Are self-help books more effective than antidepressants?

Caroline Cassidy

Pop into any high street book shop and you'll find a sizeable section devoted entirely to self-help tomes. And according to new research, there's a very good reason the sector is booming.

Self-help books help alleviate depression
Self-help books help alleviate depression

Pic: Getty

Just days after a GP claimed antidepressants are prescribed too easily, a study by the University of Glasgow suggests self-help books based on talking therapy cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be more effective than medication in alleviating depression.

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More than 200 patients who had been diagnosed with depression by a GP took part in the study - half were treated with antidepressant drugs, while the remainder were offered a self-help guide to dealing with various different aspects of depression, and attended three meetings with a support worker.

At the end of a four-month period, those who used the self-help books displayed significantly lower levels of depression than those on GP-prescribed medication.

The readers also better understood and had greater knowledge of their condition. However, it was concluded that the support worker sessions - which guided patients through the literature and helped them to plan changes in their lives - were essential to the success of the books.
Professor Christopher Williams, who led the study, wrote in the journal Plos One: "We found this had a really significant clinical impact and the findings are very encouraging.

"Depressions saps people's motivation and makes it hard to believe change is possible."

CBT is recommended for the treatment of depression by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), though the access to this specialist therapy is often limited.

Have you used self-help books to help with depression? Did they work for you? Leave your comments below...