Jump to content

Menu

Christians and Depression


fairfarmhand
 Share

Recommended Posts

I've been mulling over some stuff this morning about depression. And I'd like some input. Even if you're not a Christian, I'm interested in your thoughts.

 

I've noticed that Christians are quite conflicted when it comes to the topic of depression. I've run into people who don't believe that a Christians should ever be depressed. (You know, the joy of the Lord and all.) I've run into people who believe that they can pray their way out of depression. (Might be possible for mild cases.) I also know there is something of a stigma in many of the churches that I've been in with regards to depression and especially taking anti-depressants. Some feel shame, like it's a secret they have to hide.

 

Is this your experience?

 

What do you think about it?

 

I want to talk about this topic. But I worry that bringing it up church might be more than I want to handle. :)

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Being a little down in the dumps is one thing but clinical depression is quite another. Other than the short time we went to a SBC, the churches we've attended viewed clinical depression as a medical condition that often requires meds and therapy. It's NOT a character weakness.

  • Like 7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Are these attitudes you've noticed recently, say in the last several years? The reason I ask is that there is better understanding overall about depression in the last handful of years. More people are admitting they have depression and I think there is an awareness that it is becoming widespread both inside and outside the church.

 

I think that, traditionally, many didn't have and understanding or sympathy toward depression. I see that changing which is a good thing.

 

I never really heard depression spoken of much in the church 10 years ago or before. However in recent years, I have. I've seen a change and a sensitivity and compassion.

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

While I'm aware that Christian opinion sometimes strays towards platitudes and judgemental responses about depression, my actual church is highly supportive of a mental-health perspective. This is largely due to the positive influence and somewhat open sharing of a few individuals -- particularly one person who shares about her illness (depression) in the exact way that others share about theirs. As a team, various leaders affirm her and instruct-by-example so that others know what the appropreate Christian response should be.

 

This creates an environment where if one would naturally (unthinkingly) have the platitude or judgement response, they quickly see 'that's not what the pastor thinks' and are able to give it more thought without having said anything poisonous in the meantime. It also places people who persist in a platitude or judgement perspective (after thinking it through) in the 'known' outsider/minority position, which tends to quell their outward expressions of such opinions.

 

Therefore I suggest that you plan to reveal it first in a semi-formal setting -- with a leader present. Talk to the leader first to share your struggles and hear his/her natural response. If it is ok, let them know that when/if you share with the group, you'd like them to help out by modelling a positive response when others don't know what to say.

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think I've ever personally known a Christian who has that attitude!  Christians I know and churches I've been part of accept that depression can be very much a part of life, just like for anyone else.  I do think that our society in general has not understood depression very well, and that people felt much more embarrassed of it before, in all areas (not just within the church).  I think that has changed a lot.

 

My faith does help pull me through difficult times, but that's different.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The attitude that Xians shouldn't/can't be depressed is one I've run into, but thankfully not in my own church.  Our pastor is quite vocal about treating these illnesses the same as other illnesses.  (Except for maybe some crotchedy older people who have no filter and I try not to hold it against them.)

 

I think that attititude is quite prevalent in the conservative, fundamentalist circles which often are a part of homeschooling circles.  I've even encountered it in very conservative Catholics.  It often seems to go along with the fake always-smiling-because-God-is-good-all-the-time-can't-be-anything-but-joyful-I-will-ignore-people-in-pain crowd.

 

It's difficult to navigate around because it seems to pop up even in places where you don't expect it.  I talk about it every chance I get because I think we have a responsibility to educate people about depression and other mental illness.  I want this attitude to change for my kids and it won't if I say nothing.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I know a few people who have the attitude that Christians should just pray for relief depression (and anxiety) and some who see those afflictions as sin.  But they are a minority.

 

A lady I go to church with is one of my Christian heroes.  Daughter of a pastor, wife to a missionary, caretaker of her mom after dementia set in till her death at age 95... you get the picture.  She is a wonderful woman and very frank.  In the context of a Bible study session in which a few people "confessed" to feeling depression/anxiety, he said she had suffered from both needlessly because she felt it was just sin on her part and that she should pray for relief.  Then she saw the doctor and got some medical help.   She talks about it quite freely and encourages women to see a doctor if they are feeling depressed and/or anxious to get medical help.  After all, as the saying goes, "God uses means" which of course includes doctors, medications, etc.    

 

 

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I attended a church before that would have said you should just pray it away.

 

I attend a church now that oddly enough is SBC, but has a wonderful pastor who makes it a point to say from the pulpit that mental illness is real, and just like with physical illness - you go to the doctor and take your meds. He also admits to having personally struggled with depression.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am a Christian but currently without a church. I have been in churches that had the belief that Christians should be able to pray and simply endure, but never take medication for depression, as that was apparently a sin. I do not agree at all. Depression, true depression, is an illness, just like any other illness we humans may acquire while we are in these sin-cursed bodies of clay. I believe medicines are a gift from God that we can use to relieve some of the symptoms of illness. They can be abused, but so can every single thing that exists. I am fairly certain that Job was depressed for awhile there. 

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I could totally be off base, but I would think that belief would be common in those religious groups that think all medical problems can be cured if you just pray hard enough or believe "good" enough.

When I was participating in religion, I belong to churches that were less conservative. I never heard anything to separate depression from any other medical issue.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Being a little down in the dumps is one thing but clinical depression is quite another. Other than the short time we went to a SBC, the churches we've attended viewed clinical depression as a medical condition that often requires meds and therapy. It's NOT a character weakness.

 

I currently go to a SBC and we've had people speak openly about dealing with depression (even among men) and seeing a medical doctor.

I have not seen any backlash.

 

Edited by vonfirmath
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been mulling over some stuff this morning about depression. And I'd like some input. Even if you're not a Christian, I'm interested in your thoughts.

 

I've noticed that Christians are quite conflicted when it comes to the topic of depression. I've run into people who don't believe that a Christians should ever be depressed. (You know, the joy of the Lord and all.) I've run into people who believe that they can pray their way out of depression. (Might be possible for mild cases.) I also know there is something of a stigma in many of the churches that I've been in with regards to depression and especially taking anti-depressants. Some feel shame, like it's a secret they have to hide.

 

Is this your experience?

 

What do you think about it?

 

I want to talk about this topic. But I worry that bringing it up church might be more than I want to handle. :)

 

 

I have heard there is a serious stigma but I don't know how true that is these days with our understanding that clinical depression isn't just about lacking joy in salvation and not being grateful, kwim?

 

Are the people you've run into either very young and idealistic or older and stuck in their ways?  I'm curious.  I think my generation (40ish) is really grasping that depression has medical roots - it is biological, kwim?

 

I think people with clinical depression actually tend to be more joyful, love life, have a sympathetic/empathetic heart for others, experience deep gratefulness MORE than most I know.

 

I had one nasty run in with depression for the first time in my life in late 2014.  It definitely wasn't from not understanding my identity as a believer or a lack of gratefulness... I'd say it was actually the opposite of that  - I was so aware how short I fell from who I wanted to be in Christ and I was SO grateful for my life and those around me that I felt I did my life an injustice, kwim?

 

I've only known (to my knowledge) two suicidal women.  One was close, the other a distant acquaintance through others.  Both were believers and both were deeply compassionate, loving women.  Both had a heart for their children, for God, for others.  The one I knew better was deeply broken over her depression and why was she like this?  We don't live near one another anymore but I think of her.  She chose not to have more children because the PPD was so much to handle.  She was an amazing mother.

 

I think the stigma must come from not knowing people who suffer from depression deeply.  Obviously every case is different and each person a unique circumstance, but these two people and my own personal run-in with depression has colored my views deeply.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I currently go to a SBC and we've had people speak openly about dealing with depression (even among men) and seeing a medical doctor.

I have not seen any backlash.

 

That's good to hear. It's been about 15 years since I personally heard people in a SBC ask for people to pray for weaknesses with depression. Hopefully, it was something isolated to that specific SBC but I really don't know.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Speaking personally, I think there is the assumption that all of your Christian friends are going to try to push counseling on you when what you have is something medical in nature. So you just don't say anything. There is a place for counseling; grief, anger, doubt - but not clinical depression. More people are understanding this, but there is still that urge to "help" by suggesting counseling. 

 

ETA: There was a time when in an Adult sunday school, the teacher suggested that the increase in clinical depression in our country is due to workaholism, a cultural idol. The man was a medical doctor. He should have known better. I was so impressed and relieved when one of the moms in the room spoke up about her own depression, postpartum, and stuck up for those who might be suffering through no fault of their own. I was so proud of her. (And I'm possibly still a bit peeved at this man.) 

Edited by SamanthaCarter
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am a Christian (adult convert) and depression has been my nearby companion as far back as I remember. Through a combination of childhood abuse, neglect, drug usage and natural tendencies this is my reality, though I may never know how much of each of those factors plays into it. I am on medication. 

 

I have heard of Christians who think depression is completely sin related and nothing else, but I have never met anyone who thinks that in real life. 

 

Now there is probably a big gray area, a sort of spectrum between sin and medical issue that you have zero control over where I myself am somewhere on, with lots of other people. I know it is probably deeply offensive to non-Christians and even some Christians to suggest that sin has anything to do with depression. While I don't believe that it's the only cause of depression I believe it can be and is sometimes part of it. Also because of sin we live in a fallen world where things like depression exist. 

 

Because of the nature of depression, you can't see it with your eyes, have it show on a blood test etc, and so I don't really find a lot of meaning in the analogy that many people use -- "If you have diabetes you wouldn't not take insulin, right?!" etc. Along that same notion, depression is linked to our thoughts which we do have some control over. That being said, if I could make myself not-depressed I would. It is not fun. It may produce some sort of big-picture beauty in the grand scheme of my purpose on earth, but it sucks and if I could be free from it I would. Medication is not miraculous. I've been on several different ones over the years and they help some, and then give you fun nasty side-effects. 

 

Anyway. I have a 2 year old hanging on me so that's all for now but I may come back and add more. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My father was depressed and was told to suck it up, pray it away, deal with his spiritual problem like a good Christian.

 

He had a breakdown when I was a teen, and when he got out of the hospital, stopped taking meds and doing the things his psychologist told him to do - nutrition, sleep schedule, exercise - on advice of the pastor that attending a men's bible study would cure him. My father became an angry man and though not physically abusive, emotionally a horrible person to live with. My brother and I both found ways to get out of the house early. I was living in a college dorm at 16, my brother married immediately after high school graduation - a very bad plan because his relationship with girlfriend was terrible but both of them wanted to be independent of their respective parents.

 

Much damage was done to my sister's psyche. She was 14 years younger than I and 18 younger than my brother so she had to live with this man for many years. She had major issues. Our dna contributor refused to go back to his psychiatrist and psychologist because it would be "unchristian".

 

His older sister was suicidal as a teen, but did not ask for help because the church the family attended preached that all "bad feelings" were sin. She did not act out on it then and struggled her entire life and at 65 attempted suicide. She survived but is permanently severely ddamaged from the cocktail of drugs she ingested.

 

Their younger brother died in middle age from a very rare exceedingly aggressive form of MS. Prior to that he had been OCD and Narcissistic his while life, a mean narcissist whose wife left him and took their two sons with her long before the MS diagnosis. He never saw a psychiatrist for a diagnosis, but I suspect there were treatable issues though not so much the NPD which appears to be untreatable.

 

The youngest sibling is my aunt who has paranoid schizophrenia, which my parents' ridiculous church and pastor doesn't believe exists but is "demon possession". Sigh....

 

My dna donor - don't call him dad or anything close to that IRL anymore - showed signs 17 months ago of his lung cancer returning and his depression crossing a new threshhold of severity. My brother and I tried for five months to get him to not only get a second opinion from a new oncologist as his was not remotely proactive, but also a psyche eval. He refused, wouldn't even go see a therapist. We did everything we could, and he just told us we were lousy christians and he was sorry we had ever been born.

 

He allowed his condition despite even his own pastor finally realizing that things were out of control and begging him to get help, to deteriorate until he was suicidal and homicidal. He attempted a murder suicide which was unsuccessful but left my mother with a permanent injury. He was found guilty but with extenuating circumstances of mental illness and extreme medical conditions causing extenuating circumstances and was given 5 years probation under continued psychiatric supervision. He is terminally ill now because he refused care for so long he allowed his stage 1 very treatable cancer to progress to stage 4 metastatic to the spine.

 

I will feel nothing when he dies except relief. It is unfortunate but my brother and I, my nephews and nieces, my husband, and my children have no attachment to him anymore.

 

So I have absolutely ZERO respect for churches that teach this kind of legalism. Zero. They are dangerous.

 

That said, dna donor is entirely responsible for his actions. All along the way he refused help, refused to listen to healthy advice, refused to listen to doctors, and told all of us we were losers for suggesting he get help.

 

On some levels I blame my mom. Sis is pretty messed up, but even though mom admits that she knew he was mentally and emotionally abusive to her after my brother and I left home and that it was going to cause her lifelong problems, she never left him because "God hates divorce."

 

Apparently God didn't hate what was happening to my sister or the rest of us. Sigh......

 

At any rate, I have pity for him from the standpount that we are all pretty certain he has genetic predisposition to mental health problems, but not any more than that because for all of his adult life he had opportunities to get help and refused. The attempted murder of mom and the living hell he put his kids through due to it is on him though some shared responsibility with dangerous, cult like fundamentalist religious teaching.

 

So that is my story. I see a licensed therapist due to family history. I am on large doses of vitamin d 3 because I run too low and it is a factor in mild depression which I refuse to allow to develop if I can help it. I take a sleep aid to try to mitigate that potential issue, have taken up regular cardio exercise, and have zanax at the ready because the stress of this year has caused me to have an occasional panic attack. At the first sign all of this is not enough, I will go on a mild dose of zoloft and work from there.

 

When you bat 4/4 genetic history of something seriously wrong in the family, it makes you wake up and take action. All of my cousins - from the two whose abusive father died years ago to the ones dealing with their mother having schizophrenia - are being proactive with lifestyle factors, counseling, and meds to stop the runaway train.

 

Interestingly, of the nine cousins, only my brother and I have not totally left christianity. Dh, brother, and I still believe in Jesus and have gone back to our roots of UMC which is more progressive now and non judgmental, but our relationship to the church community is one of careful association and limited involvement...wariness. Very wary would be a good description.

Edited by FaithManor
  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

As a former christian, I found very little talk about depression, negative or positive. No one with depression was vilified, but I don't think people knew what to do or say for those who admitted being depressed, beyond saying they would pray for them or help them with daily tasks when a need became evident.

 

Then I got post partum depression. I was not ashamed or embarrassed, after the initial disbelief/acceptance of my diagnosis. I just wanted it to be fixed. That probably has something to do with my personality. Even so, I never really talked about it with other christians. I had no idea if anyone I knew was on depression meds or had experienced depression. I didn't ask for prayers and I only asked for help from my mother for the practical day to day care of my family, because I was unable to do the simplest things. I would have found it mortifying to ask a church member to come into my home to take care of my responsibilities.

 

I spent a lot of time sitting in a living room chair thinking of my predicament, while life went on around me. After praying with no relief, I came to the conclusion that God was trying to teach me a lesson. That lesson was the need to surrender my self. To give up everything I wanted/expected out of life and accept what was. So, I created a surrender ritual. When a negative thought entered my head, I gave that thing up to God on a metaphorical alter (in my head)and relinquished my need to have control over it. I needed to do this repeatedly because the depression had created OCD like symptoms. For example I gave up the need to wash all the fingerprints off the walls.

 

I also practiced surrendering during every panic attack. When I felt one coming, I visualized it as an ocean wave. I would stop what I was doing, sit down, try to relax, and let the wave wash over me. I told myself every other wave had not hurt me and I would not fight it. The waves eventually lost strength and faded away, but it took many months, almost a year. Later, When I had another child and began to recognize the symptoms, I practiced the same techniques and I never got to the full blown panic stage.

 

I also decided that after dumping everything on God, including all my responsibilities, I would consider myself a success if I could accomplish just one specific goal each day. One daily goal was so empowering that I would often just pick another thing to do. In this way, along with meds for a few months, my life eventually returned to a place were I could operate without constant deliberation. I was convinced God had shown me these methods of self talk, and that I was rewarded because I had surrendered my complete self to him. Later, I told this story to others as a kind of testimony. However, I never shared while I was actually going through it. I would have hated to be fussed over or pitied. Now, I don't consider a God to have had anything to do with how I managed my recovery. I was fortunate to have the kind of thought process that sets out to solve problems, and the ability to use it at the time. I'm sure the meds helped get me to that point.

 

I say all that to point out that I think each individual's concept of what depression is and how to handle it is very unique. Each person who is depressed has a unique set of circumstances, physical, situational, and mental. The general public, christian or not, has no ability to accurately judge a depressed persons needs beyond the immediately obvious. However, in my experience, many christians do have specific ideas about what they believe depression entails, especially "spiritually." In the worst cases, they may even consider demon possession or attack by the devil. That is far from helpful. Also, they may try "tough love" techniques to try to get people to "snap out of it." I've also heard the the phrase that some people need to "hit bottom before they recognize their need for God." Perhaps that is why many people are reluctant to admit depression, because the response is so unpredictable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've only encountered this attitude in fundamentalist, conservative circles. It's so harmful and outright mean.

 

I know one place where if you dared to look sad you ran the risk of being told off because I guess you threw off the vibe or something. God forbid one be kind to someone suffering. *glares*

 

 

.

Edited by happi duck
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Christians *should* never be depressed, but we live in a fallen world. This means not only mental illness, but hatred, racism, abortion, murder, pedophilia. These things are depressing. We are to seek the Lord first and think on things that are lovely, meditating on scripture, but you don't have to be of the world to live in the world. I would never judge a Christian for being depressed. I've been depressed. I have postpartum depression right now, but it has nothing to do with my faith.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Speaking personally, I think there is the assumption that all of your Christian friends are going to try to push counseling on you when what you have is something medical in nature. So you just don't say anything. There is a place for counseling; grief, anger, doubt - but not clinical depression. More people are understanding this, but there is still that urge to "help" by suggesting counseling. 

 

 

 

It depends on what exactly you mean by counseling. There are specific talk therapies for depression that are very effective for treating depression, especially if it is of mild to moderate severity. 

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't have personal experience with this, but my feeling is that if prayer, study, counseling with pastor/other trusted Christians, and other sorts of measures, combined with self-care measures (sleep, nutrition, exercise, etc.) aren't quite getting someone to a place where they are functioning, emotionally stable, etc., then it's time for deeper help, whether that's serious counseling with a doctor and/or medication.  I do not think there should be a stigma or anything if someone needs medical help for depression.  Sure, God can heal any bodily affliction, but the truth is that we have bodies that fail.  Sometimes our bodies don't make the right hormones to allow pregnancy, sometimes our bodies need help to treat cancer, and sometimes our bodies need help to correct whatever imbalances may be contributing to depression.  God uses a variety of things to heal and help us.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No longer Christian but I was. I was raised Catholic then converted to United Methodist. Neither church had a problem with it. There was no stigma attached to any kind of mental illness in fact.

 

Dh's ex has not been depressed but has other mental illness. For a while she belonged to a church that believed it was Satan and tried to pray it away. That didn't end well, but fortunately she got away from them. Dss is her only child, and he and his maternal grandfather spent a lot of time and emotional energy to get her away and find her a good doctor. She is still Christian but the church she belongs to now fortunately understands the difference between medical and spiritual issues.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Christians *should* never be depressed, but we live in a fallen world. This means not only mental illness, but hatred, racism, abortion, murder, pedophilia. These things are depressing. We are to seek the Lord first and think on things that are lovely, meditating on scripture, but you don't have to be of the world to live in the world. I would never judge a Christian for being depressed. I've been depressed. I have postpartum depression right now, but it has nothing to do with my faith.

 

I'm not sure I'm following you, especially the first sentence. Why would a Christian be less likely to suffer from clinical depression. It's a medical condition, involving brain chemistry. Of course someone should not be judged for having a medical condition.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The church I grew up in was a faith-healing believing church x1000. The pastor would say that he doesn't even use chapstick because chapped lips are not how God created us, so if his lips were chapped, then God would set it right. Taking any medicine (even chapstick) was showing a lack of faith and as soon as you did, you wouldn't get healed because of your lack of faith.

 

Now, they did have some miraculous healings go on. Argue with me if you like, but they happened, and I'm ok if you disagree with me. :)

 

The people in that church most certainly believed that depression was something God would heal and if you took medicine for it, you were showing a lack of faith, just like with any other healing.

 

I felt guilty for so many years from taking medicine when I was sick.

 

Anyway...that church is now long gone. The pastor died and eveyone went to new churches.

 

Now I go to a church that is more balanced. We pray and ask God for healing. There have been a few miraculous heaings (with doctor's notes to prove them), but it's not a big focus of the church. We also take our medicine. No one is told that not taking medicine shows a lack of faith.

 

The pastor has never preached about depression, but from how he is in general, I do not think there's any stigma or thinking you're weak if you have it. I'd be surprised if he felt that way. Very surprised.

 

Now...I'm pretty sure there are a few parishioners on their own who view being sad or depressed as not having faith in God. That if you only grasped how wonderful God was, you'd never have any reason to be sad or depressed. So if you're sad and depressed, it's because you don't know God well enough and should read and pray more. Yes, now that I think about it, I do know of 2 people personally who feel this way.

 

After coming from my background, I have to admit I'm just plain tired of that attitude about it. You can't force faith. You can't wish your illnesses away. You can pray and ask and believe that God will do it...and then just let him heal you or not. And if not, take the medicine.

 

It's a matter of black and white thinking vs grey. Being raised in black and white, I was that way for a while, but I've been getting greyer and greyer ever since I was in my early 30's.

 

I, personally, as a person belonging to an evangelical protestant denomination do not think that clinical depression is any different from getting strep throat. And I think it's ok to be sad sometimes, too (not full on clinical depression.). You pray and ask for help, but it's not morally wrong to be sad or depressed. But I do know people who would disagree with me within my church, though it is not the stance of the leader (pastor) of the church.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I didn't read the other posts yet, but here are my thoughts.

 

I grew up in a church that believed it was sin that caused depression. Therefore, if you are depressed (clinically not just down) you must be in sin. Very discouraging and guilt ridden life many have had that are from that thinking.

I have suffered with depression in my life off and on since I was a teen. I am not currently on medication for it right now, because I am in transition with medications.

Why is it, that in the Christian circle, must depression be a sin? Is a autoimmune disease a sin? Is a broken hip a sin? It comes from that this world is not perfect, and neither are we. We are broken, in many ways. Our homones, chemicals, etc can be broken as well. It's just spiritualized to make others feel more spiritual than others.

 

Yes, you can have depression and need medication as a Christian. No, it doesn't mean it's your fault. Now, others will not always see it that way. They see it as weakness, sin, laziness,..blah blah blah.

 

I personally don't tell many people of my depression irl , at all. My dh knows a bit, and my best friend. That's it.

 

Take care of yourself. Remember, you are not less of a persons because of something you can't control.. You also owe no one an explanation as to why or even if you suffer from depression. Hold your head up high.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure I'm following you, especially the first sentence. Why would a Christian be less likely to suffer from clinical depression. It's a medical condition, involving brain chemistry. Of course someone should not be judged for having a medical condition.

Because the world was intended to be perfect. Christian judgement often comes from a lack of acknowledgement that the world isn't as it should be. Mental illness, physical illness, mental retardation, temptation to sin and more are the results of our fallen world. People aren't perfect and can't be expected to be until the world is made perfect again.
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Because the world was intended to be perfect. Christian judgement often comes from a lack of acknowledgement that the world isn't as it should be. Mental illness, physical illness, mental retardation, temptation to sin and more are the results of our fallen world. People aren't perfect and can't be expected to be until the world is made perfect again.

Personally, I think the idea that there is a "should" at all, or that the world is fallen from some perfect standard, is the cause of much unnecessary mental distress. My mental health has vastly improved since I realized that perfection is a human construct, and that illness is organic, not spiritual.

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Personally, I think the idea that there is a "should" at all, or that the world is fallen from some perfect standard, is the cause of much unnecessary mental distress. My mental health has vastly improved since I realized that perfection is a human construct, and that illness is organic, not spiritual.

That's the complete opposite of my experience. Knowing that the world is imperfect and that I'm imperfect and that that's okay gives me peace.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

(note: my answer comes from a Catholic background/perspective)

 

Traditionally, despair has been considered a pretty serious sin (the opposite of the theological virtue of hope), and sometimes it has been interpreted as the unforgivable sin (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit).  See the relevant section of St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica:

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3020.htm

 

Of course this view was modified as it became known that many seemingly-despairing people were suffering from a condition that was not a conscious choice/under their control.

 

I think that depression as a medical condition and despair as a supernatural condition are still confused for each other today, and that's why you see people treating depression as if it is a sin.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think the views on depression are markedly different than the general public/medical view in my church, which is Anglican.  So - a fair variety of views, but not necessarily related to religious ideas.

 

I think what you might see is more sense that there can be a spiritual aspect to it, and so that spiritual care is an appropriate or important part of care of depression.  I think most would say prayer is important, maybe more in depression than in some other illnesses.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am a Christian (adult convert) and depression has been my nearby companion as far back as I remember. Through a combination of childhood abuse, neglect, drug usage and natural tendencies this is my reality, though I may never know how much of each of those factors plays into it. I am on medication. 

 

I have heard of Christians who think depression is completely sin related and nothing else, but I have never met anyone who thinks that in real life. 

 

Now there is probably a big gray area, a sort of spectrum between sin and medical issue that you have zero control over where I myself am somewhere on, with lots of other people. I know it is probably deeply offensive to non-Christians and even some Christians to suggest that sin has anything to do with depression. While I don't believe that it's the only cause of depression I believe it can be and is sometimes part of it. Also because of sin we live in a fallen world where things like depression exist. 

 

Because of the nature of depression, you can't see it with your eyes, have it show on a blood test etc, and so I don't really find a lot of meaning in the analogy that many people use -- "If you have diabetes you wouldn't not take insulin, right?!" etc. Along that same notion, depression is linked to our thoughts which we do have some control over. That being said, if I could make myself not-depressed I would. It is not fun. It may produce some sort of big-picture beauty in the grand scheme of my purpose on earth, but it sucks and if I could be free from it I would. Medication is not miraculous. I've been on several different ones over the years and they help some, and then give you fun nasty side-effects. 

 

Anyway. I have a 2 year old hanging on me so that's all for now but I may come back and add more. 

 

There is certainly some good evidence that depression can be significantly linked to things beyond the luck of the draw in terms of brain chemistry, or significantly prevented by things like tightly knit communities.

 

I don't think, from a Christian perspective, it's wrong to tie things like that into the idea of sin, even if we leave out the aspect in which we would say sin affects nature itself.  Isolation and community life are very much affected by all kinds of sin.  (And really, it isn't just an illness like depression that can be affected in that kind of way, there are a variety of ways our behavior, choices, and such can interact with our physical well-being creating complex relationships.)

 

I think unfortunately a lot of people, including many Christians, don't have a very sophisticated idea of what sin is.  So they either say something like sin  causes depression but mean it in a shallow and foolish way, or they dismiss any connection because the idea of sin is still not well developed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Unfortunately, truth be told I do know (at least) two Christians who don't believe that depression is an actual medical condition and instead is actually a symptom of some sin the person is refusing to deal with. Both of those people are men in their 30's-40's. One has a wife who suffers from PPD. One has a Sister-in-law. Both of them have done serious damage with their attitudes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Our church isn't weird about depression, thankfully. Spiritual reasons are the last one explored - we counsel to find any situational or biological issues first before ever jumping to the heart attitude/sin cause. Depression is varied and there isn't a one size fits all, but when it's a physiological reality in someone's brain or a life circumstance they're in the middle of, the proper way to address it isn't solely limited to prayer and counsel. Habit and life changes to try and alleviate the circumstance or medication to help compensate for the parts of the limb is system that aren't working properly anymore are completely reasonable first steps to take to try and help the person suffering to get to a place where they can function again.

 

Some wonderful, faithful Christians, including John Piper and Charles Spurgeon, have suffered from deep bouts of depression on and off over their lives. It's something that isn't exclusive to the unsaved man by any stretch, because we all live in a fallen world with fallen bodies.

 

Prayer and encouragement and real, physical help by the church are ALL things that should accompany treatment of depression or any other health problem a member has that they need assistance with. But these are not the sole remedy - the person in depression likely needs professional medical and psychiatric help first, with the support of the Body of Christ in every practical sense helping gird them up and comfort them along with it.

 

That's my .02

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've observed that among my Christian acquaintences the responses are divided the same way they are among non-Christians:  those that are have not experienced it and/or are uneducated about it can be smug and dismissing, those that have experience or knowledge about it are understanding.

 

I find the same variety among Christians as among non-Christians.  Fortunately most of the people I have chosen for my friends are very understanding and/or educated about it.

 

ETA, the reasons for the "smug and dismissing" may vary (prayer, joy vs. boot straps, positive attitude) but the ultimate message is the same.

Edited by goldberry
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Speaking personally, I think there is the assumption that all of your Christian friends are going to try to push counseling on you when what you have is something medical in nature. So you just don't say anything. There is a place for counseling; grief, anger, doubt - but not clinical depression. More people are understanding this, but there is still that urge to "help" by suggesting counseling. 

 

ETA: There was a time when in an Adult sunday school, the teacher suggested that the increase in clinical depression in our country is due to workaholism, a cultural idol. The man was a medical doctor. He should have known better. I was so impressed and relieved when one of the moms in the room spoke up about her own depression, postpartum, and stuck up for those who might be suffering through no fault of their own. I was so proud of her. (And I'm possibly still a bit peeved at this man.) 

 

Research has shown that a multi-pronged approach often works best. This includes meds, support system, possible group work and individual counseling.

The causes of depression - while sometimes similar - are not the same for everyone. Postpartum / Clinical / Grief reaction, Post-traumatic, etc.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have heard of this attitude's existence but never been part of a group that espoused it.

 

For the record:  Orthodox Christian here, and the Orthodox teach that you pray AND you get help from counseling or meds.  There can be underlying spiritual causes, so the Church is involved in prayer and anointing, but in Orthodoxy, the person is viewed holistically, and that means that treatment is holistic--body, and soul.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think depression has a multitude of causes - including being a negative nellie. (I also think that's pretty minor in the variables of depression.)   it's not just christians who think mental illness isn't real - my brother is neither a christian nor recognizes validity of mental illness.  (our mother had a mild form of a serious mental illness.  I was livid when I learned in the few months he had control of her needs, he neglected to find her a new psychiatrist to refill her rx - because it 'doesn't exist' - by the time I found out, she was in proper trt, but it explains why she had "lost her marbles".)

 

however, usually it is triggered/caused by a multitude of reasons stemming from a chemical imbalance in the brain.  causes of that could be anyone of a number of things:  thyroid, too much sugar (- heard the term 'sugar blues'?), hormones from periods to childbirth,  inadequate levels of b-vitamins, too much stress (remarkably similar presentation to depression), not enough exercise . . . etc . . . etc . . . etc . . . .

My church recognizes mental illness is valid, so it's treated as real as any other illness that is more easily discerned.  (but finding the cause of depression to it can be adequately treated can be very tricky.  but many  illnesses are not straightforward.

 

just because someone can't see something doesn't mean it isn't real .  . . it used to be you couldn't see diabeties, but it was still real. 

 

and there are always those who deny stuff.  like - bad things can happen to good people.. . . (because that's life . . .  if bad things happen to good people,  then bad things might happen to them.)

 

 

 

Edited by gardenmom5
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've seen that attitude in action. I live in the midwest close to the headquarters for a well-known, national Christian women's organization. I have attended some of their weekend conventions and local seminars; what people in my area call "Mommy School". This organization has had Christian speakers who have said that depression can indeed be cured through prayer, song, and fellowship. One woman said (paraphrasing because I don't remember the exact words but this is close enough) "Depression cannot live in a heart that is filled daily with the word of God." When she was questioned about that belief she stated that God is the best antidepressant there is and simply reading the Psalms was enough to get her out of her depression.

 

It was the last time I attended any of the conventions; which is sad because I believe that organization can do and has done great things for women. I hope that attitude has changed or that the organization has changed how they select speakers and presenters.

 

Every year I attended (5 years in a row) I would fill out my suggestion card and ask for someone to speak about mental illness. The presenters who spoke about depression were the closest I could find. Although there were presenters discussing dealing with children with ADHD, Aspergers, etc.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

I think the stigma must come from not knowing people who suffer from depression deeply.  Obviously every case is different and each person a unique circumstance, but these two people and my own personal run-in with depression has colored my views deeply.

 

sadly, no.  my father struggled with depression for much of his life (likely genetic), and eventually killed himself when I was 12.  on father's day weekend no less.

My brother - still claims there is no such thing as mental illness (depression is one), of any sort.   it may be his self-defense mechanism (doesn't work.).

 

 

ETA: There was a time when in an Adult sunday school, the teacher suggested that the increase in clinical depression in our country is due to workaholism, a cultural idol. The man was a medical doctor. He should have known better. I was so impressed and relieved when one of the moms in the room spoke up about her own depression, postpartum, and stuck up for those who might be suffering through no fault of their own. I was so proud of her. (And I'm possibly still a bit peeved at this man.) 

 

big. huge. eyeroll.  some people just shouldn't go into medicine.  (and I've met his type.  I was seriously struggling my chemistry was so far off, and had a dr treat me like a hypochondriac.)

 

depression isn't the only illness to encounter drs with this attitude towards a disease.  I joined a thyroid support group,   endocrinologist are almost uniformly hated because of what they say to, and how they medically treat, their thyroid patients.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have heard of this attitude's existence but never been part of a group that espoused it.

 

For the record:  Orthodox Christian here, and the Orthodox teach that you pray AND you get help from counseling or meds.  There can be underlying spiritual causes, so the Church is involved in prayer and anointing, but in Orthodoxy, the person is viewed holistically, and that means that treatment is holistic--body, and soul.  

 

This is my experience as well. Thank you for communicating it so well (as usual) Patty Joanna. I'm not in an Orthodox church but this would be the teaching I'm familiar with. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've never been to a church that addressed depression in terms of anything but a brain chemistry issue.  Now, individual people? Sure, there are some who think it *can* be a sin issue or *only* healed through prayer.  I'm not sure I've met them.

 

But honestly, as a Christian I cannot dismiss the helpfulness of prayer and the possibility of healing if I believe in God.  Of course, God does NOT heal everyone.  He did not heal Paul's affliction (that some claim might have been depression). The idea of getting medical help and/or therapy and relying on God for help, praying, etc. are not all mutually exclusive.  I also believe in spiritual warfare and that negative thoughts (not true depression) can be something to overcome through prayer.  That's an area I get a little skeptical about, but I take God at His word about it in a general sense and try not to rule out His power, which I am definitely guiltyof doing sometimes.  lol

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...