One way you can learn about psychiatry and mental illness is by reading books by well-known psychiatrists. Below, we’ll discuss a few famous psychiatrists and their written contributions to the field of psychiatry and mental health care.
On Death and Dying, by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
A psychiatrist from Switzerland, Dr. Kübler-Ross (1926-2004) was most famous for her book On Death and Dying, which outlines the five stages that terminally ill patients may go through from diagnosis to death: 1) denial and isolation; 2) anger; 3) bargaining; 4) depression; 5) and acceptance. Dr. Kübler-Ross defined these stages after interviewing many individuals experiencing a terminal illness. Her work in this field has transformed the way that many terminally ill patients are treated.
Surviving Schizophrenia: A Family Manual, by Dr. E Fuller Torrey
Dr. E. Fuller Torrey is a famous research psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. His work in the field has revolutionized the treatment of these mental illnesses. His book Surviving Schizophrenia explains details about schizophrenia and how it is experienced by both patients and their families. It also discusses techniques and treatments that may help with symptom management.
Another work by Dr. Torrey is Surviving Manic Depression: A Manual on Bipolar Disorder for Patients, Families, and Providers, which was co-authored by Dr. Michael B. Nable. This book focuses on bipolar disorder, including risk factors for the disorder, onset, symptoms, and treatments.
Understanding Depression, By Dr. J Raymond DePaulo, Jr.
Understanding Depression provides patients and their families with information on depression, an often-misunderstood mental illness. Dr. Kramer, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medicine, is meant to serve as a guide for patients and families. This book helps people identify the signs of depression and provides hope by outlining various treatments for depression, including therapy and medication.
Against Depression, By Peter Kramer
From the author of Listening to Prozac, this book challenges our understanding of mood disorders and helps readers understand research on depression. Against Depression also offers hope to those experiencing this disease by providing research on depression and resilience.
Quiet Your Mind And Get To Sleep, by Colleen Carney And Rachel Manber
Quiet Your Mind And Get To Sleep may be helpful for people who experience insomnia due to depression, anxiety, or chronic pain. It outlines cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques that may help you learn how to sleep, even when your body and mind seem to be fighting it.
Saving Normal: An Insider's Revolt against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life, By Allen Frances
Allen Frances is a psychiatrist who served as the chairperson of the DSM-IV task force. The DSM-5 (Diagnostical and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders) is the latest edition of this manual for psychiatrists to diagnose mental illness in patients. Saving Normal is about the role of psychiatry in modern times. It cautions readers about the use of the DSM-5 and the risk of labeling what may be everyday problems as a mental illness.
Learning More About Psychiatry And Mental Health
There are many books written by renowned psychiatrists that help you learn about mental health disorders and mental health in general. Some books may have been written for clinicians but can be helpful to patients and their families.
Before checking out any book that claims to be written by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional, it may be worth researching their credentials to make sure that they are a reliable resource of information on the topic.
If you’re interested in learning more about mental health conditions, whether because you are experiencing challenges or know someone who is, it may help to seek professional support in addition to reading about mental health. If you don’t have time to see a therapist in person, you might consider online therapy.
With online therapy at BetterHelp, you can typically be matched with a therapist within 48-72 hours, so you can begin to get your mental health questions answered without being put on a long waiting list. You can connect with a licensed mental health professional via phone, live chat, or videoconferencing at a time that works for your schedule.
Numerous peer-reviewed studies have demonstrated the effects of online therapy. One review of 17 studies found that online CBT was “more effective than face-to-face CBT at reducing depression symptom severity.” One of the random controlled trials in the study also found online CBT to be more cost-effective than in-person therapy.
With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience in your specific areas of concern, and you can connect with them from the comfort of home via text, phone, or video chat. Take the first step toward becoming more informed about mental health and contact BetterHelp today.
What questions can you expect from a psychiatrist?
Whether they work in an in-person practice or a clinical practice, the questions your psychiatrist will ask during your initial consultation will likely depend on how comfortable you are at first. Typically, patients come to see a therapist for very personal reasons, so it’s common for them to follow your lead.
That said, you can expect your psychiatrist to ask questions about your personal life, like:
- What brings you here today?
- What types of symptoms are you having? How do you feel today?
- Can you tell me about your medical history? Are you taking any medications?
- Can you tell me about your family’s medical history?
- Do any of your direct relatives have a mental health condition or struggle with their mental health?
- Have you seen a mental health professional before? If so, what was your experience?
- What sort of goals do you have for working with a psychiatrist?
Depending on the individual circumstances, psychiatrists sometimes ask patients to complete assessments during their initial consultation. These may include a mental health self-evaluation, depression inventory, bipolar screening questionnaire, dissociative experiences scale, and/or a psychopathy test.
Can a psychiatrist write a prescription?
Licensed practitioners of clinical psychiatry can prescribe psychiatric medications for a host of mental health conditions. For example, psychiatric drugs can help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression diagnosed on their own—but also for conditions like personality disorders and psychosis that commonly feature anxiety and depression as co-occurring conditions.
Specialists in child psychiatry may use medications to help children with conditions like ADHD that can severely impact daily life. Geriatric psychiatrists may prescribe medicines for dementia patients to reduce delusions and hallucinations and relieve painful changes in mood and behavior.
What are the benefits of reading books on mental health?
Reading books on mental health can be beneficial in a few ways.
If you or a loved one are just beginning therapy (or have yet to attend), a book on mental health may help you understand a little bit about typical symptoms of mental health conditions and provide insight into the types of questions you may want to ask.
Many therapists promote psychoeducation as an integral part of the therapeutic process. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a mental disorder, your therapist may ask you to read books specific to your condition recommended by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
It’s important to remember that while reading books can be highly beneficial, it’s not a substitute for one-on-one interactions and feedback from your therapist.
Why are mental health books important?
Mental health books are important because they can be a valuable resource for patients— and the friends, loved ones, and caregivers supporting them. Difficult conditions such as borderline personality disorder (BPD), schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and others can be challenging to cope with for everyone involved. Becoming informed and educated about conditions like these can help.
Mental health books are helpful for couples and families attending counseling together. Supplemental reading can help individuals better understand each other’s perspectives, cultivate empathy, and forge closer bonds during the therapeutic process.
Mental health books written by psychiatrists are also important because they often give us real-life scenarios and case studies depicting individuals' mental health challenges.
For example, Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” is a standard recommended reading for patients and students of psychiatry. The memoir recounts Frankl’s experience as a prisoner in a Nazi death camp during world war II and the stories of his patients. While in the camp, Frankl used coping methods that would be later developed as a psychotherapeutic method under the school of existentialist psychology.
Frankl’s inspirational, unforgettable story illustrates how, when put in extreme trauma situations, relatively ordinary people can develop the strength to survive physically and psychologically.
However, there are works of fiction that provide interesting insight into mental illness and how it is treated, as well. Ken Kesey’s novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is one of the most well-known examples.
The story follows the arrival of Randle McMurphy, a mischievous but headstrong patient in the psychiatric ward of an institution for the disabled mentally ill. It’s told through the eyes of Chief Bromden, a Native American patient who sympathizes with and understands McMurphy’s heroic attempts to defy the protagonist, Nurse Ratched (the head nurse assigned to his wing), and advocate for the rights of his fellow patients.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was an important fictitious representation of the real-life challenges that some psychiatric patients endured in mental health institutions. The book drew attention to the horrible conditions in which patients often lived and the sometimes ineffective treatments offered there— prompting change and reforms in how inpatient psychiatric facilities operated.
How does reading books benefit both your physical and mental health?
Becoming deeply engaged or immersed in a book (called narrative absorption) can enhance well-being and provide a healthy “escape” from the stress of daily life. Becoming absorbed in a compelling story alters our cognitive and emotional processes to encourage contemplation about essential topics such as relationships, communication, adversity, and more.
Burgeoning research over the past two decades indicates the benefits of reading books are so significant that some mental health professionals have coined the term “bibliotherapy” as a complementary technique used with other types of psychotherapy. (Bibliotherapy is defined by the American Psychological Association (APA) as “an interaction between the reader and certain literature which is useful in aiding personal adjustment.”)
For example, one study from the University of Liverpool Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences studied the symptoms of individuals diagnosed with depression participating in two weekly reading groups. Qualitative data on the types and severity of symptoms was collected at the outset and the end of the study. While limited by a lack of controls and a small sample size, participants self-reported reduced symptoms over the study’s one-year duration.
Findings from a 2016 study published in The Journal of Social Science & Medicine suggest that reading may also be good for one’s physical health. The study followed the life longevity of 3,635 individuals participating in the National Institute on Aging’s (NIA) Health and Retirement Study. Researchers found that participants who were regular book readers experienced “a 20% reduction in risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow-up compared to non-book readers.”
Does reading books calm your mind?
Studies do suggest that books can calm your mind and reduce stress by lowering your heart rate and reducing muscle tension. Many individuals also benefit from the healthy psychological diversion from daily stress offered by reading.
Can reading books reduce depression?
While further research is required, some findings implicate regular reading as an effective supplement for depression therapy. For example, one 2017 systematic review of eight studies found that long-term bibliotherapy reduced depressive symptoms in mentally ill adults.
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