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Best Self-Help Books for Anxiety and Depression

Classic self-help books

Classic self-help books

When I used to suffer from anxiety disorders and depression I had cause to seek therapy many times. I didn’t want to take medications for worry and moods and I wanted to be cured. Whilst therapy was sometimes helpful and got me through crisis at times, I was itching to be well…really well. I wanted to feel more in control of my emotions, my fears, my health and my life generally. When I still wasn’t cured after many years, I decided to help myself.

Looking for answers to questions about your anxiety state can lead to a better understanding.

Looking for answers to questions about your anxiety state can lead to a better understanding.

I have around 60 self-help books on my shelves! When you experience some success whilst helping yourself, no matter how small that success is, it makes you hungry to learn more about yourself. Knowledge and understanding are keys to handling your thoughts, moods and behavior better thus improving your life generally.

We tend to fear that which we don’t understand and feel we cannot change but changing is often a choice. I personally found that reading a self-help book once was never enough, and always read them at least twice over to get a clear understanding.

Therapy outside of the National Health Service in the U.K is expensive. Many cannot afford the price of therapy, but books are affordable to most. I would like to share with you a few of the most helpful books I have found. They are not listed in order of preference because individually there are all very valuable in the self-help sense.

I’m OK - You’re OK

by Thomas A. Harris M.D

Although rather dated, this book is still very popular and looks at using transactional analysis for personal growth and a better quality of life. Psychiatrist Eric Berne who developed transactional analysis was a good friend of Harris who wrote this book in 1967. It has been a bestseller ever since, selling millions of copies worldwide.

Harris manages to explain the concepts of transactional analysis in a simple manner and with examples taken from his consultations. Harris discusses how the parent, adult and child ego states all play a part in how we relate to other people. If you sometimes feel that you don’t fit in, have relationship problems, feel misunderstood or don’t understand others, then this book will open your eyes as to why that might be and help you correct the negative emotional and cognitive habits. If you feel you are not OK and especially if you have had childhood problems, I am sure you will find the concept described very interesting and helpful.

Jon Kabat-Zinn talks about mindfulness

Full Catastrophe Living

by Jon Kabat-Zinn

This book is based on a stress reduction programme at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre and if you know nothing of mindfulness and meditation is a great starter. Not only is this book good for coping with stress, but also illness as Kabat-Zinn explains the inter-relation between the two. With over 400 pages, it is not a book you will read overnight but it is the kind of book that you will refer to over and over, (I am on my second copy).

The book has good diagrams to aid explanation, illustrations for meditation and yoga exercises and at the end of the book there are some awareness calendars which help you to look at how you think, feel and any bodily symptoms. If you want to live for this moment, reduce stress, feel physically healthier and more generally balanced, then this is an invaluable book.

Depression - The Way Out of Your Prison

by Dorothy Rowe

Clinical psychologist Dorothy Rowe looks at depression as a state that does not always need medication, and explains why in this wonderful book. She explains how we create our depression and how we can dismantle it in a friendly, easy to read way. Anyone who has been depressed will be able to identify with her analogy of depression as like being a prison in which we are both prisoner and jailer.

If you feel ready to break down some barriers, look at the way you react to difficult circumstances in life and want a good authentic guide to deal with depression this book has it all. In this book, Rowe also looks briefly at dealings with the psychiatric system and finding a good therapist or counsellor. Although written in 1983, I am sure this book will help depressed people for many years to come.

'Feel The Fear' Training

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

by Susan Jeffers

An absolute classic, must-have book for anyone who lives with fear, from anxiety disorders to everyday fear we all encounter as a reaction to life events. Jeffers handles the subject of fear impeccably with great insight and a frankness that is hard to ignore. I read this book in one day for the first time years ago and is another that I have re-read over and over, especially if I have ever had periods of doubt.

People who fear are often lacking confidence and have poor self-esteem but Jeffers explains how to break through those barriers and stop the negative thinking. This book will make you feel you are valuable, not only to yourself but out there in the world, and if followed it will give you the confidence to stop saying, ‘I can’t’ and prompt you to get out there and simply ‘do’. There are now workshops run by tutors carrying the words of this book out in the community.

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You Can Heal Your Life

by Louise L. Hay

This is another book choice of mine dealing with the mind, health and well-being. It is absolutely full of ideas and strategies and organised in a workshop manner with exercises. Hay suffered physical and sexual abuse as a child and later she diagnosed with cancer but rid herself of the cancer, not by an operation, but by therapy to rid her of past resentment and negative thoughts. You know when you read this book that it is not something thrown together in a hurry to make money, but a sound and legitimate book based on someone who knows what she is talking about. There is a 61 page alphabetical section dedicated to common physical problems, their possible emotional causes and examples of new positive thoughts.

Essential Help for Your Nerves

by Dr Claire Weekes

I suffered with panic disorder for over two decades! This book paved the way for me to eliminate them entirely from my life. Dr Weekes uses a cognitive behavioural approach in tackling anxiety, fear and panic attacks, but in such no nonsense manner that you feel compelled to try out her straightforward suggestions. You know when you read this book that she has felt how you feel, knows of the frustration and big mistakes that so many panic attack sufferers make. Having had a ‘nervous breakdown’ herself when she was much younger, she added to her personal experience by listening intently to what her anxious patients shared with her and devised a method of facing fear and worry that produced recovery for many.

This book is actually two of her books in one so you are getting good value for money. She tells us of nervous fatigue and explains how to:

  • Face
  • Accept
  • Float
  • Let time pass

The concept is very simple but she does insist that although her ideology is simple, it is not easy to do. She’s honest if a bit blunt at times with you but there is confidence in her approach and the book is very easy to read and follow. I bought her audio C.D Pass Through Panic to accompany this book and absolutely loved it. I could relate to everything she was telling me and even though she comes across as a bit bossy, this woman felt like my best friend! This should be the bible for panic disorder and if you suffer with panic attacks it’s a must buy.

Feeling Good - The New Mood Therapy

by David D. Burns M.D

This book provides a very comprehensive look at depression, anxiety and all the negative thinking accompanying these problems. I was sceptical when I first bought it but encouraged by the claim that the contents would provide me with a clinically proven drug-free treatment. Full of charts, diagrams and examples, Dr. Burns delivers what it says on the cover and I was able to address some of my negative traits with success.

If you are negative, pessimistic and have self-esteem issues then this book is sure to help you in some positive way. It does feel like a lot to take in on a first reading but this is the kind of book that you can pick up any time, read a few extractions and still feel like it is doing you some good! The revised and updated edition now has a guide to antidepressants at the back of the book.

These are just a few of the books I own that have inspired and helped me in the past. I do hope you find them useful. You can help yourself if you have the enthusiasm, the determination and the right knowledge/tools. You can often find those tools without having to visit a therapist and at a fraction of the cost!


Avinash Khopade from Mumbai, India on December 06, 2019:

Great article n great books!

It will help a lot of people...

Keep writing such amazing articles...

meloncauli (author) from UK on September 16, 2012:

Thanks for dropping by Rich. "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway" is a very popular book and made a ton of sense to me. I am not so sensitive these days. I spent a long time putting everyone else before me and found that I always seemed to be the one left more!

Thanks for the vote and take care. :)

Richard J ONeill from Bangkok, Thailand on September 16, 2012:

meloncauli, nice to see ya again!

We are similar in regards to our histories. I also suffered from both anxiety and depression while growing up and well into my twenties. I still suffer a little now but that is only because I am a HSP.

This is a nice hub and I'm sure that - like me - many people will find it helpful and will be able to relate to your position.

'Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway' is an awesome book and one of the best I have read in the self-help category.

You take care and keep up the good work, okay!

Interesting and voted up.

Peace. :)

meloncauli (author) from UK on August 21, 2012:

You're welcome Monica and thanks for your comment.

Monica Ortega from Uncasville, Connecticut on August 20, 2012:

Thanks for sharing meloncauli this is very useful and am grateful for you sharing these books every little bit helps...Monica

meloncauli (author) from UK on August 20, 2012:

Thanks gsidley! I know some are maybe a bit obvious but they have stood the test of time for many people.

Dr. Gary L. Sidley from Lancashire, England on August 19, 2012:

A really useful range of self-help books, some I am familiar with, some not.

Voted up as useful.

Best wishes

meloncauli (author) from UK on August 18, 2012:

Thanks Linda. Yes, there are so many. Some of the old ones still rise above the newer ones though. I used to look for books that were written by those who actually suffered. 'It takes one to know one'! Take care.

Linda Chechar from Arizona on August 17, 2012:

Looking at the collection of self-help books available these days is quite overwhelming. Thanks for helping me pare down the options. I'll definitely check some of these out! Take care and thanks for the great Hub!

meloncauli (author) from UK on August 17, 2012:

Thanks billybuc...more books to google!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 17, 2012:

A good list of books; thanks for the recommendations. When I was reading self-help books I always read Og Mandino and Leo Buscaglia. Anyway, thanks for the list.

meloncauli (author) from UK on August 17, 2012:

Thanks Carol. Always looking out for goods books so I shall look that one up...thanks!

carol stanley from Arizona on August 17, 2012:

Interesting hub with some great books. Did you ever read "Excuse me your life is waiting" Lyn Grabhorn. Pretty amazing book. We all need some help and sometime and reading is a good way to get it..And rereading. Thanks for great hub.

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