Post Book Depression: Is it a real thing? 


By Rukayya Zamroon

Books. Readers. Pages bound to fingers by the red string of fate. Every reader, whether they admit it or not, has a favourite book. A book so enthralling and enchanting that it traps the reader within its world, and immediately throws him or her out the moment the last page is turned. How do you think this would make you feel?

The problem with excellent books is that you can’t put them down. Once they’re over, you just sit there in that deep silence, in utter disbelief that your journey has ended and that there’s no other chapter to turn to. You’ve been carried to the peak of a magnificent stairwell and now you are falling into it. In unipolar depression, a person can feel A-OKAY and suddenly plummet into a depressive episode due to initial triggers. For a reader, it’s the same cycle, except the initial trigger is the reality check that the book they were reading is now over.

Post Book Depression (PBD) is real and it has four stages.

Stage one begins before you even finish the book. You are about three-quarter of the way into your novel and you notice that you are nearing the end. Despite being excited to finish the book and to see how it all ends – whether your favourite character survives or not or whether your one true pairing (OTP) happens – you still dread turning that last page over. Take the example of a roller coaster. When you reach the top of the tracks, you are gushing with adrenaline and excitement, but deep in your stomach is the uncomfortable and fearful squirm for the big drop. That is exactly what a reader would feel at this stage.

Stage two is stimulated the moment you finish the novel. The epiphany, grief, euphoria, and the undying urge to pressure your friends and family into reading the book and initiate a conversation about the story overwhelms you and makes you feel slightly sick. Eventually, grief overtakes that storm inside your chest and snakes its upsetting arms around your body. Can you feel its creeping influence?

Stage three is where reality strikes you most. This is when you really and truly realise the book is over. You’ve been affected by the plot, you’ve read and conquered, you’re infinitely changed by the story, and it’s all over. It’s like a breakup; you’re numb and aimless, the magic of your lover – the book – still lingering eerily. Stage three is marked by the perusing of reading lists, positive reviews, and book recommendations. You’ll be stumbling across bookshelves hunting for a new read – anything that will help you get over the book you’ve finished (like a rebound, perhaps?).

Stage four is where the PBD kicks in and disrupts your new book experience. You linger among the first few pages of that new novel you have finally convinced yourself to read after all that hunting, but you are still affected by the previous book so this one seems unsatisfying. Despite its tight plot and overall excellent writing, this new book finds it impossible to tuck itself into your heart, because the effects of PBD tarnish all its enjoyment. It’s just not good enough.

PBD initially has four stages, but there is a fifth stage that is variable. It may take one book or half a dozen, but you eventually begin to recover from the heartbreak of finishing that novel. Healing takes time. There will soon be a stream of new words that will return you to your equilibrium, your balanced state of mind where you are finally over that grief. You are once again able to enjoy new books.

The cycle can repeat itself, though. Every reader would have experienced PBD at least once in their glorious reading journey. However, the four stages can be highly distressing, so there are a few tricks to get to stage five faster.

Firstly, you can begin planning ahead when you realise you are close to finishing your book. Write a review on the novel, listing all the reasons why you loved the story so much. This can help the euphoria to linger a little longer, making stage two a less painful experience. Next, seek out others who have also finished the book so you can share a heartfelt conversation about the characters and the storyline with them. This gives you the chance to take on different perspectives of the book by listening to others and seeing how to enjoy it in a different way. A good book discussion is a very efficient way to find closure. Then, take a small break. Breathe. Jumping straight into reading just after finishing one book can overwhelm you. Having a pause between the books you read not only leaves you more space to think, but it is healthy. Constantly shoving your nose into books can lead to dependance. You begin to find it a little hard to function without them; for example, you’d hide a book beneath your dining table when you are supposed to concentrate on eating. This can lead to addiction, where you persistently practise a behaviour despite its adverse consequences, which can alter your brain function and cause constant craving. Taking a break can help you heal from the grief of finishing your book and clear your mind so you can concentrate on a new one. Finally, go forth, discover, and embrace! Find new books and dive back into reading. Try new genres, new storylines, and new authors. Just go ahead and have fun. And most importantly, share your experience with others. Pull them into your rabbit hole! Be an ambassador for the books you love. Happy reading.