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An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  60,902 ratings  ·  3,469 reviews
The personal memoir of a manic depressive and an authority on the subject describes the onset of the illness during her teenage years and her determined journey through the realm of available treatments.
Paperback, 223 pages
Published October 1996 by Vintage (first published September 18th 1995)
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mutt This is my case at least, BP II here. I've been wanting to read some more on other peoples experience's with mental illness. Nice to be able to relate…moreThis is my case at least, BP II here. I've been wanting to read some more on other peoples experience's with mental illness. Nice to be able to relate to others who have similar illnesses. Haven't read this specific book yet, but just finished 'Girl Interrupted' by Susanna Kaysen - I recommend!(less)

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Average rating 4.05  · 
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i was reading some reviews of the book written by people that disliked this.

i just want to say, that for a person suffering from mental illness, the fact that you know jamieson's full CV and her academic struggles is important. it's more of a - look, she was wildly successful, and dealing with this illness, and she finally came to terms with it, and now she's okay - and still wildly successful.

i also want to say how brave it was for her to write this under her own name. it does a lot to irradi
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
“I am tired of hiding, tired of misspent and knotted energies, tired of the hypocrisy, and tired of acting as though I have something to hide.”
An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness is an honest and profoundly dramatic memoir that reveals the challenges and sufferings faced by people that suffer from bipolar disorder. Kay Redfield Jamison herself endured the dangerous highs of euphoria mixed with the lows of depression. Her professional success as a clinical psychologist coupled with
May 03, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: recently dxed bookish types
A lot of people seem to have a negative reaction to this book, which I totally get. I didn't find Jamison a particularly likable person, and this wasn't great literature, though it did go down fast and smooth.

Be that as it may, I've strongly recommended An Unquiet Mind several times, and I can't judge it by the normal standards that I apply to most books. I see An Unquiet Mind as performing a specific and vital function, at which I think it succeeds extremely well: that is, Jamison's memoir does
Swaroop Kanti
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I doubt sometimes whether
a quiet & unagitated life
would have suited me -- yet I
sometimes long for it.


The Chinese believe that before you can conquer a beast you first must make it beautiful.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness is a memoir about living with manic depression by Kay Redfield Jamison, who is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Kay prefers the term manic depression to bipolar disorder beca
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘I worked on a locked ward at the time, and I didn’t relish the idea of not having the key.’

The author suffers from manic depressive illness (who chooses this coin of phrase as opposed to bipolar disorder, and I tend to agree with her). She is a brilliant mind, an academic and health care professional and absolute authority on this subject; she lives and breathes the disease but is able to treat her patients with complete and utter understanding and of course, empathy. This is Kay’s memoir,
Feb 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, kindle
Just ran across this review of "An Unquiet Mind" that I wrote a couple of years ago (January 2009). As I go back through blog posts, Twitter feeds, book reviews, etc., it amazes me how difficult a time *I* was having... and how I was paying NO attention to that whatsoever. It was all about someone else. And really, in this book, that's how Jamison seems to think it should be.

I just had the opportunity to re-read this book when it was offered on the Kindle, and I was surprised. I seemed to rememb
rachel  misfiticus
Mar 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
So far... about half way done...

1 star for her vanity and pretension

5 stars because of the taxidermic fox

3 stars being a calculated average


Perhaps I have been corrupted by the reviews I read before finishing this book; however, I am still trying to wash Kay Redfield Jamison’s self-haughtiness out of my mind. I think that the first chapter and the last chapter are the only ones with any weight. Chapter one is about Jamison’s childhood and more specifically, her manic father. The second
Oct 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those trying to understand manic depression, autobiography enthusiasts, glamorizers of insanity
An autobiography of a brilliant woman who suffered from manic depression (she resists the more watered down label "bipolar" because she thinks it hides the essential nature of the disease.) She made it through a PhD in psychology and became one of the foremost authorities in her field before finally getting the consistent treatment she needed. Just seeing how she was able to achieve such professional success while privately dealing with such hellish, frightening moments of near insanity is enoug ...more
This was overrated. I learned very little about what it's like to actually have manic-depression; Dr. Jamison preferred to write about her love life and her visits to England. She glossed over her suicide attempt and the only description of hospitalization is that of one of her patients. Also, the memoir skips back and forth in time and it's irritating. There are better books out there.
Jan 01, 2008 rated it liked it
I'm still not quite sure what I think of this book. It was recommended to me by a therapist thinking I would be interested as someone with bipolar disorder. Due to the source of the suggestion and the author of the book, an expert on and individual with bipolar disorder, I expected some practical insight into living with this disease. What I found was much different.

This book is labeled a memoir, and the writing style and content certainly fit the label. Unfortunately, the author seemed to try t
Aug 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people with bipolar disorder
just re-read this for class. maybe i'll post a a review later. for now, though, i raised my four-star rating to five. the ways in which KRJ thinks about mental illness are not always congenial with mine, but this is a brave, beautifully written, and still very powerful book, many such memoirs later.

REVIEW 3/12/11

i'm not going to research this, but i think this was one of the first candid memoirs of mental disorder coming from someone famous/mainstream in the US and published by a major publishe
Julie Ehlers
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
I read An Unquiet Mind because I wanted to learn more about bipolar disorder. I remember all the attention this book received when it first came out, and it was recommended to me by more than one person, so I was somewhat baffled by how little I enjoyed reading it. Don't get me wrong--I wasn't expecting a memoir about bipolar disorder to be some kind of party. But I think I may have read too many beautiful memoirs by poets and novelists to be particularly impressed by the workmanlike writing in ...more
Lisa Vegan
Aug 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who's interested in human psychology, who enjoys autobiography
I really enjoyed this book. It’s incredibly well written. The author: She’s truly brilliant. She comes across as completely honest and she allows herself to be vulnerable in the telling of her story, which makes her exceedingly likeable. Kay Redfield Jamison is a psychiatrist, an authority on bipolar disorder, and suffers from the condition herself. And she’s written a terrific book about bipolar disorder and her life experience. And no, I’m not using too much hyperbole!
Aug 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone trying to deny they have this condition even after a positive diagnosis.
Shelves: psychology
Think of this book as an autobiography and you can't go wrong. Kay Redfield Jamison hardly needs an introduction here; her life and work stand for themselves. She literally 'wrote the book' on bipolar disorder with co-author Fred Goodwin, M.D. called, simply enough, "Manic-Depressive Illness."
So this book, "An Unquiet Mind," is not a clinical study of bipolar disorder. It is a deep and personal inside look at what it's like to live with manic depression from the unique viewpoint of a brilliant
Beautifully written memoir, published in 1995, of a wildly intelligent and successful John Hopkins psychologist who has bipolar disorder.

I took two things away from it:
One- so much has been learned about the disorder since 1995.
Two – I feel like I understand my mother’s illness better after reading this, but not my son’s.

I understand my manic depressive mother better since I didn’t realize that lithium wasn’t approved for general use until the early 1970’s. That explains so much about my childh
In her bold autobiography An Unquiet Mind, Kay Redfield Jamison details her struggle with bipolar disorder in the midst of her career as a clinical psychologist. First published in 1994, this book highlights Jamison's bravery: with such a prestigious academic position and a CV full of work related to manic-depressive disorder, she risked her reputation and her ethos by writing this wonderful, heart-wrenching volume.

The Chinese believe that before you can conquer a beast you first must make it be
Otis Chandler
Feb 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Otis by: Dana
Highly recommended if you are curious about Manic-depressive disease. A fascinating and even very well written insight from a woman who is both a Psychiatrist who treats it and suffers from it. She was very brave and very poetic in writing this book.
Scot Parker
Jul 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a deeply personal book to me and one that I recommend to everyone who is bipolar or who has friends or loved ones who are bipolar. It's a fascinating read even if you're just interested in psychopathology.

Dr. Jamison has Type I Bipolar Disorder, its onset occurred during her childhood, and she has struggled with and benefitted from its effects throughout her life (manic episodes are often euphoric periods during which one's energy feels boundless, one feels capable of enormous feats, in
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"There's no easy way to tell other people you have a manic-depressive illness; if there is, I haven't found it...I am tired of hiding, tired of misspent and knotted energies, tired of the hypocrisy, and tired of acting as though I have something to hide."

Me too, Kay. Me too.

"There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in this kind of madness. When you're high it's tremendous. The ideas and feelings are fast and frequent like shooting stars, and you follow them u
“If you have bipolar illness, this book will help you to forgive yourself for everything that has gone awry; if you do not, it will perhaps show how a steely tenacity can imbue disasters with value, a capacity that stands to enrich any and every life.”
Oct 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
This memoir written by Kay Redfield Jamison is an open and honest portrayal of her life with manic depression(bipolar illness). Starting in her teenage years, Dr. Jamison (she is also a Ph.D in psychology)describes the roller coaster of her own emotional health.With just a short remission during the years she was working on her graduate studies, her illness repeatedly returned... characterized by extreme highs in her moods and thinking processes (mania) and very low periods of extreme depression ...more
Camelia Rose
An Unquiet Mind is personal memoir of a manic depressive (bipolar disorder). Kay Redfield Jamison is a clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology, whose focus is mood disorder and who also suffers the same disease. She was born and raised in a conservative American Military family. This book describes the onset of the illness during her teenage years and the journey to seek treatment and manage her symptoms.

"Curiosity has taken me to places I am unable to handle emotionally, but the sa
Fawaz Ali
Mar 16, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: scrap-list
Book Review of an Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison

Dr Jamison is a renowned psychiatrist who has published numerous research papers and books on bipolar disorder. In this book, she details her experience with bipolar disorder and how she was able to cope with the tragedy of being both a doctor and a patient. Unfortunately, the book is forgettable and focuses on details that some readers may find personal, such as Dr Jamison’s love life, her academic career and t
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoirs
I wasn't sure if it was Jamison's illness that makes her seem so arrogant or her upbringing. It was hard for me to feel sympathy for someone who has never had to have any consequences for her actions, keeps getting bailed out but is considered qualified to be somebody else's psychiatrist....She keeps justifying her actions, and her reluctance to take medication that she needs to take. She was unlikeable and unreadable.
Mar 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school
Very interesting look on manic-depressive illness. Read this for my Medicine and Literature class and really enjoyed it. The book is a memoir from the author (Kay Redfield Jamison) who suffers from manic-depressive disorder (bipolar disease) and is also a well respected psychiatrist. This puts a very unique look at the disorder considering she plays both the roles of patient and doctor which also gave her a unique approach to how she treated patients because she was also being treated for a ment ...more
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As someone who loves reading memoirs and is interested in psychology, I enjoyed every page of this remarkably written memoir.

It can't be put any better than it was on the front cover, "An invaluable memoir of manic depression, at once medically knowledgeable, deeply human and beautifully times poetic, at times straightforward, always unashamedly honest." - The New York Times Book Review

Kay's beautifully poetic way with words attracted me to this book even further. I found myself de
♥ Ibrahim ♥
She is not the average every day person, but I feel as if I am in the presence of a genius who is ahead of everybody I have ever known. It’s like reading a great work of writing like Jane Austen, the Brontees, etc.,people that overwhelm you with a sense of awe and deep respect. At the same time, she is so real, down to earth, simple, inspiring, motivating, challenging. I found the writing both compelling and gripping. It is hard not to cry sometimes. Reading this part on her seeing a doctor when ...more
Sep 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
Anyone even a litle unstable will relate to this book, and probably become convinced that they are bipolar. But that is a personal way to start.
This book irritated me. Well written, albeit showy, her confidence I guess was what was grating. You could praise her optimism and strength in the undercurrent of subtle praise for the benefits that mania imparted on her life, and her vagueness in describing her depressions. And you could say that it should be an inspiration to anyone bipolar/manic-depre
Jan 06, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: e-pube, mental-health
I'm loathe to call someone's rundown of their mental illness "boring" so instead I'll say, it was not interesting. I was bored. If you want a dry account of a privileged white woman's bipolar experience, then this is your book. I'd much rather read someone's experience who isn't so privileged, who doesn't have the access to health care or $200 an hour psychiatrists. Or rather, I'd like to read about privileged people using their privilege to help the more unfortunate. It's great that you're so i ...more
This book was part of my assigned reading for my Mental Health class (BA of Human Services degree). I found it very engaging and rapidly became fully immersed in Jamison’s candid inside story on what it is like to live with manic-depression (aka bipolar I disorder). It quickly became clear that it is written by an individual who is very articulate, thoughtful, honest and intelligent. Jamison provides insights into her family and close relationships that provide both a backdrop and reveal her sup ...more
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Kay Redfield Jamison (born June 22, 1946) is an American clinical psychologist and writer who is one of the foremost experts on bipolar disorder. She is Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and is an Honorary Professor of English at the University of St Andrews.

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