The long and the short - is depression a cross that some simply must bear and thus, does taking antidepressants betray a lack of trust in God? Or are these drugs an instrument of grace for those who suffer (i.e. a gift from God)?
Thanks for the help and discussion. This is a highly personal and important topic for many of us I think.
Depression can be the result of a chemical imbalance, and is thus a medical condition that, like any other, may respond positively to medication. It betrays no more distrust in God than taking an antibiotic to combat an infection, or chemotherapy and radiation to fight cancer.
IN MY OPINION, people who suffer depression so severely that they’re unable to meet their basic needs (including the care of children and meeting employment obligations) are being neglectful if they don’t seek treatment, which may include antidepressant medication.
It’s a bit corny, but that commercial on TV where the line is “Depression hurts” is really true. Our development of physical and psychological treatments help to combat that hardship.
God gave us intellect so we can be good stewards of the Earth. In the same way we figured out how to fashion tools so we can more effectively live and honor him, I don’t see antidepressants as any different. Depression is a struggle many endure. Whether chemical or not, the use of antidepressants is intended to help us live happy and productive lives, and give greater glory to Him. So I don’t feel there is anything sinful about using medication to control depression. But perhaps that’s the Zoloft talking
Depression is a medical condition and should be treated as one… along with treating it spiritually.
The unfortunate thing about depression is that it can affect our mental outlook on the world… which is also seen through the eyes of faith.
Because both faith and chemistry can affect that mental outlook, we have to approach the condition of depression on both fronts. Ignoring the chemical/medical front is not an act of “holiness”. In many ways, it can be an act of neglect… especially if you allow that medical condition to cause damage to your family or your faith (yes, some people can loose their faith over an untreated medical condition)…
Depression must be treated BOTH medically and spiritually.
This makes a lot of sense when you put it as such. If it were just me, I don’t think I’d worry too much about taking anything, just soldier through it. But the impact my erratic moods have on my husband and children is much to consider.
Then there’s a really stupid thought I occassionally have. I’ll think, “But they didn’t have Zoloft in the 1500’s and they managed.” Yes, this is a moronic line of thought. And still I don’t want to become part of the “I have to be happy all the time” crowd. Does this make sense?
Yes… but just to clarify… that’s not how antidepressants work.
They don’t just “make you happy all the time”. They regulate chemicals in your brain that are imbalanced to begin with… making you “normal”… not simply “happy”…
Who “managed” specifically? Was there no suicide back then? I also don’t think anyone is taking these drugs because they believe they’ll make them happy all the time. They just don’t want to live with the CONSTANT crushing thoughts of despair. They just want a reprieve.
I don’t think it’s a stupid question. I think it’s a sad question. My dad has numerous mental problems that have all but destroyed our family, among them clinical depression and borderline personality disorder (yes, diagnosed). He almost ALMOST went on medication once. And then his mother stepped in with the line, “They didn’t used to have these drugs, you’re weak, have faith, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and stop wallowing.”
When I asked him if he would fail to put a cast on a broken leg, take insulin for diabetes, or irradiate cancer, because he should be stronger and will himself out of it, he thanked me with tears in his eyes. But never went on the meds - my grandmother holds too much sway :mad:
You make such a good point here. Would we rather be happy or proud? And I guess in the end what really matters is how we affect those around us. To cause my husband pain is just awful and selfish. I know this. I am certain of it. Thank you for reminding me.
if you had diabetes, or high blood pressure, would you not take meds if needed? Depression IS a medical conditionl, if you need meds to control it, there is nothing at all wrong with it. it’s better than not being able to function
You’ll be in my prayers. Depression is such a difficult thing to experience and you have my complete sympathy.
Know that you certainly are not alone and there is nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with needing help.
(((HUGS))) to you.
God provides help in many ways to his children who ask for it. The most common way is the natural way, through other people whom he has put on this planet to help each other. In cases of illness, mental or physical, ordinarily the help we need and pray from comes from the skilled doctors and other professionals who have devoted their lives to this vocation, to those scientists who find and those companies who make available the therapies to treat disorders, and the “healthcare network” including hospitals, insurance companies and all others whose business is, within the structure of our current economy, to provide this care. Yes the human system is imperfect but should be our first recourse.
It is well accepted that many diseases and disorders have also psychological, mental or spiritual components as well as physical causes, and all should be explored and addressed, with the help, when necessary, of those trained to provide that help, including pastoral counselling and spiritual direction where it is warranted.
To deny the good gifts God has given to those in need through science and technology is the opposite of trust in God.
They didn’t have antidepressants in the 1500s. But let’s not assume that those in the middle ages didn’t look for, and find, chemicals to “take away their pain”, or that depression and its affects are a new phenomenon. I imagine several who were considered witches or “idiots” could have done quite well if they had the benefit of modern pharmacology and psychology.
I hear you, but here’s the other thing I’m wondering. Aren’t we called to take up our cross and therefore to suffer, participating in Christ’s suffering to some extent? Am I supposed to stay depressed and suffer as a testament/part and parcel of my faith? I feel confused and screwed up.
I have had these exact thoughts in my struggles…
I encourage you to seek counseling… specifically ask for a Catholic psychologist or a spiritual adviser who is trained in depression counseling (most priests are not, so ask around).
To answer your question… yes, we are called to carry our cross. That cross doesn’t necessarily have to be depression, though. Remember that depression has those secondary effects on the people around us. Our cross shouldn’t burden others.
I’ve just covered the topic of heroic suffering in my apologetics class - thanks be to God that the topic is still fresh in my mind!
The topic we most recently discussed was tangentially related to depression. The Catholic Church DOES NOT teach that one needs to suffer when reasonable solutions are available. I’ve summarized a few points from the Church’s “Declaration on Euthanasia” (of course, I know you’re not thinking along those lines, but there’s some really incredible material on suffering in this document):
Christians believe that suffering has redemptive value, as in Colossians 1:24:
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”
Rejection of pain medication can be considered a heroic virtue, if done for spiritual gain. However, this kind of heroism is not an obligation. (IN MY OPINION, this principle applies equally to pain medication and antidepressants)
Ordinary and Extraordinary means of treatment
Ordinary – those medical procedures that are well-established, known to be beneficial, and not excessively burdensome due to expense or side effects
Extraordinary – experimental, expensive, or have serious physical and/or psychological side effects
Antidepressants are NOT extraordinary, as they are typically covered to a significant degree in medical insurance plans, and (at least in cases closest to me) don’t cause terrible side effects.
Hopefully this exposition on the relationship between suffering and treatment is helpful to you.
I joke with my father about “better living through pharmaceuticals”, however, for people with issues caused by chemical/hormonal imbalances, sometimes meds are the only way to bring balance back. They helped me in a past time of dire need and now with the “change” beginning, there are things I am looking to to keep me from being a nasty person. I have some physiological and hormonal imbalances that must be kept in check. I also have ADD and have never been medicated for that.
When you question whether or not to medicate depression, etc., please remember Andrea Yates.
My whole life I made poor choices. Did things I regretted afterwards and wondered why in the world I had done them. Then came the depression. In adjusting my depression medications it triggered a bi-polar episode. That explained all my previous behavior. I am now on meds for the bipolar as well as the depression and finally feel in control of my actions. Not to mention the effect it has had on my family not living with someone who was likely to go off on them in a second for no reason. Life for everyone in the family has gotten better because I am on the appropriate medications for my conditions. What a blessing!