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18 Book Characters That Accurately Represent Mental Illness

“My experience reading this book was so cathartic and cleansing.”

We asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us which character in a book represented their mental illness truthfully. Here are their great recommendations.

1. Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Seelsa

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"There are three main characters, and at least two of them have confirmed mental illnesses. Mira, one of the main characters, has depression, and the book shows her having good days and bad days. They also explain how much parental support and support of those around you matters, and how it's never going to get 100% better but it can get somewhat better. It also has good queer and PoC representation."


2. Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

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"I really liked Symptoms of being Human by Jeff Garvin because I was able to see words to what my anxiety felt like in a character like me."


3. Kissing Doorknobs by Terry Spencer Hesser

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"I read Terry Spencer Hesser's Kissing Doorknobs when I was in middle school. I was diagnosed with severe OCD in the fifth grade and suffered many of the same compulsions as the narrator in this book, Tara. At a time in my life when I felt like a complete outcast, this book made me feel less alone. I've never identified with a character as much as I did with Tara Sullivan. This book made me realize that I was not the freak my classmates made me out to be, and that there were other kids who lived with my disorder too."


4. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

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The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick has helped me a lot. No matter how I am with my bipolar disorder, I can pick it up at many different points of my life and still relate. When I'm depressed, manic, or stable, I can always read it and feel somewhat normal. I have read many books with mental illness, but this one is the absolute best for me."


5. Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel

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"Prozac Nation! Nothing could describe depression better than this novel."


6. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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"As someone who grew up with anxiety and a father who had been hospitalized multiple times for treatment of bipolar disorder, I related to Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell in a way I have never related to another book before, or since. It shows the effects of mental illness, not just on the person diagnosed but on the people around them, and every time I read it I feel a little more optimistic and a little less alone."


7. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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"I read this the summer after I had been hospitalized for depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation shortly before my college graduation. I related so much to Esther Greenwood. I had always been an overachiever, and I thought I had to be perfect, which is what contributed to my depression and anxiety since I was 12. All of the quotes and metaphors Plath uses struck me right at my core — from stewing in the bell jar, to the fig tree with all the options for a future withering away, and especially when Esther muses 'I was inadequate all along. I just never really thought about it.' Seeing things from Esther's perspective helped me understand myself and my illnesses better. In therapy, it helped me to change my negative thinking about myself and overall contributed positively to my recovery."


8. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

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"The main character, Molly, suffers from anxiety. She reminded me a lot of myself because I wish I was able to connect better with people. Ultimately, I realized I could be her, I can be anybody, and I can be myself."


9. It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

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"It doesn’t romanticize mental health issues, and it taught me that it would be OK to admit that something was wrong and there was no shame in getting help. A friend recommended it to me when she realized I wasn’t okay, and then used it as an icebreaker to ask me to seek help. I related to the main character's depression, and seeing him go through therapy was very comforting because it was as if the book were addressing me."


10. We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

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"This book deals directly with suicide and suicidal thoughts, but it also works with themes of PTSD, anxiety, depression, disassociation, and denationalization in a very creative way. It was one of the most heart-wrenching books I've ever read, and I absolutely devoured it. It also features a diverse cast, including an openly gay male lead. Love, love, love the book."


11. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

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"This might be a weird one, but The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is a story that really represents my mental illness. Esperanza has problems with self-image and seems to have a bit of anxiety and depression, in my opinion. The writing in this story is just so amazing and I'm very happy that I found a book that I relate to."


12. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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"This book deals with a series of mental health issues, mainly depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I can't speak to the PTSD side of it, but the depression and anxiety sides are spot on for me. Charlie's not okay, and he's trying so desperately to figure out how to be. He gets in his own way, he beats himself up endlessly over his mistakes and shortcomings, he feels isolated in a room of people... He's trying, though. He makes progress, he backslides. Charlie isn't OK, but he realizes that it's possible to be OK and not OK at the same time. And that's OK."


13. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

"Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson gave such a realistic portrayal of eating disorders. From the thoughts you have to how it affects your relationships. The characters suffering had both good and bad within them. They weren't just a victim to their disorders. They weren't just vain." —audreyl45a6bb86a

14. The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

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"This book was amazing because it reminds everyone that there is always a brightness that comes after the darkest part of your life. It also reminds us that depression may be something that you will always have to live with, but it does get better. It focuses on the recovery from the low point rather than the low point itself, and that is so important."


15. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

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"This book is so true to what OCD is really like, and it helped me admit to myself that even though you have a mental illness, that doesn't mean you can't live an average life. Plus, there's a plot twist and vague love story. My favorite book ever!"


16. Girl In Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

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"Self-harm is so true to what Kathleen Glasgow writes. You're fine for a long time, and then the build-up starts. At the breaking point, you feel so fucked up and so wrong that you just explode and hurt yourself really badly. I love Charlie. I feel like she's with me every step of the way to recovery, not reprimanding when I stumble or fall backwards a few steps. She's kind and supportive because she knows what it's like. My experience reading this book was so cathartic and cleansing." —protoman

17. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

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"Aysel from My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Wanga describes depression as this black sludge, and that's exactly what it feels like. This quote: 'Depression is like a heaviness that you can’t ever escape. It crushes down on you, making even the smallest things like tying your shoes or chewing on toast seem like a twenty-mile hike uphill' is the most real description I've ever encountered."


18. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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"Finn from All The Bright Places! I have never seen bipolar disorder represented so accurately before. The way he talks about being asleep and then being awake is an easy way to describe the manic episodes and the depression, but it's really what those episodes are like."


Follow along at from Oct. 2 to Oct. 8, 2017.

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