If you or someone you love is living with depression, you may be looking for resources to help you understand the condition and how to manage it. Many people turn to self-help books based on psychological methodologies as an accessible option for helping improve depression symptoms and change unhealthy patterns of behavior. Along with appropriate therapeutic interventions such as talk therapy, books about depression and self-help guides may help encourage healthy habits and perspectives on mental health. Let’s take a look at 13 self-help books that are often recommended for those who are seeking useful resources on depression.
The Effectiveness Of Self-Help Books For Depression
If you or someone you know is currently experiencing a crisis and needs to speak to someone, it's essential to reach out immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (Also known as the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline) is available 24/7 by dialing 988.
A licensed psychiatrist or therapist can evaluate their recommendation for an effective treatment plan, which will include some form of psychotherapy in most cases—sometimes in tandem with medication. It’s important to understand that self-help books alone are not enough to treat depression. However, they can act as a helpful resource in your mental health journey, potentially helping you shift your perspective, improve low self-esteem, and learn more about how to cultivate healthy habits.
13 Recommended Books About Depression
It’s usually best to consult with your provider for resources that might be useful for your specific situation. You may also want to ask them questions about any health claims that are made within these books. That said, the following books have been recommended by mental health professionals and may be worth exploring.
1. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy By Dr. David Burns
This book explains the basics of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the most widely used form of psychotherapy for depression. Burns helps readers understand why cognitive behavioral therapy works for depression while offering tangible strategies to help individuals improve their mental health and quality of life.
2. Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel By Changing The Way You Think By Dennis Greenberger And Christine Pedesky
Mind Over Mood is another book about cognitive behavioral therapy. It outlines the steps you can take to change your thinking patterns in order to improve your mood. This book can help you conceptualize the information you’re learning in therapy sessions and put it into practice.
3. Depression, The Mood Disease By Dr. Francis Mondimore
A nationally and internationally recognized psychiatrist, Dr. Mondimore is a professor at John Hopkins who has written several books about bipolar disorder and depression. In this book, he explains the basics of depression in a way that’s easily understandable. If you are newly diagnosed or have a loved one who is, this book can help you understand the details of this mental health disorder.
4. Unholy Ghost: Writers On Depression By Nell Casey
This book is a compilation of short fiction stories that represent what living with depression is like from different perspectives. It’s accessible reading for all levels and is written without technical or clinical language. If you’re looking for a more personal view on what depression can be like, this book is one to consider.
5. The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression By Andrew Solomon
Solomon himself experienced clinical depression and wrote this book to help others understand what it’s like. This memoir details his own history with the disorder and also imparts interesting insights from scientists, policymakers, philosophers, and others to provide a well-rounded view of the condition and its implications for both individuals and society.
6. The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness By Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, And Jon Kabat-Zinn
This self-help book uses a holistic approach towards thinking about depression, focusing on the concept of mindfulness as a way to help notice and shift flawed thought patterns that are causing damage to your self-esteem or distress —which makes it a useful accompaniment to receiving cognitive behavioral therapy. Plus, scientific evidence and research have found that mindfulness may be a way to combat depression and anxiety, so learning about this technique can be a helpful addition to the treatment plan your therapist has outlined for you.
7. The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling And Start Living By Russ Harris
This self-help book walks you through a relatively new form of psychotherapy known as acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT. Harris provides practical advice on how you can try to adjust your relationship to the negative thoughts and beliefs that may be causing distress.
8. Darkness Visible By William Styron
William Styron writes about his own personal experience with depression in this book, which can be especially valuable for readers who have a loved one with the condition. While an illness like this can be different for everyone, this book succinctly and empathetically explains some of the thoughts, negative feelings, and challenges that many people with depression experience.
Self Help Books Can Help With Understanding Depression
9. The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs By Dr. Stephen Ilardi
This book explores the mind-body connection in terms of depression and anxiety. It focuses heavily on the power of lifestyle changes for promoting good mental health, such as improving sleep habits, eating habits, and work habits. Seeking professional treatment is important for those with mental health conditions like depression, but a book like this can also help you learn ways to manage behavioral symptoms.
10. Change Your Brain, Change Your Life By Dr. Daniel Amen
This book is also based on the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy. It includes research from thousands of brain scans that have helped scientists better understand the way conditions like depression can impact our brain chemistry and the way we think. It then offers a set of tips that may help you shift thought patterns and manage difficult emotions.
11. Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn't Teach You And Medication Can't Give You By Dr. Richard O'Connor
This book focuses on the unhealthy habits that those with depression may not even realize they’ve developed to cope with the condition. The author proposes a set of techniques to try that may help people experiencing mental health challenges alter unhelpful patterns.
12. Full Catastrophe Living By Jon Kabat-Zinn
The scope of this book is a bit broader and can apply to anyone who is interested in improving their mental health. It’s centered around mindfulness-based techniques that are designed to promote well-being through stress reduction.
13. The Feeling Good Handbook By Dr. David D. Burns
This book also delves into CBT-based techniques for helping an individual manage symptoms of depression. The author offers a set of techniques that may help people handle the day-to-day experiences associated with mental health conditions like this.
Seeking Treatment For Depression
Again, depression typically doesn’t resolve on its own, and it may not be possible to be 100% depression-free. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression—such as a sense of hopelessness, a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, irritability, trouble concentrating, and significant changes in sleeping/eating patterns—meeting with a qualified mental health provider can help. These providers can evaluate your symptoms and situation. This may include asking if you have any family members that have dealt with similar conditions in the past, as studies have shown that people with a family history of depression may be at higher risk for developing it themselves.
A qualified mental health provider can also offer an appropriate treatment plan, which will typically include therapy and may also involve medication. In some cases, these providers may be able to inform you if product manufacturers addressed safety concerns regarding their medications. This information could be helpful when considering your treatment options.
It may be best for those who are experiencing severe depression to seek in-person treatment to ensure their safety. Otherwise, both in-person and virtual therapy can be viable treatment options. In fact, research suggests that online CBT is “at least as effective” as in-person treatment for depression in many cases. For some people with depression, leaving home and traveling to an appointment can seem like an impossible task. In cases like these, virtual therapy offers a simpler, more accessible format for getting the necessary treatment. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, for instance, you can meet with a licensed therapist via phone, video call, and/or online chat from anywhere you have an internet connection. Your therapist may be able to help you with a number of issues besides depression as well, including problems you are having with a substance, abuse you have experienced, or another mental health condition.
Below are commonly asked questions on this topic:
What are the best books about depression?
What books talk about depression?
What are good books for mental health?
What are the two best coping mechanisms to mitigate depression?
Does reading help depression?
Which is the best book to read?
What should I read for anxiety?
Will power and anxiety?
Does a keto diet cure depression?
How can we boost our mental health?
What Are Major Causes Of Depression?
For most people, depression is not caused by any singular issue and, in some cases, cannot be explained by any identifiable cause. People with depression usually develop symptoms due to a combination of genetics, past experiences, present circumstances, and gender. Contrary to casual cases of sadness or disappointment, living with depression doesn’t need to be explained or quantified to be a valid concern.
Biology is one commonly explored cause of depression. Studies consider the possible connection between genetics and mental health to develop strategies to potentially employ neuroscience to reverse the effects. Chemical exchanges and brain activity are two causes for depressive episodes. Links between family history of depression and the development of symptoms in future generations are commonly discovered. Still, neither of these potential causes offer a definitive explanation for why depression presents itself in some people with a history or genetic disposition and not others.
Age is another factor considered to cause higher risks for depression. Seniors are regularly affected, usually because of the negative feelings attached to living alone or due to lack of social support. Further causes to consider include disabling health conditions like cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic pain, or thyroid problems. Trauma, grief, and stressful circumstances also contribute to the number of people living with depression. Prescription drugs along with the side effects of alcohol, drugs, or substance abuse are also a common cause for depression.
Is Reading Good For Depression?
Reading can be an effective way to understand mental illness or counter some symptoms of depression. Books written about mental health challenges, trauma, and substance abuse, especially by authors who have experienced these issues firsthand, can offer a unique perspective on what it means to live with, and manage, disorders like depression. Therapists may suggest reading as an alternative mental health treatment. Techniques like bibliotherapy or “reading therapy” are revolutionary new concepts that can also help people recover from related disorders like OCD, anxiety, addiction as well as substance abuse. Structured reading programs hosted by clinics, schools, and local libraries invite people to explore books written on relevant health topics, in hopes of inspiring their healing. While bibliotherapy is not a depression cure, many people report improved mood and personal outlooks after engaging in such programs.
Recent peer-reviewed studies have consistently replicated the positive results found while using bibliotherapy to help facilitate recovery. Whether self-initiated or performed within a group, several reports suggest that reading presents a positive effect on people with depression. Suggested books don’t need to be restricted to topics on mental illness. Reading fiction books helps improve empathy, social skills, and social understanding.
Other suggested genres to explore include autobiographies and memoirs like Noonday Demon An Atlas of Depression by author Andrew Solomon. In the text, the author explores his personal journey with depression, including recounting feelings of hopelessness and the effects of witnessing his mother’s assisted death as a teen. Richard O’Connor is another notable author, having penned several books on depression. Like Andrew Solomon, he also witnessed his mother’s death when he was 15 years old. That trauma sparked his need to understand the effects of depression, which became his life’s objective. Reading such candid explanations from people who have been directly impacted by similar mental or emotional disorders in ways that also affects many families today offers a sense of understanding that helps counter the isolation and confusion usually associated with depression.
Are Books Good For Mental Health?
Books can be extremely beneficial while navigating your mental health journey. According to MentalHealth.Gov, one in five adults in the United States experience issues related to disorders like anxiety and depression. Reading is a cost-effective way of studying different conditions. It also helps counter some of the signs and symptoms associated with those challenges.
Some of the best books explain the impact of mental illness by telling research and personal experience that make the signs and symptoms of mental health issues feel less alienating. Furiously Happy is a bestselling book written by author Jenny Lawson, which takes an interesting approach to explaining depression. It is a comedic book about difficult events the author has lived through on her lifelong journey, detailing painful memories in a hysterical way. For those looking for a more scientific explanation of mental illness, Upward Spiral by Alex Korb PhD sheds light on the neurological effects depression has on the mind. Alex Korb created an award-winning manuscript in Upward Spiral using neuroscience to explain how changes in the neurotransmitters in the mind can present drastic effects on a person’s mood and behavior.
Other challenges like eating disorders, anxiety, and substance abuse are discussed in a wide range of titles. From technical books written by professionals to personal stories told by authors who wish to educate through their experiences, books are a proven way to advocate for your own emotional healing. A small change in habit or routine can help a person develop a wealth of new knowledge and experiences.
Engaging with a good book offers cognitive and psychological benefits that can help counter the symptoms of depression. The mental break can help you develop positive responses to otherwise stressful situations.
What Is The Primary Cause Of Depression?
Depression cannot be attributed to a singular or primary cause. It is the byproduct of combined factors, many of which remain unknown. Harvard Health explains that the development of depression is not as simply explained as a “chemical imbalance” in the brain, despite common belief. Mental health challenges can stem from various underlying causes like genetics, stress levels, prescription medication, substance abuse, social interactions, or even chronic illness. Chemical exchanges in the mind do play a role in mental illness, but the impact of those reactions is complicated, and cannot be listed as a primary cause of depression.
When exploring why people develop the symptoms of depression one small change could cause someone who previously experienced “balanced” chemical production in the brain to begin experiencing signs of mental illness. Because of this, genetics, personal history including childhood trauma, experiencing significant life changes such as divorce, pregnancy and childbirth, substance abuse or suddenly losing a job are also considered causes of depression. With the various forms of depression and the unique nature by which the symptoms present in each individual, presently, there is no way to identify a primary cause.
Is Reading Good For Your Brain?
Recent studies suggest that reading is helpful in maintaining healthy brain functions. Regular reading can prevent the development of disorders like anxiety and depression, or other debilitating disorders related to aging. Reading employs many different brain functions at the same time, all of which help strengthen the effective function of the most important organ in the body. When you read, you utilize the mind’s vivid imagery and memory to follow along with the book’s plot. Experts boast on reading’s power to carry people through a multitude of thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a condensed amount of time, much faster than it would take to explore those experiences in real life. Gathering information, engaging different ideas, and considering new concepts helps people become more socially aware.
Books help people navigate unfamiliar or stressful situations, encouraging them to process thoughts they may not have considered on their own. Additional reports suggest that reading helps people understand empathy and the emotional states of others. To experience these benefits, you can read anything from lengthy novels to stories told through pictures. Developing a reading routine in your younger years can improve a person’s social intelligence and circumvent the risk of developing certain mental illness in the future. Developing lifelong reading habits is believed to be a secret to maintaining mental function as you age. Some studies state that reading can improve your memory, cognitive thinking, and circumvent the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.
What Are The Different Types Of Depression?
“Depression” is a versatile term, often described with many different meanings and associations. To better aid in the diagnosis and treatment of depression, professionals classify signs and symptoms into the following categories:
1. Major Depression, also known as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), describes a persistent form of depression that presents symptoms over a prolonged period. Symptoms of MDD can include lost interest in leisurely or daily activities, considerable weight loss or gain, insomnia, fatigue, restlessness, constant agitation, guilt, feelings of worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal thoughts. ** If you experience at least five of these symptoms consistently for two or more weeks, you may have MDD.
**If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.
2. Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) is a second type of depression that exists for at least two years, usually longer. Previously known as dysthymia, or low-grade persistent depression, and chronic major depression, the two disorders have been condensed into a singular PDD diagnosis. Symptoms of PDD closely mirror the signs of MDD, with the length and severity of the side effects being the main differential.
3. Bipolar Disorder is a third form of depression, formerly referred to as “manic depression”. People with bipolar disorder experience fluctuating mood episodes that alter between extreme highs and lows. During the low phase, people will exhibit symptoms of severe depression. As their mood adjusts to an upswing, people exhibit behaviors classified as “manic”, including high bursts of energy, excitability, and happiness closely followed by another “low” episode.
4. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the fourth form of depression that usually presents during the winter months. As the days grow shorter, the decrease in sunlight can have a negative impact on certain people’s mood and behavior. Various forms of therapy, including light therapy are suggested to help people who exhibit symptoms of SAD.
How Can I Improve My Mental Health?
Improving your mental health requires patience, honesty, and a lasting commitment to understanding your condition. Start by speaking with a professional about your concerns. If you’ve already been diagnosed with a mental illness, it is important to adhere to your doctor’s treatment plan and suggestions, even if you decide to take the initiative to try to improve your circumstances on your own.
After understanding the unique ways mental illness affects your life, you can begin taking steps to manage your symptoms. Limiting your exposure to known triggers is the easiest way to reduce the risk of negatively affecting your mental health. Avoid stimulants that may alter your judgment and emotions like alcohol or drugs. Substance abuse and addiction makes it more difficult to prioritize coping strategies that keep you healthy. Connect with a support group that caters to your addiction or substance abuse issue, to gain support while on your journey.
From there, continue to eliminate stressors in your environment. This could mean distancing yourself from unhealthy relationships, avoiding environments that could trigger a depressed event, removing clutter from your home, or choosing a more emotionally satisfying job or career.
Professionals also suggest mindfulness techniques to improve mental health. Maintaining a daily gratitude journal, taking a vacation, yoga, and meditation can boost serotonin levels and improve your mood. You may also decide to spend time with loved ones, pick up a new skill, or enjoy things that make you laugh. Pleasurable memories and experiences are the best way to support your mental health.
Some also benefit from telling their personal experiences by telling their story in a social media post, blog, article, or book. Authoring your own story can inspire other people who are also on a quest to better their mental health and the ease of self-publishing helps defend your message, so you don’t have to worry about things like, “Will this person sell my info?” With a little focus and some helpful suggestions, you can turn painful memories into a new beginning.
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