What To Look For And Avoid In Self-Help Anxiety Books

Self-help books for anxiety are very popular--so popular that the sheer number of books available can be overwhelming. All those choices mean that there are some really great books out there, but also means that they can be harder to pick out. Here's what you need to know when you are shopping for anxiety books:

Are self-help books for anxiety effective?

A number of meta-analysis studies have found that therapy using books (bibliotherapy) more effective than a placebo and actually approaches the effectiveness of professional treatment with a therapist. Many therapists also "prescribe" self-help books to be used along with traditional therapy. They are a very cost-effective approach to treatment and help to engage you more actively in your treatment.

What should I look for in an anxiety self-help book?

A 2008 research paper (Popular self-help books for anxiety, depression, and trauma: How scientifically grounded and useful are they? by Redding, RE, et al.) looked at the 50 top-selling self-help books for anxiety, depressive, and trauma-related disorders as identified by Amazon.com and the bookstores Borders and Barnes & Noble and had psychologists rate them on the following criteria: overall usefulness, grounding in psychological science, reasonable expectations, specific guidance, and potentially harmful advice.

The researchers found that the best books had certain characteristics in common. They were usually written by mental health professionals with a doctoral degree, had a cognitive-behavioral perspective, focused on specific problems, and cited scientific literature. The top 5 books (listed below) met all these criteria and happened to all focus on a type of anxiety disorder (OCD or social phobia).

The 5 lowest rated books (listed below) were not based on scientifically proven approaches and tended to be less focused, trying to cover multiple problems instead of going in-depth on a particular disorder. The authors were not always mental health professionals and tended not to be affiliated with an academic organization.

Books to try:

  • The OCD Workbook (Hyman, B.M.)
  • Dying of Embarrassment (Markway, B.)
  • The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook (Antony, M.M.)
  • Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding (Neziroglu, F.)
  • Stop Obsessing! (Foa, E.B.)

Books to avoid:

  • Instant Self-Hypnosis (Blair, F.R.)
  • Tapping the Healer Within (Callahan, R.)
  • Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma (Levine, P.A.)
  • From Panic to Power (Bassett, L.)
  • How to Win Over Depression (La Haye, T.)

Source: Popular self-help books for anxiety, depression, and trauma: How scientifically grounded and useful are they? by Redding, RE, et al.
Photo: Pexels

Anxiety Support Groups

More Articles

New research by scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the University of North Carolina's Bowles Center...

Anxiety medication is one of the effective treatments for anxiety disorders that have been developed through research. There are two types of...

If you're contemplating starting medication for an anxiety disorder, you no doubt have discovered that there are literally dozens of prescription...

Benzodiazepines are a generally well-tolerated class of psychoactive drugs commonly used to treat anxiety disorders. While they are considered to...

Like all benzodiazepines, Ativan (generic: lorazepam) can cause both physical and psychological dependence. Stopping it suddenly often results in...

More Articles

Inderal, known generically as propranolol, is a beta blocker that has been in use since the 1960s. Like other beta blockers, it was developed to...

How should this medicine be used?

Paxil or Paroxetine comes as a tablet, suspension, and controlled-release (long-acting) tablet to...

How should Wellbutrin be used?

Wellbutrin is an oral antidepressant medication. Wellbutrin is used to treat the major depressive disorder...

There are side effects to anxiety that we all experience, I call them the aftermath of a stressful and anxiety-ridden period. This aftermath...

Inderal, a beta-blocker commonly prescribed to control physical symptoms of anxiety, is generally considered to be a safe drug and is tolerated...

In the biggest clinical trial to date testing this drug, the anesthetic ketamine delivered big and quickly to patients with treatment-resistant...

Ativan (available generically as lorazepam) is a powerful anti-anxiety drug in the class of medications known as benzodiazepines. It is a fast-...

Getting around town during peak traffic hours can bring stress to even the most relaxed of us, but what if just getting in your car is enough to...

Norpramin is a tricyclic antidepressant that is approved by the FDA to treat depression and also prescribed off-label for the treatment of some...

Anxiety sufferers in the 21st century have a relatively new avenue of help and support: the Internet. As more and more people turn to Google first...

A new series of studies and experiments by the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, illustrate the stress- and fear-...

Here is a simple relaxation exercise you can do while riding the bus or train to work, taking a break at work or school, sitting with your morning...

What is stress?

Stress is sometimes used to describe challenges or threats, like, “Kelly was under a lot of stress”, or other times to...

Getting enough sleep makes us feel better. Everyone knows this. But a team of sleep researchers at UC Berkeley has proof. According to a recently...

Beta-blockers are a class of drugs most commonly used to treat heart conditions, although they are useful in the treatment of a variety of other...