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A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction

Updated on June 3, 2016

Book Review

A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction by Patrick Kennedy with Stephen Fried is a memoir of Kennedy's struggles with depression and addiction. This book is not an expose of family scandals but an honest telling of his experiences with these diseases. The goal of the book is to inform readers of both the advancements and issues associated with brain diseases.

The book is informative and pleasant to read. Facts about these diseases are interspersed with stories from Kennedy's life.

Depression and addiction are diseases. They are not character flaws or weaknesses. They can be managed with treatment and medication allowing those afflicted with them to live a normal and productive life. However, one has to get help first. Unfortunately, many are afraid to seek help because they don't want to be labeled crazy, mentally ill, addict, druggie, etc.

This book also discusses the problems with the ways that health insurance covers these diseases. Brain diseases and addiction are no different than any other disease. Treatment options should not be covered any differently than any other disease.

My thoughts about depression and addiction

Don't be ashamed if you have depression or any other brain disease, or have addiction issues. Get the help that you need. Don't worry what others think. You owe it to yourself to do what is right for your health so you can live the best life that you can. You are not alone. Help is available.


Addiction is not an easy disease to overcome but it can be done. Many people have. Addiction encompasses more than just drugs or alcohol. You can be addicted to gambling, sex, spending, food, and so on.

If you look at overcoming addiction as being similar to accomplish a goal, such as losing weight, you can see some common difficulties. Let's look at a scenario.

A week of healthy eating has boosted your self-esteem. A reward is in order because you have this healthy eating thing under control. Your reward - a meal at your favorite junk food restaurant. You have just slipped and possibly relapsed.

Here is another common scenario.

You may have gone a month or two eating healthy food. You feel great and people are noticing that you are losing weight. A friend suggests you join him or her at one of your old favorite junk food restaurants. Why not? One time won't hurt you. You have this healthy eating thing under control. You have just slipped and possibly relapsed.


Not all people who have problems dieting are addicted to food. For some, the difficulty is changing behavior.For people who are addicted to food, dieting is withdrawal.

People are addicted to something because their drug of choice makes them feel good, it masks the pain they feel, the emotions they can't come to terms with, their sense of low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, not liking themselves, and so on. Their drug of choice acts as a band-aid.


A Common Struggle is worth reading because it gives you insight into a serious health issue that affects many, maybe even a friend or family member.


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