on April 12, 2004
I can't say enough good things about this book. I was diagnosed 10 years ago with depression and recently have gotten worse, this book literally fell into my hands at the bookstore I work at. It was a wonderful gift from God, I bought the book that day, and I'm sooo glad.
This book is great for anyone, those suffering from depression, those loved ones have depression, and any mental health professionals. I wish I could buy a bunch of this book and hand it out to people. It's given me more hope than I can explain for my my recovery. I know it's going to take a lot more work than just reading this book, but Dr. O'Connor helps you realize that in this book.
Please, if you are suffering from depression, pick up this book, Dr. O'Connors' insight is amazing, he's been there himself and seems to write about so many feelings I've thought and felt. He knows where we've been and he's helping me get where I want to be.
The author is quick the point out (and he is correct) that this book will not improve or cure depression by itself. You need professional help for that. Instead, the purpose of this book (which it magnificently addresses) is to describe what the depressed person and the depressed person's family and friends need to be doing to provide the maximum likelihood of overcoming depression. That's a reasonable promise and premise for a book on this important subject, and you can begin to overcome your ignorance (and the harm it can bring) by reading this book and acting on its advice.
First, the bad news. Depression is increasing. Worse still, the younger someone is, the more likely that the person will experience depression sometime. Even worse, many people are undiagnosed, and suffer alone with their affliction.
Second, the good news. Around 70 percent of all those suffering from depression will improve with either drug therapy or mental health treatments. Those who get both do even better.
Third, more bad news. Depression tends to recur for many people.
The voice addressing these issues is an expert one. He is a psychotherapist who runs a community health center. More importantly, he has suffered from depression himself. I doubt if you can get more direct access to what depression is all about than from Richard O'Connor. I admire his caring to share so much of his own pain with us, and respect him enormously for this gift he has given us all.
Depression is currently under reevaluation. No single paradigm seems to capture all of its elements. Undoubtedly, an improved scientific model for it will emerge. There are signs that it can have roots in disturbed relations between Mother and child, family dysfunction, possibly genetic disorders of brain chemistry (like using up seratonin too rapidly), other traumas, and poor thinking habits. Who knows what else may turn up?
Many people try to deal with this problem too much on their own. Families often put up with the depressed person's behavior, not knowing what else to do. Others reject the depressed person, which will usually make the situation worse. O'Connor lays out common sense guidelines that should make a diference: for depressed people, for those who care about them, and for those who treat them.
The author sees depression as a disease and as a social problem, "an illness to be treated professionally and a failure of adaptation that we must overcome through self-determinination." He outlines important principles for the depressed person: (1) Feel your feelings (depression is the suppression of feelings -- acknowledging those feelings often causes depression to improve). (2) Realize that nothing comes out of the blue (your depressed state has a root cause that you should look for in an event or situation). (3) Challenge your depressed thinking by questioning your assumptions, especially ones that center on meaningless perfectionism. (4) Establish priorities so that your energies go into what will be on what's most important to you. (5) Communicate as directly as possible to everyone around you. Depressed people are often poor communicators who don't get their emotional needs served. With better communication, they can experience a more supportive emotional environment. (6) Take care of your self. Learn to enjoy yourself. (7) Take and expect the right responsibility for yourself -- for your own actions. Depressed people often feel guilty about things that they have no responsibility for (like the death of a parent or the divorce of their parents). (8) Look for heroes. These role models can empower you to see the way to improve, especially if they were also depressed like Lincoln. (9) Be generous. Helping others puts your own situation into perspective. (10) Cultivate intimacy. This means letting down your defenses so people can see you as you are, and accept you for that. Depressed people often feel disgusted with their true selves, and hide that self from everyone. (11) Practice detachment. Depressed people are often overly critical and pessimistic. Seeing things in the proper perspective can heal a lot of inappropriate pain. (12) Get help when you need it. This may be the most important piece of advice since so many people do not.
The book is filled with personal examples and case studies of people the author has treated, which help make the points easier to understand.
I was astonished to realize that there is no self-help network like there is for alcoholics and those with other mental and behavioral problems. The author shares some experiences with having established such groups that can be a prototype for creating such a network in the future. I think that is an important priority for improving the mental health of our society from what this book shares.
Mental health professionals will find good advice for overcoming the parochialism of whatever discipline they originally trained in, to create links to the other treatments the depressed patients need. Those who provide therapy discussions will benefit from the author's own assessments of how therapies helped or did not help him. The therapist as caring adult is emphasized above the particular technique used.
I was fascinated by how often this book pointed out problems related to stalls that most people have such as poor communications, procrastination, misconception, disbelief, tradition, independence, purposelessness, wishful thinking, and avoidance of the unattractive. The depressed person seems to have more of these at the same time than the people I work with. Yet both groups have in common that they have not yet learned the stallbusting techniques that can improve or overcome these stalls. To some extent, the lack of understanding of how to focus our minds is one of the causes of depression in our society. So here is another reason to learn the questions and focus that can enormously improve personal and organizational effectiveness. I rate this book a 2,000 percent solution stallbuster, and hope that you will read it and apply its lessons. Whether you are depressed or not, we all will encounter depressed people and this book can make us more helpful to them.
Since reading this book, I have been greatly helped by it in understanding the depressed people I know. Following the advice here, they have made progress in moving away from depression. I am very grateful for having obtained this valuable knowledge.
Help everyone to walk, look, and feel on the bright side!
on June 21, 2003
O'Connor's book is a tremendous breath of fresh air if you've read other books on depression that assume that depression (never mind who is dealing with it) comes from the same old Freudian reasons. Nope. O'Connor recognizes that depression comes from multiple sources: chemical, nature, nurture, habits (both bad and "good"), and he offers practical (rather than just theoretical) ways to approach the practical problem of depression. Can you give 5% more attention to the issues that affect you? Are you willing to give yourself 5% more notice? Even if you think you don't deserve it? Your willingness to try could make the difference between hopeless repetition of methods that don't work and hopeful experimentation that can make you more of a participant in your own life.
on July 12, 2004
I had a LOT of positive things to say about this book, but if you are reading this review you probably dont want to read the same things over and over again, and I would merely repeat the very well written positive sediments that are already written in these reviews.
The one thing I would like to add is that unlike most books on depression which tend to get technical or boring, this book is filled with enough personal and professional anedotes that it is surprisingly interesting. You look forward to reading this book each night.
Dr. O'Conner bravely reveals his painful experiences with depression, in an honest and humble manner. And honesty is a strong point in this book. He makes no ridiculas promises about overcoming depression, he just fills this book with many, many pieces of excellent and solid pieces of advice.
I suffer from minor depression but my husband suffers from chronic depression and this book has helped me to help my husband in many ways.
Thank you Dr. Conners
on October 10, 2003
In the book "Undoing Depression", Dr. Richard O'Conner has given people a light, a ray of hope, and an in-depth understanding to a condition from which many Americans suffer.
The one thing that strikes you the minute you open the book it Dr. O'Conner's straight forward, honest way of writing that both envelops and comforts you at the same time. He uses the pronoun "we" quite a bit, building up the idea of a community of people with you who suffer with you. Depression can be such an isolating illness; the fact that there are millions of others who share the same thoughts, feelings, and moods is a blessing.
Each chapter has gems of wisdom that I found myself reading and re-reading constantly, trying to learn and understand his ideas. In these are the source of great knowledge, all designed to propel you forward in understanding what's occuring inside of you and more importantly, how to break that cycle and move forward. He directly address emotions, relationships, the self, and other concepts in easy to read chapters. He is honest but also fair minded, both of which I appreciated.
I have encountered other books on depression, but this one is practical, user friendly, and full of "can use" information. Anyone suffering from the dibilitating effects of depression can rest assured that there is hope, and combined with treatment options available to everyone today, can find the place where the clouds are really behind you.
on May 30, 2003
I'm a depressed teen who went through all of the major depression and now have chronic depression, mostly. My life went to shambles because of my depression, and I mostly kept all of my bad habits from that old depression, namely that I thought feeling 'bad' was a normal feeling ('feeling bad' is not feeling sadness, sorrow, or normal worry but feeling sour and feelingless all the time).
I think he kept the whole thing pretty real throughout the whole book, encouraging us to see where our lives basically fall apart at random events (mine was neglect and abuse) and how basically everyone runs into problems, and that most depressives just get really unlucky. But having gone through it himself and knowing where it comes from, he seems to have mastered a lot of the things, and just from that I give him an A for confidence to come out and say all of this stuff. I think anyone could benefit from the book, but for most depressives who are in major depression, don't you dare touch this. It's an amazing resource for the post-depressed who struggle with depressive habits, but it's a terrible tragedy for people who are depressed. It will probably only make them worse as they continue to think about how 'good' they'd feel recovering. For them I just recommend lots of relaxation and therapy, and time to get over it.
Good luck to anyone who reads this book. (It's an easy read.) May your depression be swift to leave and/or may you gain whole understanding of the problems that depressed people have.
on April 3, 2003
I have put up with depression for most of my life. I still enjoy life, but I just assumed that the depression won't ever get much better, so I take my medication, work, enjoy hobbies, family and friends to the best of my ability, but still...this book along with Michael Yapko's Breaking the Patterns of Depression will give you the insights, the practical techniques and the principles that will help you to start to get better, really better. I love the way O'Connor makes this book so completely accessible without "dumbing it down" and the 12 principles at the end are worth memorizing (I have done this). Perhaps the single most important thing I learned is the the need for depressed people to stop being afraid of their emotions - to realize how emotions, both happy and sad, are such limited things that will pass quickly as we move on with our lives. Depressed people, for a variety of reasons, use defense mechanisms that cause problems down the road, and although this may sound so simple, it is also very important to learn (and relearn if necessary). Highly reccommended.
on December 6, 2002
The reading public seems to have become well aware that Richard O'Connor's book "Undoing Depression" is a truly excellent and very helpful approach to understanding and dealing with that powerful negative force -- depression. I want to add a related point, which concerns O'Connor's other book, "Active Treatment of Depression." Although that book is aimed at therapists, I would recommend it also as a follow-up for any reader who appreciated "Undoing Depression." Reading his 2 books in sequence is a doubly helpful process. As psychologists become more aware of how depression is usually embedded in a broader pattern of negativity -- worry, anxiety, pessimism -- readers can benefit from those broader, related insights. For example, The Positive Power of Negative Thinking by Julie Norem updates traditional cognitive therapy with new understanding of 'constructive pessimism' as a cognitive-emotional experience. And, as other reviewers have pointed out, the cognitive therapy classic Feeling Good is still useful today. So don't miss O'Connor's 2 books, and related titles may help with the broader psychological context.
on April 22, 2002
Cognitive therapy is an effective method of treatment, one that is so structured that it can be studied because therapists who provide it correctly all do it the same way. Basically its premise is that depression occurs from our distortions in thinking and by changing these distortions, we can cure our depression. So if changing your thinking patterns relieves your depression, cognitive therapy is right for you.
Dr. O'Connor explains this and goes on to recommend Feeling Good as a good resource . Undoing Depression also explains the other ways depression can occur and gives many ways to attack this vicious disease. As I understand it, many mental health professionals believe that feelings and emotions come first and they lead to the distortions in thinking.
But whichever comes first I have found both books by O'Connor (his new Active Treatment of Depression and Undoing Depression) and also the Feeling Good series by Burns to be helpful. When I contacted Dr. O'Connor's pages for advice for family members, he also recommended When Someone You Love Is Depressed.
on July 23, 2001
Dr. O'Connor served for 14 years as executive director of the Northwest Center for Family Service and Mental Health, a private, nonprofit mental health clinic in Litchfield County, Connecticut, overseeing the work of twenty mental health professionals in treating almost a thousand patients per year. He is a practicing psychotherapist, with offices in Canaan, Connecticut, and New York City. ....In his biography on this site, he states that he believes "depression can never be fully grasped by mental health professionals who have not experienced it." In Dr. O'Connor's case, as a therapist, he has a unique and powerful perspective because he is the son of a depressive who committed suicide, has suffered depression himself, and applied the insights presented in his book in his own life to heal his depression.
This book is very well-written, clear and accessible even when the doctor is talking about complex, professional issues in the mental health community. There is a thorough index and plentiful endnotes, as well as a very complete bibliography of recommended reading. The four sections of the book listed in the table of contents are: What We Know about Depression; Learning New Skills; Putting the Skills to Work; A New Synthesis.
I believe this is one of the top books ever written on depression. If you only have time to read one book on the subject, I would heartily recommend you make it this one, because it is utterly brilliant. I personally believe that one of the most profound things a theorist can do is synthesize seemingly opposing or unlike ideas, pulling them together in a comprehensible whole, which is what Dr. O'Connor does so very, very well here. He has thoroughly surveyed the existing information on depression, made clear what we know and don't know about it, and what most often works, or doesn't work, to treat depression.
In this regard, his discussion of why we don't have a comprehensive theory of depression at the present time is wonderful. Within this discussion he states: "The Freudian theory of human functioning has been on its last legs for some time, and we wait for a new theory, a new paradigm, to replace it….[A]lthough there is a wish to achieve a biochemical theory of human behavior, our current knowledge leaves us far from it; and if we had it, it would not answer our most interesting human questions."
He covers the effects of trauma on depression and the biological basis of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, manic depression and major depression and how this conception removes stigma. Then he asserts that though symptoms of mental illness are "biochemically mediated, that doesn't make [them inevitably] biochemically caused…." He is not anti-medication, but he states that medications can't tell us how to raise healthy children, make difficult decisions, or help us find meaning in life. He believes that "both nature and nurture play a part in the development of depression"--and in its cure. He states that "in depression, you use medication to help alleviate the pain and suffering, but the patient may still feel a lack of confidence, be painfully shy, lack assertive skills, have a distorted self-image…procrastinate…be stuck in a loveless marriage or a dead-end job. The patient must address these kinds of issues…or else he may suffer less but still not be part of life."
It is this issue that the book addresses very thoroughly: how to engage in a deliberate skill-building program in conjunction with medication (or without it if you are one of the unlucky, sizeable percentage of depression sufferers diagnosed with "resistant depression" because antidepressants do not work for you). In his skill-building program, the author covers emotions, behavior, thinking, relationships, the self, and aids to recovery. He then discusses how to put these new skills to work on the job, in intimate relationships and in the community at large.
An extremely thorough, comprehensive, invaluable guide!