Is the use of medication to treat cases of depression necessary?
First, I want to make it very clear that the evaluation of a competent health professional is essential. It’s very sad that within Christianity there’s a prejudice against psychiatry and psychology. Unfortunately, these attitudes make it difficult for those who need professional support to seek it. And worse, anyone who doesn’t recognize their ailments, their weaknesses, and their mental jails, will be haunted by them their entire lives. Depression is a serious problem that shouldn’t be seen as something that, if you ignore it, will soon pass. It’s necessary to understand that depression isn’t a “disease of the believer”, but of the human being. It’s also not something that’s just “unpleasant”; it’s debilitating and dangerous. Let’s reflect for a moment.
The role of medicine in treating depression
God created us in His image, as complete individuals. According to the Scriptures, we are made up of a mind, soul, and spirit. This means that we have a biological, emotional, and spiritual nature and each one must be in tune as the body affects the psychological and the psychological affects the body. Have you noticed that when you are sleep deprived your reasoning slows down, your body tends to feel pain, and so on? It makes a lot of sense that unbalanced biological and psychological factors in our body cause diseases.
We are accustomed to medicine as a way to help heal the body. For example, when the body has difficulty producing or absorbing insulin properly (symptoms of diabetes), the doctor will prescribe medications to improve this condition, otherwise, the effects can cause serious damage to the body before the root of the issue is resolved. Likewise, we have medications that help in various ways to fight depression.
The most well-known characteristic of depression is the deep feeling of sadness (not to be confused with temporary sadness, which is normal in human life). Other symptoms are tiredness, pessimism, discouragement, mood swings, and even changes in appetite and weight loss, among others. Part of its treatment is based on healthy habits and therapies, but the use of medication is also essential for the successful fight against this disorder.
Most antidepressants work only to disguise symptoms. They adjust the levels of serotonin or dopamine receptors so that the person doesn’t experience certain levels of sadness, boredom, or despair. They also help to regulate mood, sleep, and appetite. Others work by “anesthetizing” the pain and anxiety that, in some cases, become too much to bear. These medications minimize the symptoms of depression, which then allows for the treatment of the real underlying condition, whatever it may be.
There are some Christians who believe that using any psychiatric medication is a spiritual rejection of Biblical authority. However, Christians who suffer from clinical depression can use medication like any other gift of God’s goodness, as an aid to put their hopes in Him.
Christians, depression, and psychiatric medication
The psychiatrist and writer, Augusto Cury, emphasizes depression as a common disorder among Christians, but which is still a veiled topic that needs to be increasingly addressed within churches. In the religious milieu, this subject is strongly resisted by several myths, like that the Christian should always be happy, joyful, smiling, and other synonyms. We forget that the Bible reports several moments of deep sadness in the life of its characters. King David, the prophet Elijah, the evangelist Paul, the widow Naomi, all went through moments of strong anguish for different reasons and were recorded so that today we have the hope that our problems will be cured by God.
Some think that relying on medication is a weakness in faith. Others confuse antidepressants with opioids and fear becoming addicted. No medicine has the power to erase the dirt from our hearts. But, in His long-suffering love and in His mercy towards us, God presented us with medical science as a means of common goodness. Under the right circumstances, when used carefully in conjunction with counseling and spiritual discipline, antidepressants can slowly lead us into the daylight. We must never rely solely on medicines, nor should we condemn those who use them.
Healing progresses slowly and gradually. There is no magic formula that can stop this dysfunction overnight. Full dedication is necessary, seeking to improve a little every day. The use of antidepressants prepares for the hard work involved in recovery. Although they can improve part of the symptoms, full recovery also requires social support, better habits, and, above all, a walk with Christ that is essential to getting through the storm.
When we kneel before God in humble supplication and give Him our burdens, He draws close to us (Psalm 34:18). In heaven, there will be no sickness (Revelation 21:4). In the meantime, we can take comfort in the fact that Christ also walked in darkness. He also endured severe suffering, not because of a troubled brain, but willingly, for our sake, with abundant love for us (John 3:16). And it is in this truth that we rest. Even when clouds darken our days, the promise is that light cometh in the morning.