I’m someone who’s struggled with depression. As such, I’ve experimented with a lot of strategies to get a handle on it.
One of the strategies I’ve tried is going to see a therapist.
To be honest, I personally didn’t get much out of it. But there is a form of therapy I have found really beneficial: bibliotherapy.
“Bibliotherapy” refers to reading books to help alleviate mental health issues. And the research suggests it can be an effective form of treatment for mild and moderate depression.
Over the years, I’ve read dozens of books about depression and general melancholiness to better help me manage my own depressive tendencies, and as research for the series I wrote about male depression here on AoM.
Visiting a human therapist can be effective for some people, but if that’s something you’re not interested in for whatever reason (can’t afford it, don’t have time, don’t like the idea, etc.), consider doing some bibliotherapy. It’s cheap, convenient, has no adverse side effects, and can work.
Also, if you do decide to see a therapist, it can be helpful to be familiar with the concepts around treating depression so that you can get more out of your sessions; having plenty of context for your condition will allow you to better hit the ground running. Often, a counselor or therapist will assign a patient to read a book on managing depression as a supplement to their in-person visits anyway.
Below, I highlight the best books on understanding and managing depression that I’ve come across during the course of my own bibliotherapy; maybe they will help you, too. Some of the content overlaps between the books, but each author has their own unique slant, and some repetition is valuable — it’s how you keep the important principles you need to remember at the forefront of your mind. Aim to read one book every few months; just like traditional therapy, bibliotherapy shouldn’t be a one-and-done thing, but an ongoing process.
Feeling Great by David Burns
One of the many factors that contributes to depression is faulty thinking. Depressives are often depressed because they see the world through an inaccurate, overly-pessimistic lens. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of effective talk therapy that aims to help the depressed individual challenge those faulty thoughts and replace them with ones that align more closely with reality.
In Feeling Great, psychiatrist David Burns gives the lay reader a comprehensive, easy-to-read guide to implementing CBT to manage a variety of mood disorders, including depression.
Feeling Good (which was basically the earlier edition of the now-updated Feeling Great) is one of the most valuable books I’ve read on managing depression through better cognition and one that I keep going back to for a refresher when I need to scrub the barnacles off my psyche.
Check out our article on the 11 cognitive distortions that are making you a miserable SOB to get a taste of what you’ll find in Feeling Great
On Depression by Nassir Ghaemi
On Depression isn’t so much a how-to manual on how to manage depression. Instead, it provides readers a better, more holistic understanding of melancholy. Dr. Ghaemi makes a compelling case that the way we typically think about depression in our popular culture is overly simplistic and that we not only need to think of it in terms of biology and psychology, but