BJPsych Bulletin
Bipolar Disorder: The Essential Guide
Katherine Gordon-Smith
By Dan Roberts. Need-2-Know Books, 2011, £9.99, pb, 118 pp. ISBN: 9781861441263

This concise guide to bipolar disorder addresses key issues that individuals newly diagnosed with bipolar disorder and their families would want to know about. In the first half of the book, Dan Roberts discusses the symptoms and causes of bipolar disorder in a refreshingly friendly and approachable style that would be particularly suitable for individuals in their late teens and twenties. Chapter 2, covering the causes of bipolar disorder, does very well at explaining the contribution of both genetic predisposition and environmental triggers. A particularly useful section of the chapter is the list of specific lifestyle factors that are important for people with bipolar disorder to consider. The chapter also briefly covers pregnancy and childbirth for women with bipolar disorder, but as many women may want to find out more about this, some suggestions of further resources would have been helpful.

The second half of the guide focuses on available treatments and self-management, emphasising the importance of taking prescribed medication. Chapter 8, on self-management, contains a lot of helpful advice on tools for self-monitoring and suggests key books that are aimed at helping the reader understand more about the pattern of their mood swings and early warning symptoms. Readers may be particularly interested in the new online mood mapping system, Moodscope (, which the guide encourages them to try. The chapter also outlines a number of self-management courses, including those run by Bipolar UK, with the details of where to find out more.

Overall, the layout of each chapter, with clear headings, short paragraphs, bullet-point lists and a helpful summing up section at the end, makes the book very readable. It contains case studies which readers will be able to relate to and may find helpful. The help list at the end has website addresses of a number of key organisations to which individuals can turn to for further information and support.