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A Psychologist picks her Favourite Books about Managing Depression

Updated on November 12, 2014

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.


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    • Sage in a Cage profile image

      Sage in a Cage 3 years ago

      Thanks Alyeska! I hope you found some new resources which will help you along your path to feeling stronger.

    • profile image

      Alyeska Martinez 3 years ago

      Thanks for a great hub! I struggle with depression and I am always looking for new resources.

    • Sage in a Cage profile image

      Sage in a Cage 5 years ago

      Thanks. It's always nice to get feedback from others in the psychology field!

    • gsidley profile image

      Dr. Gary L. Sidley 5 years ago from Lancashire, England

      Thanks Sage for putting this useful resource together.

      As a fellow clinical psychologist, I am familiar with some of the books you recommend, particularly 2,3,4 and 10. But some of the others look interesting, especially the "Malignant Sadness" book which I will try to get hold of.

      Best wishes

    • Sage in a Cage profile image

      Sage in a Cage 5 years ago

      Thanks Angela. I do hope one of the books suit you.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Thank you so much for sharing I have bouts with depression. The books do look helpful! Voted up!

    • Sage in a Cage profile image

      Sage in a Cage 5 years ago

      Good luck Vox Vocis! Maybe you could make it a joint 'project' and find a way that you could use the book together. In my experience everyone could benefit from some basic cbt techniques. I know I use a lot of the skills in personal situations. She might find that approach less confrontational. She's lucky to have someone in her life who obviously cares so much about her. I really hope she can learn to free herself from her past and enjoy the present.

    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 5 years ago

      Thanks, I'll take your advice and try to "make" this person read the Cognitive Behavioural Workbook for Dummies. Hope she'll do as recommended and benefit from it! It is difficult to spend time with a person who is there with you, but not really there. You'd like to help, but you can't help people who don't want to help themselves. Whew!

    • Sage in a Cage profile image

      Sage in a Cage 5 years ago

      If this person is depressed and caught up in her thoughts to the point that you feel it is affecting her ability to enjoy life, I would strongly recommend that she consult someone specialising in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This is a form of therapy which, in essence, teaches you how to rationalise your thought process and gives you techniques to free yourself from recurrent thoughts which are affecting your behaviour now. Usually the first point of call would be to consult your local doctor to get a referral to a psychologist or a therapist who specialises in CBT. If she is reluctant to approach someone about her preoccupation with the past maybe she might benefit from reading a book (such as the Cognitive Behavioural Workbook for dummies) which gives an overview of CBT. I understand how hard it can be to watch someone close to you live their lives still preoccupied with the past especially when, most of the time, they are unaware of how their current behaviour is being influenced by these thoughts. It is possible to break that cycle of preoccupation with destructive thoughts and the fact that you are concerned enough about it to post that comment, I would strongly encourage you to approach her about addressing this pattern.

    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 5 years ago

      I've noticed that concentration is a big problem in depressed people in whatever they do. Since you're a psychologist, I'd like to ask you if you can give any tips on how to help people with depression to concentrate on what they're doing, like on work? A person very dear to me has this problem - she is always somewhere in the past with her thoughts, and as much as I tried to help her or entertain her, I have a feeling she's not there although physically she is next to me.

    • Sage in a Cage profile image

      Sage in a Cage 5 years ago

      Thanks for the feedback. You're right when you say that it can often be hard for people in the midst of depression to concentrate on reading books. I hope that this list will also provide information and support for those supporting others.

    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 5 years ago

      Some of these books I'm familiar with - I haven't read them all, so I can't really say which one is the best, yet, I have to mention that the Mindful Way through Depression is the best book on depression I've read so far. Luckily, I don't suffer from this cruel disease, but unfortunately I know a lot of people dear to me who do suffer from it. Reading books on depression can be rather helpful; often, depressed people cannot really concentrate on reading, but friends and family should read these books, too, in order to learn how to behave and help people they love. Great hub, voted up!

    • Sage in a Cage profile image

      Sage in a Cage 5 years ago

      Thanks for your feedback! Working as a psychologist, I do get quite critical when I'm reading self-help books. I always need to see some clear theory behind the advice being given and preferably some scientific evidence to back it up.

      Don't be hard on yourself if you struggle to understand what your friend is experiencing. The fact that you are reading online articles in the goal of better helping her shows how good a friend you are and she will see that. Everyone's experience of clinical depression is unique and quite often the sufferer themselves are not quite sure what exact emotions they are feeling as it can be quite overwhelming and confusing.

      I hope your friend enjoys the book.

    • Maralexa profile image

      Marilyn Alexander 5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

      What a very helpful hub! Being a professional yourself, I respect your choice of books.

      How to really understand someone with depression is one of my challenges. But because I really care about my friend, I would like to have a better idea of what she is experiencing. I will try your recommended book No. 6.

      Just feeling down is nothing like clinical depression. I believe more of us need to gain a better understanding of this debilitating disease.

      Thank you.