Category: Book Reviews


Published in association with the British Medical Association, this book, written by a UK psychiatrist is a great introduction to depression. Easy to read and covering areas such as symptoms, medications, therapies, self help strategies, ECT, women and depression and grief and bereavment. I felt the self health section was particularly well written and the grief and bereavment section also stood out as it identified what was the normal grieving process and when it moves into depression. Probably more suited to readers in the UK than anywhere else. Having read other books on depression, it failed to add a significant amount to my knowledge, however it would have been a great first book to read.

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I volunteer at the Well – a peer support group for women with postnatal depression. As the only non-mother there I felt I needed to read around the subject.

This book is the NCT book of postnatal depression. It is aimed at mothers suffering from postnatal depression and their relatives. I borrowed it from a local library. The book was published in 2002 and I often felt frustrated while reading it that references were mostly from 1997/98. By academic standards these are far to old and the research base could have moved forward in great strides in the interim years. Checking in case there is a new version, I found that Waterstones still sells this 2002 edition and on the NCT’s own website, they don’t even sell it. The best they can do on PND is a fact sheet, a DVD or a hypnotherapy CD…but that’s the sum total of their resources.

I was disappointed by style of writing in the book. As a textbook the style was fine. Making reference to the literature around and weighing up if the research was conclusive is fine but the style felt more appropriate for health professionals rather than lay people and certainly in the depths of depression and with a screaming baby the book would be incredibly difficult to read and follow.

The book discussed the possible risk factors for developing postnatal depression.

  • too little or too much support
  • depression in pregnancy
  • previous personal or family history of depression
  • difficult labours where the woman felt decisions were made for her not with her
  • difficult relationships with the mothers own mother
  • difficult social and economic circumstances
  • difficult and demanding baby
  • physical conditions such as anaemia or deficiency in potassium, zinc or B6 may also be causes.

The symptoms of postnatal depression

  • lethargy
  • tearfulness
  • anxiety
  • guilt
  • irritability
  • confusion
  • disturbed sleep
  • fear of harming self oor baby
  • loss of self-esteem, libido, appetite
  • difficulties concentrating and making decisions
  • hostility or indifference to people she usually loves.

It also discussed the treatment options and support available

  • medication may be appropriate and some can be taken while breastfeeding
  • hormone therapy – progesterone or oestrogen – but both are rarely given and a lack of evidence
  • st johns wort
  • counselling
  • support groups
  • exercise
  • one to one support

The book provides a very interesting look at the way society and psychiatry treats mothers, the effects of postnatal depression on partners and children and provides advice on how to help mothers with postnatal depression. There is also a discussion of the risk of post traumatic shock after birth for the mother and father.

Puerperal Psychosis is also discussed. This a severe condition effecting 1-2 in 1000 women. In this condition women many develop a manic-depressive condition, have a form of psychosis with bizarre illusions and obsessions.

The best bit of the book is the number of quotes from women who have had postnatal depression and from health professionals and relatives. There are 4 case studies as well which provide fascinating reading especially the husband and wife who are interviewed.

Overall I feel this book is in urgent need of updating but provides a great insight for health professionals. As a health professional myself, my role is to translate the scientific literature into layman’s terms. This is where this book falls down and the style needs to be adapted to being an easier read for lay people. I look forward to reading a future edition.

Sod it – part 1

I’ve just been lent a copy of Sod It! – The Depression ‘Virus’ and how to deal with it by Martin Davies. The Author info says he’s a RMN and CPN who also experienced burnout and depression. The book is easy to read and each page is both cartoon and information. It’s ideal for people while in the middle of depression who find it difficult to concentrate and follow more complex books.

He describes depression as a ‘virus’ and describes the best breeding ground being in people who are

  • Physically run down
  • Low self esteem/confidence
  • Experiencing a major life event like bereavment or unemployment
  • Going through several life events and traumas
  • Overworked
  • Stressed out
  • Anxious and uptight all the time
  • In poor supportive environment
  • On their own
  • Not good at expressing their thoughts and feelings openly
  • Full of anger, resentment and unresolved issues.

As I read the list, I reflected on my last few years and think wow…tick, tick, tick, almost every one of these descriptions of a breeding ground for depression I can see in myself…How do you feel as you read this list…can you recognise yourself?