Escape into a Book: 3 Ways Reading Impacts Mental Illness

Many people look for means of escape from the tediousness of daily life. But for those suffering from a mental illness, escape can be nearly impossible.

Recent medical and pharmaceutical advancements have made their lives easier—have brought them up to baseline, to the average emotions those of us without mental illnesses wake up with every day. This does not take away the voices, the emotions, or the illness entirely. It may not even put a dent in the darkness consuming them.

Did you know that reading can dramatically help anxiety and stress levels?

Thankfully, there is a way to ease some of the burden, to push the thoughts away without focusing on them.

Reading, studies conclude, is effective in aiding the treatment of a variety of mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety.

Avoiding Rumination

Depressive, anxious, or uncomfortable thoughts often creep into the subconscious, leading the sufferer to believe these feelings or thoughts are more organic than others, are more of them than anything bubbling up in their conscious minds. This is often how people get stuck, how they talk themselves into the darkness.

Rumination is the act of dwelling on thoughts, problems, or ideas without any action. It is most commonly associated with depression and anxiety, and is referred to by psychologists as a leading cause in stress among those with mental illness.

Diving into a book can distract individuals from those negative thoughts or emotions, or, if the book is relatable to the person’s feelings or situation, it can present new perspectives on actions to take to fix the problems, leading to action that puts the thoughts to rest.

Working Through Problems with New Perspectives

Bibliotherapy supports good mental health and is proven to be an inexpensive and versatile addition to therapy.

Therapy using books dates back as far as ancient Greece. Today, it’s used by both individual and group therapy and is applicable to children, adolescents, and adults.

It takes several different forms:

Prescriptive Bibliotherapy (“self-help”) — involves specific reading materials and workbooks focused on a variety of mental health concerns.

Books on Prescription — books are “prescribed” by a doctor or therapist concerning specific mental health problems.

Creative Bibliotherapy — uses carefully chosen imaginative literature (novels, short stories, poetry, plays, etc.) to encourage an individual onto a path of self-discovery and reflection.

Reducing Stress

Mindlab International consulted with the University of Sussex on a study that took a group of volunteers, raised their heart rates and stress levels, and then measured their levels while they partook in a series of traditional relaxation methods (reading, music, and video games).

The study showed that reading reduced stress levels by 68 percent, and that volunteers’ levels were lower than their baselines after silently reading for only six minutes.

Dr. Louis, who conducted the study, commented: “Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation.