As we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, some of you may not know that he suffered with depression. According to a Time Magazine article back in the 1960s, Dr. King attempted suicide before the age of 13 when his grandmother was ill and again after her death. During […]
One of the most common questions I am asked has to do with taking an antidepressant for depression. People wonder if it is wrong for a person of faith to rely on medication.
Before I answer, we need to be careful not to judge people as to why they take medication. There are many reasons people may need an antidepressant. For example, depression can be a secondary effect of a disease like cancer, heart disease, or other syndromes and disorders. When depression is medically induced, it often takes a medical solution to correct the biological changes that result from the disease. Also, depression can be a side effect of taking certain medications like beta blockers, corticosteroids, stimulants and more. And there are people more genetically prone to depression due to their genetic make-up. This doesn’t mean depression is automatic, but it may mean that as life circumstances pile up, depression can result.
Antidepressants are useful for depression treatment. Their use is usually determined by the cause of the depression and the response to other types of treatment. For example, people with bipolar depression usually need to be on a mood stabilizer in order to control mania and psychosis. This type of depression is treated with medication as a first line treatment. Other types of depression, like major depressive disorders, persistent depression, etc., need a focus on the root of the depression and what it takes to keep a person safe and functioning. Medication is often necessary. Sometimes it is life saving.
The choice isn’t between medication or faith. Both can work together. We know God is our ultimate healer and we pray for healing. Taking an antidepressant is not a lack of faith any more than taking insulin for diabetes is a lack of faith. God works through modern medicine to heal and stabilize people.
One of the benefits of using a medication is that it sometimes improves mood enough for people to revitalize their spiritual lives. Antidepressants don’t replace spirituality, but can be an agent towards better functioning again. And because medications treat symptoms, you still have to work on the causes of clinical depression.
An important step in healing is to build faith through the Word of God. Claim God’s promises for a sound mind and peace. Stand on the Word no matter how you feel. Continue to renew your mind. If you find you need medication along the way, you haven’t let God down. Use what you need.
Finally, be willing to explore all aspects of the depression. For example, are you holding on to anger and hurt, are you getting sleep or running yourself in the ground, do you think negatively about most situations, do you need to change your behavior and thinking? Lifestyle changes and talk therapy are powerful in terms of depression treatment.
Medications should not be used to avoid parts of life in need of change. But they are an aid that is sometimes necessary given the multiple causes of depression. There is no shame in taking an antidepressant to feel better. Always ask your prescriber about the safety, side effects and benefits to risks for you. Once you are informed, you can make a decision just like any other type of medical treatment. And as you would with all other medical treatments, pray for discernment. Use the treatments available to treat your disorder if those will help.