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on 1 January 2009
I have read the negative reviews and they do not surprise me. Ms Rowe's books are not for the feint of heart nor for those not wishing to take responsibility for themselves.
Yes I do know what depression is, I know what it is to be in so much pain that death seems far preferable. Yes, I had a terrible childhood and had every reason to be depressed. However, Ms Rowe indeed showed me the way out of my prison. If people don't see that she gives clear methods for getting out, then they must not want to see them. What realised, and she taught me, was that my childhood had taught me to think in a way that was detrimental to my health, that was the cause of my depression(in fact manic depression - bi - polar disorder). thru reading her books I came to understand myself, why I was suffering and how only I could end it. And the way to end it was to take responsibility for my own recovery and two start the process of changing my thinking. Her explanation of ideas and meaning structures were the doorway for me. Today, I don't suffer from depression. I no longer think I was at fault for the abuse I suffered as a child and I am free of the vile thinking I had been taught. I freed myself with Ms Rowe as the guide. I would not be alive today if not for her books. Oh and I am drug free for depression and have been for years now. I also now have a 24/7 physical pain problem, am disabled, but still not depressed! I think differently and Ms Rowe showed me how. If her books are to be of help, one has to accept that the only way to change is by changing oneself and not relying on others to change.
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on 9 May 2005
This is the best book I have ever read about depression! (I have read a lot of them). While cognitive-behavioural type self-help books on depression made me feel even more miserable (for example, suggesting to think only good thoughts), this book was touching and inspiring- it show where these thoughts come from! Two the best things are, first: book very well demonstrates how the roots of our depression should be searched for in our childhood and family; secondly: the chapter about using antidepressants very persuasively demonstrates that anti-depressants alone won't help. Very inspirational book.
However, I am afraid that it might help only those who have already reached some understanding on relationship between childhood experiences and depression via psychotherapy or themselves. This book definitely is not for people who are looking for ready-made fast-working recipes.
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VINE VOICEon 7 September 2004
I have read this book twice - once in 2004, when I thought it was the worst book on depression I'd ever seen, and again more recently, when my views on depression had changed somewhat and I wanted to give it another chance.

I believe Rowe's aim is to help the reader understand how they became depressed, how they maintain their illness, and then use that insight to recover. That is commendable and it played a large part in how I recovered from depression (not using Rowe's book, but with the help of an excellent therapist).

Unfortunately, Depression: The Way Out of Your Prison doesn't work for a number of reasons:

* It assumes all depressed readers are the same. Rowe tells you what you are thinking and feeling - and in my case, most of the time she was plain wrong. This is invalidating and very unhelpful.

* Rowe's theories and opinions on depression are presented as fact. It's not a balanced book and there's no acknowledgement of biological and genetic factors, or of the role medication can play.

* The book has a harsh tone, basically telling you you've caused your own illness. I do think it's important to face up to ways you may have contributed to the depression - but Rowe's approach is one-sided and she seems to forget that depressed readers may already have low self-esteem and be vulnerable.

* There is no practical advice on coping with or overcoming depression. The whole premise of the book is that once you understand how you've built your prison, you can walk out. This is fairly useless if Rowe's "one size fits all" explanation doesn't work for you.

I was surprised by how many positive reviews this book has. Maybe Rowe's theories do apply to the majority, and I'm just a freak. ;) Or maybe the book is more suitable for the "worried well" than it is for someone with a serious mood disorder. Either way, my concerns stand - you cannot assume all people with depression are the same, and if Rowe's approach doesn't work for you, it's upsetting and potentially dangerous.

Two books I found much more helpful were Mind Over Mood by Greenberger and Padesky and Depressive Illness by Tim Cantopher. The former teaches you practical CBT coping techniques, while the latter focuses on stress-related depression (with admittedly a bit too heavy an emphasis on meds). I've yet to find a good book that helps you make sense of the underlying cause of your illness - perhaps that really is only a job for a therapist.
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on 5 July 2011
I started reading the book and found myself feeling more and more disillusioned and down. The author obviously means well but she generalizes on the reasons for depression (which I believe are the current circumstances of your life). If we could all just jump out of the situation we are in and find ourselves in a better situation then we would almost certainly feel better. Another thing wrong with this book is that the author only devoted 14 pages out of around 340 pages to discussing actually what to do to get out of the depressive state, and even in these measly 14 pages she leaves you without a clue. So the book is wrongly titled. I believe every case of depression is different. My own experience is that stress and the lack of healthy coping mechanisms is a major cause of depression. Usually a depressed person feels in a corner and has to work their way out of it to feel better.
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on 6 August 2004
Rowe's books are interesting and they occasionally contain some pearls of wisdom but they all seem to suffer from the same weakness. She's very good at giving detailed explanations as to why we might hold certain ideas, where these ideas came from (childhood) and why these ideas might be detrimental to us, but she devotes little or no time to solutions.
Instead, she provides an unnecessarily lengthy and unfocused book in which she attempts to put down on paper everything she can think of about depression - this includes numerous poems about depression sprinkled liberally throughout the book, excerpts of 'dark writing' produced by patients and writers, and anecdotes about patients. The problem with this, and particularly with her approach (which is largely psychoanalytical), is that it tends to encourage the reader to brood on their problems, and churn things over in their minds again and again. As a part of a treatment model, this isn't something that should be encouraged as it tends to exacerbate rather than reduce the symptoms of depression.
The descriptions of depression that Rowe adopts are taken from her patients - dark places, prisons, nothingness, bleakness, etc. People seems to relate to these descriptions and I have to admit that this is what got me to buy the book in the first place. Whilst I don't have any problem in people sharing experiences, provided it is appropriate, there is a considerable danger that the use of such descriptive and emotionally evocative language emphasises the power of the very 'prison' that people are trying to get out of. Depression is a frightening and difficult experience at the best of times, and if Rowe is going to take the reader to such a 'dark place' through emphasis and re-emphasis, she has an ethical responsibility, in my opinion, to lead them of out it through a structured and focused practical treatment programme. This she patently does not do.
Even when she does (briefly) talk about solutions, she gives the impression that it's simple to change deeply rooted ideas that have built up over a lifetime - if you feel angry don't, if you're afraid have courage, if you're feeling negative, don't because it's causing your depression. It's very condescending. If you're at your lowest ebb, it's the last thing that you'll want to hear. She spends almost the entire book analysing psychological causes and ideas, and its not until the very last chapter that she finally divulges what she believes to be the solution - that it's the depressed person that has the built the prison of depression around them through the ideas that they hold and it's therefore the depressed person's choice as to whether they want to deconstruct the walls of that prison. No further explanation. No practical or structured treatment programme of behaviour led change. No mapping of daily routines and behavioural target setting. No depression inventories or depression scoring techniques to measure progress (and encourage further progress). No consideration of physiological contributors to depressive symptoms (Rowe simply doesn't believe that there is any biological basis for depression). Nothing. Which wouldn't be so bad, if she showed more warmth, empathy, encouragement and understanding throughout the book. I don't feel that she does this very well or at all. She uses the word 'we' alot but she shows nothing of herself and the style is cold and clinical in my view. However, it's the complete absence of a solution based focus and its emphasis on psychological rumination, which makes the book fundamental flawed, in my opinion, particularly, if it is to be taken as a form of treamtment for depression.
Rowe has a number of entrenched views which crop up as recurring themes in her books. As far as Rowe is concerned, the field of psychiatry is irrelevant and there is no biological component to depression (serotonin / norepinephrine levels, atrophy of neurons, disrupted sleeping patterns, physiological contributors etc). Whilst I don't have any problem with her expressing unusual or controversial views or providing a socialogical or philosophical, I don't believe that a book that is likely to be read by a person suffering from depression is the most appropriate place in which to do so. Depression can be a hugely debilitating condition and most people who read this book will simply not be in position to question what she says becuase of vulnerabilty, fear, difficulty in making decisions or lack of knowledge.
When I suffered from depression, the things that would have helped would have been warmth, empathy, understanding, encouragement, hope and most of all, someone or some method to pull me out of depression. In my opinion, a book that is focused on those aspects, is far more appropriate than the restrictive and limited approach taken by Rowe which focuses on introspective rumination. If this book is simply one of many on the subject that you're going to read, then fine, but have a think about what sort of position you're in with regard to depression before diving in. It's interesting hearing the views of others who have read this book - one person I met said that after they had finished reading the book, they were 'cured' of depression, which I find difficult to believe. Another person described the book as 'not for the depressed'. Personally, I can't recommend this book to anyone suffering from depression (particularly those with moderate to severe depression). There are far better books on treating depression or its surrounding causes. The David Burn's book is a good one and its also worth having a look at the NHS depression reading list.
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VINE VOICEon 23 March 2007
I only had one debilitating period of depression which lasted about eight months, and it was a long time ago, but Dorothy Rowe puts her finger on exactly how you sink into it: a profound disappointment leads to a sense of worthlessness and paralysis.

That in turn leads you to cut yourself off from other people and see the world in a dark hue. Her approach is not scientific, she just explains how she has been talking to depressed people for 20 years and these are her observations.

She's tough and controversial. I've read several other of Dorothy Rowe's books, I feel one a year is a good refresher course. This book is excellent. When I finished it, I remembered a line from Dr Eric Berne (Games People Play), "This may mean that there is no hope for the human race, but there is hope for individual members of it."
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on 13 April 2009
This book gave me great insight into depression, what it is and why you suffer from it. All the time I was reading this, lights were coming on in my head and as I made connections with my own experiences. Depression is indeed a prison and the analogy made where the sufferer is both prisoner and jailer is spot on. I struggled with depression for fourteen years. Although it wasn't the severely disabling type that some people suffer, it still blighted my life and blunted any feelings of enjoyment I might have had. Reading this book would have helped me understand the condition better and make me more able to come out of it. This book should be available on prescription instead of the addictive anti-depressants that doctors are so fond of prescribing as a quick fix.
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on 9 December 2009
I have been suffering with depression for years and struggled to understand why. My counsellor recommended this book and I am so grateful to her. It has to be one of the best books on depression. By reading it I have been able to move forward with my life and put the past behind me.It is a must for anybody interested in depression or who knows someone suffering.
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on 9 February 2006
This book is written by a very wise woman. The basic premise of the book is that depression is caused by events in our life (mainly in our childhood) that have developed the 'mental idea' that we are somehow bad. This feeling of badness was constructed by blaming oneself for the past mistakes of others (mainly our parents) and oneself instead of being easy-going about mistakes and forgiving about oneself and others.
This thought process creates allsorts of justifications and rationalisations to sustain the ‘illusion’ of ones inherent badness which builds the fearful mental prison.
Of course this idea that one is bad is just a figment of ones imagination built over time but it becomes more real than the reality of one being a living, breathing, feeling, thinking loving human being. This self image of badness in ones memory prevents one seeing the truth and dominates ones (re)actions. It is in seeing the falseness of this 'mentally created idea’ that stops one 'believing' the illusion, then one becomes free of it.
This books show us how we can become free of it and shows us how it is just an idea in our heads. The books looks at how we hold onto our suffering for security and certainty purposes and that by letting go of it we would be free. However what prevents us from letting go is that we think it will reveal our so called badness; and so the suffering in a sense is confirmation we are trying to be good but are really bad. The book encourages to break free of this cycle.
It is this whole self destructive process that needs to be seen as a mere figment of ones imagination and not the absolute reality of our life. It is this we have mistaken to be true that creates the illusion.
This book is helpful for everyone because there are things in it that relate to most people's states of mind. This book as lead me to read people like J Krishnamurti, Eckhart Tolle, Buddhist teachings etc. Another great book for everyone (if one wants to understand the reactions in the mind) is Pure Power: How to Achieve World Peace and Happiness by James Christopher.
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on 14 June 1999
Having never read any book on the subject of Depression, and needing to gain some understanding of how it affects my partner and our relationship, this book provided a stunning first read on the matter. All the problems within our relationship instantly made sense and by making the connection between the behavour which had caused a problem between us and the symtons of and reasons for my partners depression it was like feeling the jigsaw pieces all fall into place. The author avoids medical jargon totally to give a straight talking, yet well supported with case studies, description of how, why and the effects of depression and a step by step guide to starting to break down the walls of depression.
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