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.