Any form of media consumption such as reading can trigger depression or negative mental states because any form of information we consume whether through reading, watching or listening influences us whether we notice it or not.
As such, depression can be triggered by any information or content we consume that has the power to trigger negative mental states that induce a trip down memory lane to previous mental health issues we may have suffered.
Reading itself won’t cause depression but it can trigger pre-existing depression depending on the content and its influence or impact on us.
However it’s important to note that the relationship between reading and depression is complex and depends on several factors, including the content of what is being read, the individual’s mental state and their reading habits.
Let’s get into each of these factors
Content and Theme of Reading material
Reading can evoke many different emotions through memories that you associate with content from reading material. Therefore, it’s important to explore reading as a mental health trigger.
Below are some depressive emotions that could be triggered through reading:
Grief and loss
Books that uncover stories about loss and grief can be a depressive trigger for people that have gone through similar situations.
While the reader may not be aware, reading books on such topics can unravel deeply buried emotions that may have not been completely processed.
It’s not effective to dodge pain, however experiencing it is not wonderful either; so whenever you experience depression from reading consider seeking help.
Books have a huge impact on our psychological state especially those based on real life events. Fiction novels can also be just as compelling.
By design you’re an empathetic creature and reading fiction or real life stories makes you more empathetic.
In situations where you read about a character whether fictional or real; that suffered the same struggles you suffered, your mind may be taken back to those moments of your life.
For some this can be a liberating experience knowing they overcame a similar struggle, for others; being taken back to the past to encounter bad memories can result in depression.
Isolation and over consumption
Reading especially when done excessively or in isolation can contribute to social withdrawal, which is a common symptom of depression.
If a person consistently chooses to read over engaging in social activities, it may lead to feelings of loneliness and other depressive tendencies.
In such situations reading clubs or discussing books with others can be a social and therapeutic activity. It can allow individuals to connect, share experiences, and find a sense of belonging, which can have a positive impact on mental health.
With that said, over consumption or excessive reading or immersing oneself in books to escape from real-life problems may lead to neglecting responsibilities, social isolation, and ultimately, feelings of depression.
Some individuals may relate strongly to characters or situations in books, and if those characters experience depression or hardship, it can trigger similar feelings in the reader.
Additional ways reading can trigger depression
Books that are by nature sad and nostalgic can be a trigger for someone in a bad mental state.
Reading about characters and their sad events can evoke depression.
The mood of the book can create tension in the mind and pile up on the stress that is already there.
In extreme cases some books can evoke depression from past traumatic events.
For this reason it’s wise to avoid sad books when you’re going through stressful situations or suffer from any PTSD because your mind will likely dig up more negative memories and heighten your levels of stress.
Books have the ability to strip our psychological state and reveal truths about our own lives.
This is usually the case when reading self-help books.
Self-help books usually expose the shortcomings in our lives before pointing toward the solutions to get us to our desired destination. For some people coming to terms with personal shortcomings can be a depressive experience.
It can start an internal conflict brewing especially when you think you’re on the right path.
Therefore, it’s important to be completely honest about your personal development and the way you choose to live your life.
This way, you will avoid being caught off guard by reality checks from self-help books.
Books that talk about relationships of any kind can be a depression trigger for people still carrying trauma from past relationships.
For example, a fictional novel about a couple that stays together despite several trials can be a hard read for somebody that experienced the opposite of this.
If this is the case for you, seek professional help to address your past relationship trauma.
Abuse is one of the main causes of depression.
For those suffering from depression due to abuse, reading books on topics of abuse can be quite triggering.
For example, victims of rape are psychologically affected by the topic of rape.
As such they may find it triggering to read books that uncover the topic of rape.
If you’re a victim of such abuse, seek professional help for your mental health.
How to avoid triggering depression from reading books
Limit your exposure to books
One effective way you can avoid triggering depression from reading is to limit your exposure to books.
If you’ve suffered depression from reading in the past then it’s wise that you not only limit your exposure to books but also curate your reading material.
Avoid the kind of books that easily trigger your emotions leaving you depressed.
Also ensure that you take enough breaks because of the influence that reading has on mental exhaustion.
Before you dive straight into reading any particular book, do your research first.
Look into the kind of book you’re about to get into by reading reviews about it, commentary etc. then decide if it’s a kind of book you can read without triggering your depression.
Always look for depression trigger warnings and mentions of potentially distressing themes.
Consider the genre, topic, and content of the book.
Some books can be more intense or emotionally challenging, while others are lighter and uplifting. Pick books that align with your current emotional state and preferences.
If you’ve ever triggered depression from the act of reading then you need to be mindful and principled with how you consume information.
Set boundaries that give you the permission to stop reading a book the moment you begin to experience negative emotions that could be potentially damaging to your mental health.
Seek professional help
If you have a history of depression or are concerned about your mental health, consult a mental health professional who can provide guidance and support.