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Depression Management: Must-Read Self-Help Books on Depression

June 19, 2019

According to the World Health Organization, depression is the number one cause of disability globally, with over 300 million people affected worldwide. Even more troubling, incidence rates of depression continue to grow every year. In the U.S., there was a 33% increase in depression diagnoses between 2013 and 2016. Depression manifests differently for different people and can result from a combination of factors, environmental and otherwise. This can complicate finding an effective treatment program that works for each individual.


Treatment plans for depression often take a dual-front approach of prescribing a regimen of a medication such as one of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) as well as a professional therapy program such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Many medications for depression are based around addressing any neurological chemical imbalances that may affect mood. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment intended to help patients identify and disrupt negative thought patterns that may be contributing to their depression. Therapists may additionally recommend that patients make changes to their personal habits and routines if those changes may help a patient’s body achieve homeostasis or support more positive thought patterns.


Does Reading Help Depression?


Symptoms of depression can include difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and reduced motivation and enjoyment of activities, so for someone with depression, the thought of finding and picking up a book to read can feel overwhelming. However, reading can be a very useful tool for helping people develop healthy personal strategies to better cope with depression.


There is an unimaginable wealth of information contained in books, so, naturally, people have long turned to reading when seeking answers. Not all books are helpful though, and there are so many books out there that finding an effective resource that works for an individual’s personal situation can be difficult. This post contains a list of popular self-help books focused on different methods of confronting depression with the hope that each person can find a strategy that appeals to him or her individually.

10 Self Help Books on Depression



1. Jog On: How Running Saved My Life



Amazon Rating: 4.9 out of 5 Stars



Jog On: How Running Saved My Life is a book by Bella Mackie about her personal struggle with mental health issues and how running helped her to build momentum in her battle against anxiety and depression. Bella provides a disarmingly candid account of her experiences with mental illness and the failures and successes that she had in using exercise to confront it. Hearing about experiences from someone who has battled mental illness personally can help provide relief because that person can often relate to the nuances of others’ similar struggles in a way that someone who has not experienced mental illness cannot. It can also be discouraging for someone with depression to try a coping mechanism and find that it doesn’t work for them, so Bella’s honesty about the ways that exercise didn’t work is helpful in its own right. She tells how she re-strategized and found smaller goals that she could achieve and combine into larger goals.

2. Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope



Amazon Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars



Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope is a widely renowned book by top-rated TED speaker and New York Times best-selling author of Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, Johann Hari. Lost Connections raises some interesting thoughts about the causes of constantly increasing rates of depression in the world. Depression diagnoses are often subcategorized as “endogenous” or “reactive.” Reactive depression is differentiated as a response to negative stimuli produced by a person’s environment, and endogenous depression is considered a response to internal cognitive or biological stressors. Hari takes this taxonomy to task by positing that the “chemical imbalance” theory is overstated, and many cases of “endogenous” depression may actually be perfectly normal responses to traumas that have just been overlooked.

3. This Too Will Pass: Anxiety in a Professional World



Amazon Rating: 5.0 out of 5 stars



This Too Will Pass is a book by author Richard Martin detailing his personal journey as depression hit him in the middle of his legal career and how he dealt with it. Many times people with successful careers will encounter depression and feel as though it’s their own problem for not feeling happy specifically because they are successful. Furthermore, the upbeat attitudes in career-oriented environments can make someone who is suffering from depression feel particularly alienated. However, nobody is immune to mental illness. Anxiety runs high in career competition. With so many responsibilities for working professionals to manage between the office and home, even successful people can be caught off-guard by depression rearing its ugly head. For this reason, this book may be particularly relatable and comforting to career-oriented people.

4. The Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us



Amazon Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars



In her book The Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us, Emma Mitchell talks about her extensive experience with depression over 25 years, and how she used nature to find solace and gradually improve her mood. Starting with walks in the beautiful Cambridgeshire Fens landscape surrounding her house, Emma takes one day at a time to relearn her appreciation of the beauty in nature. By taking up photography and drawing, Emma forges a personal connection with this beauty, as well as actively developing a personal skill. The book’s pages are full of these drawings, and one can’t help but be inspired to seek out similar beauty throughout all of the diverse scenery in our own lives. For people with depression who have always felt personal connections with nature, The Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us may provide some illuminating coping mechanisms.

5. Notes on a Nervous Planet



Amazon Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars



Notes on a Nervous Planet is a book about living in the modern technological age without getting overwhelmed by the constant stressors and anxieties that can lead to depression. Notes on a Nervous Planet is written by Matt Haig, the multi-award-winning author of the number one bestseller Reasons to Stay Alive. Spurred by his personal experiences with anxiety and panic attacks, Matt writes about how, despite making us more connected, our increasing reliance on smartphones and social media can actually cause us to feel lonely and alienated instead.

6. Reasons to Stay Alive



Amazon Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars



Reasons to Stay Alive is another book by author Matt Haig specifically about his experience with depression. A Sunday Times number one bestseller and ranking in the top ten charts for 49 weeks, Reasons to Stay Alive explains how Matt found himself in the depths of depression at age 24, and how he was able to climb his way out by finding new ways to relate to the world. With a narrative striking a balance of sensitivity and humor, Reasons to Stay Alive could be helpful to someone with depression who’s looking for new ways of thinking to escape their current thought patterns.

7. Happy: Finding Joy in Every Day and Letting go of Perfect



Amazon Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars



Happy: Finding Joy in Every Day and Letting Go of Perfect is a Sunday Times bestseller by Fearne Cotton about strategies for staying positive in an increasingly negative world. Living such fast-paced and connected lives, it’s easier than ever to find new pressures and stresses to internalize. Cotton understands this and embraces it, viewing happiness less as an ultimate external goal to achieve and more as a constant effort to acknowledge our small victories and look to expand them inch by inch. Offering numerous exercises, reminders, and organizational ideas, this inspirational book teaches the reader not to deny themselves happiness by attaching it to external goals, but to find it by ignoring negativity and treating themselves fairly.

8. The Happiness Hypothesis



Amazon Rating:4.6 out of 5 stars



The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom is a thought-provoking book by social psychologist and bestselling author of The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt. A person who has depression may have a difficult time finding meaning in life. Over the course of 11 chapters, Haidt takes 10 popular aphorisms from throughout history and analyzes them in light of modern scientific data. The result is an abstract philosophical journey that forms a narrative out of the ideas that great thinkers throughout history have spent their lives cogitating. For someone with depression who’s struggling to find a deeper meaning underneath our rapidly changing world, spending time reading The Happiness Hypothesis could help him or her develop a healthy worldview from the bottom up, built off of the insightful theories of people who spent their lives trying to develop meaningful and objective interpretations of the ways the world works.

9. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy



Amazon Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars



Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy is a book published in 1980 written by distinguished psychiatrist David D. Burns, MD. Burns is largely credited with the popularization of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the psychotherapy method that is now considered the standard for psychological treatment of depression. Burns was mentored by Dr. Aaron T. Beck, who is widely regarded as “the father of cognitive therapy”. Previously, Freudian analysis was considered the standard for psychotherapy treatment, but Beck concluded that empirical evidence suggested this method was not successful for the treatment of depression. In Feeling Good, Burns uses this conclusion as a premise for developing an effective methodology of introspection that can help sufferers of depression identify and stymie the specific thought patterns and beliefs that are causing them to feel depressed. Bringing such a revolutionary paradigm shift of psychoanalysis to the mainstream, Feeling Good was rated by the 1980 edition of Behavioral Medicine as one of the top ten books in the field of behavioral science, and according to The Authoritative Guide to Self-Help Books, is the book that mental health professionals in the United States recommend most frequently for patients with depression. Evidence from six studies support that Feeling Good has a beneficial effect on people with depression who read it.

10. The Inflamed Mind: A Radical New Approach to Depression



Amazon Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars



The Inflamed Mind: A Radical New Approach to Depression is a relatively recent book by University of Cambridge professor of psychiatry, Edward Bullmore. Featured on CBS “This Morning” and a Sunday Times bestseller, The Inflamed Mind takes advantage of recent advances in science to illustrate a link between depression and inflammation. Given how complicated the interconnected systems are inside of our bodies, scientists have long sought to identify the specific interactions between these systems and what causes them. Thanks to recent discoveries of the mechanisms of inflammation, scientists have been able to link inflammation to a great number of diseases, particularly autoimmune disorders. In The Inflamed Mind, Bullmore postulates over the implications of inflammatory factors for treatments of mental illnesses like depression.

Depression is a very complicated illness and despite incidence rates continuing to increase throughout the world, we still have a lot to learn in terms of identifying its many potential origins and what treatment (or combination of treatments) work best for each individual, considering their subjective backgrounds and biological factors. It can also be difficult for people with depression to effectively open up or communicate their feelings to professionals with whom they don’t have personal relationships, which can complicate the professional’s task of developing the best treatment program for that individual. Supplementing a professional treatment program with personal efforts like reading self-help books can be a useful way of helping people find coping mechanisms that work best for them individually.

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