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Updated by Ashley L. Peterson on Feb 02, 2021
Headline for 12 Great Books to Get in the Know About Mental Illness
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12 Great Books to Get in the Know About Mental Illness

There's a lot of information out there about mental illness. Some of it is good, and some of it is pretty sketchy. Here's a list of books with useful information that's backed up by real life experience.

Want ideas for more great mental health books? Mental Health @ Home does weekly mental health book reviews.

Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis: Understanding the DSM-5

Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis aims to cut through the misinformation, stigma, and assumptions that surround mental illness and give a clear picture of what mental illness really is.

The book is structured based on diagnostic groupings in the DSM-5. It will help readers to understand the diagnostic criteria for a wide range of different mental illnesses, and gain an appreciation for what those criteria actually mean. Since symptom criteria can only capture a part of what a condition is truly like, many of the diagnoses in this book are paired with narratives from contributors with first hand lived experiences of these illnesses. The book is also infused with the author's 15 years of experience as a mental health nurse working with clients with a wide range of psychiatric illnesses, as well as her own experience living with depression.

With the fusion of diagnostic information, clinical experience, and lived experience, this book offers a unique, well-rounded perspective on the reality of mental illness.

You can find out more at

Your Mental Health and You

Let’s face it. We live in a very black and white world. Even with all of our technological and medical breakthroughs, we nevertheless have an issue of not being able to look past our own preconceived notions. This stops us from seeing something for how it actually is, instead of just through our own biases.

This book takes a different approach to how you should respond to mental health stigma. It does that through understanding what is within your power to change and how to get the proper medical or psychological support for the rest, through giving you a comprehensive appreciation of the things that you need in order to effectively reach your full potential. Those things involve the medical, therapeutic, and pharmaceutical interventions that are there to help you achieve this and many other things which will help you to reach that full potential.

This book isn’t going to make your life perfect. What it will do, though, is teach you how to handle the bad days and your everyday struggles a little easier and smarter.

You can find the author at

This book was reviewed on Mental Health @ Home.

Psych Meds Made Simple: How & Why They Do What They Do

People living with mental illness are often left out of the loop when it comes to understanding how exactly medications work. This book will explain pharmacology in a simplified way to help you understand the effects, both positive and negative, of psych meds, and why these effects occur. It's everything you didn't realize you wanted to know about medications!

The book begins with the essentials of pharmacology and moves on to cover all the major classes of psychiatric medications. You'll learn why one medication in a particular class might be a better fit for you than another. Are you having weight gain from your medication? You'll find out why, and what other medications might be less likely to have the same side effect.

I've pulled together what I've learned in my training as a nurse and (former) pharmacist and years of clinical experience, added in my personal perspective from having taken many of these medications, and distilled it down to the essential elements you need to know to take charge of your own health and illness.

You can find out more at

Birth of a New Brain: Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder

When a new mother becomes manic overnight from a rare form of bipolar disorder, she stops at nothing to find the mental stability she needs to stay alive.

After the birth of her baby triggers a manic maelstrom, Dyane Harwood struggles to survive the bewildering highs and crippling lows of her brain’s turmoil. Birth of a New Brain vividly depicts her postpartum bipolar disorder, an unusual type of bipolar disorder and postpartum mood and anxiety disorder.

During her childhood, Harwood grew up close to her father, a brilliant violinist in the Los Angeles Philharmonic who had bipolar disorder. She learned how bipolar disorder could ravage a family, but she never suspected that she’d become mentally ill—until her baby was born.

Harwood wondered if mental health would always be out of her reach. From medications to electroconvulsive therapy, from “redwood forest baths” to bibliotherapy, she explored both traditional and unconventional methods of recovery—in-between harrowing psychiatric hospitalizations.

Harwood reveals how she ultimately achieved a stable mood. She discovered that despite having a chronic mood disorder, a new, richer life is possible. Birth of a New Brain is the chronicle of one mother’s perseverance, offering hope and grounded advice for those battling mental illness.

You can find the author at

This book was reviewed on Mental Health @ Home.

Bring Me to Light: Embracing my Bipolar and Social Anxiety (Inspirational)

Eleanor Segall's life was beginning. An aspiring actress and a family girl, she never though her future would be derailed by mental illness. After a spate of depressive and manic episodes, panic attacks and social anxiety, Eleanor found herself in The Priory at age 16. The diagnosis? Bipolar I disorder.

But Eleanor didn't let it stop her for long. Now a successful blogger, journalist, and pillar of the mental health and Jewish communities, she writes about finding recovery and hope after being unwell. Her story of picking herself back up again and surviving against the odds will resonate with many – and it can help you find that light in the darkness too.
You can find the author at_

This book was reviewed on Mental Health @ Home.

Eat the Damn Muffin

Eat the Damn Muffin is the book you need to start your self-love journey where you’ll learn that confidence is for every body. Jenni Dunlap had a decade long battle with bulimia, and she shares her experiences along with how she discovered that all bodies are beautiful. She’s far from shy and discusses every part of your body that needs a little extra love, because self-care is bigger than your standard bubble bath. She is the quirky, no-nonsense friend that you need to help you see that you’re beautiful at any size. You will be sipping on positivity while dumping all of the negative forces in your life down the drain. With tools to help you grow your body confidence, this book includes so much more than a few steps on how to love yourself. Jenni is here to show you that you can eat a damn muffin, and you’ll still be beautiful.

You can find the author at

An earlier edition of this book was reviewed on Mental Health @ Home.

Untangled: A story of resilience, courage, and triumph

A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph.
Recalling her life, the author takes us on a journey of unimaginable abuse with continued explicit threats that eventually led to her being sent overseas on an impossible mission. Alexis Rose repressed the memories of her past until a family tragedy forced her to face what her life had been. A history of abuse, torture, and threats to maintain her silence or be killed could no longer be denied.
This is the story of facing the truth and risking the consequences of breaking the silence. The author learns to accept the effects of the trauma that echo through her daily life as PTSD.
Through years of self-exploration, Alexis learns to live her life fearlessly, with eyes wide open. Ultimately this book is about resilience; hope for victims who have suffered trauma and for the people who support them.

You can find the author at

This book was reviewed on Mental Health @ Home.

If I Could Tell You How It Feels: My Life Journey With PTSD

If I Could Tell You How It Feels is a series of essays and poems about living authentically with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Alexis Rose takes us on a journey into the reality of living with triggers, flashbacks, and the challenges of working through trauma. She writes with intimate vulnerability about the tough subjects of family, friendships, loss, grief, parenting, and therapy.
With a sense of universal hope and honesty, the author collaborated with artist Janet Rosauer to add a dramatic and soulful dimension to many of the chapters.

Whether you are a survivor, someone living with a mental or chronic illness, a professional working within the mental health industry, or you are simply interested in learning more about the intricacies of living and thriving with PTSD, this book will provide new insights and an appreciation of this invisible illness that affects millions of people around the world.

You can find the author at

This book was reviewed on Mental Health @ Home.

Royally Incomplete

Royally Incomplete is part memoir, part poetry collection, and part workbook--it tells the story of a girl trying to love herself amidst recovery from more eating disorders. This book isn't just for folks in recovery from eating disorders; its for anyone and everyone trying to love their whole selves in a world that profits from our self-doubt and creates dissonance between us and our bodies.

You can find the author at

This book was reviewed on Mental Health @ Home.

Bipolar Me

Janet Coburn draws on the posts from her award-winning blog, Bipolar Me, to illuminate the life of persons who live with bipolar disorder. As a woman living with bipolar 2 disorder, the author has direct experience of the subjects she covers and opens her life to readers. With chapters covering symptoms, treatments, the ups and downs of everyday life, and more, the author provides both valuable information and personal stories of struggles with mental illness. She wants people to know that help, healing, and a rich, rewarding life are possible.

This book is recommended for anyone who is interested in or has bipolar disorder, and for people who are family, friends, or loved ones of someone who lives with the condition.

You can find the author at

This book was reviewed on Mental Health @ Home.

Managing the Depression Puzzle - Mental Health @ Home

Managing the Depression Puzzle by Ashley L. Peterson provides a comprehensive look at how to manage depression. The goal is to provide a wide range of pieces that might fit in your own unique depression puzzle, so you can pick and choose what does fit for you. No one strategy (or set of strategies) is going to work for every individual, but having information about what the options are will put you in a better position to make choices about your mental health.

The book begins with an overview of depressive illnesses and subtypes. Strategies for dealing with depression are broken down into illness treatments and wellness promotion strategies. Illness treatment strategies like medication, ECT, and therapy, lift you from sick to less sick. Wellness promotion strategies, including mindfulness and self-care, help boost you up from less sick to well. Finally, the book looks at common issues faced by anyone living with a chronic mental illness.

Managing the Depression Puzzle draws on the author's education and experience as a former mental health nurse and pharmacist, as well as personal experience living with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder.  The approach is pragmatic, candid, and realistic, with the recognition that depression doesn't happen just one way; it is as unique as you are.

Book Review: He's a Porn Addict... Now What? - Mental Health @ Home

He’s a Porn Addict… Now What?: An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions by Tony Overbay and Joshua Shea is written to serve as a resource for partners of men with pornography addictions. It’s a unique combination of viewpoints – Tony is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and Josh is a former porn addict who’s now in sustained recovery.

Each chapter of the book has a specific focus, and includes questions that partners often ask. Each question is answered by Tony and then Josh.

The book is written in a very conversational tone. It’s very honest and straightforward, and there’s no skirting around issues. It is not prescriptive, and different angles and potential strategies are explored. The book is very practical, giving very reasonable suggestions that could be implemented in the real world.