Recommendations for books on depression

Some urgency in this request. I know we have some Dopers who suffer from this debilitating illness. My son has had bouts with this for years and is presently undergoing a fairly serious bout with it, to the point where I’m worried about what actions he may take. Medication alleviates the problem a bit, but he needs something besides pills. He’s been in therapy in the past, but I’m not sure how much good it did him.

There are literally thousands of books on this subject, which makes it difficult to sift through the crap to find winners. I’m interested not just in books that explain the illness, but rather books that help the sufferer. Any recommendations, within reason, accepted. I’m not really interested in books that tell you “think positive!” or that recommend massive doses of vitamins or the like. Serious cognitive therapy is preferable. Thanks for the help.

Overcoming Depression One Step At A Time is a workbook you may find useful. It’s written in a pretty straightforward fashion. I got my copy at

Good luck to you and your family while dealing with this. :slight_smile:

Wow, I came in here to recommend this work book. It is probably the single most influential/helpful book I’ve read about depression. Behavioral activation is great. You may be interested to know that this book has been used in randomized controlled clinical trials and has been found to be about as effective as therapy even when people use it on their own.

There’s also a great, short little book by Cheri Huber called The Depression Book. Cheri Huber is a Zen teacher and it’s Zen inspired, but there’s nothing woo about it. When I am in the very darkest worst place with my depression that book really helps. If you think he’d be into Zen stuff, I have a whole list of recommendations - and meditation has been shown to not only help with depression but stimulate the growth of new brain cells in a similar way to exercise.

It sounds like your son is struggling with a biologically based illness, in which case I’d recommend The Mindfulness and Acceptance workbook for depression, which uses the evidence-based Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as its foundation. It’s really about learning to cope with depression as a chronic illness.

If you have any questions about CBT, ACT or even Zen Buddhism, let me know. I’ve done a lot of different kinds of therapy and read a lot of different kinds of self-help books.

Oh, and by the way, if you think your son may be in danger of harming himself or others, do not hesitate to contact your local psych ER. Sometimes they may just be helpful in giving your son someone to talk to, or direct him to good mental health resources, perhaps hospitalization if necessary. If he has started talking about killing himself he in the very least needs to get to a therapist ASAP. Good luck with everything and thank you for your compassion toward your son.

Olives - I have recently been learning about ACT - what is your opinion of The Happiness Trap? I mean, as compared to other books you have read.

I have recommended Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman a number of times on this message board. It really did help me to change my life.

Feeling Good: the New Mood Therapy has pretty good exercises for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. At it’s root, though, CBT is about changing your thought patterns (which can sound a lot like “think positive”).

Thanks for the input so far. He’s not talking about harming himself that I know of, but has had episodes of weeping and self-blame. He had an opioid dependency a few years ago that I intervened on, and he seemed to be doing well since then. But the depression has always been there since his late teens, early twenties. Sometime earlier this year, it appears that he slipped and started drinking some. He takes these lapses in behavior very personally and considers himself to be a failure when it happens. His wife called me and asked me to call him, or I’d never have heard about it. He’s 36, by the way, has a high pressure job that requires 60-hour weeks, and has money worries.

Books: I picked up on the Overcoming Depression Workbook right away as a good option. Others I noted that may be of interest: Depression Cure, Stephen LLardi; Undoing Depression, Richard O’Connor; Cognitive Behavioral Workbook, Wm. J.Knaus. If anybody has an opinion on any of those, I’d like to hear it.

I haven’t read it. What do you think about it?

Another great one. Seligman is a highly respected cognitive psychologist, most famous for the ‘‘learned helplessness’’ experiments with dogs.

I ordered and sent a half dozen books, including some of the recommendations. I also had an email exchange with him last night (he’s unwilling to get on the phone with me yet, as he’s too emotionally fragile at this point), and feel hopeful that he’s going to be proactive in getting his life on track. He had been taking anti-dep meds, but had gotten off them since he felt better. He knows better than to self-medicate, since he used to be in the nursing field, but people delude themselves into thinking they can diagnose better than the doctors. I told him that at this point, he needs the one-two punch of the meds plus self-help. It doesn’t help that, as an addict, he has a wife who continues to party with her girlfriends and come home intoxicated. It really pisses me off. Her response to any slip on his part is to yell at him and make him feel like a failure.

Anyway, thanks again for the recommendations.

One thing that people tend to overlook when trying to recover from things like anxiety and depression is that they forget to make changes to their whole lifestyle. The way he’s living his life now is contributing to his depression; just reading books or taking medication isn’t going to be a longterm fix if he doesn’t fix the things that are dragging him down in his life (and you’ve mentioned a few).

Apropos of not much, the rather straightforwardly titled Japanese movie “My SO Has Got Depression” (Tsure Ga Utsu Ni Narimashite) is a lovely and, for me, cathartic look at depression, its effects, and (zomg, spoilers) recovery. Not exactly easy to get one’s hands on in the U.S., but still.

My therapist just recommended “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life” by Daniel Amen. Yesterday, so I haven’t read it yet, but he hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

I liked it a lot but haven’t read anything else on ACT to compare it to - it’s all new to me. I thought it was very easy to understand.

The first ACT book I read was pretty short but sweet - ‘'Things Might Go Terribly, Horribly Wrong.’’ I picked that up off the shelf right away because I thought, hey… they are speaking my language! It is written with humor and candor and I think it’s a good intro for anyone who is interested in ACT.

I read this some years back and probably should again - it gave me some comfort and I’m not easily comforted. It also goes by the title Being Present in the Darkness.