Reading List: 10 Mental Health Books Everyone Should Read

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Stephanie Ziajka of Diary of a Debutante shares the 10 best mental health books for understanding depression and anxiety

1 in 4 Americans experiences mental illness in a given year– if that’s not enough of an indication that mental health matters, I’m not really sure what is. For most of us, the sensitivity of these issues is out of sight, out of mind, and the unfortunate truth is that it often times takes a first-hand experience to genuinely understand the infrastructure or development of any particular mental disease. I can’t count the number of times I’ve personally heard, “You had an eating disorder? You’re so skinny!” or “What do you have to be depressed about?” The public’s misconception of empathy reads as indifference and can only make matters worse. So, I’ve compiled a list of 10 highly-rated mental health books on Amazon. They’re ideal for better understanding mental illness and reviewing powerful guidelines for mastering the acts of constructive communication and positive validation.

Side Note: These are also just 10 great mental health books to read as food for thought. Even if nobody you know openly suffers from a mental illness, you’ll be amazed how powerful these cognitive-based tactics and affirmations can be. You may even end up liking yourself a little bit more after reading just 1 or 2.

1. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, MD

This is your $8 alternative to $30,000+ in rehab and drug therapy. In Feeling Good, eminent psychiatrist, Dr. David D. Burns, outlines the remarkable, scientifically proven CBT techniques which will immediately help you develop a more positive outlook on life. In the newest edition, Dr. Burns also features a Consumer′s Guide to Anti-Depressant Drugs, as well as a brand new introduction to help answer your questions about the many options available for treating depression. Don’t believe a book can replace Zoloft? Feeling Good has a 4.3 rating on Amazon with over 1,000 reviews— and, in addition to its other success stories, I can personally attest to its unexpected efficacy.

Feeling Good, New Mood Therapy, David Burns, Mental Illness, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante

2. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown shares what she’s learned from a decade of research on the power of Wholehearted Living–a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness. In her ten guideposts, Brown engages minds, hearts, and spirits as she explores how we can cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough,” and to go to bed at night thinking, “Yes, I am sometimes afraid, but I am also brave. And, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.”

The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown, Mental Illness, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante

3. You Can Heal Your Life and Love Yourself, Heal Your Life Workbook by Louise Hay

Louise Hay’s key message in all of her writing is, “If we are willing to do the mental work, almost anything can be healed.” Hay has a compelling amount of first-hand healing advice and experience from her personal battles with depression and eating disorders; she even writes about how she cured herself after being diagnosed with cancer. She explains how limiting beliefs and ideas are often the cause of illness, and she shows how you can change your thinking and improve the quality of your life.

The corresponding Love Yourself, Heal Your Life Workbook directly applies Louise’s techniques of self-love and positive thinking to a wide range of topics that affect us all on a daily basis, including health fears, phobias, sex, self-esteem, money, friendship, addictive behavior, and intimacy.

You Can Heal Your Life, Louisa Hay, Mental Illness, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante


4. The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem: The Definitive Work on Self-Esteem by the Leading Pioneer in the Field by Nathaniel Branden

The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem is essential reading for anyone with a personal or professional interest in self-esteem. Nathaniel Branden compellingly demonstrates why self-esteem is basic to psychological health, achievement, personal happiness, and positive relationships.

Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden, Mental Illness, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante


5. The Resilience Breakthrough: 27 Tools for Turning Adversity into Action by Christian Moore

In The Resilience Breakthrough, Christian Moore delivers a practical primer on how you can become more resilient in a world of instability and narrowing opportunity, whether you’re facing financial troubles, health setbacks, challenges on the job, or any other life-altering problem. Moore argues that we can all have our own resilience breakthrough and learn how to use adverse circumstances as potent fuel for overcoming life’s hardships with his 27 resilience-building tools that you can start using immediately.

The Resilience Break-Through, Christian Moore, Mental Illness, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante


6. Feelings Buried Alive Never Die by Karol K. Truman

Karol Truman provides a comprehensive and enlightening resource for getting in touch with unresolved feelings, which, she explains, can distort not only happiness, but also health and well-being. Leaving no emotion unnamed, Truman helps identify problem areas and offers a “script” to help process the feelings, replacing the negative feeling with a new and positive outlook.

Feelings Buried Alive Never Die, Karol Truman, Mental Illness, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante


7. When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life by David D. Burns, MD

The truth is you can defeat even your worst fears. In When Panic Attacks, Dr. Burns, who also wrote Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, shows you how to overcome every conceivable kind of anxiety. In fact, you will learn how to use more than 40 simple, effective techniques, and the moment you put the liar! to the distorted thoughts that plague you, your fears will immediately disappear. Dr. Burns also shares the latest research on the drugs commonly prescribed for anxiety and depression and explains why they may sometimes do more harm than good.

When Panic Attacks, David Burns, Mental Illness, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante


8. Coping with Anxiety: 10 Simple Ways to Relieve Anxiety, Fear & Worry by Edmund J. Bourne

Coping with Anxiety lists 10 simple ways to relieve anxiety, fear, and worry. These immediate, user-friendly, and effective strategies are designed to help you overcome anxiety. They include step-by-step exercises that you can do in the moment without having to understand the subtleties of the most often used therapies for treating anxiety.

Coping with Anxiety, Edmund J. Bourne, Mental Illness, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante


9. I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t): Making the Journey from ‘What Will People Think?’ to ‘I Am Enough’ by Brené Brown

Based on seven years of her ground-breaking research and hundreds of interviews, I Thought It Was Just Me shines a long-overdue light on an important truth: Our imperfections are what connect us to each other and to our humanity. Our vulnerabilities are not weaknesses; they are powerful reminders to keep our hearts and minds open to the reality that we’re all in this together.

I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't), Brene Brown, Mental Illness, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante


10. You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

Yes, I saved the most entertaining of all the mental health books for last. In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, Jen Sincero shares hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word– helping you to identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, create a life you totally love (and create it now), and make some good money already. By the end of You Are a Badass, you’ll understand why you are the way that you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass.

You Are A Badass, Jen Sincero, Mental Illness, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante

So did I leave any worthy additions off the list? I’m always looking for new and better mental health books– if not for me, for my loved ones.


24 thoughts on “Reading List: 10 Mental Health Books Everyone Should Read

  1. Christy Peeples DuBois

    I have not read any of these and haven’t been keeping up with the new reads available for this relevant topic in my life. I will be picking up the last one of your list asap to read. Thanks for such a beneficial list.

  2. Natalie Brown

    As a person who has endured lifelong depression and anxiety, I’ve read a couple of these books. I so remember a psychiatrist asking me to read “Feeling Good” in the early 90’s and I became even more depressed because I had my first awareness of how bad my depression was. He was young and felt bad about it but it was fine. I had just always thought I was “moody” not clinically depressed and the realization was sad and scary too. Today, I do pretty well with it. Thank-you for the list of important and interesting reading material!

  3. Meegan

    I have read a few books on Anxiety but none you have listed. I am going to check them out on Amazon right now. I love how people are more open to talking about such an important issue facing so many people. Thank you!

  4. Emily McMurphy

    I was so pleased to read this post about mental health books that include accurate and valid tools to better overall mental health. I thoroughly enjoy posts like these (and just about every one of your posts — they’re awesome!!) because I have a passion for neuroscience. I am in college for that and I get immense joy when I see things like this spread to everyone. On a different note, I have massive anxiety and depression that I am working with. I have many tools that help me manage it, such as meditation and yoga every single morning. After reading through this list, I have decided that I want to read “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy” by David Burns. It looks to be straight up my alley!

  5. Ask Later

    Though I come from a family thats intent is to inspire all of us to be avid readers; I havent read any of these that are mentioned on this post but being my extreme interest in mental health books – I will consider the chance should such arrive on such books! Speaking of enjoyment, I enjoy posts like these (and just about every one of your posts — they’re a way to open a whole new way of life!!) because I have a passion for cardiology, radiology, neuroscience etc. I cant afford the supplies needed to return to college for that of updating myself with computer science but I hope one day to make a difference. On a side note, I might have interest in reading quite a few of your chosen books!

    [email protected]

    1. [email protected] Post author

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I love writing these posts; although they take a little more research, promoting mental health awareness is one of my passions. Crossing my fingers you’re able to make it back to school one of these days!

  6. cstone412cs

    Hi Stephanie- (my comment accidentally turned into a blog post/novel and I appologize!)—I have loved you so much more since I read a blog post of yours about six months back, about how you struggled with an eating disorder. I do hate to say this, but it is hard for me (who has no money or self esteem) to look at you and all your pretty purses and shoes, and see how gorgeous you are plus a successful blogger- and think that you could be sad about anything in your life. But that’s the whole stigma of everything. (Please, don’t be offended that I admit to be jealous or wonder how one could be sad with your life that you share with us. Because I am on your side. I do know that people can have millions of dollars and know millions of people but be the saddest, loneliest ppl on earth.) I am a recovering opiate addict that got stuck on pain killers after foot surgery. To top that off, I have super anxiety that’s been treated with clonapin for years, which is obviously addicting and gives “rebound” anxiety. I need it sometimes for panic atracks but more and more doctors are not wanting to give “benzos” because of the addiction aspect and because they give the rebound anxiety. It’s not really healing the part or wounds that are giving me the anxiety but we don’t know what’s wrong with me lol. They think I may be bi-polar 2. But it may just be the hi and lows of using drugs that mimics the his and lows of the bipolar disease. I have clean since 2010!!! I admit sometimes, there’s days in a row wheee I “wish” I could throw it all away and just get high to escape it all. I am so stressed all the time. But I have a 2 year old that I have to live for. But there’s so much battling against me like all the money I owe because I kept opening credit cards and not paying or buying a super fancy car with good credit and great job, then lost it all and it got repossessed. Then I just have all this guilt from my struggle with sobriety while I had my older daughter growing up-from 3 til I got clean at her age of about 6ish…and then a year later, I got pregnant and didn’t get to spend too much quality time with her after baby since my “fiancé” isn’t the best helper and doesn’t watch her (his baby. The, now 9 year old, is not his) unless he has to… So I live with a lot of guilt knowing that I wasted a lot of years and then finally when I got clean, I spent a little time with her then got Prego and lost more time with her…. Sorry for my life story. I had already liked your blog/ig a lot but I love knowing that you struggle (well, I don’t love knowing you struggle- I dnt wNt you, or anyone to struggle)- I guess what I mean is I like knowing that you are so “perfect” and have issues and you put it out there and it gives me hope… I have not read any of these books yet. The only ones I have read are – “I hate you, don’t leave me”- a book about borderline personality disorder. I have done and read both the PTSD (yes, I have that too from my friend getting shot to death at a college party) and bipolar workbook. The first three books sound really good. The two about anxiety sound great. In fact, I want to read all of these- except one- the resilience breakthrough didn’t seem that interesting to me. I live in this world where my mom, to this day, still ‘hates’ me, I am a huge disappointment and I feel like crap about myself all the time. I was supposed to finish college, but then my friend got shot and I lost my mind. I was supposed to have the husband, and house and cars. And all I am is an unwed mom, with 2 beautiful girls, no car, no license until I pay off 2grand of excise tax, which in my state, you need to pay or can’t renew your license. So I just look at all the high school kids I went to school with. We went to a private, catholic high school. And on their face books etc. they’re all doing great! Good jobs, houses, husbands, etc. who knows if they’re depressed or feel like heel but their lives sure look great. I need to get the book that you listed- the Let go of Who You Think You’re Supposed To be because that’s literally my life story right now. If me, or most people, could just be grateful for what they have (like I am so grateful for two gorgeous daughters), we would be happy rather than thinking we aren’t worth anything because we didn’t meet some goal. I guess I will stop here lol. Thanks so much form he list!

    1. [email protected] Post author

      Comments like these make all the blood, sweat, and tears behind blogging completely worth it. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, and although it may not seem like I understand your struggles, I can promise you… I do. We all struggle with vices, and although some are better actors than others, nobody’s life is perfect or without tribulation. I’m praying that things start to go your way very soon, and I hope you enjoy “Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be.” All of the books on this list played a part in my eating disorder recovery, but this one in particular helped allow me to let go of my “perfect” persona. I’m flawed and proud! 🙂

  7. Lindsay H

    I haven’t read any of the books, but definitely need to read the one on Coping with Anxiety. It’s tough and I find that books always help 🙂

  8. Hannah C

    I have not heard of these books before but I struggle with anxiety so I would love to give the Coping with Anxiety book a read.

  9. Robin

    Sadly it has been years since I’ve picked up a book to read so I haven’t read any of these. My vision was affected when I had a stroke so reading a book is hard for me. But I like to listed to an audio book once in a while but usually a classic.

  10. Pingback: 25 Ways to Practice Self-Love Daily | Diary of a Debutante

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