Self-help books can be incredibly hit or miss. There are tons of books about mental health designed to battle anxiety or depression, but many may not be particularly substantive or the right type of book for you.
In this post, we’ve picked out five of the best anxiety and depression self-help books for you–these are the treasures among the thousands of options out there. We’ve also designated each with a particular characteristic in an effort to better match each book with a specific problem-solving style.
1. For the Courageous — “Dare” by Barry McDonagh
In this empowering book, Barry McDonagh challenges readers to Dare anxiety to do its worst. The DARE technique, which is the book’s namesake, is an acronym for Defuse, Allow, Run toward, and Engage.
The idea behind DARE is to face anxiety head-on rather than trying to avoid anxiety-inducing situations or to stop thinking about anxiety. You can view this as a form of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), an evidence-based treatment practice.
We can’t say it any better than the book’s own description: “Based on hard science and over 10 years helping people who suffer from anxiety, Barry McDonagh shares his most effective technique in this new book. The DARE technique can be used by everyone, regardless of age or background, to live a life free from anxiety or panic attacks.” Sounds good to us.
2. For the Pragmatic — “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook” by Edmund J. Bourne, PhD
Living up to its name, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook gives readers practical tools to manage symptoms of various anxiety disorders. The author, Edmund J. Bourne, PhD, is a behavioral psychologist who says the Workbook provides people the skills for “quieting fears and taking charge of your anxious thoughts.”
Much like there is a wide spectrum of disorders and phobias that fall under the umbrella of anxiety, this workbook provides a range of evidence-based methods for overcoming anxiety, from challenging false beliefs and negative self-talk to engaging in relaxation techniques to desensitization exercises.
We like that this book focuses on the many actions you can take to combat your anxiety, with each worksheet reinforcing the necessary skills to manage anxiety in whatever form it presents itself.
3. For the Foodie — “The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution” by Trudy Scott
Written by Trudy Scott, this book is your one-stop guide to “assess[ing] your diet for anxiety-causing and anxiety-calming foods and nutrients” and learning what “foods and nutrients balance your brain chemistry” as opposed to which ones “trigger” it.
This book lays out four different anti-anxiety diets that can address deficiencies of specific nutrients in your diet that may correlate with your symptoms. While we can’t speak to the evidence of each specific diet helping, it is clear that diet can have a big impact on health and wellbeing.
Ultimately, this book comes with easy lifestyle tips and tricks to guide you through changing your eating habits for the better.
For a quick read on this same topic, we recommend checking out our blog post called “Brain food: Why what you eat matters.”
4. For the Sensitive — “The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You” by Elaine Aron, PhD
Author and psychotherapist Elaine Aron, PhD says in her book The Highly Sensitive Person: “Do you have a keen imagination and vivid dreams? Is time alone each day as essential to you as food and water? Are you “too shy” or “too sensitive” according to others? Do noise and confusion quickly overwhelm you? If your answers are yes, you may be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).”
As both an HSP herself and a therapist, Aron writes this book as a reflection on her own journey of how she came to understand herself and how she came to develop effective tools to live a full life.
If you identify as an HSP, this book is a must-read, helping you navigate your emotions and gain insights on how to cope with your natural tendency to become overstimulated.
5. For the Researcher — “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy” by David D. Burns, MD
In one of the best-selling self-help books of all time with four million copies sold in the US alone, David D. Burns makes a case for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is the type of therapy with arguably the most evidence supporting its effectiveness.
This book details “scientifically proven techniques that will immediately lift your spirits and help you develop a positive outlook on life.” The main goal of the book is to help readers overcome “anxiety, guilt, pessimism, procrastination, low self-esteem, and other ‘black holes’ of depression” without (or in conjunction with) medication.
What’s more, because of how popular this book has been over the past four decades, there have even been studies that suggest merely reading this book as a form of therapy provides benefits in treating depression. Now that’s some self-help book!
Whether you chose one of the books from this list, or you find one on your own that strikes your fancy, we hope you find a book that helps you on your journey to better mental health. Taking action to combat your anxiety or depression is half the battle, so hopefully, you feel a bit more armed and ready.
Happy reading from the Prairie Health team!
Take 5–10 minutes to browse some of our other resources on anxiety and depression: