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Mental Disorders

by Richard A. Moskovitz
Taylor Publishing Company, 1996
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Mar 31st 1998

Lost in the Mirror

 There are not many popular or self-help books on personality disorders (I Hate You, Don't Leave Me is the only other one I'm aware of), so Lost in the Mirror is a welcome addition to the psychology shelves. The book is an explanation of the issues that arise for those with borderline personality disorder (BDP); it sets out what the disorder is like, the problems that arise in therapy, and the experience of the family members. It is divided up into 21 short chapters, each of which is divided up into short sections. Each chapter ends with the continuing fictional tale of Sara, a person with BPD. Sara is married to Jonathan, and they have two daughters. She comes into therapy with Dr. Moskovitz, but it takes many months before the origins of her troubles start to becomes clear. She begins to recover traumatic memories from her childhood. It is years before she comes to a resolution of her problems, and the journey of therapy involves suicide attempts, hospitalizations and times when her marriage is under severe strain. But she comes through it all. Moskovitz tells each episode of Sara's story as an illustration of some of the points in the preceding chapter.

 Lost in the Mirror will be useful to people wondering if they have BPD, or if someone close to them has BPD, and it will give some guidance about how to get help. It is written in a simple, open style which is both its strength and weakness. The book is easy to read and makes its points clearly. It also glosses over the theoretical complexities and controversies involved in the understanding of BPD. It never pretends that there is an easy cure for BPD, but its simplicity means the book lacks depth and detail. Although the book's subtitle promises an inside look at BPD, it is really a brief book from the therapist's point of view, offering the rather easy advice that you'd expect from a self-help book. Moskovtiz has a wealth of experience with patients with BPD, and the most gripping parts of the book are the stories of Sara and other patients. He certainly conveys some of the desperation, pain and anger of these people, but by the end of the book I didn't feel that he had said enough to really clarify the difference between BPD and other conditions, especially bipolar mood disorder. Two of the most characteristic features of BPD are the chronic feelings of emptiness and self-mutilation, but he devotes little space to these. I'm left wanting to read a well written first-person account of someone who have lived with BPD, but there are very few such books available. BDP is still one of the most of the enigmatic of mental disorders.

The second edition of Lost in the Mirror was published in 2001: