Can Reading Help Depression and Anxiety?

The first book I’ve ever read was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Yeah, I know, it’s the second book in the series, yet I couldn’t help myself.
Way back in elementary school, Our class was visiting the school library.
We were meant to choose a book to write a book report about.

There was this girl who wanted to do her book report on this book, but I happened to stand a tad closer to it and took the only copy available for myself.
Why? No reason aside from the sake of being a jerk, really.

As it turns out, I happened to like it.
And even when I got older, and my tastes in literature changed considerably, I still retained my love for reading.

Arguably even more than I enjoyed video games, I liked reading books.

But when my mental health got worse, I lost my interest in reading pretty quickly.

The next time I picked up a book was a few years later, by complete chance, and it reminded me why I enjoyd reading in the first place.

The experience brought up a question

does reading make you happier?

I am not talking about “happy” in the sense of sunshine and rainbows.
No, when I say “happy” I actually mean “engaged with the world around you”.

Is the fact that reading stimulates your imagination helpful to your mental health?
Or more importantly, is it an actual, measurable, form of therapy?

As it turns out, it is.

Introducing bibliotherapy

The use literature as a form of therapy.

What’s the method here, really?

Essentially, you read books in order to feel better.
What kind of books? Well, that can range anywhere between self-help books all the way to fantasy and science-fiction books.

The basic Idea here is that no matter what piece of writing you read, by engrossing yourself in it you can allow yourself to slowly overcome depression.

Distraction as a form of treatment, at first I thought it was borderline escapism, but I was wrong (mostly)

But does it work? Is there any scientific backing to this theory?

As it turns out, the answer to both of these questions is “yes”

Reading can help you de-stress

A huge cause of anxiety and depression is stress.

When you are stressed you are constantly worried and hurt both your body and mind in the long run as a direct result.

As such, anything that can help you with your stress would be a pretty welcome change, one that could really help you out.

One study from the University of Sussex discussed this very issue.

According to their findings, when compared to other methods of relaxation, reading has helped decrease the subject’s levels of stress by 68%

Dr.Lewis, who conducted the test, has said that (according to evidence, mind you), losing yourself in a book is the ultimate form of relaxation.

According to him, reading is more than just a distraction, but rather an active engagement of the mind.
Making the reader enter an “altered state of consciousness”

This isn’t the end of it, though.

Reading is engaging


Reading helps you sleep properly

One of the symptoms of anxiety and depression is insomnia.

Generally speaking, people with anxiety and depression have terrible sleep.
The quality of their sleep is low, and as such they either oversleep or they don’t sleep enough – and end up tired as a result.

According to studies, treating these disorders has shown to relieve some people of their depression.
In other words, getting a good night of sleep every night is a vital step in overcoming both depression and anxiety.

The thing is that reading helps you sleep properly as well.
Most of us spend the time before bed doing what exactly? Watching TV or doing nothing on our computer.

These electronic devices ruin the quality of your sleep.
Data largely suggests that the vast majority of us hurt our quality of sleep due to this usage of electronics.

So what’s the alternative? What else can we possibly do?

Read books!

By reading a physical book every night and adding it to your bedtime rituals, you will end up avoiding electronics before bedtime and sleep better for it.

That aside, the fact that reading helps us destress will prove to be a huge benefit.
After all, stress is a huge cause of sleeping problems.

Reading can just be plain fun

This one isn’t actually so much ‘scientific’ as it is just a degree of personal experience.

Understandably, people who suffer from depression and anxiety have quite a bit of strain on them.
People with anxiety are constantly worried and overwhelmed while people with depression are largely numb.
Unfeeling, even, as many would argue.

Many people have experienced reading as an enjoyable hobby over the years.
Combined with its abilities to make you relax and de-stress, many people have found that the immersion that reading has provided them helped them get interested in the experience.

Literature is a very emotional thing that we all experience differently.
It provokes both thought and feeling, even among those who struggle with such concepts.

But does it actually work?

I can already hear you guys asking me this, and for a good reason too.

Reading as a form of therapy is all well and good, but so far I’ve already provided theoretical explanations as to why it works.

Where is the scientific proof? All of the previously discussed points could certainly come across as curcimstantial.
Here’s your answer: right here.

When compared to a control group, bibliotherapy was shown to be superior to the control group therapy.

Furthermore, when studies compared standard psychotherapy sessions with reading a self-help book, results were largely similar, with the 3-month follow-up examination being practically identical for both groups.

All of that being said, the subject of bibliotherapy is largely unexplored.
Like many other topics related to mental health, we don’t know as much as we should about the specifics.

Sure, we know that reading books helps our mental condition, and we can come up with a few reasons as to why, but we don’t really know the specifics.

It is largely agreed that reading books helps with depression and anxiety, but there’s a ‘but’ here

Reading as a form of escapism

Oddly enough, no matter where I go on the internet, I don’t really encounter this subject nearly enough.

You see, while Dr.Lewis argued that, ideally, ‘proper’ reading is more than just a distraction, there’s a counter-argument to be made.

What if you simply can’t bring yourself out of your reading?
He said that the mind enters an “altered state of consciousness”, but what if we get too used to that state to ever want to let it go?

It makes plenty of sense when you really think about it.
Many people would argue that things like video games are a form of escapism – an attempt to run away from the real world.

To hide from our problems.

But I can’t help but to ask myself – can’t books provide the very same shelter?
A world, a setting, which runs our imagination wild and consumes many of our hours.

In that sense, how is reading so different from video games?

Reading is relaxing

Reading is still great, though

All of that being said and done, as long as you don’t overdo it, reading can do you plenty of good.

All available data pretty much confirms that you can read whatever you want – as long as it’s genuinely keeping your interested.

I have heard of many therapists who attempted to combine their practices with bibliotherapy.
For example, give their patients a self-help book to read at home, or a workbook to go over in their spare time.


Try and find something that you can actually enjoy reading.
My dad likes reading old technical manuals, he does it for fun – and his mental health is better for it.

Try to make reading into a habit.
Have set times for reading every day and plan your schedule accordingly.

Simply reading for half an hour a day can have huge benefits, more so if you do it at specific times.
By turning reading into a habit you will be able to keep at it.

In my case, I was only able to read for 5 minutes before going to bed, but it was enough to get my momentum going.

Try it out for yourself and see how it goes.

Bibliotherapy isn’t the ultimate answer

Although an effective method of self-help, it is generally agreed that bibliotherapy isn’t a replacement for professional help.

In mild to moderate cases, bibliotherapy seems to be particularly effective, but it isn’t an ultimate method by any means.

Reading isn’t going to be enough, and if you only read and do nothing else to improve your condition then it’s far more likely to turn into a form of escapism for you.

I would highly recommend checking out the Destroy Depression system.
Aside from being a book, it also details a variety of great self-help advice, so you should definitely check it out!

Before you go, here’s a question for you  – Can you name one book you would like to read?

It doesn’t matter what you read as long as you find it interesting and keep at it.

Make sure to write your answers in the comment section below – I read every single one of them.

If you got any questions about this article or any other, then send me an email and I’ll get back to you.

Email: [email protected]

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6 thoughts on “Can Reading Help Depression and Anxiety?”

  1. I agree with you! Reading is healing. Something about turning the pages and finishing a book that gets me feeling addicted. I used to buy all my books before because eI like to own them and put them on my book shelf. But I recently started to revisit the library in my town and fell in love with the place again. Knowing that reading also makes you happier is such a plus to being smarter as well.

    Right now the book I want to read is SAPIENS by Yuval Noah Harari.//Petra

    1. Heya Petra.

      Hahaha yeah.
      Unfortunately, I don’t read nearly as much as I should.
      Maybe I should revisit the library for some inspiration?


  2. Anxiety and reading go along very well, and everyone has their own comforting genre. For me, Patricia Hartmann’s work is extremely amusing and helpful. You should check out her work at her site.

  3. It’s good to know that Reading helps with depression because it is a form of escapism, which means you would be able to forget about your problems in the meantime and just be immersed in the book you’re reading. My daughter has depression and anxiety, so it’s great that I have read this article of yours. She loves reading young adult books, so perhaps I shall buy more of those as a gift to her. Thank you for this.

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