Saturday, December 08, 2007

Depression and Spiritual Growth

It's tempting when you are depressed to read something like this:

“There is more purchasing power, more music, more education, more books, worldwide instant communication, and more entertainment than ever before,” the psychologists Ed Diener and Martin Seligman wrote in 2004. “But contrary to the economic statistics,” they continue, “all the statistics on depression and demoralization are getting worse.”


As Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has written, “We are in the midst of an epidemic of depression, one with consequences that, through suicide, takes as many lives as the AIDS epidemic and is more widespread.”

...and be comforted by the fact that you are a part of a trend that someone in an important position out there somewhere better fix.

Look at this article in Reason Magazine by Will Wilkinson reporting on a new book: The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow Into Depressive Disorder, by Allan V. Horwitz and Jerome C. Wakefield, New York: Oxford University Press, 287 pages, $29.95

I'm a basket case if there ever was one. I'm not manic-depressive, but I can be ecstatic and near-suicidal at the same time. I'm just as emotional as I am reasonable and logical. It makes method acting easy for me - all I have to do is chose which of any set of emotions I'm feeling at any given time and exhibit those. However it makes questions like "How are you?" difficult to answer fully. I'm writing this to indicate some of the experience with which I can comment on this matter.

There is a good use for anti-depressants. When you have an individual who is non-functional as a result of his or her depression, drugs may be used to restore a person to some semblance of functionality. My wife has taken anti-depressants in an effort to reduce her need for pain medication with regard to her fibromyalgia.

However, psychiatrists who prescribe psychotropic drugs in an effort to avoid addressing presuppositional errors or sociological conditioning resulting in depression in individuals are lazy. Drugs may treat the symptoms, but the cause must be addressed. Our emotions are a gift from God. They allow us to respond to stimuli in ways that raw reason is either not sufficient or too inefficient to address. If we had to leave it up to reason to select a mate for reproduction, then we may never find the motivation necessary. If we lacked the capacity to fear, then we would find ourselves indecisive in important situations where we would need to flee or engage danger while we paused to calculate the odds and debate the moral and ethical ramifications of any given number of actions. Without sufficient sadness, we would lack the capacity to find the companionship we need to establish beneficial community.

In other words, when we are "depressed" we understand a change needs to be made in order to assuage the depression. Such a pursuit is beneficial to us. Ultimately our relational needs must bring us to the throne of our Creator. Depression is a gift of God that brings us to Himself. Christ in Gethsemane suffered such extreme anxious depression (sounds contradictory, I know) as to cause capillaries to burst in his sweat glands. Our lot is not to die for the sins of the world for only one can and has done this, but depression can spur us on to great things.

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Blogger Updowngirl said...

This subject is fascinating. There is another book that anyone who is interested in depression and spiritual growth should read. It is, The Depression Advantage, by Tom Wootton. It talks about the enormous spiritual growth to be experienced while in a depressed state and redefines the current notion of depression as an illness, turning it into an advantage.

Mon Dec 10, 12:17:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Jim Pemberton said...

Thanks, Updowngirl. I'll have to check into that book.

Mon Dec 10, 01:31:00 PM GMT-5  

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