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Depression For Dummies: A Reference For The Rest Of Us

Laura L. Smith, Ph.D. and Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D. have a hit on their hands with the easy-to-understand guide to everything you ever wanted to know about depression but were afraid to ask, Depression for Dummies. It’s an ideal book for someone who has just been diagnosed with depression for the first time in their lives, or for a loved one or family member who needs help understanding the disorder.

This husband-and-wife team also has authored several other books, including Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies.  As part of the super-successful and ever-growing Dummies franchise, this offering has the same simple, orderly layout with plenty of tips, reminders, and special boxes to explain any technical jargon.  The first thing you see upon opening the cover is the usual useful tearout sheet; this time it’s a depression checklist and resource list for getting help, as well as do’s and don’ts and how to deal with it if it’s just a bad mood.  This would be very helpful for someone picking this book up because they are not sure if they, or a loved one, are struggling with depression or just the blues.

After the typical title pages and such, you find yourself at Contents At A Glance and the ensuing Table of Contents.  They are basically the same, differing only in length and detail, but both of them make it easy to see what subjects the book deals with and where to find just the information you need.

The body of the book is broken down into 22 chapters over five sections.  The first section deals with learning about depression, including general facts and more specific information on how it affects different groups, including children, the elderly, and minorities.  It also covers how to seek help, as well as reasons why people choose not to seek help and how to get past those ideas.

The second section covers depression’s effect on thought processes, how we view ourselves and the world around us, and memory.

Section three is about methods of behavior therapy.  The fourth section focuses on building and repairing relationships.

The fifth section is about biological methods of treating depression, such as medication, ECT, and several of the more popular alternative treatments people are using.

Section six covers the issue of relapse.  How do you decide when your depression is behind you?  What happens if it comes back?  It also covers the growing field of positive psychology, which focuses on how we can be happy, rather than the problems that rob us of those feelings.

Section seven, the final one, is the standard For Dummies parting shot, The Part of Tens.  Each chapter is a list of ten things in a topic.  This book has three: ways to deal with a bad mood, helping depressed children, and helping a loved one who is depressed.

This book is designed for those who are depressed or think they might be, and those with people in their lives struggling with depression whom they want to support.  It contains a great deal of information organized simply and clearly, with plenty to get your started on your own or getting professional help, if that is what you need.  It can be read cover to cover or in any order you choose.  Throughout the book they point you to other sections that deal with the topic at hand, as well as suggest where to start reading if you are severely depressed.  They also recommend other books that might be of interest in various areas, both their own books and those of other professionals.  A list of all their recommended reading is included in back for easy reference.

Being sensitive to their audience, the authors included in the introduction a note to readers, explaining the title and that the humor they used hopefully would “lift their spirits a little“ — it was not meant to belittle their experience in any way.  I thought this was a nice touch.  Several people I mentioned this book to thought the title was a little odd.  Who wants to be labeled a “dummy” when you’re depressed?

The book’s information is grounded in research and clinical success. A few alternative treatments mentioned were specifically presented as having only anecdotal evidence and no scientific basis to recommend them.  In presenting positive psychology they offer the idea that I can go on to feel “better than good.” While that may be difficult for a someone in the midst of a depressive episode to believe, the authors were prepared for that, too.  Section six on life after the depression is introduced with the caveat that it should not be read until you have “succeeded in defeating your depression.”

The case is made that depression is a manageable problem with commitment to treatment, whether you choose medication or therapy or both.  They offer several methods of working through the various issues associated with depression such as altered thought processes and a warped sense of self.  These are mostly made up of various ways to challenge your assumptions, with a mix of writing things down and talking them out.

This is certainly a book I would recommend to anyone who wants to know more about depression.


384 pages

Depression For Dummies: A Reference For The Rest Of Us

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Joy Rudder

APA Reference
Rudder, J. (2016). Depression For Dummies: A Reference For The Rest Of Us. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 May 2016
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 May 2016
Published on Psych All rights reserved.