Anti-depressants are now the most commonly prescribed drug in America. They are prescribed more than drugs to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, or headaches. Between 1998 and 2002, the use of antidepressants had risen 48%, and this trend has continued at an astounding rate. And this does not even include other similar forms of medicine that ward off anxiety, anger, and compulsive “disorders.”

Pretty soon, we are going to have a pill that will take care of every disorder and sin. Think about it. This is the way medicine is heading. And to be truthful, there is nothing more that I would like than a pill that would make me a better person. A better father, husband, and friend. Maybe a generosity pill. Yeah, that is it. Wake up each morning, take the pill, and, as a result, I am more kind, forgiving, and selfless…besides the fact that I am not depressed! Or how about one that suppresses antagonism and disbelief. It relaxes the part of the mind that has a tendency to be circumspect and critical. “Here, I am going to give you the Four Spiritual Laws, but take this pill first.” We could call it the “Billy Graham Pill.”

Wow! Complete sanctification, from beginning to end, in a bottle . . . literally.

Oh, and fellas, if there are problems in the romantic area and fulfilling 1 Cor. 7:3-5 (my all time favorite passage btw), we have the “little blue pill.” (Sorry women, no quick cure for you yet . . . Blast it!)

Wait…I am way ahead of myself. Slow down.

(NOTE TO SELF: Remember, Michael, this is a very sensitive subject. You are going to label yourself as a “Tom Cruise” right at the beginning. This is not where you are going. You are just trying to get a discussion started. Your end-game is unclear, even to yourself.)

Let me come clean. I don’t take any mood altering meds. I never have. I completely understand why people do. I am not against them (necessarily). So don’t go there . . . yet. My wife takes two types of pills for anxiety. They have helped. She is not so mean to me (!). My mother is on anti-depressants. Maybe that is why she does not recognize her pitiful condition and can smile from time to time. For this I am glad. My father takes them too. It may be the only reason he can face each day and not blame himself after losing his daughter and his wife. For this, as long as I don’t over think it, I am grateful.

Let me come cleaner. My sister Angie committed suicide after having been on Zoloft (and every other anti-depressant and anti-anxiety you can imagine).

There . . . Now let me continue with a story.

Kristie, my oldest sister (not my wife Kristie), has been experiencing depression off and on for the last few years (again, due to my other sister and mother). She went to her general practitioner (a Christian of the fundamentalist variety). During the check-up she told him that she had been experiencing some depression here and there and it was affecting her relationships with her husband and kids. Without any further consult, he arose and began to write out a prescription for Paxil saying, “Let’s make mommy happy.”

Alright. Lets get started…

Here is my initial proposition:

If Martin Luther had lived today, the Reformation may never have happened. Luther would have been diagnosed with four problems:

  1. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): For this he would have taken Paroxetine. This would have helped him as he was compulsively obsessed with theology.
  2. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (OCC): For this he would have taken Ritalin. This would control his rebellion and kept him more compliant with the institutionalized church of the day. The result of the night and day at the Reichstag zu Worms in 1521would have resulted in his compliance and recanting.
  3. Anxiety Disorder. For this he would have taken Xanax. This would take care of those sleepless nights of anfechtung(a nightmare of the soul) concerning God’s wrath. No more need for him to adjust his theology and understand and experience God’s grace.
  4. Clinical Depression. For this he would have taken Zoloft. This would have prevented the concern of John Staupitz, Luther’s superior in the Augustinian order, who sent Luther off to study the New Testament as a solution to Luther’s depression. This, in turn, would have prevented Luther from coming to his epiphany while depressed (“on the toilet”) concerning Romans 1:17 and salvation by faith alone.

There, now we have a sterile Luther. Now we have a “happy” Luther. Now we have a “normal” Luther. Yet, we don’t have Luther. Without him, we don’t have a Reformation.

(I know, nothing can ward of the hand of God, not even Zoloft—I am a Calvinist after all. But I am looking at this from a human perspective and assessing our need to be responsibly critical in an area that most are ignoring.)

Enough for now.

Final questions: Is it possible that depression is often something that accomplishes the will of God more than being “happy”? Is it possible that anxiety is a tool God uses to help us recognize our need for him.  Is it possible that giving kids meds to control their attention could be sterilizing their giftedness. Are we replacing the will, personal dedication, and comittment with  little blue pills of absolution. Are we taking a preimptive strike on a God sent “dark night of the soul.” Could it be that our obsession with “normality” is keeping us from representing the image of God? Is it possible that these mind altering drugs are causing much more harm than good? 

Wherever you are on the issue, it simply must be discussed. I believe it represents one of the greatest moral dilemmas that we are facing today, and, in my opinion, it is only going to get worse.

Let’s talk.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    64 replies to ""Let's Make Mommy Happy" or Martin Luther on Zoloft"

    • cheryl u

      I wonder if we have as a society in general and maybe Christians in particular, become convinced that “happy” is the only acceptable norm and that anything else needs to be dealt with in some way, often by using chemicals of one type or another.

      As I have gotten older and have had the benefit of hindsight, I can see how that message has come across in the Christian church, at least the circles that I was in. There was a subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, belief and theology out there that, “once you come to the Lord all of your problems will be over.” Realizing that is not the truth and is in fact, totally unbiblical, took some time for me. But realizing that there is no truth to that teaching can be a great frustration, stress, anxiety, etc. releaser, at least for the Christian.

      I remember one quite ridiculous little song that was being sung when I was around twenty or so. A couple of the lines were, “I’ve found happiness ALL the time….since I found the Lord”, and, “No more lonely days of pain and misery, for the door of happiness I’ve found the key.” No one is happy all of the time and there are going to be lonely, painful, and miserable days for all of us. It is just part of being human in a sin riddled world. That doesn’t mean that God hasn’t given us ways to deal with these things in His Word. He has. However, to think that they will never come and that there is something wrong if they do, is to set ourselves up for a big time fall.

    • Greg

      I don’t really know how to respond to this issue. On one hand I want nothing to do with anti-depressants, but on the other hand I do see their benefit, as you pointed out Michael.

      As much as I hate to say it, I think we here in America have boxed ourselves into a nasty corner. We don’t want to be a medicated society, but we worship and crave the effects the medication brings for us. We need to be happy, and we expect others to be happy around us so we aren’t burdened by them. We want compliant children so they can, like nice little cogs, find their tiny spot of usefulness and fit in somewhere in society and make as little noise as possible.

      I think we’d medicate a Martin Luther not so much for his sake, but for ours. Not too many moderns would stand idly by and let one man divide an entire continent down to the marrow. It was as much a revolution as a reformation, and 500 years later the world still reels from its effects.

      We expect people to be normal, complacent, and staying within the confines that society has built around them. I think we value the status quo more than the challenges of real life, and we’re prepared to do what it takes to maintain it.

      I wonder if we have a good theology of suffering. Its not something most people are quick to see the value in. Its inconvenient, and most things like that are avoided at all reasonable costs. Medication is a reasonable cost. Why drive when you can fly? Why cook a meal when a fast food place can do it for you? Why struggle through a dark time when you can pop a pill and get it over with?

      Maybe all of these things are good, but in the process of valuing the destination over the journey we’ve forgotten the experience of getting there. Its like a person who just reads the last chapter of a book. They know how it ends, but they miss out on the depth of understanding that comes from reading it cover to cover. Flyers never experience the beautiful countryside from ground level. Diners never savor the goodness and satisfaction of a home cooked meal. And pill poppers miss out on the growth that arises from begging God to shine His light on their dark night.

      Our love affair with convenience is a cause of our sickness; fix that and our need for medication will lessen. If we treat the medicine as the problem without attacking the underlying cause, we’ll just find something else to replace it.

    • John

      Another question may be: assuming your medicine related stats are accurate, is the church doing enough to offer an alternative in these specific areas. Are we meeting the people where they are? I am not.

    • Raphael

      What scares me is listen to Ravi Zacharias talking about how some scientists reckon they can make a pill that would remove feelings of guilt.

      Very good article btw.

    • Grant

      Check out this article on depression in Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=depressions-evolutionary

      If the article is correct, then it would appear to support the idea that depression usually occurs as a response to a problem, and the best way to treat it is to find and solve that problem. Luther, Pascal, etc. seem to be on pretty strong ground here.

    • C Michael Patton

      Greg…wow! Great response. “I think we’d medicate a Martin Luther not so much for his sake, but for ours.”

      Thanks Cheryl and Raphael!

    • Greg

      I also don’t want to descend into an idealization of past times when these medications and treatments didn’t exist. As Topher pointed out, beer and other concoctions have been around for a very long time and have “helped” people through difficult times.

      As the great philosopher Homer once said: “Beer. The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems!”

      I’ve been wondering though, and going slightly contrary to what I said in my last post, but since suffering is part of the human condition (now, at least), would any diversion from an unhappy state fit in the same category that we place anti-depressants in? Anything that gets our mind off our present discontent, which also doesn’t point it towards God?

      If our love for convenience is a major cause of our medication use, wouldn’t suffering be the ultimate cause? If we didn’t suffer through something, then we wouldn’t feel the need to speed through the process.

      Then it would seem to me that as long as we have suffering, we’ll have some type of diversion or process that helps us get through it, and as long as it isn’t God, its not a good thing.

      At least that’s where I think CMP’s argument eventually goes. If medical diversion or short-cutting isn’t good, then why would anything else be good either if its not God-focused?

      This is all really interesting stuff to talk about, and, after thinking about it, I don’t know if I can justify moving away from anti-depressants or similar drugs without also moving away from any Godless diversion of life’s difficulties.

    • Michael

      Just a random thought. Assuming we could get rid of all hate, malice, anger, etc. through simply giving everyone a pill, or genetically engineering humans without these traits how would that affect our theology on the condition of humankind??? I mean if all of our sinful bents were caused by some correctable genetic mutation or hormone imbalance what would that do to the Christian worldview?

    • C Michael Patton

      Great question Michael.

      Short answer: I don’t know.

      Long answer: I don’t know.

      But it is a good question. What do you think?

    • Joshua Allen

      Coffee was originally banned in Germany (in the 18th century), because its mind-altering affects were considered to be decidedly non-therapeutic, and the damage to civil social relations considered too high. Imagine what damage Luther could have done if he’d been caffeinated!

      I’ve also heard people suggest that Islamist extremism could be better contained if we carpet-bombed the middle east with SSRIs and Viagra. So the idea that people would think of medicating Luther is not far-fetched at all.

      Regarding the issue of depression, I too had a close sibling commit suicide (about 4 years ago, after a long battle with depression and after having refused to try anti-depressants out of religious convictions). I’ve also known far too many other people who went through terrible depressions and tried all sorts of “cures”. So it’s definitely something I’ve thought about a lot.

      A whole lot could be said about the topic, and maybe someday I’ll try. But in any case, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with people using medications (or exercise, or diet, or therapy) as tools to help pull out of a negative tailspin. Sometimes the tools need to be used for a very short while, sometimes for a very long while. Sometimes the tools work, sometimes they don’t. But in the end, they are just tools to help a person get to a point where he or she can focus on the real cure — these tools are never in and of themselves the cure.

      It is when people start to look to a pill, or a job, a lover, money, etc. to supply their happiness, that problems creep in. That’s idolatry, and it is deadly. When the medication becomes the destination, that’s a concern.

    • cheryl u

      It seems to me that the heights and depths of human emotion have been around pretty much forever–since the fall way back in the Garden. Anyone read Psalms lately?? I wonder if we try to medicate ourselves into perpetual happiness, or something close to it anyway, if we are not in effect “flat lining” ourselves emotionally?

      Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that I don’t think there is ever a time for the use of an anti depressant or similar drug. I think maybe what I am saying is that I think our society way over does it.

    • […] 16 tags: Anti-Depressants, Martin Luther, Michael Patton by michaeldebusk C. Michael Patton asks the serious question about whether our impulse to medicate depression is a spiritually healthy one. This, as you may […]

    • A Dad

      Good stuff! We have a son that took meds for a while due to his deep abuse issues before we adopted him…did it help? Never saw a difference.

      We just went though a series On Depression at our church. The church was PACKED. People want to have the same questions answered that you have stated. Beautiful and balanced teaching was given. ( a lot from the Psalms) One mother later said that each time her daughter – in -law goes through a Dark Night of the Soul after childbirth (postpartum) she writes the most amazing songs…. they always come AFTER her dark night…

      I have taught for 25 plus years and in the classroom, and students that tooks meds for: ADD,ADHD,CSTR,TXOC(made those up), and SPAZ disorder(all kids have this)… 🙂 really showed minimal improvement.

      Meds?Maybe. Make it a very LASSSSSSSST resort. Some of the most messed up folks I have met were on meds and really seemed worse…very sad.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Michael, I concur with you regarding Greg’s response. I especially note how we are more concerned about the conformity of behavior to a “status quo” standard, than we are with allowing for the process, which may involve deviations that most are not cool with.

      This is a sensitive topic, though, and I do believe there are instances when medication is needed for chemical imbalance. So I think this article may lean towards vilifying medication altogether. Rather, I think the real enemy is the lack of critical examination to determine IF a person truly needs it.

      My son was diagnosed with ADHD at age 6. I was reluctant to have him go on meds. But he is a very bright kid, and I would grieve being responsible for holding back his progress that the “stimulants will assist with. I put him on and he did very well in school. But also for those first few years, could not function without it.

      Thankfully, as he has matured and learned better self-control, he has been able to come off (as of Feb 09) and I’m proud to say brought home straight As at the end of 5th grade. He is still very hyper and has his moments, but it’s to the point where it hasn’t hampered his academic progress.

      My dad, on the other hand thinks my son’s model of compliance is way off and should be on medication. Unfortunately, my dad is symptomatic of the conformity that Greg speaks of – the insistence of a cookie-cutter, compliant and docile kid that meets the status quo standard. I’ll take my son, bright, energetic, and innovative without meds than the cookie cutter variety any day and twice on Sundays.

    • Dr_Mike

      Greg wrote:

      “Then it would seem to me that as long as we have suffering, we’ll have some type of diversion or process that helps us get through it, and as long as it isn’t God, its not a good thing.

      “At least that’s where I think CMP’s argument eventually goes. If medical diversion or short-cutting isn’t good, then why would anything else be good either if its not God-focused?

      “This is all really interesting stuff to talk about, and, after thinking about it, I don’t know if I can justify moving away from anti-depressants or similar drugs without also moving away from any Godless diversion of life’s difficulties.”

      If it is true that medications, alcohol, television, theological arguments, and and and all other things are diversions or distractions (following Pascal) to obviate or ameliorate suffering, and that the true and righteous path is to focus on God, then it follows that the reason people commit suicide is because they don’t focus on God enough.

      And if that’s where you’re going, I believe I’ll take a different path.

    • #John1453

      There is, in fact, a book about this very issue-and by a Christian psychologist, titled “The Bright Side of Depression”. The book discusses how God can use depression to force one to slow down and reevaluate one’s life and relationships, and discusses how one can work with God in this. I don’t know if it is still in print.

      regards,
      #John

    • #John1453

      The tens of thousands that died at the orders, instigation and encouraging hand of Luther would also have been happy had he taken drugs and avoided the reformation.

      As a sufferer of clinical depression, I know that it is true both in research studies and by personal experience that both medium and long term results are only achieved through cognitive therapy that changes thinking patterns. Often this must occur in conjunction with drug therapy, and exercise, though the goal is to get off the drugs eventually.

      As Marshall McLuhan said many times, the medium is the message. That is, the medium through which the message is communicated is never neutral but always affects the content of the message. That principle is true in every area of our lives where we use technology. Technology, science, is never neutral. Drugs are merely a chemical technology. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do that thing.

      regards,
      #John

    • Cadis

      Yes! to just about every question you asked, yes!
      I think certain cases call for anti-depressant medications but for the average person it should be for a very short stint, a few days, for a panic attack or a collapse from a death or divorce .. but I wonder if you could ask Luther if he was depressed what his answer would be? I’m sure there were times when he was depressed but I’m not sure all the rest of Luther could be catergorized under depression. My definition of the average person that is depressed(not a professional definition but just what I mean when using the word depressed), is a picture of chronic self pity and obsession. Chronic self pity and obsession accomplishes nothing. From that state, or type, of depression the mind can be renewed by very simplistic methods of not allowing yourself to go there and retraining your thoughts bringing them under your control. It takes work but the method is simple.This is just my opinion and experience 🙂

    • Cadis

      There is a Psychiatrist his name is Dr. Peter Breggins, he is on a bit of a rampage over this very issuse and he has been involved in a few legal cases over these medications. In one of his books “Your drug may be your problem” he makes a lot of the points you are making. I think he might be a tad gung ho, but he does have the qualifications and he does make a lot of sense.
      The point I’m making is that even Doctors see and recognize that this is and has been a problem, replacing healing with masking the problem with drugs and sometimes, often times exasperating the problem.

    • C Michael Patton

      Paul Copan wrote a nice peice on this blog about this subject not too long ago. Here is a link: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2007/06/inner-pain-curse-or-blessing/

    • Cadis

      Yes, Paul Copan wrote an excellent article. And I take it back Luther was pretty messed up, regardless of how he would answer or how I view depression.

    • cheryl u

      Thanks for that link, CMP. That was a very good article that Paul wrote also. Were some good comments there too.

      Thanks for bringing this up, Michael. I do think it is something that we all need to think through.

    • C Michael Patton

      Here is also a post I had on this last year with some more stats: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/09/why-are-we-in-the-greater-depression/

    • C Michael Patton

      Thanks Cheryl.

      Too all. Please understand, I am not getting up on a soap box, I am just scratching my head and trying to deal with this theologically.

      Also, please don’t argue about the finer points of whether Luther would have taken Zoloft or inform me that Ritalin is for kids. I know these things. The Luther illustration was a tongue-in-check illustration to give color to the conversation.

      Finally, don’t take this as a “Michael Patton says never to take any mind altering drugs.” If anything, I am simply asking if we have been too quick to resort to drugs to deal with mental problems and if this is creating more problems and suppressing our own ability to excell in some cases. I do, at this point, believe that there are legitimate cases where such drugs are both needed and to be seen as a gift of God.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Actually, I have thought about issue of suffering in context of genuine discipleship and how the idea of “healthiness” has been promoted in the church. In fact, I have heard this referenced a lot. That any kind of deep pain may be a sign of unhealthiness and we have to take steps to address the issue.

      Let’s face it, we don’t like pain and want to get rid of it at all costs. But God does use that to form Christ in us. There is a process in that pain that brings such an urgent need for the power and presence of God. It brings us to our knees but also nearer to Christ. I can’t help but wonder if our need to be “healthy” circumvents this process.

    • C Michael Patton

      Ouch. Some people don’t like what I am saying (or, more properly, what they THINK I am saying).

      http://phoenixpreacher.com/cms/?p=4227

      Read the comments.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Wow, that was kind of harsh. Yeah, I think they did miss it.

    • Joshua Allen

      @Lisa #26; right on!

      @CMP, Lisa, #27, #28: It was rather obvious to me that the example of Luther was tongue-in-cheek, like my response about coffee. And, as someone who knows that sibling suicide raises more doubts than certainties, I never would have interpreted Michael’s post as being a sanctimonious condemnation of antidepressants. It feels as if the responses in that comments thread were prejudiced by the anchoring effects from the opening post about Haggard, and then the knee-jerk outburst from “Lutheran”, who is new to this blog and therefore felt compelled to make assumptions about Michael’s character and theology. It’s a sad commentary on current affairs when Christians feel compelled to assume other Christians are “kooks until proven innocent”.

    • Marc

      In a sense we sometimes present the Gospel as a quick fix solution whereas it’s actually more of a long-term project. Regarding depression, I’ve found interaction with people to be a good remedy, especially people less fortunate than us who need our help and love. It’s a pity the Gospel is so personal nowadays that we’ve lost the social aspect. We need to get back to “Wholewheat Mission”.

    • Brooke McGlothlin

      Good post. Everything I would say has already been said so I won’t be redundant. As the mother of 2 very hyperactive boys I am in total agreement. My dr has already told me he will eventually put my 4 yo on ritalin…when he was just 3!!! Momma’s not gonna let that happen.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Cadis

      I’m really torn over this topic, because I agree that growth happens during times of darkness and depression. I think God purposely brings us into times of distress or puts us under a weight load. Scripture tells us there will be trials, to expect them. What I don’t like that I am gleaning from this whole discussion, all links included except the anti-link 🙂 ) is that God brings “mental anguish” on us as a tool. There is no question God uses those who struggle with mental anguish, but we are constantly reminded of peace and joy throughout scripture. Christ himself tells us not to worry, isn’t worry one of the primary culprits that will lead to anguish. God uses trials, IMO based on my opinion of scripture, to bring about peace and joy with God. I don’t think he uses mental anguish to deepen and further our joy.
      From what I see in scripture joy and peace is mental health or the norm or “the goal“, I should say. Paul said he learned to be content in whatever state he was in. I’m sure the trials Paul went through brought him mental anguish at times but the goal was not the anguish but the joy during the trial. To be able to stand. The sufferings that are spoken of are external , you may be mocked or physically abused or destitute, but joy can always be yours.
      I just want to emphasize that I think God wants us to have joy and peace in the middle of it all, because if we have joy and peace during terrible times it means we are trusting God, we have faith in him. I think that that is scriptural (until proven wrong) I don’t think it is scriptural to think mental anguish is a “good” thing. It maybe it is the pathway to “good things” that I’m still leery about ,It also may be a result of the sin filled world we live in, Jesus wept, but it certainly isn’t to be sought after…I’m thinking. Where ever someone is I hope they are honest and sincere about their circumstance because anything else is hypocrisy. Joy or remorse should not be faked to appear healthy, spiritually, to others.

    • Cadis

      The Link that Michael gave in post #27, in the comments of that link, a fellow gives another link, “Martin Luther On Depression” It was interesting too.

    • Jim W.

      I think the reason we have become more medicated as a society for “depression” is because it is easier than having to take the time to discover or deal with the root problem/cause. I think it is more symptomatic of our instant, want it now mentality.

      Depression should be an indicator that something is wrong (I am not talking here about a short term response to a tragedy or something like that). Either there is a physical problem or there is a value/expectation problem. I believe most “depression” is really exposing a value/expectation problem. Anytime I hear someone point to someone else or some circumstance as the reason for their depression I suspect they have invested too much value or unreasonable expectations in that person or thing. I have found this to be the case for myself.

      Not to pick on CMP, but he uses his father as an example of someone who is depressed because of his wife and daughter. Truthfully, it should not matter to a believer what God does with or to our loved ones. If we are really convinced that God is sovereign, good and has the best in mind for us, than we should be reassured that even tragedies can be used for our good as well as God’s. We should be content in that. However, how many of us respond that way? We all struggle with that conclusion because of the pain, and more often than not, because we placed too high a value on the person or too great an expectation on the situation. Again, I’m talking here about depression that lingers, not something short term.

      I think the contentment and assurance that David expresses in Psalm 23 is a great example (and indicator) for us of where our focus/value/expectations should be. He is content and comforted because of God’s care, protection, and guidance even in great distress and peril. His focus is on God’s love for himself and that keeps him from falling into despair over his circumstances.

    • Mike S

      Michael,
      You forget that there is already something that we can take that aids in giving us life and sanctification: the Eucharist/Communion.

      John 6:53
      Exodus 12:8,
      1 Cor 5:7
      Acts 2:42
      Gen 14:18

    • Dr_Mike

      Wow.

      As I read the comments, I am struck by the number of experts on mental disorders, mental diseases, and psychopharmacology. It is so impressive.

    • Jason Chamberlain

      Jim W. — Amen!

    • Cadis

      Dr. Mike

      I missed that. I re-read the comments and I didn’t see anyone claiming to know, only sharing their personal experience or adding helpful thoughts or trying to work through the issue according to their own beliefs and understandings. I didn’t see any experts and I didn’t see any fools.

    • Joe

      I agree. Many 1) prophets were not happy people. Neither was 2) Martin Luther. And in fact 3) Jesus himself went into the wilderness and was tempted; and felt abandoned by God in the end.

      But 4) by the way: in the same way that we should not give people medical dope to cure them of religion, neither should we give them too-simple and/or self-satisfied theologies, for the same reason.

    • Michael L.

      Hmmm..

      I’m really on the fence on this one.

      Background:
      I grew up in a country where psychiatry and mental illness are still very much stigmatized. True anti-depressants such Zoloft, Prozac, Lexapro, … (all SRRI type meds) are still very much hush-hush and rarely prescribed.
      On the other hand medications such as Retilin, Abilify, … and others are to treat other challenges such as ADD, ADHD, bipolar, etc.. and are a little less controversial.

      It’s dangerous to lump them all in one bucket.

      Personal experience:
      Having grown up with those notions, I was very sceptical against its use. It’s a matter of “you are who you are” and “just deal with it”. But now being married, I personally prefer my spouse taking her anti-depressants than coming home to having her sit on the floor in a corner in the kitchen sobbing uncontrollably. Now she is a more than average active member in our Church, functioning, sharing, supporting.
      On to my step-daughter who had uncontrollable urges for self-harm. Granted that there are underlying psychological challenges, but with the medications at least the urges are controllable.

      Summary:
      I’ve come a long way. I still believe the United States in general over-prescribes drugs of all sorts (not just psychiatric medication). On the other hand, I’ve witnessed the first hand effects of them and do believe that there is a place for them in a controlled, perhaps temporary, environment.

      Conclusion:
      We live in a fallen world. There is sin everwhere including in my own life. There is disease everwhere. Telling people not to take psychiatric medication is like telling people to skip cancer treatment. But you won’t recommend chemo-therapy to a healthy person either. All we can pray for is healing. Both for the mentally ill and the physically ill. Above all, we know both will be resolved when He returns. Until then, have the debate, ensure you know what treatments your loved ones are signing up for, but don’t dismiss the benefits in one swooping statement.

      Thanks
      In Him
      Mick

    • Michael L.

      Oh yeah..

      And I’m with Luther 😉

      Or to say it in the words of Ben Franklin (at least doubtfully attributed to him, but that’s another story)

      Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy

    • C Michael Patton

      Michael L, I am with you. Except, I would not put it as being “on the fence.” I would say that there are definitely some times when drugs such as these are necessary and some times they are not. I would just say that it is not easy to know.

      I would also say that the designation “mental illness” is not black and white. There are certainly some cases where a definite diagnosis can be made and, in good conscience, drugs prescribed, but other times it is simply putting an artificial numbness on the real problem. The question I am asking (THEOLOGICALLY AND MORALLY) is whether it is right to prescribe meds to people who are dealing with loss, pain, and/or sin (or the effects of sin). Could it be that in doing so we are (from a human perspective) attempting to hold back the hand of God in the lives of these people.

      However, we have to understand that we live in a fallen world and given the choice between seeking out and dealing with the problems and taking a pill, we will all take the pill. How do I know? Because that is what I would do. It is easier. It is not unlike divorce. It is simply easier to escape, and I understand.

      I would like to see doctors deal with these meds in a more responsible way, being scared of them like they might be scared of neck surgery. Do everything you can to avoid neck surgery. EVERYTHING. Once all the other options have been exhausted, we will discuss surgery. However, there are great risks in the surgery and it might very well make the problem worse.

      In the end, if necessary (and I concede that sometimes it is necessary to take drugs for depression), doctors will monitor you and have a very strategic plan to get you off the drugs by dealing with other possible underlying causes of your depression. I very rare cases (not 10% of the population) there will be reason for certain individuals to have to stay on the meds for the long term.

      I would also like to see a situation where there are only certain types of doctors who can prescribe these drugs. When every practitioner can prescribe these drugs, I think we are creating opportunities for the problem to only get much worse.

    • C Michael Patton

      BTW: I was diagnosed by a doctor who read one of my posts with clinical depression!!! I don’t know how he knew, but he did just from reading my posts. No need for further examination, just read your blog, here take these meds! And this person probably prescribes these things every day.

      In my opinion this is quit disturbing.

    • Char

      Luther was totally bipolar.

      It really depends on the “kind” of depression one is suffering. If it’s chemical, well then we might as well tell cancer patients that they shouldn’t go on chemo because God intended for them to have cancer. That doesn’t stop them from seeking treatment. Nor should the clinically depressed be discouraged from doing so and I do think the stigma of it is difficult for them.

      I know someone with an obviously undiagnosed mental illness who self-medicates with alcohol but refuses to take medication because that means she’s “crazy” (a huge fear for her as mental illness runs in her family). That is the kind of stigma that really has to be done away with.

      At the same time, I do think that many people are put on antidepressants that don’t need to be, and I do often wonder if it isn’t just a way of conforming us to a narrow band of vaguely happy mediocrity. Same thing with bright children who are put on medication because they are bored and acting out (now my father was basically adhd so I know what that really looks like). I can’t help thinking they’re being trained like dancing bears.

      So I do find the whole thing rather ominous-geniuses are on the outside of that band as well as madmen. What are we leaving ourselves with? I do believe antidepressants are already being used as soma.

      It’s a little scary that we seem to want to medicate away anything that bothers us-even things that are meant to. For example I went to school with a girl whose mother died when she was 15. She took it particularly hard and was prescribed antidepressants. She wouldn’t take them; instead she decided to work through the grief and deal with the loss. I do think talk therapy would have been a far better option for her (as it is for many). As I was going through the same thing at the time with my dad, it offended me that people seemed to think she should have just jumped up and forgotten about her mom or something. We aren’t even allowed time to grieve for our dead moms anymore? Maybe the problem really is the attachment we have to moms. Soma indeed.

      As introspective as I am, I also see that I wouldn’t be who I am without my weird neuroses. Some think I would be “better”. Perhaps so. But I just see me being more “normal”-less threatening.

      We do live in a society that’s breaking down in some significant ways. We are more alienated, we are less mature. This causes us a great deal of mental anguish. But I think the answer is going to be more long term than only taking antidepressants.

      In a way this makes things difficult for the clinically depressed also. It trivializes their illness when it is confused with those who are depressed because of circumstances. Others will look at them and say “well when I was depressed…” when those people have no idea what that sort of depression really feels like. Or they will say “yeah well everyone’s depressed” and the clinically depressed is not getting a lot…

    • Char

      It won’t let me edit.

      The last sentence is: the clinically depressed is not getting a lot of sympathy for his very real illness.

    • Chris

      This is a relevant topic as I am taking a month off from ADD/HD medication.

      I didn’t start Adderral until I was 34, but up until then had dipped a can a day of Skoal and drank 3 pots of coffee every day just to feel “normal.” And, by normal, I mean that before the medication, I spent most of my morning feeling like I was underwater, got rollin’ about 11, was good until about 8 and then had a window of time that I could go to bed, and if I didn’t, I was up till 2 am, rinse, repeat.

      I started taking Adderral and all of sudden found I could go to bed around the same time every night (around 11), and get up between 6 and 7 with no ill effects. On top of that, the wake of emotional wreckage that I left for my kids and my wife disappeared as I actually remembered to do the things that I didn’t like to do and did them (still didn’t like it), and took care of a lot of details. For instance, while Sunday mornings are always stressful with 2 young ones in the house, they became much less stressful b/c I was actually up and around and happy to help with the kids rather then dragging myself out of bed 30 minutes before church started.

      One of the myths of ADD/HD kids (and adults) is they aren’t able to focus. That isn’t true, it is actually a type of hyperfocus on one or two things and the rest of it doesn’t matter. This is why ADD/HD causes anger: when pulled from the hyperfocus it feels like getting slapped in the face or having a gallon of cold water poured on your head. Add to that the anger related to forgetting at least one key item a day (including keys), and you have a nice mix for relationship issues or all types.

      I am struggling with whether to go back to the Adderral in October b/c while I see the benefit, I also understand the reluctance to take legal meth every day. BUT, around the same time that the medicine opened up a whole new world of staying on task and being productive, God moved me into a setting where the attention to detail and momentum gathering and keeping momentum are of paramount importance.

      So, I got that going for me.

    • Elizabeth

      I have only read a few of the responses, so if I repeat someone elses point, I am sorry.
      I am a nurse & part of my job for several years included doing depression screens, making recommendations to doctors about antidepressants, requesting reductions of the drugs & monitoring for adverse side effects.
      I think we tend to be either simplistic or excessive in our attitude on this subject. Advertisers/Drug companies flood the air waves with enticing commercials to increase their cash flow. This is part of our economy pure & simple. Other excesses include popping a pill at a whim, considering any type of pain (physical or emotional) as enemy number one.
      However, there are some people who have chemical inbalances & are so depressed they can’t get out of bed in the morning, or face another day. I have worked for years with these people & seen what the judicious use of antidepressants can do. I have never once seen these medicines make them happy-happy-happy. It was never like having a jovial drunk around. It enabled them to think straight & make choices to pursue meaningful occupation & socialization – things that contribute to feelings of well being.
      I think we need to stay in the middle of the road on this (and most) topic. People who use / need antidepressants need those of us who confess faith in Christ to show them love & compassion. Perhaps we could pray for them & help make their heart merrier. Pro 17:22 A merry heart does good like a medicine: but a broken spirit dries the bones.

    • Michael L

      CMP

      The question I am asking (THEOLOGICALLY AND MORALLY) is whether it is right to prescribe meds to people who are dealing with loss, pain, and/or sin (or the effects of sin). Could it be that in doing so we are (from a human perspective) attempting to hold back the hand of God in the lives of these people.

      Good point and I’ll get back to it in a second.

      Elizabeth makes another really good point when she mentioned that I think we tend to be either simplistic or excessive in our attitude on this subject

      So how do these two rhyme together ? Well, I think we are part of a “quick-fix” society. This is definitely more so the case in the US than on any of the other 3 continents I have had the pleasure to experience. I think the prescription problem we see with medication to address depression is the same. And I still would very much like to separate the depression medications from other ones to address other mentail illness (ADD, ADHD, Bipolar, etc…).

      We don’t like depression, just like we don’t like too hot or too cold or hungry or thirsty or any other discomfort. That’s why we have A/C and drive through and Starbucks and Lazy-Boy and widescreens and …. (fill in the blank of your choice).

      So yes, I do agree that there is a tendency to overprescribe these anti-depressants. It is wrong from a theological perspective. It is wrong from a moral perspective. But it is as wrong as any other quick fix solution we like to put forth to any human problem we encounter.

      On the other hand. When was the last time you (or I for that matter, I might just as well fess up) called a fellow Christian who was struggling with a job loss, a personal loss, trouble with his/her kids, etc… And I mean a real sincere phone call or showing up on their door step with a treat or a cake, or just a plain old sappy Hallmark card ? We say Hi on Sunday, we’ll tell them we’ll pray for them, we may even indeed stick to that and honestly pray. But we are uneasy to get out of our comfort zone to just go by, sit down, listen and provide support.

      Only in that Christian climate will we be able to address the prevalent quick-fix attitude. Without it….. the “prescribe on dear doctor” mentality will prevail… people are too alone in trying to deal with stuff.

      What are we doing as Christian brothers and sisters to change this fallen world around us ? Personally… not enough ….

      In Him
      Mick

    • Joe

      1) Much Science Fiction is devoted to the “futuristic” scenario that the whole culture is on drugs – “soma” etc. – to keep the population in line. No doubt it is a problem.

      2) Still to be sure, the birth of psychosomatic drugs, changed Psychiatry for the better, c. 1970. And gave it a powerful new tool.

      3) To be sure, its hard to see how a thinking person could avoid some depression; there seem to be so many logical mistakes out there, ruling our lives. (Those of others, and our own mistakes as well). And there are so many puzzling things in life, that are hard to figure out; so you are often depressed with the difficulty of thought.

      You can’t think, without being depressed.

      4) Probably there’s a optimal balance between unthinking/mindless/drugged happiness, and facing the overwhelming complexity of life.

      5) Theologically? Consider Job, the perhaps “suffering servant.” Who notices a theological problem: the good, the righteous, are not being rewarded with prosperity, as God had promised; instead even a man God himself said was “righteous,” Job, was suffering physical illness, and so forth.

      So what did Job do? Job speaks with many apologists, theologians in effect, that try to come up with a theological explanation. Eventually, some would say (though many disagree here) Job comes up with his own answer. And with his righteousness on better balance, with his new theology, he finds prosperity again. Some might say.

      Maybe the answer is better thinking; better theology.

      6) Indeed, the great disadvantage of drugs, vs. the old “talking cure,” in general, is that drugs do not allow us or encourage us to THINK our problems through.

      7) So that drugs might be best regarded as a temporary quick fix, to problems better solved by … cognition. Thinking.

      8) Or in religion? Better, more sophisticated, theology.

      To be sure, at first scholarly theology just adds to our miseries – by doubting, exploding our first, too simple ideas of God. But eventually, I found, it breaks through.

      But to be sure you have to be prepared to face some suffering, in fact. Cognitive dissonance. Or better: discovering sins and errors, in all that you thought at first, was absolutely holy and true, for example.

      But maybe that is really what Paul suggested: leaving behind the things, the theologies of “child”ren; and becoming “mature.”

      No doubt we all enter the kingdom of God as children; but once we are there, we are supposed to grow up.

    • J.R.

      There is a time to be medicated and a time not to be medicated. If someone displays suicidal tendencies one would hope proper actions (involuntary confinement/meds) would be taken to protect them from themselves.

      No one, including Christians, enjoys being in a state of depression. Our hope, joy, and anticipations of life escape us. We are lonely, sad, and heartbroken; we have moments of doubts, feelings of neglect and of being unloved. When asked “what’s wrong with you” we can’t put our finger on it, we are just sad and depressed.

      I have gone through depression a few times recently, and I assume there are many like me as well. My wife suggested seeing a doctor and getting on antidepressants. This was probably more for her state of mind than mine:-).

      We are created for relationships; a relationship to God; not that He needs it but we do, to our spouse, our family and friends. During the times of seemly insurmountable difficulties including depression, James tells us in chapter 1 vs 2-4 (consider it all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance and let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing). James is saying that this time of testing is a time of completeness and as we endure, it will have its perfect result or perfect work (spiritual maturity lacking in nothing). Placing our faith in our creator, letting Him bring about our future, relying on His omniscience for our good is where God desires us to be; A more complete and satisfying relationship with our creator which is built upon faith, love, hope, and peace.

      I do believe antidepressants are prescribed too quickly now a day. It’s easier to treat the symptoms than the cause. We lack the endurance to persevere through these times of difficulty. We seek a quick and temporary fix through meds. We desire happiness now not later. We neglect to evaluate our life or our situation from a biblical view point. We may never know the “why” of God in our lives during these “dark nights of the soul” but assuredly we will never know if we don’t endure.

      Recently I’ve reflected on the Apostle Paul. How he found contentment in all situations later in his life? I’m sure he had bouts of remorse, feelings of loneliness, and times of inadequacy. But I believe Paul finally came to a point in his life where he knew the measure of his being was not a measure of worldliness or happiness but a measure of his faith, relationship to God, and endurance through faith in various trials. Paul, I believe finally came to a point of perfect peace. He fought the good fight, he finished the race.

      Now if only all of us could come to this level of perfect peace.

      BTW, I did not follow my wife’s suggestion.

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