6 Books That Realistically Portray Mental Illness

Understanding mental illness, whether or not you live with a diagnosis yourself, can be extremely difficult. Each situation is unique and the media often portrays mental illness in inaccurate and misleading ways. Here are some books that offer more realistic portrayals of what living with a mental health diagnosis can be like. While these won’t be the case for every person’s diagnosis, they do offer insight into some of the personal and nuanced situations an individual might face.

1. “The Bell Jar”

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“The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath tells the story of Esther Greenwood’s slow and steady mental health breakdown. It’s a tragic and haunting tale, but realistic and emotional.

2. “OCD Love Story”

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This novel by Corey Ann Haydu combines the difficulties of living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and falling in love. Throughout the novel, the protagonist struggles with her inability to have the control she desires, leading to chaos in her personal life.

3. “The Glass Castle”

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“The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls is a memoir that depicts life as a child of a someone living with addiction. Resilience, determination, family loyalty and the rippling effects of addiction are all examined throughout this book.

4. “The Marriage Plot”

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This story by Jeffrey Eugenides examines young adult romance while weaving in the reality of living with a mental health condition. One of the characters, Leonard, has to confront the struggles of post-graduation life after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

5. “She’s Come Undone”

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“She’s Come Undone” by Wally Lamb illustrates the struggles of living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the negative side effects associated with being unable to develop positive coping mechanisms. Dolores, the protagonist, struggles with her self-image, suicide attempts and her personal relationships.

6. “The Passion of Alice”

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In Stephanie Grant’s novel, the twenty-five-year-old protagonist admits she has a severe eating disorder after being hospitalized for life-threatening heart problems. This story outlines her journey with this diagnosis and her process in recovery.

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