Hitting the Books: Your Must-Have Depression Reading List

Patient Expert

Patient expert Deborah Gray assembles the best books on depression, whether you're a patient or a loved one, a teenager, child or adult.

If you've been diagnosed with depression, one of the most important steps toward finding effective treatment is educating yourself about the illness. If you're the caregiver of a depression patient, reading the best material about depressive disorders will help you understand your loved one's experience and how you can best help them back to sound mental health. Below you'll find a list of the books that have been most helpful to me in my journey with depression.

General Depression Books

You Mean I Don't Have to Feel This Way? New Help for Depression, Anxiety and Addiction, by Colette Dowling

This book is a good primer on depression. This is one of the first books I read after being diagnosed, and I still think it's one of the best, especially as the author's daughter, who suffered from depression, contributed to it.

Overcoming Depression: The Definitive Resource for Patients and Families Who Live With Depression and Manic-Depression, by Demitri Papolos, M.D., and Janice Papolos

One of the first, and still one of the best, books on depression for the layperson, it's a good complement to a book like "You Mean I Don't Have to Feel This Way?" as it covers the more technical and medical aspects of the disorder and treatment.

Talking About Depression

You Are Not Alone: Words of Experience and Hope for the Journey Through Depression, by Julia Thorne

Depression sufferers share their thoughts and feelings about the experience of depression. In its own way, this is a groundbreaking book. No one had ever published a book composed simply of conversations with depressed people. But it is very comforting for anyone with depression to have their feelings about their own mental and emotional state validated.

On the Edge of Darkness: America's Most Celebrated Actors, Journalists and Politicians Chronicle Their Most Arduous Journey, by Kathy Cronkite

This is an essential book for anyone who wants to know more about depression. My copy is dog-eared. Cronkite discusses her own depression and interviews well-known people about their depression and that of loved ones. She intersperses the interviews with solid information about depression and its treatment.

Speaking of Sadness: Depression, Disconnection and the Meanings of Illness, by David A. Karp

Karp looks at depression from a sociological and cultural point of view, which makes it an interesting read. What makes it a powerful read is the interviews that Karp, a depressive, conducted with other people suffering from depression. The combination of the global perspective and personal perspective make this both interesting and absorbing.

First-Person Accounts

I feel that first-person accounts are particularly helpful to depression sufferers. Depression is an isolating illness. It's a great comfort to read someone else's story and to realize that you are not alone.

Darkness Visible: A Memory of Madness, by William Styron

This was the first book I read on depression. It had an enormous impact on me, and opened my eyes to my own depression. I keep going back to it again and again to help me explain depression to others, since Styron is so eloquent.

Undercurrents: A Life Beneath the Surface, by Martha Manning

This is a must-read memoir of depression. Painful, realistic and approachable. The author, a clinical psychologist, describes her descent into depression, leading eventually to hospitalization and ECT. Her point of view, first as a therapist and then a patient, is unique and often humorous. When someone you know is depressed

What To Do When Someone You Love Is Depressed : A Practical, Compassionate, and Helpful Guide for Caregivers, by Mitch Golant, Susan K. Golant

A very helpful book for someone trying to understand a loved one's depression. Discusses symptoms, treatment and ways to communicate with the depressed person. Particularly useful is a list of things depressed people often say and what to say and what not to say in response

Women and Depression

When Words are Not Enough, by Valerie Raskin, M.D.

I consider this book the best one to start with if you are a woman wondering if you have depression and/or a companion illness, or a woman who has been diagnosed and is deciding which treatment to try. Depression (including premenstrual depression), anxiety disorder, OCD and sleep disturbances and available medication and non-medication options are explored thoroughly and clearly by Dr. Raskin.

What sets this book apart from other depression/medication books is that it addresses women's particular concerns, largely neglected by the others. Pregnancy/breastfeeding and medication and weight gain as a side effect of medication are discussed in a sympathetic, informative manner. Essential information about antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, including side-effects, usual dose ranges and pregnancy ratings round out "When Words Are Not Enough," making it a very complete resource for women.

Men and Depression

I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression, by Terrence Real

This was the first book published that was exclusively about male depression. Real, a therapist, blends his own experience as the son of a depressed father with patient case studies to examine the causes of male depression and its effect on men and their families. This is an important book for anyone who wants to understand male depression and how it differs from depression in women. Children and Depression

"Help Me, I'm Sad": Recognizing, Treating and Preventing Childhood and Adolescent Depression, by David G. Fassler

This is a very valuable book for families of depressed children, containing essential information, thoroughly and clearly covered. One section I particularly liked discussed the effect a depressed child has on family members and family dynamics.

"Help Me, I'm Sad" first addresses diagnosing depression in a child, including symptoms lists specific to children at different stages of childhood, infants to teenagers. Companion illnesses that might indicate depression are also discussed as part of the diagnosis section.

The treatment section covers how to find effective treatment, whether therapy, medication or both, including questions to ask a potential therapist. The last section, on preventing depression, contains suggestions on how to raise an emotionally resilient child. All in all, a complete, compassionate resource for parents and others who have a depressed child in their lives.