The first time I ever got my heart broken, it took me about 0.2 seconds to sink into a messy puddle of tears and teenage angst. As ridiculous as it seems when I look back now, I literally felt like my entire world was falling apart. The only thing that distracted me from the physical pain in my chest was losing myself in the wonderful world of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and the Chamber of Secrets, and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and…you get the picture. I was sad. But somehow, J.K. Rowling reached through time and space and made me feel better, even when nothing or no one else could.
Since I’ve always been an avid reader, it seemed fitting that only a book would be able to pick me up when I’m down. However, it turns out that reading books to treat anxiety and depression may actually be a thing. It is a type of expressive art therapy known as “bibliotherapy”—which is quite possibly the coolest word I’ve ever heard.
The mantra of bibliotherapy is that no matter what you are going through, there is a book that will help. While it is true that books will speak differently to different people, it is a safe assumption that reading about a character who shares your struggles or concerns will help you get a better grip on your own. While bibliotherapy shouldn’t replace traditional treatments for depression and anxiety, there’s no denying that reading can improve your mood. Here are some of my favorite go-to books when I’m feeling down.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Charlie is a high school freshman who is painfully shy and exhibits signs of depression and anxiety. For any young teenager who is struggling to fit in, this book shows the power of friendship and teaches the reader how to overcome even the most impossible of obstacles.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Prepare to cry, cry, and then cry some more while reading this book. However, also prepare to be amazed by John Green’s beautiful language, amazing story, and extremely vivid characters that will both make you fall in love with them and inspire you to enjoy every moment this life has to offer.
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Eating disorders are a sad reality of the world we live in, but they are also something that most people don’t want to talk about or even recognize. For any young person who might be struggling with their own eating disorder, this story about 18-year-old Lia’s battle with anorexia will be all too real—but also necessary for self-recognition and recovery.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
One of the best ways that books are able to change our outlook is by putting our lives into perspective and showing us the triumphs and downfalls of people and cultures that are so unlike our own. This book will not only introduce you to a world that you probably know little to nothing about, but will also show you that the power of friendship and the struggles of humanity are universal.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The cold grip of depression is a life that Elizabeth Gilbert knows all too well—from personal experience. After a tumultuous marriage and disastrous divorce, Gilbert takes the reader with her on her own journey of self-discovery while she travels the world and slowly picks up the pieces of her shattered life.
Into the Wild by John Krakauer
This book is the true account of the life of Christopher McCandless, a young, troubled soul who decided to travel aimlessly around America after graduating from college before eventually being found dead in the Alaskan wilderness at the age of 24. Krakauer tells the complete story of Christopher’s life, in search for the reasons why this promising young man decided to leave his entire life behind to recklessly trek into the wild. This book will teach you the importance of living a life of purpose, no matter what the cost may be.