Surviving Ophelia

by Cheryl Dellasega, Ph.D.

Perseus Publishing, Oct., 2001.
Hardcover, 256 pages.
ISBN: 0738205087

Surviving Ophelia by Cheryl Dellasega, Ph.D. Only recently have parents been speaking openly about their struggles with tormented teen girls ("Ophelias"), many of whom struggle with eating disorders, depression, suicidal behavior and other problems. In Surviving Ophelia, Cheryl Dellasega, Ph.D., a tenured Associate Professor at Penn State College of Medicine, bravely and frankly details her struggle with her daughter's anorexia, bulimia and severe bouts of depression which landed her in and out of psychiatric wards during her high school years. Dr. Dellasega has reached out to other mothers who are going through the same experiences. The result is a moving and disturbing book which sheds light on a problem that is becoming all too common in today's society which values fitting in above all else. This pressure to fit in and to conform is seen at its worst in the large, American high schools, such as Columbine.

Each chapter opens with a story about Dr. Dellasega's struggle with her daughter Ellen, and then conversationally explores stories on a similar theme from other mothers --- who are dealing with everything from drug abuse to self-mutilation, oftentimes seen in upper-class girls who have loving parents and no major traumas in their past to account for the mental disturbances. Surviving Ophelia does not offer pat advice or even absolutes in a subject that seems to have even mental health professionals baffled at times, although the book does raise some very interesting issues about the potential causes and cures of the problem. What it does offer is hope and companionship to parents who need to know that they are not alone.

--Claire E. White

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This review was published in the Oct. - Nov., 2001 of The Internet Writing Journal.

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