Title: Heal your brain: how the new neuropsychiatry can help you go from better to well
Author: David J Hellerstein
Publisher: The John Hopkins University Press, 2011
Reviewer: Carol Cooper, senior lecturer in mental health nursing, Sheffield Hallam University
What was it like?
Dr Hellerstein is a psychiatrist working in New York, USA. In this book, which seems to be a self-help book for people suffering from depression and/or anxiety disorders, he outlines what he terms as the “new neuropsychiatry”.
The book comprises two parts, firstly “Getting better” and secondly “Getting (and Staying) Well”. It commences with tips on how to find a suitable psychiatrist, which is not really an issue for most people in this country, however may be helpful for those seeking private treatment. Following this there are seven chapters in which Dr Hellerstein shares the stories of many of his clients from diagnosis through treatment and response to remission and finally recovery.
Although he details many forms of treatment available including medication, cognitive behavioural therapy, psychotherapy and dialectical behavioural therapy, these are all related to improving malfunctions of the brain. He cites many studies that are mainly on animals, which he feels prove these links. Therefore this new neuropsychiatry seems to be outlining firstly how clients should be treated holistically using medications and therapy, which seems not to be usual practice in the USA. Secondly it is based on the premise that depression and anxiety are manifestations of brain malfunction and as such people need help to heal this neurobiological problem. He argues that this can be healed equally well by medication, therapy or indeed exercise and cites research, which relate to all of these issues.
What were the highlights?
The numerous stories told within this book are interesting and could be useful in inspiring a variety of people including those deemed to be ‘treatment resistant’.
Strengths & weaknesses
An interesting account of individuals’ battles with depression and anxiety, and their psychiatrist’s efforts to help them. However, it is reliant on neurological explanations and some of it does not translate well to current practice in the UK.
Who should read it?
People with depression/anxiety, doctors, nurses and therapists.