The 11 Best Books for Depression of 2021, According to an Expert

Find solace and healing in these helpful books by mental health experts

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Our Top Picks

This Is Depression

"Psychiatrist Diane McIntosh explains depression's many facets as well as various treatment options available."

Feeling Great

"This book addresses depression in two ways: decreasing depressed feelings while increasing positive feelings for faster relief."

Learned Hopefulness

"Dr. Tomasulo's book comes from the field of positive psychology, which is gaining popularity in the talk therapy world."

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple

"Dr. Gillihan uses a holistic approach to help readers identify patterns of thought that are holding them back from their goals."

Unlearning Anxiety & Depression

"The approach in this book argues that healthier thought and living habits would lead to happier feelings."

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

"If there was ever proof that helpers are not above needing help themselves at times, this book is it."

Your Happiness Toolkit

"With techniques included for people in drug and alcohol recovery, this book focuses on drug-free methods."

101 Ways to Be Less Stressed

"This book offers many strategies to experiment with and determine which ones are most helpful for each person."

Grief Works

"Psychotherapist Julia Samuel provides stories and sound guidance to navigate the complicated healing journey of grieving."

Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts

"Psychotherapist Sally Winston teaches how to take back control of your brain and quickly curb intrusive thoughts."

Depression affects both the mind and the body and is much more than just feeling sad for a while. Depression squashes motivation for even the simplest of tasks and creates hopelessness when the things that used to make us happy just don’t anymore.

Depression is like a barometer: it tells us that something is wrong, but it doesn’t tell us what is wrong. Complicating the condition is the fact that it is experienced differently by each person, so an individualized treatment plan is essential for recovery.

Self-help books can be a big puzzle piece in the overall picture of successful treatment. They can be used alone or in addition to other treatment options like talk therapy and medication. Self-help books can even help to speed up the positive effects of talk therapy as self-study efforts provide added topics for processing in the therapy room.

Here is a list of the best books for depression, according to experts.

This Is Depression

This Is Depression

Courtesy of Amazon

The first step to healing depression is understanding exactly what it is. In this book, psychiatrist Diane McIntosh explains its many facets as well as various treatment options available to help the reader make confident decisions about what treatment to pursue.

An important benefit of understanding depression is being able to explain it and discuss it with friends, family members, and health care professionals. One of the most effective antidotes to depression is having an understanding and supportive community.

What Experts Say

According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is defined by feelings of worthlessness, sadness, and loss of interest that create a lack of ability to function at work or home and last longer than a period of two weeks. These symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe. The causes of depression include genetic make-up, brain chemistry, environmental factors, poor diet, vitamin deficiency, a toxic relationship, loss, self-deprecating thought patterns, poor sleep, long-term loneliness, and lack of good physical activity. 

Feeling Great

Dr. Burns wrote this book after 40 years of research and over 40,000 hours spent treating people who struggle with depression as a psychiatrist. This theory of treatment looks at being able to listen to negative thoughts as important messages from your body rather than feelings to be completely avoided.

The book addresses depression in two ways: simultaneously decreasing depressed feelings while increasing positive feelings to bring faster relief.

Learned Hopefulness

“Learned Hopefulness” comes straight out of the field of positive psychology, which is gaining a lot of popularity in the talk therapy world. Restoring a sense of hope in one’s future is a foundational challenge in depression management and recovery.

Dr. Tomasulo addresses this problem head-on by helping people identify their strengths, begin practicing from a place of hope, and challenging the self-deprecating voice of depression that lives in depressing thoughts.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a very commonly used talk therapy technique designed to identify irrational and negative thoughts and replace them with sound-minded and motivating thoughts.

Dr. Gillihan uses a holistic approach to help readers identify patterns of thought that are holding them back from their goals and to move them toward feelings of happiness and purpose, helping them achieve their desired goals in both work and family life.

Unlearning Anxiety & Depression

In this book, Dr. Luciani asks the very important question: What if anxiety and depression are learned habits that can be broken? Since thoughts and daily routines are indeed habits, he explores the effect changing our habits can have on our mood and asks what habits they could be replaced by.

Dr. Luciani's approach argues that healthier thought and living habits can lead to happier feelings.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

If there was ever proof that helpers are not above needing help themselves at times, this book is it. Therapist Lori Gottlieb tells of working with patients who are struggling while she is also wrestling with her own heartbreak. This book offers layers of intertwined stories about people struggling with emotions that result from life showing up in some of the most difficult ways.

Your Happiness Toolkit

A lot of the confusion surrounding depression is about not knowing what to do about it. This book is exactly what the title suggests: a toolkit of options for various situations and feelings that arise. With techniques included for people in drug and alcohol recovery, this book focuses on drug-free methods to decrease feelings of despair and even panic when unexpected problems are presented and works to develop skills to help prevent feelings of depression in the future. 

101 Ways to Be Less Stressed

Feelings of anxiety and depression are often triggered and heightened by too much or poorly managed stress. Dr. Caroline Leaf is a neuroscientist and guru in mind and brain health. This book offers many strategies to experiment with and determine which ones are most helpful for each person.

Grief Works

Grief and depression are two very different things, but sometimes grief can trigger bouts of depression. Learning to manage and process grief can help prevent future episodes of depression and provide a clearer sense of direction through the healing process. Psychotherapist Julia Samuel provides both stories and sound guidance to navigate the complicated healing journey of grieving.

Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts

Does your brain decide to remind you of all the embarrassing stuff you’ve ever done just as you’re about to fall asleep? Intrusive thoughts are brutal and play a huge role in the experience of depression and anxiety.

Psychotherapist Sally Winston teaches how to take back control of your brain and quickly curb intrusive thoughts from ruining a good day or a good night’s sleep

Essential Art Therapy Exercises

Creative people need creative outlets. Certified art therapist Leah Guzman answers that need beautifully with this book. Creativity has been shown to soothe the mind, create new spaces of self-awareness, and create new, positive pathways in the brain. If you’re an artistic creative, this book is definitely worth looking into.

“This is Depression” by Diane McIntosh is a helpful place to start to best understand depression either for yourself or a loved one who is struggling. When depression is understood, a plan of action can then be created. If depression is a known struggle for you, try adding a new technique to your management routine or use self-help books to add depth to your therapy sessions.

Why Trust Verywell Mind

As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with over 15 years of experience working with clients who struggle with mental health issues, Mary K. Tatum, MS, LMHC understands the importance of finding quality resources and techniques that work for each person. Not everyone will have the same kind of healing journey, so having lots of options to choose from is vitally important to creating a lifestyle that combats depression symptoms.

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  1. American Psychiatric Association. What is depression? Updated October 2020.

  2. American Psychological Association. What is cognitive behavioral therapy? Updated July 2017.