Recommended Books on Managing Anxiety
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues people face. Here is a list of some of the best books on anxiety (covering both fiction, non-fiction, self-help) that I often recommend to my clients. Some of these are written by mental health professionals while others have been authored by people with firsthand experience of anxiety, who share the tools and techniques that helped them manage anxiety.
List of Anxiety Books
Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks (Non-fiction) by Barry McDonagh
Barry McDonagh's book is based on scientific evidence examined over a period of 10 years, that has led him to develop the DARE technique to put an end to anxiety and anxious/intrusive thoughts. He also shows us how to boost our self-confidence, fall asleep at night, reduce panic attacks and generalised anxiety as well as his go-to natural supplements on relieving anxiety. His goal is for his readers to lead a bolder and brighter life. The book also comes with a free app that readers can download so that they can leverage the DARE response in any situation. Plus, the book's positive reviews speak for themselves.
A unique book as the author himself, a successful journalist for Atlantic magazine, suffers from anxiety. The book, brings together science, humanities and his own experience of anxiety to exhaustively discuss the condition and treatment. It also serves as an inspiring example of how someone can achieve significant accomplishment whilst struggling with anxiety. If you suffer from anxiety, it might also eerily resonate with you and might even change your life.
A non-fiction resource and bestseller, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook is filled with practical tools and techniques to manage anxiety that are straightforward to implement. The book covers anxiety, panic attacks, generalised anxiety disorder, mental illness, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other related conditions. It's the perfect book for offering relief from anxiety and calming symptoms of anxiety.
A fantastic resource (one of the best self-help books on anxiety) is grounded in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and developed by clinician-researcher Aaron T. Beck, this book is filled with helpful tools and techniques to manage anxiety using CBT from identifying anxiety triggers to challenging unhelpful thoughts and beliefs as well as reducing the fear response and social anxiety.
The book includes exercises and worksheets that you can download or print. Perfect if you are looking for something practical and immediately applicable. It's available in Kindle format too so you can carry it around with you on your Kindle app on your phone or tablet, wherever you go.
Lucinda Bassett has developed a wonderful anxiety management programme that she guides readers through in this book, showing them how to manage the anxious brain by taking back control of their lives without feeling hostage to anxiety. She teaches us how to transform negative thoughts and anxious energy into a more positive energy, with compassion, that feels freeing and empowering and gives our self-esteem a boost.
An ambitious, authentic and perhaps cathartic piece of fiction, from the prolific author, that thoughtfully weaves together a story about sixteen year old Aza and a fugitive billionaire whose mystery she painstaking tries to solve with her best friend Daisy. The story details the daily struggles of living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and provides a painstaking accurate narrative of what it feels like to be a teenager with unrelenting anxiety. As someone who struggles with anxiety, you may find yourself identifying with Aza in a surprisingly startling way. The book offers empathy as we recognise our own anxious feelings in the literature, offering cathartic relief.
"I was born for this. I am not a person who is sitting around, waiting for something to happen."
The novel opens with 16-year-old Alice Oseman’s declaration of her ultimate destiny: the music world. She tells us about her first gig as lead singer in an indie band and how she came to be writing songs with her best friend, drummer Jonny Whitehall. Her account of life on tour is fraught with frustration that comes from being outshone by Alex Fierro, the charismatic guitarist and songwriter, but also laced with moments of joy when they perform their catchy pop tunes at venues across England. The highs are punctuated by lows — arguments between bandmates over artistic control, members leaving to pursue other projects, and Alice’s longing for her long-distance love.
The novel is told in a series of vignettes that interspersed with the band's rise are scenes from a 16th birthday party thrown by parents who just don't understand their daughter anymore; awkward conversations about sex with mentors at school; an emotional confrontation with Alex on stage during a gig when she can no longer hold back her own feelings. We also meet Alice as a teenager dealing with panic attacks (stemming from a panic disorder), navigating relationships fraught with miscommunication or misunderstanding (friendships as well as romantic), which makes it difficult but incredibly important for them all to find themselves on this often, rocky road.
This is a beautiful therapeutic book on finding a sense of calm and peace in a world that doesn’t stop bubbling stress and anxiety, where people are consistently nervous, disconnected and very alone. Haig questions, how can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad? How do we stay human in a technological world? How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious?
Haig himself has experienced years of his own anxiety, anxious thoughts and panic attacks, urging him to look at the big questions more closely, so that he can better understand his feelings and interior life as well as the external stressors around him.
Notes on a Nervous Planet is a brilliant look at how to process emotions and find peace in a distressed, anxious world where we are faced with existential angst every day, from someone with a first-hand personal experience of overcoming anxiety. It's a great listen on the audiobook version too.
A persuasive and powerful guide on the use of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and mindfulness techniques, to help you overcome anxiety and find personal peace. It shows us how to recognise and reduce the anxious activity of the "monkey mind", by confronting anxiety head on, rather than avoiding it.
It's also got the therapist's seal of approval and is written by fellow psychotherapist Jennifer Shannon.
Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life (Non-fiction) by Beth Kempton
The philosophy of Wabi Sabi, which explores the beauty found in the transient imperfection of life, is captured in this book in stunning vignettes that leave you feeling energised and refreshed, particularly after a difficult day. It helps us to reframe the negative feelings around anxiety that can often hold us hostage.
The perfect addition to any toolkit on anxiety.
The Calm Coloring Book: Beautiful images to soothe your cares away (Colouring book) by Patience Coster
Colouring is one of the most effective stress management tools out there, a relaxing technique to free the mind of fearful thoughts.
A stunning, colouring book laced with gorgeous art work of nature from birds, flowers and butterflies to allow us to focus on the beauty of these creatures whilst enjoying the pictures and colouring our stresses and strains away as our creative mind is ignited.
A fabulous stress reliever, it perfectly complements the books above.
Poetry is often a great tool to immerse ourselves in when seeking a sense of calm and peace. It focuses the readers mind, and transcends us to another plane. And what better poetry collection to start with than The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, with her range of psychological, spiritual and intellectual poetry and her bold, innovative prose continue to shine a guiding light to those who read her poetry. This poetry collection contains 1,775 poems and continues to be one of the most widely read pieces of her work.
Both writing and reading poetry, through their expression of feelings and words have highly therapeutic effects on the mind.
We are often drawn to a poem when we connect with the poet’s feelings, either feeling the same as the poet or empathising with him/her.
This literary guide explores the creative ways in which we can read and write poetry for self-therapy. It also includes books to help you access the full therapeutic power of poetry.
Related recommended reading lists:
More book prescriptions can be found at Book Therapy.
A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, and life I launched Book Therapy as an alternative form of therapy using the power of literature. I train mental health professionals, librarians, teachers as well as readers on using bibliotherapy in their own work through our online Bibliotherapy, Literature and Mental Health course. We also curate reading lists/personalised book prescriptions for clients based on their individual needs. This is our signature personalised reading service.
You can also check out Book Therapy’s other free reading lists and A- Z of book prescriptions (covering both fiction and non-fiction). These suggest books based on your existing life situation (e.g. anxiety, job change, relationship heartache) as well as interests (e.g memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction, crime etc). There’s also a Children’s A — Z of Book Prescriptions. Feel free to check out the blog for more literary gems. There’s also a post on my personal story of how I entered the world of bibliotherapy and book curation.
In this role, I have had the opportunity to publish a book called The Happiness Mindset, and write various literary essays and pieces for newspapers and magazines. I have undertaken bibliotherapy workshops for The United Nations, various libraries in New York and corporate organisations in the UK and US. My book recommendations have featured in the Guardian, Marie Claire, NBC News, Asian Voice, New York Observer, Sydney Telegraph and various other publications. If you are a parent you might enjoy a podcast I’ve recorded with speech and language therapist Sunita Shah on Raising A Reader & Storyteller. And if you’d like to connect, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.booktherapy.io.
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