Reading With Depression: What’s a Girl To Do?

As of 2012, about 1 in 10 Americans deal with depression in some form. Some only deal with acute depression – new, sudden onset that will eventually go away. Whereas others, such as myself, have chronic depression, or, as it is commonly known – Major Depressive Disorder.

Reading with Depression

Along with depression, about 40 million people in the United States deal with anxiety problems, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In fact, anxiety and depression often go hand in hand.

I’m not shy about my mental health issues because I want to be a voice that tells people of its existence while also encouraging those who remain silent. Talking about depression and anxiety is rough, but I’ve noticed it has gotten easier over the last few years.

Depression really likes to take over a person’s life, no matter if that person will end up dealing with it for a short time or if they end up dealing with it for a long while. You’ll notice that you don’t enjoy the things you used to, eating isn’t really all that fun, and even Netflix gets tiring.

It is absolutely frustrating and you always feel like throwing something at the TV, but you have zero energy to do so. Am I right?

Well, there are a lot of things I really like to do, including playing video games, reading, and writing. And depression impacts each of those, but specifically the one thing that really gives me immense joy – reading.

Reading with DepressionWhat’s a Girl or Guy to do When They Can’t Read?

I love reading, so when my depression gets to a super low spot, I tend to find myself needing comfort. However, I have zero energy, and when I pick up a book, I don’t want to read it. Man is that annoying. And, it also makes me plummet even further down the depression spiral.

I find myself in this place where I want to read, but I don’t want to read, and it’s this huge back and forth argument. I always imagine some little battle going on with my body chemicals wielding swords and shields trying to decide which way they want to me to act and feel.

When I can’t read, I feel like I can’t function. I feel like I’m in this weird limbo state and just existing without a book. And that feels absolutely wrong to me. I get despondent, snappy, and my choice of verbiage fits in quite nicely with sailors.

Reading with Depression

I’ve learned over the years of having MDD that if I can make myself read, I can eventually start climbing out of that hole I’m stuck in. But man is it hard work.

My depression really took a nosedive when I hit my mid-twenties, and that is when my reading really started to suffer. I started searching Google for tips on reading with depression and nothing really worked. I mean, I also didn’t even feel like reading the article let alone picking up a book.

And then I noticed something – when I reread a book, even if it was harder than ever before to read it, I would get out of my reading slump. I’d start trudging up Depression Hill, working my way to the top until I was out of that reading slump and back in the game, as they say.

What Should a Person Read and Avoid When Struggling With Depression?

When it comes to reading, especially reading with depression, a lot of people have said, “Avoid sad, depressing books! Those will make your depression worse.”

Here’s the thing, though, it didn’t, it doesn’t. The books I’ve read when struggling out of my slumps include A Clockwork Orange, Frankenstein, Dracula, Les Misérables, short stories and poems by Poe, The Lord of the Rings, and Neil Gaiman stories.

These books and short stories are all incredibly dark. Sure, some might have a bit of hope and light spread throughout like LotR or a Neil Gaiman story, but something like A Clockwork Orange? It is rather dark.

Yet, it, along with the others listed, help so often. So, I learned that rereading old favorites, no matter how dark, was what helped me when it came to reading with depression. Sometimes it was just a small little story other times a big tome. But it worked and works.

Reading with Depression

What Can You Do When Trying to Read With Depression?

There are plenty of people out there who will tell you what you should do to break the depression reading slump, which can be discouraging when it doesn’t work. There is hope, though – there is something out there that can help, that will help. Who knows, it might just be someone encouraging you to read just one sentence a day. Just one.

I don’t have any magic tips that will make it all easier. The one thing I know you can do though when trying to read with depression is to keep trying. Don’t stress yourself out. Lose that to-read guilt. And remember, sometimes you can only take one step and that is perfectly all right.

Reading with Depression

Reading with depression can be incredibly difficult and is something us bookworms hate. Yet, I am here to tell you that it can be possible.

book movie adaptations

What about you, dear readers?
How do you read with depression?


Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional, but am offering my own experiences and best practices. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts, reach out to a licensed professional. Here are some great emergency contact numbers you can reach out to, as well:


  • I just have to be gentle with myself when it comes to reading through depression. I work in publishing, so I frequently get the question “what are you reading?” and I feel badly when I don’t have something I’m in the middle of. Sometimes I just have to let myself be okay with not reading for a while, and then easing my way back into reading with my normal intensity–even if it means I have to say “I’m not reading anything outside of work right now” to my colleagues. :)

    • For sure. I can understand that feeling, too. It always irked me when I’d have to say, “I’m not reading anything” or “I’m still on the same, easy-read I was on three weeks ago.” But, learning to lose that guilt and feeling of shame is such a great step. <3

  • I just wrote about this on my blog! It’s interesting how different people cope with depression/reading slumps differently. I’ve never been able to read “dark” books when I’m having bad depression. In high school, I used to just reread the Harry Potter series again and again when I was struggling. Now, I read graphic novels, YA, and ChickLit. Escapist reads are about the only things I can get through when my depression/anxiety gets worse.

    • It is truly fascinating to see how we all cope and deal with depression and reading! I do enjoy a few escapist reads when I start to get into a slump. I love escapist stories because they really can help you take a break from the world around you and go into a completely different realm of thought. I’ll go check out your post!