A Novel Way to Combat Anxiety: Reading to Escape and to Heal

A recent New York Times Magazine article points out that more American teenagers than ever are suffering from severe anxiety. Others debate if there should be a special diagnosis code for election related anxiety and depression, while others have just decided to stop watching the news altogether.

World Mental Health Day, recognized on October 10th every year, prompts consideration of what is needed to maintain strong emotional and psychological health amid sometimes chaotic and difficult circumstances.

The cumulative effects of everyday pressures, compounded by the loss of loved ones, depression about relationships, career crises, health crises, and crises of faith are just some of the ailments that can impact self-esteem, weaken our ability to empathize with others and manage our lives in healthy ways.

While personalized treatment is recommended for those diagnosed with a mental illness, psychologists agree that regular escape from stress is needed by everyone to maintain good mental health. Vacationing is certainly a way to accomplish this but it is an option that is sometimes unaffordable and simply not something that can be indulged in everyday.

Books, on the other hand, can be indulged in every single day. They are omnipresent, relatively inexpensive and available at the fingertips, whether tangibly, on our computer screens or on our mobile devices. Interestingly, our research showed that although use of digital formats nearly doubled in the last six years, print is still the preferred format (65%), with eBooks (28%) and audio books (14%) following.

Bibliotherapists, specialists who prescribe reading lists to treat their patients, assert that books – particularly though not exclusively fiction – not only allow for an escape from stresses but they often help readers work through and ultimately come to terms with their personal conundrums. In fact, our research showed that after both World Wars, Bibliotherapy was used to help returning soldiers deal with PTSD.

With such value in reading, it is concerning that the American Time Use Survey showed that in 2015 we only read 19 minutes per day on average.

Perhaps when considering holiday gifts this year, we should all check out the best books of 2017 so far according to Amazon. And please click our infographic on books and reading and consider a literary remedy as a solution for our worries.

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