Best Books That Will Help You Overcome Depression
Having depression isn’t easy.
You can’t control your tears, you feel hopeless in life and people around you just don’t understand what you are going through.
No matter what you do, you can’t seem to get rid of your negative thoughts and emotions.
There is no specific cause or cure for depression. Some people have mental health issues and clinical depression, while others have a spiritual depression called “The Dark Night of the Soul”.
Everyone has their own method to overcome and deal with it. Be it medication, therapy, or gaining insights from other people’s experiences. You have to choose the best method for you.
Below are the top books on depression. Each of them carries a little different perspective. Depending on your current situation, pick the book which best suits your needs. They may provide you some light to your darkness.
Bonus: My Book on Spiritual Depression
Note: The way I look at my books will never be the same as the way I look at other books, so to be fair I rather keep them off the list.
The Emotional Gift by Yong Kang Chan
What if depression is a spiritual gift and not suffering?
This is a memoir about my experience with spiritual depression (aka the Dark Night of the Soul). Even though it is a memoir and not a self-help book per se, this book does help you to gain insights and change your perception towards depression. If you are someone who prefers to learn by reading about other people’s experiences, this is the book for you.
Most people confuse depression with being sad or negative. If you are unsure of your own emotions, reading this will help you gain a better understanding of your own emotions during this difficult period. It helps to put what you are feeling and going through in words.
This isn’t a psychology book, so don’t expect to find any psychological jargon in this book. As someone who experienced depression, I know it’s hard to absorb any information that is too technical when we are feeling depressed. So this book is deliberately written in a simple manner.
Top 10 Best Self-Help Books for Depression to Read When Depressed
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1. The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb
If you suffered from depression and want to have a better understanding of how your brain causes depression, this book is for you. It explains the downward spiral of depression and how it affects the way you think, feel and act.
Included in the book are simple yet practical strategies which you can adopt to create an upward spiral. These strategies help you reverse the depressive spiral by re-wiring your brain activities.
This book is suitable for you if you are interested in the neuroscience behind our emotions, thoughts and actions. But even if you don’t, you can also apply the straightforward tips found in the second half of the book to improve your depression and the quality of your life.
2. The Depression Cure by Stephen Ilardi
If you have been taking antidepressant medications for a while and nothing seems to work, this is the book to read.
This book offers a six-step program to help you beat depression without drugs. The recommended six steps are:
- Dietary omega-3 fatty acids
- Engaging activity
- Physical exercise
- Sunlight exposure
- Social Support
The author explains that our hunter-gatherers ancestors rarely get depressed even though they suffered from disastrous events because the above six steps are already part of their daily life. It’s unlike our lives which are mostly sedentary, sleep-deprived and fast-paced.
Get this book if you are seeking alternatives to medication to manage your depression.
3. Undoing Depression by Richard O’Connor
“If you’re depressed, you don’t think you’re worth the cost of treatment. You feel guilty about being unproductive and unreliable…”
This book talks about undoing the effects of depression beyond medication and therapy. Not everyone can afford the cost of treatment, but untreated depression will affect the quality of your life.
With a holistic view of depression, the author recognizes the many factors that influence the emergence of depressive symptoms. Often overlooked, it’s our own behavior and habits. They play a key role too. Gradually, poor thinking habits are formed and we get good at being depressed.
Focusing on the behavioral aspects of depression, this book helps you to unlearn your habitual behaviors associated with depression and build new habits. If you need a book to alter your course of depression, this is the book for you.
4. Feeling Good by David Burns
Can depression be cured without drugs?
In this best-selling book, Dr. David Burns offers clinically proven strategies for improving mood and managing emotional issues such as depression, anxiety and low self-esteem without medication. Based on cognitive therapy, this book gives you tools for each thing that drags you down.
The author believes every case of depression is different. It would be unreasonable to expect everyone to be cured after reading his book. So in the updated edition, he also includes a guide to antidepressant drug therapy and information about the many options for treating depression.
This book is most appropriate if you want to explore different treatment options and don’t mind reading a book of more than 500 pages.
5. The Mindful Way Through Depression by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Jon Kabat-Zinn
If you have been trying to “think” your way out of depression, you know it won’t work.
Mindfulness is about noticing your thoughts without reacting to them. This book uses the power of meditation to alleviate the symptoms of depression. The authors use strategies drawn from both Eastern meditative traditions and cognitive therapy to help you avoid thought patterns that contribute to feelings of depression.
This book is also good for people who are caught up in negative thinking and low self-esteem. If you are open to embrace something other than the traditional western psychotherapy, this is the book for you. There is an accompanied CD with guided meditations to help you get started too.
6. The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon
If you are interested in the larger context of depression, this is your book.
This award-winning, best-selling book explores the personal, cultural, and scientific dynamics of depression. Based on his own personal experiences and interviews with depressed individuals, doctors, researchers and others, the author pulls the curtain back on the complexity of this disease from a variety of viewpoints.
Unlike most other books on depression which have a clinical writing style to them, this book is written in a literary tone and gives hope to people suffering from depression.
But don’t be mistaken. This is a comprehensive and informative book which is suitable for both depressed and non-depressed people. It has detailed information about what depression is and the different treatment options.
7. The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression by William Knaus and Albert Ellis
If you enjoy taking a hands-on approach to problem-solving, this book will be suitable for you.
Using cognitive behavioral tools, this book provides you step-by-step action to feel better. It helps you in areas such as self-esteem, worry, assertiveness, helplessness and more.
This book is dense, but it can be used individually or in conjunction with therapy. If you find it too technical or difficult to get through on your own, you can either skip some of the parts or you can do it with your therapist instead.
As the title suggests, this is a workbook. So to reap the full benefits of this book, it would require you to do the exercises.
8. Control Your Depression by Peter Lewinsohn
Not everyone experiences depression the same way.
If you need a personalized plan to help you get better, this is the book for you. This book helps you identify specific pain points and provide a personalized program unique to your depression:
- Do you have problems dealing with others?
- Are you unhappy at work?
- Do you have issues with your relationship?
- Is negative thoughts bringing you down?
From there, you can then decide if you need additional help from a therapist or medication.
Sometimes, we may feel discouraged with our lack of progress in depression. That’s why this book is great because it helps you gauge your progress.
9. New Light on Depression by David Biebel and Harold George Koenig
Whether it’s having depression or having a loved one with depression, the struggle to cope is real. Support can be scant and answers can be elusive.
Written by a psychiatrist and a minister, this book addresses the full range of issues from myths about the disorder to personal faith to finding support to choosing treatment. At the beginning, it also talks about the four different kinds of depression:
- Situational depression
- Developmental depression
- Biological depression
- Spiritual depression
Whether you’re a loved one or you suffer with depression, this book offers tools and tips to move forward with grace and peace.
10. What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Depression can leave you feeling frustrated, lost and stuck. What do you do when you don’t know what to do? This book answers that question beautifully.
Written by two psychologists, they offer eight principles to help you start making small changes. Unlike other books, this book doesn’t have comprehensive strategies to overcome depression. But it is a great starting point for your journey to wellness and it offers you hope which is often absent in people struggling with depression.
This book is grounded in spirituality and is best suited if you are open to the concept of God or spirituality.
Hey there, I’m Yong Kang, best known as Nerdy Creator. I’m an author of seven books. I write about spirituality, self-compassion, and mindfulness. I love reading books, especially non-fiction. The list above is a combination of what I have read and my research. Each year, I create a Top 10 list of my favorite books.