A Psychologist picks her Favourite Books about Managing Depression
I have been living with depression (major depressive disorder) for over 15 years. I probably have quite an unusual experience with mental health services as I actually have seen both sides of the coin. I am a psychologist by profession but also have received inpatient treatment for treatment resistant depression in hospital.
After spending years living in the self-help section of book shops and suffering through patronising 'don't be sad, be happy' books I want to save others some time and share with you some of the books that have provided me with knowledge, comfort and inspiration when it comes to the topic of depression.
Which is the best book about depression?
Each of the books about depression listed below approach the topic of depression from a slightly different angle.
It's important to take the time to find the approach that resonates most with you. While some people might prefer a more mindful approach to coping with depression others might prefer to pro-actively learn coping strategies or implement life changes.
1. Noonday Demon by Andrew Soloman
The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon is both one of the most comprehensive and vivid personal account of depression that I have read to date. Solomon is a long-term sufferer of depression and shares his story amidst a thorough study of the history, philosophy, literature and scientific theories of depression. I found his exhaustive and unbiased reviews of various treatments for depression very refreshing.
This is not a book aimed at those looking for a quick light read over a cup of coffee. That said, this is the one book that I return to again and again when I'm looking for both comfort and inspiration.
A free chapter is available to download from the official Noonday Demon website.
2. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
Written by a well-renowned clinical psychiatrist, Dr. David D. Burns, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy is one of the classic books on the market which contains comprehensive techniques to help you step out of the black hole of depression. This a book aimed at anyone experiencing negative thoughts and emotions which are holding them back. What I personally like about this book is that the techniques offered by Burns are applicable to individuals currently on medication for depression. Also the written exercises provided in the book provide you with a chance to really internalise what you are reading.
3. Mind over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think
This workbook aims to provide individuals coping with depression with CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) techniques to improve their mood. Both authors are experience clinical psychologists specialising in cognitive therapy. The basis behind this book is that your thoughts control your mood. If you can learn to better manage your thoughts your mood will improve.
What is unique about this book is that, no matter where you are located, you can run through the step-by-step worksheets which help you acquire various skills to help conquer some of the negative patterns of behaviour you may have built up around your depression. The workbook contains questionnaires to rate and track your moods and the book itself is laid out is a really accessible and user-friendly format.
4. The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness
It is only within the past few years that I have become to stop expecting a comprehensive fast and scientific 'fix' for my depression. One of the most powerful techniques I have learnt is the use of mindfulness in the fight against my own depression. The Mindful Way through Depression, written by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Jon Kabat-Zinn, supports you in focusing on your emotions and life experiences which may be hindering you in moving out of your depression. This book mixes eastern meditative techniques with cognitive therapy and I found that combination very empowering in a current climate where a lot of books are firmly on only one side of the fence in regards to depression treatment.
5. The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression: A Step-by-step Program (Workbook)
The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression, written by psychologist Bill Knaus, uses techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) to provide readers with tools to address their own depression. This is a great book if you are the kind of person who feels like they want to be doing something 'concrete' outside of a therapeutic situation about their moods. The books is packed with exercises, tasks, checklists and quizzes.
6. Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn't Teach You and Medication Can't Give You
Written by practising psychotherapist Richard O'Connor, Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn't Teach You and Medication Can't Give You is a refreshing look at depression and how we might be contributing to our own cycle of depression. This book does not aim to provide a magic cure for depression but it is a great starting point for anyone recently diagnoses with depression and also for those providing them with support such as close friends or family members.
7. Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness is a true-life first-person account of William's Styron descent into severe depression and his eventual recovery. Styron, the author of Sophie's Choice, brilliantly describes each stage of his path to psychotic clinical depression. Personally, when you are a sufferer of depression, it can become tiring to always be reading self-help books by clinical professionals who typically have not experiences firsthand the emotions they are attempting to address. There is some strange comfort to read a book like Darkness Visible and share in another person's experience of depression.
8. I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression
This book is written by psychotherapist Terrence Real and specifically addresses hidden depression in men. I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression should be the starting point for any male looking for a book in the area of depression. It helps explain how a lot of so-called 'male behaviour' is actually men looking for an outlet for their depression. I have personally found this book extremely helpful when supporting male friends who experience depression and they too have said that they found it less 'pop psychology' and more real than a lot of other books they had read.
9. Malignant Sadness
Malignant Sadness was one of the first memoirs of someone's experience with depression that I encountered after being diagnose with depression. Lewis Wolpert is a developmental biologist suffering with recurring depression who charts his own experience of an episode of depression, suicidal ideation and eventual recovery. Wolpert also discusses his own experience of the stigma surrounding mental illness and frustration at lack of information available to him about treatment. Malignant Sadness is not a self-help book but I found myself connecting profoundly with Wolpert whilst reading this book and would recommend it to anyone looking to read a memoir regarding depression.
10. Depression: The Way Out of Your Prison
The author of this book, Dorothy Rowe, has worked as a child psychologist and teacher. The main premise of this book is that depression is an unwanted result of how we see ourselves and the world. Rowe suggests that depression is not a mental illness but a defense against pain and through changing how we interpret the world individuals suffering from depression can free themselves from the cycle of negative emotions.