10 Helpful Books About Bipolar Disorder

Reading about bipolar disorder can help. Here are 10 books for anyone interested in the topic.

About 6 million people in the U.S. have bipolar disorder, which is characterized by episodes of mania and depression. But the condition is not always easy to diagnose.

All too often, people don't know that their extreme highs (creativity, energy, poor judgment, and risky behavior), extreme lows, and problems with relationships and substance abuse may actually be due to bipolar disorder.

Reading about bipolar disorder can help. Here are 10 books for anyone interested in the topic.

01 of 10

An Unquiet Mind


Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, had already written a bipolar textbook by the time she decided to reveal that she herself had the disorder. An Unquiet Mind, which details her 30-year struggle with bipolar, was published after she got tenure as a psychiatry professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The book was on the New York Times best-seller list for 5 months and has been translated into 25 languages. "An Unquiet Mind is a rare and insightful view of mental illness from inside the mind of a trained specialist,” says a Time magazine review.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness ($9; amazon.com)

02 of 10

Wishful Drinking


This memoir details humor actress Carrie Fisher's well-known struggles with troubled personal relationships, alcohol and drug abuse, and bipolar disorder. Published in 2009, the relatively short book (only 163 pages) is based on Fisher’s tell-all stand-up routine, in which she caustically analyzes her life of what she calls "Hollywood inbreeding."

The effect of Fisher's humor and insight "is extraordinarily painful while being extremely entertaining," a reviewer for the Los Angeles Times comments.

Wishful Drinking ($9; amazon.com)

03 of 10

Madness: A Bipolar Life


Marya Hornbacher has suffered from symptoms of bipolar disorder from the time she was a toddler. She spent her youth and teenage years struggling with alcohol, promiscuity, drug abuse, and cutting. She was not diagnosed with bipolar disorder until her mid-20s.

Hornbacher is a pro at examining the difficulties of mental illness in this New York Times best seller. "Hornbacher will touch a nerve with readers struggling to cope with mental illness," writes a reviewer for Publisher’s Weekly.

Madness: A Bipolar Life ($14; amazon.com)

04 of 10

Touched With Fire


Kay Redfield Jamison’s book looks at how the "artistic temperament" may, in fact, be bipolar disorder. While not all artists and writers are bipolar, "madness" can sometimes act as both an inspiration and impediment for those who are.

A review by Kirkus Associates says, "The relation between madness and genius is a fascinating subject."

Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament ($13; amazon.com)

05 of 10

Manic: A Memoir


Terri Cheney’s journey with bipolar disorder has been one of disorienting, extreme mood swings. She moves from deep lows riddled with suicide attempts to highs filled with promiscuous behavior, and recounts it all in this New York Times best seller.

Though it may be a slightly difficult read—the narrative jumps, much like her moods—it offers a glaring, honest account of bipolar. A Providence Journal reviewer calls the book "superb" and adds: "Cheney’s remarkable chronicle of her painful odyssey is as eloquent as it is brave. It is also profoundly necessary, both for her and for us."

Manic: A Memoir ($12; amazon.com)

06 of 10

The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide


This 2002 book by David J. Miklowitz, PhD, focuses specifically on patients. The author, a professor of psychiatry in the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute, concentrates on helping people come to terms with the disease, recognize their mood swings, and get help.

"He has provided patients and families with just the right psychoeducational tool," comments Frederick K. Goodwin, MD, director of the Center on Neuroscience, Medical Progress and Society at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide: What You and Your Family Need to Know ($7; amazon.com)

07 of 10

To Walk on Eggshells


The book gives an open, honest account of what it is like to care for a family member with bipolar disorder. The author Jean Johnston recounts how she dealt with the diagnosis, treatment, and recovery of her daughter, Suzy.

Looking after someone with mental illness can be "frightening and isolating," Johnston writes. "I hope this account of my experiences and how I felt, along with what I learned, will help to alleviate the loneliness of their situation."

To Walk On Eggshells ($16; amazon.com)

08 of 10



By the time she was 23, Lizzie Simon was an Ivy League-educated woman with a bright career. All of this occurred in spite of the fact that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a teen. Detour relates Simon’s experiences as she travels, seeking others who are bipolar in an attempt to find “a herd” of her own.

Simon is a freelance writer and, in 2002, was a field producer for MTV’s True Life: I’m Bipolar, a show that was inspired by her book.

Detour: My Bipolar Road Trip in 4-D ($12; amazon.com)

09 of 10

Positive Parenting for Bipolar Kids


In 2008, Janet Wozniak, MD, and Mary Ann McDonnell, PhD, with Judy Fort Brenneman, released this guide for parents (originally published as Is Your Child Bipolar?), which helps them identify serious symptoms; communicate with teachers, doctors, and other caregivers; and get the right diagnosis and treatment.

"This unique approach demystifies the disorder, eases the apprehension that parents feel, and equips them to better work with the professionals who treat and educate their children," comment Demitri F. Papolos, MD, and Janice Papolos, authors of The Bipolar Child.

Positive Parenting for Bipolar Kids: How to Identify, Treat, Manage, and Rise to the Challenge ($10; amazon.com)

10 of 10

The Up and Down Life


Paul E. Jones is a stand-up comedian and motivational speaker who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003. His 2008 book, with Andrea Thompson, uses humor to help people understand how to cope and succeed in their home lives and careers, and offers clinical information and resources.

This all adds up to what a Library Journal" reviewer calls "a heartfelt, highly personal story to which anyone affected by the illness can relate."

The Up And Down Life: The Truth About Bipolar Disorder—the Good, the Bad, and the Funny ($4; amazon.com)

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles