The Harvard Guide
M. Nicholi, Jr., M.D.
by The Belknap Press of Harvard Universty Press
Cambridge Massachussetts, and London
England * 1999
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
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
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.