A Mood Apart: Depression, Mania and Other Afflictions of the Self.
“A brilliant work that speaks in eloquent and human terms… informative and compassionate and, not the least, thoroughly engrossing. It is a major contribution to the literature of mental illness.” --
William Styron, author of Darkness Visible
"An excellent book. It reflects not only the depth and breadth of the author's scientific and clinical contributions to the study of moods, but captures, in a wonderful way, the crucial role of moods in human nature and society....Anyone interested in moods, or disorders of moods will find this an informative, important and engrossing book." -- Kay Redfield Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind"
"The most thorough and wide-ranging discussion for lay readers about the interplay of the physical and emotional elements of depression and manic-depression... His presentation is illuminating, and the case histories demonstrate his sensitivity and skill as a clinician.... Whybrow's presentation offers a deeper understanding of, along with a humane and wise approach to these very troubling illnesses." -- Kirkus Reviews
"This is a masterly and highly readable discourse....Whybrow has really attempted to enter into the soul of manic-depression and has succeeded to a remarkable extent" -- British Journal of Psychiatry
“Seldom has the inner emotional landscape of melancholic depression, mania and manic-depressive illness been mapped with so much clarity, empathy and sensitivity." -- Publisher's Weekly
This groundbreaking work on the science of mood, when first published in 1997, redefined public understanding of depression and manic illness by exploring the critical role that emotion plays in daily communication and in social interaction -- and in so doing helped elucidate the complexity of the human experience that lies behind the diagnosis. In this new edition of A Mood Apart Dr. Whybrow, one of the world's most distinguished psychiatrists, updates his definitive text and through a new introduction highlights emerging areas of research and treatment advance. Now over two decades since its original publication, A Mood Apart remains an essential book for all of us, not only those who have face the challenges of mood disorder in themselves or in their loved ones, but also for those who seek a life well-lived .
Authors Note: A Mood Apart, is about mood and human emotion, about their function and purpose in our lives. It serves as the foundation of the trilogy of books that this website describes. When initially putting pen to paper, however, it was not with this anchoring role in mind. Rather, when first I came to consider such a book, during the 1980s and 90s, it was thanks to suggestions from individuals for whom I was caring in my medical practice. The idea my patients put forward, which I found compelling, was not for a self-help book but rather for an easily accessible compendium about emotion in the brain that would place managing the disabilities of mood -- be that in one’s own person, or in one’s family -- within a socio-cultural context. In fact, as we worked together on the book's construction, several of the patient’s stories -- discretely disguised and with their enthusiastic support -- found their way into the final narrative. The argument was essentially as follows: depression and manic-depression are more than illnesses in the everyday sense of the term. They cannot be understood, as are disorders of other body organs, merely as an aberrant biology, for by disturbing the function of the brain -- the emotional brain -- the illness enters and disturbs the self-knowledge and identity of the person who suffers. As my patients painfully understood mood disorder invades the very core of being, perturbing the collection of feelings, behaviors, and beliefs that uniquely identify the individual self and, through the confusing cascade that follows, the socio-cultural context of living life itself. My goal, it was decided, should be a dynamic and integrated approach that combined objective science with a compassionate exploration of the personal experience.
I must confess that Italy also played its part in the genesis of my final manuscript. When the book was still in draft I attended the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, meeting that year in Venice. It is a city where, as Diego Valeri has described it with unabashed sentimentality, life is pursued in moods of “great splendor.” And it is true: the Venetian carnival, among carnivals throughout the world, is the quintessential celebration of emotional experience in all its costumes. The creativity, excitement, music, feasting and sheer self-indulgence of the carnival magnify the emotional energy of everyday life. Indeed, still in Venice today, at the core of the maniacal springtime catharsis that preludes the atonement and withdrawal of Lent , there endures the influence of the Commedia dell’ Arte, that vital element of Italian theater which was at its height during the Renaissance and the Seventeenth Century. Central to those much venerated celebrations are the masked players and the social commentary reflected in their characters and costumes.
So it was, on one free afternoon in Valeri’s “city of generous madness,” that we explored the backstreets of the Dorsoduro, intent upon discovering carnival masks depicting manic flight and melancholic despair. The labyrinth of alleys was confusing and the search proved hot and dusty but –as I describe in my prologue to the book – the reward was great, when it finally arrived. Late in the day, in a little alley off the Ponti dei Pungi, we stumbled upon the studio MondoNovo Maschere, its bright blue door playfully puncturing the exposed anatomy of an ancient wall. Lured within that cloistered workplace, we finally found our perfect moody jester. In one profile the mask displayed the tears and down-turned mouth of melancholy, while in the other the jester's mood was transformed, with vibrant eye and infectious grin. Today, in my study, that same mask has pride of place -- a reminder of the Venetian carnival, but also of the truth that to struggle honestly with life's emotional “ups and downs” is quintessentially human. Emotion occupies a central place in human affairs and helps shape them -- in the striving of the individual, in family life, and in the marketplace. That is why the moody mask of the jester still survives within the dusty workshops of the Dorsoduro, in the celebrations of the human carnival, and upon my study wall. And it is why A Mood Apart is the foundation for my trilogy….
Peter C Whybrow, 2020