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Understanding Depression

Patricia Ainsworth, MD








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Book of the Year Award, American Journal of Nursing

From “Booklist”, January 2000: There are many books about depression, but in terms of clarity, comprehensiveness, and practicality, Ainsworth's is one of the best. She describes symptoms of the various types of the devastating disease, discusses the many theories of its cause, and deals in a nonproselytizing manner with the broad variety of treatments for it. She calls depression "the great illusionist" and says that, though difficult to diagnose, it must, when identified, be treated aggressively. She presents the ways depression affects its sufferers at different ages and women, in particular, at the various stages of their lives. She also considers the social context of the disease; like many other mental diseases, depression comes with a stigma that sets its sufferers apart from other people. Ainsworth's levelheaded approach should help many depressed persons decide to seek professional help, not least because she disposes of widely accepted myths, offers practical tips for self-care and helping someone else, and appends helpful material on the many drugs involved in treatment. William Beatty

Depression has been a scourge of mankind since the dawn of ages. Vivid images from historical and religious texts describe sufferers of the illness we now know as depression. An equal opportunity illness, it exempts no one based on race, sex, creed, religion, social status, or national origin. It affects one in five of us and its potentially lethal outcome–suicide–is the third leading cause of death among American teenagers. What is this illness that costs us $44 billion each year? What does it look like? Is it moodiness? Is it the result of a character flaw? Can we just "snap out of it"?

Understanding Depression explores the reality of the illness from the author's twin perspectives as a psychiatrist and as a family member who experienced the tragedy of depression first hand. Using examples from her practice, the author discusses the different types of depression, the kinds of people at risk, and the risk factors of suicide. In understandable terms, she looks at the way the brain works and how the body communicates with it, including recent discoveries about how the process fails in depression. She also offers tips for fighting depression day by day. Finally, she takes a look at the cutting-edge research that holds promise for better management of depression and at new weapons to combat it.

Patricia Ainsworth is a psychiatrist in private practice and an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

120 pages

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