The Harvard Guide
to Psychiatry
Editor:  Armand M. Nicholi, Jr., M.D.

Published by The Belknap Press of Harvard Universty Press
Cambridge Massachussetts, and London England * 1999
Third Edition
856 pages

An individual is diagnosed with a major psychiatric disorder.  For this example let's say the diagnosis is Bipolar Affective Disorder (Manic Depressive Illness).  As part of the treatment plan for this long-term disorder the patient's psychiatrist has advised the patient to learn all he/she can about the illness.  There are books available specifically about this person's illness and they are certainly a good place to start.  Inevitably questions will come to mind that are not answered in these books.  The individual may have concurrent problems with family stress, anxiety, or substance abuse.  He/she may have questions about mental health law, hospitalization, treatment programs, or even how to "get-along" with his psychiatrist-therapist.  He/she may meet or know another individual with a different psychiatric diagnosis and want to learn a little more about it.  These are just some of the many times that a comprehensive, well-written and fully informative text becomes essential.

Essentially a reference and support book for new and experienced psychiatrists "The Harvard Guide to Psychiatry" also has much to offer to the informed consumer and layperson with an interest in mental illness and a desire to learn.  This review is based on my personal experience as a mental health consumer.

The fifty nine contributors and editor/contributor Armand Nicholi,  guide you through a well defined six part table of contents.  Part One includes such headings as The Therapist-Patient Relationship (something all patient/consumers have a vested interest in, as do their physicians.), History and Mental Status, Classification and the DSMV-IV.  This entire part is of exceptional interest to all those diagnosed with mental illness.

Part Two "Brain and Behavior" gets a bit technical but offers many points of interest about behavior and the Neurobiology of Mental Disorders.  Sleep and its Disorders is included here, a chapter I found of particular interest.  Sleep affects/or is affected by many mental illnesses, and sleep disorders on their own can contribute to symptoms of mental illness.

The two hundred and thirty following pages making up Part Three "Psychopathology" may be of most interest to mental health consumers.  In this section individual mental illnesses are defined, symptoms and criteria are discussed, and current comprehensive descriptions are offered.  In this third edition of The Harvard Guide to Psychiatry all information has been updated including advancements in knowledge about specific disorders and their medications and treatments.

Among other disorders, anxiety disorders and their treatment, mood disorders, schizophrenia, personality disorders and eating disorders are discussed in this section.  Whether you are searching for a specific illness or researching mental illness in general the topic you need is here.

In Part Four various principles of treatment and management are discussed including the psychotherapies (generally "talk" therapies), psychopharmacology (medications), cognitive therapy, ECT and others.  An excellent resource to learn the types of treatment available.

Special Populations, the title of Part Five offers special insight into mental illness in the child, adolescent, elderly person, the person with mental retardation, the person with alcohol-drug dependency, the chronically mentally ill person and the person confronting death.  These chapters are written concisely yet in terms easily understood.  Highly recommended for anyone dealing with any of these issues.

The final section, Part Six, deals with Psychiatry and Society.  Advocates for the mentally Ill will find much of interest in this section from ethics to law.

The index in this book is one of the best I have ever seen.  Detailed and finely-tuned it makes searching for specific words fast and easy.

The Harvard Guide to Psychiatry deserves top kudos for readability.  It is written clearly, concisely and with little of the jargon that non-professional readers normally become frustrated with.  Though the cost of the book may appear high, the content is of such quality that it easily contains the information of several smaller volumes.

After browsing, then reading much of this book my conclusion is that this highly informative, comprehensive and up to date resource book belongs on the book shelf of any mental health consumer with a desire to learn, understand or help others.




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