When a family member refuses medical treatment for emotional reasons


Hi all…

This situation is regarding my mother… and it’s been affecting our lives for many many years.
My mom has had obvious signs of depression and anxiety for years… and this has had detrimental effects on her relationships with everyone in the family.
She has been both to counseling and to see medical professionals… all of whom have recommended medication to help stabilize her chemical imbalance.
On a side note… these conditions are also genetic… and my grandmother (her mom) was also extremely depressive… and both of my sisters and myself have all had to deal with these issues (and have accepted medical intervention when necessary). So we’re well aware of the symptoms and treatment options.

My mom has always refused medication for a multitude of emotional reasons…
*]She is extremely skeptical of all medications
*]She is convinced ALL depression/anxiety issues are and “emotional fault” and is personally very insulted at the idea of medication
*]She is convinced that ALL depression/anxiety issues are 100% spiritual in nature and turning to medication would be a lack of faith
*]She is convinced that my grandmother’s cancer (her mom who died years ago) was caused by excessive use of antibiotics - thus distrustful of medical profession…[/LIST]Anyway… in the last few days she’s had some emotional breakdown moments… which have resulted in extreme debilitating migraines. She went to the ER and had CT scans and all the tests run to dermine it wasn’t anything more critical… but after half a dozen doctor visits and phone calls her doctor is suggesting that this is a stress/anxiety/depression issue (duh!).

I would like advice on how to lovingly approach my mom on this subject. She obviously has extreme emotional issues and I want to be sensitive to that. But her refusal to listen to her doctors (over these many years) has led to a physically debilitating condition with these migraines as well as scarred relationships with the entire family (over emotional issues which should never be a big deal)…

Any advice? Thanks in advance.


Em - I’m sorry this is happening in your life. My mother also suffers from anxiety/depression, though not to this degree. I wish that I had a solution for you, but the best I can offer is prayers. As I’m sure you know, trying to reason with someone whose thoughts are not reasonable is next to impossible. Despite several attempts to discuss this with my mom, including sharing details of my own struggle (which only give her fuel to hurt me), I’ve gotten nowhere. I will pray for your family.



I don’t know that I have any advice for you considering I am facing the same problem with my 13 year old son. His therapist, pediatrician, and psychiatrist all recommend medication for anxiety and major depression, but he refuses. His dad had told him he would not be “him” anymore if he took medication.

I am still working with him on trying to get him to see that these issues are a medical problem, and it isn’t just a matter of him not trying hard enough. Although, what I am trying to do is to tell him that if he refuses medication, then he still needs to take responsibility for managing the symptoms through other means. Maybe if you take that approach with your mom. Nutrition and vitamins are important as is exercise. I have also hear that accupressure can help as well. I would ask her that if she is going to make the decision to refuse medication, what active steps will she take to handle the symptoms of her depression and anxiety which have such a negative effect not only on herself, but also on those in her life.


Perhaps a trusted Priest or Spiritual Advisor could assist? Also, getting her to see a Catholic doctor (www.catholictherapists.com might help).


I don’t know how old your mom is, but maybe she comes from a time when mental health issues were a stigma. Or people did believe it was a weakness that one could overcome alone.

Keep praying for her! You can’t change her or make decisions for her. —KCT


Very true…
Thank you for your post…


My mom likes to appear tough. It’s her problem to deal with and no way will she ask for help.

I hope your mom agrees to take meds. Until she does, she’ll never know what a difference it might make. —KCT


Em - You and your mom and family are in my prayers. From what you are saying your mom is distrustful of the medical community in general. Is she distrustful of others too? This is the hard part about mental illness - if there is paranoia involved getting the person to take treatment will be very difficult because everything you are trying to do to help them will be suspect.

To the mom with the son who needs some medical intervention, how knowledgeable is he about Diabetes? I always use that as an example when someone doesn’t want to take an anti-depressant/anxiety drug. Their bodies are like the Diabetics, the difference is we don’t know exactly what hormone (insulin is a hormone) they need so until the Drs. can figure this out they have figured out some other drugs that help. You can also point out that the “him” now is not the “real him” and the drugs can help him to get there.

Hope this has helped some of you:D because this knowledge is coming from someone who needs to watch her diet to keep depression at bay (yup, eliminating wheat and gluten from my diet has put me on a more even keel, go figure) and who has a daughter who suffers from anxiety but it took a Psychiatrist to give her the same example I have used above for her to accept that she may be on something for the rest of her life!

Brenda V.


Unless and until she reaches the point where she can be declared mentally incompetent, she has the right to refuse treatment, even though it is not in her best interest to do so. You can try having a gentle talk with her, but if you try to force the issue, she is likely to turn on you and decide you are one of the “bad guys.” There isn’t much you can do besides pray for her.

I know how frustrating it is when they won’t cooperate. My own mother has had several psychiatric admissions for depression. She takes her meds, but she won’t be straight with the therapists, she tells them what she thinks they want to hear instead of what’s really going on with her. :banghead: I just want to shake her sometimes! So I feel your pain… sigh

*I turn to you, St. Dymphna, dear virgin and martyr, confident of your power with God and of your willingness to take Em’s mother’s cause into your hands. I praise and bless the Lord for giving you to us as patron of the nervous and emotionally disturbed. I firmly hope that through your kind intercession He will restore her lost serenity and peace of mind. May He speak to her heart and reassure her: “My peace I give you. Let not your heart be troubled nor let it be afraid.”

Pray for Em’s mother, dear St. Dymphna, that her nervous and emotional turmoil may cease, and that she may again know serenity and personal peace. Amen.*


Thank you all for your comments, thoughts, and prayers on this thread… I really appreciate it!

We’ll continue to pray (and thanks for the St. Dymphna prayers as well… she’s a great advocate in this area! :slight_smile: )…
I just want to see my mom at peace… :o


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