Why am I still depressed?  Recognizing and Managing the Ups and Downs of Bipolar 11 and Soft Bipolar Disorder

By Jim Phelps M.D.

Book Review by Collie - April30, 2006


I read Dr Phelps book over the weekend, and due to the fact that I consider myself to be fairly well educated about bipolar disorder, I wasn’t expecting any big surprises.  I certainly wasn’t expecting any answers to questions that have nagged me for years, but I was most pleasantly surprised.  The book itself is well written, spelling out in plain language how to recognize and treat Bipolar II Disorder, or Soft Bipolar Disorder – or, in fact, the entire bipolar spectrum (personally this was the first major hurdle I had to cross, although I have seen suggestions of spectrums before, breaking bipolar disorder into six subtypes for example, rather than two.  But the concept of bipolarity occurring across the spectrum was a new one for me.  On a score of 1-5 I would give this book a 5.5 – I think it is that important that any person with mood swings or recurrent depression is able to read about, and understand how even subtle changes in mood can provoke problems along the way.


Dr. Phelps is speaking to us, the patient (or survivor as many of us prefer to be called), and to the physicians who treat us, who have been educated in the older school of thought about bipolar disorder – almost like a math equation:  2 of this plus 4 of that and because none of this is added in it = “bipolar disorder II” Dr Phelps is more like a gourmet chef … looking at a wide variety of signs and symptoms, ferreting out even the smallest change of mood as evidence of bipolar disorder in people who had previously been thought to have major depression (many people who are diagnosed with major depression are later diagnosed with bipolar disorder … often taking an average of seven years to have their diagnosis changed.)


The next big change is in the treatment of bipolar II disorder and the soft disorders.  Even though there are many variables across the spectrum … milder symptoms, short term, long term, life threatening, severe symptoms etc, one thing is constant, and that is the need for appropriate treatment to make you feel as well as you can feel, without side effects from the medication you take.  I’m not going to talk about treatment here, but if you were diagnosed over five years ago and haven’t read Dr. Phelps web site at psycheducation.org I’ll bet – if I were a gambler I’d say $5.00 each, that you are either prescribing (if you’re a doctor), or taking (if you’re a patient) some kind of antidepressant medication.  I challenge you to read the book and digest the information Dr Phelps presents – a big bite to swallow at first, but it makes absolute, perfect sense.


I have been diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder for 28 years, and have traveled a rocky path.  My mother was diagnosed with Manic Depressive Illness (the former name for bipolar disorder, the terms are used interchangeably today) for 30 years before me, and I have a plethora of alcoholic relatives on both the maternal and paternal side of the family, including a younger brother who I am positive has bipolar disorder hidden (and not very well hidden) beneath the alcoholic symptoms.  Read Dr Phelps book to learn his approach to this kind of family history.


When I “retired” from my full time day job, having reached the point where I could not be a consistently good employee with frequent absences due to severe episodes and hospitalizations I truly thought I would go mad.  Then slowly I learned to use the computer, and just over ten years ago began to build the web site Bipolar World (bipolarworld.net) – I credit it with saving my life.  Almost six years ago Dr Phelps joined me and does a fantastic job as our “Ask the Doc” We all think he’s pretty super, as do the visitors who come to both of our sites.  Over five years ago I was joined by three partners who shared my philosophy of  “Helping you, helps me” and we have continued to grow both in  knowledge and support, due in a large part to Dr. Phelps. 


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