Don’t underestimate the power of a good education. Today, empowered patients (e-patients) become experts in their own condition. And what better place to start learning more about clinical depression than by buying or borrowing a good book or two to help you get started.
Below, we’ve combed through many books, including the classics and some newer titles, that we feel represent a good background for reading about depression. Depression is a serious mental illness. It generally does not just “go away” on its own, and it’s not just something you can change by simply wishing it to be so.
Most people benefit from a combined treatment approach to depression, which includes both psychotherapy and medication. Many people, however, don’t have access to good treatment. A book on depression may be of help, or to help you being your journey of recovery from depression.
Active Treatment of Depression
Addressing his fellow professionals in the mental health field, O’Connor argues that the current state of understanding of the causes and treatments for depression are woefully inadequate and quite often counterproductive. He argues that no single theory can adequately explain the causes and no single treatment plan can successfully be applied universally to depressed patients. He also calls upon his colleagues to recognize that although incidents of depression may sometimes be successfully treated, all too often depression is a chronic disease that is not improved by one-time interventions of pharmaceuticals or other therapies. O’Connor advocates for an “active” treatment that holistically explores multiple causes of depression and looks to all treatment modalities to find the proper combination of methods that can be applied to each unique case.
The Feeling Good Handbook
Depression is a crippling and often misunderstood disorder in today’s society. While many people advocate a purely medical model of this problem (and label it a “disease,” like cancer), others find it more helpful to explore the depths of depression and other possible causes. Since medication isn’t right for everyone with this disorder, and not everyone can afford to attend weekly therapy sessions, David Burns has written a book for those people looking to help themselves through this disorder.
This excellent how-to manual leads people who are depressed on a journey of understanding and self-discovery. Beginning with an easy to read and understand overview of the cognitive theory of what causes people to become depressed, it goes on to discuss the multitude of methods and techniques used to help treat depression. You don’t have to believe in everything the cognitive theory of depression tells us about this disorder to attain a great deal of benefit from the techniques found throughout the book. The daily homework assignments coupled with the elaboration of the kinds of cognitive mistakes everyone makes everyday (for instance, overgeneralizing one bad thing which happens to you to mean that you are a bad person) are especially helpful. It is really chock full of useful and down-to-earth explanations and things which people can do everyday to try and help themselves. Based upon Aaron Beck’s cognitive work in researching depression.
This book is on my bookshelf for good reason. It is not only a good read once, but you can pick it up time and time again to reference and refer to items which you may have forgotten. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is currently suffering for depression, or as a gift to someone who you know is suffering from this terrible disorder. While not everything in it may make sense to everyone who reads it, there is really something for almost anybody who suffers from depression. Softcover, 220 pages.
Talking Back to Prozac
What Doctors Won’t Tell You About Today’s Most Controversial Drug
Talking Back to Prozac One of the most controversial books in its time, it is also one of the most detailed analyses of how drug manufacturers gain FDA approval. In making such an analysis, the Breggins also indict the drug manufacturers and the whole drug approval process as inherently flawed, biased, and inadequate for protecting Americans from potentially-harmful new medications.
Some parts of this book are too detailed and can be boring to some readers (professionals especially, who may already have the necessary education and background to skip the sections about how the brain works). But the large majority of the book is neither boring nor easy to put down, as the Breggin detail how Eli Lilly conducted its drug approval studies, analyze the resulting data themselves, and illustrate how Prozac, the popular antidepressant, did only barely better than a sugar pill (or placebo) in some of the studies used for FDA approval.
A reply to another popular Prozac book (Listening to Prozac by Peter Kramer), this book can sometimes go too far in drawing conclusions which the data neither support nor suggest. I would suggest it as a must-read though, if you are taking Prozac or a similar SSRI for the treatment of depression, and especially if you have already read Listening to Prozac. In the context of the other book, it presents “the other side,” and in-between, I’d suggest, you will find a middle ground… Yes, there are problems with our current drug approval system, but it still remains one of the more conservative and best such systems in the world. Available in both paperback and hardcover.
If you’re taking Prozac or any other of the newer antidepressant medications today, you should read this book.
Check out our list of depression book reviews here.
Richard O’Connor knows what he talks about in one of the most thorough, comprehensive, and enjoyable books I’ve ever read on the beast we call depression. As a therapist, a supervisor, an administrator, and perhaps most importantly, as a human being. O’Connor brings more to this topic than a simple recitation of facts and self-help methods. He brings the human experience home to the reader, in a way few writers do in this book genre.
O’Connor warns in the introduction that this is a book filled with stuff that the two distinct audiences (mental health professionals and laypeople) may not ordinarily share. Each chapter offers not only in-depth and balanced knowledge and information O’Connor imparts to the reader, but also a good dose of humanity and caring. For instance, interspersed throughout each chapter are personal stories from therapy, and clients’ own stories, bringing home specific, important points. It makes what might otherwise be yet another impersonal self-help book (from a mental health professional) into a relevant, useful guide easy to relate to aspects of one’s own life.
O’Connor’s writing is fluid and down-to-earth; he never gets mired in details losing the main point of his argument or discussion. He gives specific examples throughout each chapter, and keeps everything understandable while not minimizing the complexity of specific subjects. The book is extensive, and its length may be off putting (especially to those currently suffering from depression). But its length is also its greatest strength, because it covers so many topics relating to depression so well. Offering a single guide to depression is a big undertaking, since depression infiltrates so many aspects of a person’s life.
If you’re suffering from depression and have tried other self-help methods, you might want to try this book. 358 pages, hardcover (softcover edition also available).
Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression
Read our brief take on this book by Brooke Shields. We found the book a good memoir and read for anyone who is going through postpartum depression, and perhaps, even for expecting mothers who already are beginning to feel overwhelmed. Postpartum depression is a fairly common occurrence, yet it is still rarely talked about openly by medical professionals.
A Long Way Down
Read our full review on this work of fiction by author Nick Hornby as he weaves a tale of four very different people brought together by the act of trying to commit suicide. Black humor for humor’s sake? No, this is an often-touching, human account of the delicate balance that many of our lives hang.
Want more book suggestions?
Check out our list of depression book reviews here.