Top positive review
For the discerning depressive
Reviewed in the United States on May 5, 2015
I don't want to make any unscientific claims here, but I've found that a lot of the people I know who are depressed are also pretty smart. Which means that self-help books by celebrity rehab graduates and costumed spiritual gurus aren't going to be of any help. Another unscientific conjecture: in my experience, depressives tend to have finely tuned aesthetic sensibilities, which means reading clunky technical literature is a daunting challenge, particularly through the fog of one's symptoms.
The Upward Spiral stands out from the pack for three significant reasons:
1. It's based in evidence.
This book isn't made up of snake oil panaceas, or Hallmark platitudes, or overblown pep-talk rhetoric. It's built on a foundation of clinical trials and observations of the brain, as up-to-date with contemporary neuroscience as possible.
2. It reads well.
The problem with writing based on scientific evidence often ends up being that the prose is dry and boring, or patronizingly dumbed-down, or frustratingly abstract. Korb is no Adam Phillips, but he writes about the structure and function of the brain more clearly than anyone else I've read in the past, frequently deploying effective analogies to familiar objects and ideas.
3. It includes advice.
Another problem with some science-based texts is that knowing what synapses fire at what time doesn't really help you figure out what to do outside your skull. Korb gives a suggestion on practically every page.
This book isn't going to cure you. It addresses a specific aspect of depression: the way symptoms reinforce themselves and inspire new ones, resulting in the downward spiral that drags you down to your deepest depths. The optimistic implication of the title is that just like a small trigger can drag you down, an effective intervention can start enough momentum to carry you up.
I'm of the belief that if you're depressed, you probably have to figure out how and why it started, and determine what specific patterns of thought originated as a result. That means seeing a therapist or analyst, possibly for a long time. But in the meantime, you have to get yourself out of bed every day, and this book gives you some idea how. To my knowledge, it's the best of its kind.