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Books are more than just a comfort. They can be a portal to different worlds, a bridge to a new past or future, an outpost for philosophies, and a support system for times of need.

In a literal sense, research shows that reading has the power to change your brain and create different patterns within it. On a practical level, reading allows you to learn new information and skills you might’ve not known before.

While dealing with a mental illness can feel isolating, 20 percent of the U.S. population experiences mental illness each year. Therapy and mindfulness are powerful steps in seeking help. For those looking to learn new skills outside of therapy, libraries and bookstores are teaming with options written by experts and licensed professionals.

Mental health books can be a useful way to process your experiences, learn about psychology, and often find techniques and tools to help you in your daily life. They can aid your mental health toolkit by providing different techniques, scientific research, and stories of others who have faced the same hurdles.

Here, we’ve rounded up books that cover the subjects of depression, anxiety, addiction, self-love, relationships, and more.

We picked the best mental health books based on the following criteria:

  • Variety: The books on this list cover a broad spectrum of mental health concerns and provide tools to manage difficult times in life.
  • Author: Some books were written by doctors and mental health professionals, while others discuss firsthand experiences from people who’ve dealt with mental health conditions.
  • Popularity: The books on this list are highly rated by readers. Some were also recommended by mental health professionals who use the books with their patients.
  • Integrity: We chose authors who aim to offer helpful information.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $12
  • $$ = $12–$15
  • $$$ = over $15

Best for people battling trauma

The Body Keeps the Score

  • Price: $
  • Who it’s best for: those who want to work through and understand traumatic experiences.
  • Key message: For many people, trauma is part of life, and understanding the science behind how it impacts the body can be a great tool in recovery.

Trauma comes in all forms, from near-death experiences to unexpected loss. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk uses recent scientific discoveries to reveal how trauma doesn’t just impact the mind, but also the body.

According to van der Kolk, trauma can compromise the sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. In his #1 New York Times bestselling book, “The Body Keeps the Score,” he explores treatment methods that help activate the brain’s natural neuroplasticity in trauma patients.

More than an achievement in neuroscience, “The Body Keeps the Score” is a way for readers to potentially find their way through the depths of trauma with unique approaches to therapy like yoga and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. The book has garnered the interest and praise of many in neuroscience and psychology.

In a review found on Amazon, Ruth A. Lanius, MD, PhD, director of PTSD research at the University of Western Ontario, says, “This book will provide traumatized individuals with a guide to healing and permanently change how psychologists and psychiatrists think about trauma and recovery.”

Best for anxiety

Hope and Help for Your Nerves: End Anxiety Now

  • Price: $$
  • Who it’s best for: those who deal with a lot of intrusive, repetitive thoughts that can trigger anxiety and panic
  • Key message: Anxiety comes with many physical symptoms brought on by an overactive nervous system, but there are behavioral techniques you can use to calm yourself down.

Do you ever feel like a prisoner to your thoughts? If you can’t seem to snuff out the flames of intrusive thoughts, there’s a book for that. Intrusive thoughts can sometimes feel like a gnat you can’t seem to keep away. At other times, they may feel like an avalanche that sends you into a panic.

In “Hope and Help for Your Nerves,” Dr. Claire Weekes provides step-by-step guidance on how to understand and mitigate your symptoms of anxiety. She uses her own experience and scenarios from pioneering work in psychiatry to provide a clear-cut path to help readers find their own power.

Best for recovery from addiction

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober

  • Price: $
  • Who it’s best for: anyone who is going through recovery or is ready to learn about the benefits of being sober
  • Key message: When you’re in recovery, you may often feel like you’re “missing out,” but there are many joys to discover in sobriety.

Catherine Gray is a journalist who has personally dealt with alcohol addiction. Throughout Gray’s book, “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober,” she discusses her experience with addiction and recovery, shares scientific facts, and brings in expert insight that can be applied to all types of addiction.

She dives into the darker days of her life, then shines a light on her path to sobriety and all of the unexpected joys that came along with it. The overall goal is to relay the message that there are many benefits of being completely sober or even just cutting back on your alcohol consumption.

Gray isn’t a mental health professional but her experience may help readers feel less alone in their struggles.

Best for women survivors of relationship abuse

Healing the Trauma of Abuse: A Women’s Workbook

  • Price: $$$
  • Who it’s best for: women who have experienced any type of partner abuse
  • Key message: Sometimes the road to recovery after trauma feels long, but there is a way to rebuild your self-esteem and heal.

Abuse can come in the form of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse that impacts men, women, and nonbinary people. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women experience abuse by a romantic partner while 1 in 5 women experience rape. The statistics are striking and leave organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that 20 people in the U.S. are abused by an intimate partner every minute.

With abuse being a saddening but common experience among women, it’s likely you or someone you know has experienced some type of intimate partner violence. Workbooks like “Healing the Trauma of Abuse: A Women’s Workbook” help to provide a gentle approach to healing and recovery. The book can apply to women who experienced trauma as a child or adult, and aims to introduce readers to problem-solving and self-advocacy strategies to rebuild self-esteem and heal. The methodology was developed by Maxine Harris and clinicians at Community Connections, a non-profit mental health agency in Washington, D.C.

Within the book, readers can take an assessment to understand if they are ready to undergo the exercises. The guide covers subjects like physical and emotional boundaries, self-soothing techniques, female sexuality, self-destructive behaviors, communication techniques, and acceptance.

While the book has received a wide array of positive reviews and a 4.6 rating on Amazon, the authors do not recommend the book for women who are currently trying to leave an abusive relationship.

Best for understanding a therapist’s perspective

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

  • Price: $$$
  • Who it’s best for: anyone who is considering going to therapy, but is nervous to talk with someone
  • Key message: Even therapists need to talk with someone, proving that we’re all human and there’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it.

Psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb was used to being the therapist in the room until she experienced a crisis that led her to change roles and sit on the therapy couch. In the New York Times bestselling memoir, “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone,” Gottlieb takes readers through life as a therapist seeking therapy. The book follows the therapy sessions of her clients at her Los Angeles-based practice, including the lessons she learns from them and the progress they’ve made along the way. When Gottlieb experiences an unexpected breakup, she finds herself seeking out therapy from Wendell and getting a taste of what it’s like to be a client.

“Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” sprinkles in humor and honesty as Gottlieb shares her perspective as a practitioner and patient. Through her words, readers will be left with wisdom and hope about the human condition we all share. If you’re nervous about seeing a therapist, this book will help you see sessions through a counselor’s eyes and understand they are human just like you.

Best for battling burnout

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

  • Price: $
  • Who it’s best for: people who often have issues with creating boundaries
  • Key message: Prolonged stress can lead to burnout, but there are ways to close the stress cycle loop and prioritize your mental health.

What if getting over burnout was easier than we imagined? Sisters Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA, are on a mission to end burnout by helping readers understand how to unlock the biological stress cycle. Their book, “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle,” has set out to explain why women experience burnout differently from men, how to minimize the feeling, and how to manage emotions.

According to the book, burnout is emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a decreased sense of accomplishment. The authors share that just because you’ve handled a stressor in your life doesn’t mean you’ve completed a stress cycle, and getting stuck in that cycle can — you guessed it — cause burnout. Emily and Amelia Nagoski outline how to understand your body’s response to stress, close the loop of the stress cycle, and enact planful problem solving through thorough research and helpful worksheets.

Sarah Knight, a New York Times bestselling author of “Calm the F*** Down,” called “Burnout” the gold standard of self-help books. Some reviewers complained about the feminist principles that shine through the text, pop culture references, and conversational writing style. Overall, the book has garnered four stars on Goodreads since its debut, with a majority of happy readers.

Best for healing from emotional pain

Emotional First Aid

  • Price: $$
  • Who it’s best for: anyone dealing with feelings of loss, trauma, guilt, low self-esteem, or other types of emotional pain
  • Key message: Emotional pain may not be outwardly visible, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Catering to your emotions as much as your physical body can help.

Loss, heartache, failure, and rejection aren’t as visible as a broken limb or open cut, but that doesn’t make them any less painful. Guy Winch, PhD, wrote “Emotional First Aid” to provide strategies to those in need of mending the emotional pains that everyone experiences at some point in life. Like any wound, leaving an ailment untreated can cause it to worsen or spread. Rather than writing patients a prescription, Winch provides strategies and tools to build your own emotional first aid kit. In the book, he tackles rejection, loneliness, loss and trauma, guilt, rumination, failure, and low self-esteem.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), depression has become the leading cause of disability around the world, and a fifth of all adults in the United States experience a mental illness each year. Despite the prevalence of mental health issues, NAMI found that only 46.2 percent of U.S. adults with mental illness received treatment in 2020.

Allyson Timmons, licensed mental health professional and founder of Envision Therapy, often recommends “Emotional First Aid” to her clients. “Guy Winch provides insight into how we are taught from infancy to care for our bodies but not our minds. He challenges us to cater to our emotions just as much as we do the body,” she explains. When it comes to emotional injuries, a band-aid doesn’t suffice. Winch provides a strategy to treat the mind’s bruises.

Best for understanding family trauma

It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle

  • Price: $$
  • Who it’s best for: anyone looking to dig into generational trauma and how to break the cycle
  • Key message: Your family has an enormous impact on why you are the way you are, but with some practice, you can become anyone you want to be.

Mark Wolynn has been recognized around the world as a leading expert on the subject of inherited family trauma. In his 2016 release, “It Didn’t Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle,” he dissects how the trauma of relatives can be passed down the family tree. Wolynn believes this trauma can cause depression, anxiety, phobias, and chronic pain despite it not happening directly to the reader.

The highly reviewed book has shared therapy tactics and scientific research that therapists within the industry have applied with their own clients. Alexanndra Kreps, MD, was one professional who contributed a blurb on the informative work where she writes, “I found myself immediately able to apply Mark Wolynn’s techniques with my patients and saw incredible results, in a shorter time than with traditional psychotherapeutic techniques.”

When approaching trauma, it is best to consult a mental health professional before diving into work that could be triggering. One Amazon reviewer cautioned, “I would say you have to be ready to face these things and it is most definitely not a light read.”

Best for navigating relationships

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love

  • Price: $$$
  • Who it’s best for: those looking to improve their personal relationships and form deeper connections
  • Key message: There are three main attachment styles and understanding yours can deepen your relationships and help you connect with your partner.

“Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find — and Keep — Love” explores the idea of attachment theory, a concept first introduced by British psychologist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby. While attachment theory has long dissected the impact that our early relationships with parents or caregivers have on who we become, the theory can be applied to our closest life relationships. Psychiatrist and neuroscientist Amir Levine and psychologist Rachel Heller teamed up in “Attached” to provide a modern understanding of attachment theory and how it can help us find love.

“Attached is a sigh of relief for anyone who struggles with anxiety and navigating conflict,” says Danielle Friedman, LMHC, Free Space Counseling. She finds that the book serves a deeper purpose by teaching the reader “that emotions are deeply rooted in one’s upbringing.”

According to attachment theory, there are three common ways people behave in relationships depending on whether they are anxious, avoidant, or secure. By helping readers determine their own attachment style, the book helps readers navigate their relationships and understand themselves.

“[Attached] gives them answers and reasons for why they emote and respond the way they do to others, especially those they care for deeply,” says Friedman. “This book takes the reader on a step-by-step journey toward understanding how we relate to one another while updating the way we see ourselves,” she continues.

Best for highly sensitive people

The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You

  • Price: $
  • Who it’s best for: anyone that feels deeply affected by the world around them
  • Key message: The modern world can overstimulate highly sensitive people and empaths, but this isn’t a character flaw. Learning to cope can help you harness the power of being sensitive to the world around you.

Author Elaine Aron, PhD, identifies as a highly sensitive person (HSP) and has been researching sensitivity for 20 years. She authored “The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You” and its subsequent counterparts, “The Highly Sensitive Person in Love” and “The Highly Sensitive Child.” While HSP sounds like buzzy therapy speak or an outlier in mental health, Aron says 15 to 20 percent of the population are highly sensitive.

HSPs can feel overwhelmed by their physical surroundings like bright lights, crowded spaces, blaring sounds, and strong smells. They may avoid violent films out of fear of feeling too much, feel flustered by a busy schedule, and find themselves drained after too much socialization.

While HSPs are often overstimulated, it isn’t all bad. Aron finds that they notice the minute details that add beauty and color to life. She feels sensitive people have the unusual ability to sense subtleties, avoid errors, and concentrate deeply. Aron uses case studies, self-tests, and exercises to help readers cope with their overarousal and overcome social discomfort. Rejoice in your sensitivity by using “The Highly Sensitive Person” to understand yourself and how this special trait impacts your personal life, love, and career.

Best for practicing self-love

Loving Bravely

  • Price: $$$
  • Who it’s best for: anyone trying to improve their self-esteem and deepen the connection they have with themselves
  • Key message: Loving others starts with loving yourself. By learning your strengths and weaknesses, you can accept them and give yourself a better foundation for a fulfilling relationship with yourself and those close to you.

“Loving Bravely” by Alexandra H. Solomon, PhD, is “my nearest and dearest for anyone wanting to find deep and meaningful relationships,” says Friedman. Friedman, who has worked through this book with clients and herself, finds that it “gently supports the reader to learn about themself and family in ways never considered.”

The author believes that real love starts with you, and shares 20 lessons to help readers commit to their emotional well-being and growth. Solomon, a psychologist and relationship expert, introduces the idea of relational self-awareness. By understanding your own strengths and weaknesses in relationships, she feels you can build a better foundation to love yourself and others.

“Though the focus of this book is getting the love you want, the reader will ultimately learn that in order to get it from others, they will have to give it to themselves first. This book teaches you how to do that,” explains Friedman.

Best for finding order in life

7 Habits of Highly Effective People

  • Price: $$
  • Who it’s best for: anyone looking to become more productive and focused
  • Key message: You can learn new habits to become more organized and prioritize the most important tasks to become more effective and avoid burnout.

When helping clients find a path toward self-improvement, Timmons likes to employ the lessons from Stephen R. Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” She often recommends the book to clients who can use its self-efficacy tools to become more intentional. “This transformative book teaches its readers how to discard old ways and approach life from a different perspective — all leading to becoming a more effective and intentional individual,” she says.

The book has long been touted as a favorite within the business world, often found on the shelves of executive teams and company founders. Covey’s book, which has been in print since 1989, has also continued to draw admiration in self-help communities.

Of the book’s many lessons, it provides helpful principles for readers to find balance and prioritize areas of their life efficiently and helpfully. Covey helps readers find a sustainable balance in life, take on responsibilities proactively, set out end goals, negotiate in a way that benefits everyone, and work well with others.

For those dealing with burnout or an inability to get organized, Covey’s tips could help signal a lightbulb to find a healthy routine and communicate effectively with others. The “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” has sold over 20 million copies, with 88 percent of reviewers on Amazon giving it a perfect five stars. Some Goodreads reviews found that the book followed the self-care formula of many and the information was repetitive. Still, many reviewers call the book “transformative” and “life-changing.”

PriceWhy we chose itWhat it covers
The Body Keeps the Score$-highly rated
-uses scientific discoveries to describe how trauma affects the mind and body
the physical and emotional manifestations of trauma and how you can work through them
Change Your Brain, Change Your Life$$uses the science of neuroplasticity to help people with a wide range of mental health disorderstechniques to lessen anxiety, fight depression, and curb anger
Hope and Help For Your Nerves: End Anxiety Now$$-a highly rated classic
-written by an acclaimed and empathetic psychiatrist
why anxiety manifests physically and mentally and how to calm your nerves
The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober$-shines a light on addiction from a firsthand perspective
-valuable insight from professionals
benefits of recovery and how you can find joy in sobriety
Healing The Trauma of Abuse: A Women’s Workbook$$$written by a PhD who has personal experience with mental health struggles and abusehow trauma can affect all facets of your life, and how you can recover
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone$$$-hugely popular
-written by a therapist in a humorous way
benefits of talk therapy and why there’s no shame in talking to someone, even if you’re a therapist yourself
Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle$co-authored by a mental health professional with a PhD in health behaviorthe stress cycle, how you can get caught up in a loop that leads to burnout, how to break that cycle
Emotional First Aid$$-written by a psychologist
-shines a light on the fact that emotional pain can hurt just as much as physical pain
how emotions can affect you and how you can fully process them, rather than covering them up and letting them fester
It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle$$written by an expert in generational family traumahow certain traits and characteristics can be “inherited” from family members and how you can break negative cycles that don’t serve you
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love $$$-written by a neuroscientist and psychiatrist
-highly rated with thousands of reviews
the three different attachment styles and how understanding yours can improve and deepen your relationships
The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You$written by a PhD with extensive experience in emotions and relationshipsthe physical manifestations of being highly sensitive and how you can harness your sensitivity to work for you, instead of against you
Loving Bravely$$$written by a clinical psychologist with extensive experience working with couples and individualshow to work toward self-awareness and self-love so you can deepen the relationship with yourself and others
7 Habits of Highly Effective People$$-New York Times bestseller
-popular and highly rated for decades
how to break destructive habits and form new, productive ones that can help you reach your personal and professional goals

Mental health books can be a great way to learn techniques and tools that can help you improve your life. But if you’re dealing with problems that are interfering with your daily life, limiting your ability to function, or are feeling overwhelmed on most days, it’s best to see a mental health professional.

A qualified mental health professional can talk you through your main concerns and recommend the proper treatments, which may include books, that can get you closer to your goals.

Keep in mind

If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, feelings of self-harm, or urges to hurt someone else, you should seek emergency help by calling 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

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Does reading books help with mental health?

Among many other benefits, reading can help with mental health. Not only can the act of reading reduce stress and psychological distress, but learning and following the techniques in mental health books can help you cope with physical and mental symptoms.

Which book will help me learn the most about my mental illness?

There’s not a single book that will teach you the most about your mental health condition. It depends on what mental condition (or conditions) you’re dealing with and what you hope to get out of the book.

That being said, if you’re dealing with anxiety, we recommend starting with “Hope and Help For Your Nerves: End Anxiety Now” by Dr. Claire Weekes. If you want to explore how trauma affects your body, “The Body Keeps the Score” is almost universally loved and highly rated.

Which book is best for mental health?

There are many books that are good for mental health, making it impossible to narrow it down to just one. We recommend all of the books on our list for different mental health issues and achieving various outcomes.

Mental health books can be a fantastic resource and entry into understanding psychology and the way the brain impacts mood, behavior, and thoughts. Picking up a book can be helpful no matter what your situation — whether you’re working through your own mental health journey, brushing up on your self-care, or generally interested in psychology.

While these books can provide helpful tools to deal with mental health and stressors, they’re not a substitute for therapy. When diving into a book about mental illness, it’s best to consult with a licensed mental health professional. Even better, you can work through your book with a therapist by your side.

Jillian Goltzman is a freelance journalist covering culture, social impact, wellness, and lifestyle. She’s been published in various outlets, including Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Fodor’s Travel Guide. Outside of writing, Jillian is a public speaker who loves discussing the power of social media — something she spends too much time on. She enjoys reading, her houseplants, and cuddling with her corgi. Find her work on her website, blog, Twitter, and Instagram.