Explore And Learn About Depression With These 13 Books

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated July 12, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you or someone you love is living with depression, you may be looking for resources to help understand the condition and how to manage it. Many people turn to self-help books based on psychological methodologies as a convenient option for helping improve depression symptoms and change unhealthy patterns of behavior. Along with appropriate therapeutic treatments such as talk therapy, books about depression and self-help guides may help encourage healthy habits and perspectives on mental health. Let’s look at 13 self-help books that are often recommended for those who are seeking useful resources on depression.

Self help books can help with understanding depression

Looking for self-help books about depression?

If you believe you are experiencing a mental health condition like depression, the recommended first step is usually to meet with a mental health professional. Depression is a serious mental illness that typically doesn’t resolve without treatment.

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 generally 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 book recommendations 

The most effective way to go about finding the best psychology books to understand depression is typically through the recommendations of qualified psychiatrists or psychologists.

It’s usually best to consult with a mental health care 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 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 Johns Hopkins University 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 available reading for all levels and is written without technical or clinical language. If you’re looking for a more personal view of 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 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 to thinking about depression, focusing on the concept of mindfulness to help notice and shift flawed thought patterns that may be 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 negative thoughts and feelings, and challenges that many people with depression experience.

9. The Depression Cure: The Six-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.

Self help books can help with understanding depression

Depression treatment beyond reading

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 may help. You can meet with them one-on-one, with family members if desired, or take part in therapist-led support groups with others experiencing similar difficulties as you. These providers can evaluate your symptoms and situation. This may include asking if you have any family members who have experienced any mental illnesses, 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 care plan with evidence-based treatments for depression, which will typically include therapy and medication. In some cases, a mental health professional may be able to inform you of any potential safety concerns regarding specific medications. This information could be helpful as you consider your treatment options. 

Try online therapy

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 convenient 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 may be having with substance misuse, abuse you have experienced, or another mental health condition.

If you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7.

Takeaway

The above books may offer you a better understanding of depression and how it can affect people in different ways. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, know that you’re not alone. It may help to speak with a licensed therapist, whether in your community or online. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed therapist who has experience helping people seeking treatment for depression. Take the first step toward relief from depression and reach out to BetterHelp today.
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