An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison Book Review

Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD. Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD

An Unquiet Mind is a powerful, uncompromising and illuminating story of severe manic-depressive illness from the informed perspective of a psychologist, psychotherapist, and researcher who has lived with the illness for more than 30 years. Kay Redfield Jamison's work clearly illustrates the complex nature of the most deadly form of the illness — bipolar I disorder, severe, with psychotic features.

Manic depression (the author dislikes the term "bipolar disorder") is revealed as a creature of many moods: the seductively effortless well-being, confidence, and energy of hypomania; the on- or over-the-edge frenzies of mania; the long, narrow gray prison of depression.

Readers will feel the lure of a psychotic flight through the rings and moons of Saturn, share the terror of a person experiencing a bloody hallucination, and even gain an understanding of the dark obsession with death and the pressures and rationalizations that led the author to a near-fatal suicide attempt. The importance of mixed episodes — the agitated merge of mania and depression — is emphasized in painful detail.

Dr. Jamison makes an excellent case, through her own experiences, for the need to treat manic depression with both medication and psychotherapy. And the precautionary agreement she describes making with her family and psychiatrist in the event she should become a danger to herself is something anyone who has experienced suicidal impulses should consider.

I found this book almost impossible to put down.


  • Skillfully written, without a trace of self-pity.
  • Will greatly increase understanding for those who deal with or love someone with this illness.
  • Deals well with tough subjects like denial and medication compliance.


  • Clearly describes the condition of severe manic-depressive illness
  • Excellent for helping loved ones understand bipolar disorder
  • Never boring or difficult — holds attention throughout


  • Sometimes the timeline is muddled — not a serious defect

The Bottom Line

Everyone who experiences mania and depression will benefit from reading this book. Every doctor, judge, police officer and criminal or family attorney should be required to read it. And every family member and friend of someone diagnosed with manic depression, especially bipolar I and II disorders, or of someone exhibiting the symptoms, will gain from reading Kay Redfield Jamison's courageous autobiography.