The Bipolar Handbook by Dr. Wes Burgess, M.D., Ph.D.

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Summary: The Bipolar Handbook comprehensively illuminates every area of the disorder by drawing upon the real questions asked by patients and families during the nearly twenty years that Dr. Wes Burgess has worked as a bipolar specialist.

So what’s covered exactly?

  • Basics of Bipolar (types, mania, depression, mixed-state, cycling etc….)
  • Healthy Life Changes (stress reduction, sleeping, nutrition, weight loss, vitamins/herbs/supplements, exercise, caffeine/alcohol/drugs/tobacco, health fads etc….)
  • Medical Treatment (info and common questions on meds used for Bipolar – mood stabilizers, anti psychotics, anti anxiety + seldom used meds, new meds, treatments without meds, meds that make bipolar worse and seizures with depression.
  • Finding the Right Doctor
  • Psychotherapy (types and their differences, benefits, choosing a therapist, 4 stages of Bipolar recovery etc….)
  • Strategies for Career Success (choosing a career, interviewing, decreasing stress, dealing with supervisors and coworkers, boundary issues, work attitudes, disability etc….)
  • Healthy Relationships (conversation, socializing, love, sex, anger/jealousy, fantasies/obsessions, social boundaries, finding the right partner, etc…)
  • Women’s Issues (Bipolar premenstrual syndrome, pregnancy, women’s sex issues, hormone supplementation, bipolar women in abusive relationships
  • Crisis Management (family and friends, warning signs of crises, psychosis, hospitalization, etc…)
  • Resources (websites/forums/groups, services/organizations, US health information, books, etc….)
  • Official DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria for Mania and Atypical Depression and NIMH list of symptoms of mania, combined bipolar and unipolar depression and psychosis.

That’s a lot crammed into one book but each section (except the last two which are Appendices) are made up of questions and answer from Dr. Burgess’s own patients and families. For example some of the questions in the Bipolar Basics section are:

“What does the name “bipolar disorder” mean?, If I have bipolar disorder, how much of my life will I actually be sick?, Does bipolar disorder cause physical health problems, Can I be hopeful about my future, Why do you talk about bipolar disorder like it is a disease? I think I am a normal person?”

In the section on medications, there are a bunch of questions under each med listed. For example under Lamotrigine (Lamictal) some of the questions are:

“How do you decide when to prescribe lamotrigine?, What are the usual side effects of lamotrigine?, Does lamotrigine cause weight gain? “

I can’t say whether the career part was helpful as I don’t have a job of any kind. The section on disability was very short and isn’t US specific which was nice. The book has helped me understand a few things better (I have bipolar) and inspired some questions that I asked my doctor about to clarify. The book was written in 2006 but as of today, only two of the links listed no longer work, which is great. Personally I can think of a few better sites to go to then was listed but it’s a good start.

Buy The Bipolar Handbook from
Dr. Wes also published The Bipolar Handbook for Children, Teens and Families – buy from
Dr. Wes Burgess’s Website (info on his practice as well as short articles on mental health issues)

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.