  This aside, Dr. Phelps should be commended for authoring a much-needed and easily understood treatise on the spectrum concept in manic depression.

Bipolar II: Enhance Your Highs, Boost Your Creativity, and Escape the Cycles of Recurrent Depression–The Essential Guide to Recognize and Treat the Mood Swings of This Increasingly Common Disorder. Ronald Fieve, M.D. Rodale Books, 2006.

This book is directed at a lay audience and devotes itself to defining and explaining this most common subtype of bipolar illness. This book is very informative for any patient with bipolar II but also has some serious problems. So, first with the good. Dr. Fieve’s writing is clear and concise, and his patient examples are both interesting and appropriate. He differentiates Bipolar II from Bipolar I quite well and explores all of the aspects of bipolar II. He covers the range from genetics to the critical importance of sleep/biological rhythms to the behavioral disturbances (e.g. substance abuse, hypersexuality) associated with bipolar illness. The second half of the text details the diagnostic and treatment modalities and prepares the patient as to what to expect in that process. Comorbid illnesses, such as ADHD and panic disorder, are also discussed.

My problems with this book come largely from Dr Fieve’s idea that this illness is somehow beneficial to patients. He has even created his own subtype – Bipolar IIB -wherein the “B” stands for beneficial. He makes numerous comments about his patients being the “movers and shakers” in New York City and associates their bipolar II illness with their level of success. I will admit that I have seen some very successful patients in my practice with bipolar II but I believe they succeed despite all of the problems that the illness brings. The second problem occurs in his treatment parameters. He places little importance on psychotherapy and it is depicted as only an adjunct to the appropriate medications. My belief is that the appropriate medications are only the start of treatment, and psychotherapy teaches the patient how to cope with their illness and try to achieve some balance in their life.

I would recommend this book because it is one of the few devoted entirely to Bipolar II, but I have some serious reservations as noted above.

A Mood Apart: Depression, Mania, and Other Afflictions of the Self. Peter C. Whybrow, M.D. Harpercollins, 1997.

Both literary and scientific, presents info mainly on BPI D/O (but also prodromal and softer forms of illness and their relationship to acute episodes) in accessible form. Beautifully depicts relationship between person’s environment and illness, contextualizes illness in personal history and psychology.