An Unquiet Mind

An Unquiet Mind Study Guide

An Unquiet Mind is a memoir written in 2009 by Dr. Kay Jamison, in which she recounts her lifelong struggle with manic-depressive illness. The tone of An Unquiet Mind varies between one of informal recollection of life events and one of a clinical examination of behavior and attitudes. This is the second creative nonfiction work to be published by Jamison, and her third book overall, including a medical textbook on manic-depressive illness. The book received a largely positive reception, with Jamison being praised for her bravery in working to abolish stigma. By publishing under her own name, Jamison breathed life into the world of memoirs of disease, empowering those who fear professional reprisal for their stories to publish anyway. Critics of the memoir argued that Jamison only discusses the successes of her professional and academic life, choosing to understate the setbacks or failures she might have faced due to her illness.

The memoir was a New York Times best-seller for five months straight. It has been translated into 25 languages. Johns Hopkins Hospital praises the book on its website as a kind of “bibliotherapy” that does “what pills can’t: It lets patients read for themselves how destructive not taking their medicine can be, it tells of the healing power of structure, psychotherapy, and a social network. It tells them they’re not alone.”