Why Your Pills Aren't Solving Your Problems [BLOG]
25% of Americans saw a Mental Health Professional sometime in the last year.
Let that sink in.
As a part of the How to Have a Clear Conscience series, I wanted to address several enormous issues facing people in today’s world and particularly in the United States. In many ways, this post is about Behavioral Medication or Psychotropic Drugs, Depression, Maladies, Mental Health– and the fields serving people with these types of challenges: Counselors, Therapists, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Pastors, Sociologists, Physicians, Pharmacists, and others.
The fact is, lots of people in our world are hurting and we wanted to stand up and take notice. This is especially important because we want to help people grow in their faith and relationship with God, and sometimes depression and related issues negatively affect a person’s discipleship.
Regarding the ministry of Podcast Seminary, my primary concern is very simple: I want people to be Happy, Healthy, Whole, and Holy.
I want people to find themselves.
I want people to come to terms with themselves.
I want people to be at peace.
But we live in a culture where people are manifesting tremendous problems related to the Modern World and all the challenges of living in it.
I believe that when we take the external challenges people are facing, and add them to what is going on INSIDE of us, that sometimes creates a toxic mix that crushes people– leading to some of the enormous problems we see today. And these things are keeping people from being all God made them to be. That’s what led me to spend a little time talking about that in a recent Facebook LIVE session
Join the Hundreds of Others Who Watched My Video Teaching On This Topic (40 minute discussion)
The August 2017 issue of Time Magazine speaks about the problem of Depression.
That’s at least part of what I’m addressing here, but not all I’d like to address. I want to use the problem of depression as my starting point, however, so we can use it as a spring board into a larger discussion.
According to Time’s lead article, 16 Million Americans are afflicted by Depression. But– wait for it– One-third of them don’t respond to treatment!!
In Feb 2015, the Center for Disease Control, a US Government service, reported that about 25% of All American Adults (18-65) had seen a therapist in the last 12 months. Let that sink in.
1/4 of Americans are under some regular or irregular PROFESSIONAL mental health care. That’s a significant percentage of people.
The report, available on the CDC website, reports that the OLDER PEOPLE GET, the more likely they are to need to see a Mental Health Professional– to the tune of 1/3 of median and older adults, according to Mandy Oaklander in the Hope from a Strange Source article being mentioned (Time, August 2017)/
Because of the trouble of understanding the complexity of human behavior and the brain, the first antidepressants were introduced only 60 years ago. Clinical Depression– something that should be understood as a serious and significant degree of depression, and not just “feeling bad” occasionally– again, an actual mental health condition, affects a full 6.7% of Americans, nearly 7% of Americans. That’s some 16 million people–not including other people internationally! And that DOES NOT include children and teens.
And believe it or not, depression is the leading cause of disability in the world today.
Depression is like a spider web, and many physical and mental illnesses are related to it.
People may not realize that ANXIETY, PTSD, MIGRAINE HEADACHES, SLEEP DISORDERS, and other issues are sometimes related to depression. Ironically, there hasn’t been a major depression drug breakthrough in the last 30 years, though lots of research has been continuing.
The sad thing is that depression gets the best of some people. In the U.S., suicide is at its highest number in 30 years. And because the situation is so acute, experts agree that patients must get help and they need it more quickly.
As for drugs, it takes up to 4-8 weeks for antidepressants to kick in. And, what’s worse is that 30% of people struggling with depression don’t respond to current treatment options.
As a result, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, sociologists, physicians, ministers, and others– all of them are frantically trying to figure out what to do as people continue to suffer so profoundly.
The Evolving Understanding of Depression and Related Maladies
Interestingly, doctors have always understood that depression wasn’t just sadness or feeling the blues. Very early on with the ancient physician Hippocrates, 500 B.C., he thought depression had something to do with a bodily fluid imbalance, called Black Bile– from the spleen. Though he was wrong about that, he at least understood that depression was a condition of some sort.
Later, in the Middle Ages, depression was believed to be exclusively a spiritual disease, and possibly even demonic depression. (Though there were some crazy things done to people back then, it’s important to keep in mind that depression SOMETIMES DOES, perhaps OFTEN DOES, have something to do with the spiritual dimension of our lives.)
Later, in the years leading up to the Enlightenment, in the 1600s, the idea came that depression is actually rooted in the BRAIN. But many not-so-great things were done in the name of science early on that were very troubling to us today– things that included electro-convulsive therapy (can you say SHOCK TREATMENTS?), and other types of fixes.
Now, fast forward to the last 30 years. Finally, in 1987 Eli Lilly released a drug based on brain research, and that gave us Prozac and other knock off drugs like it.
The fact is that, despite all this research and thought, psychiatrists have actually said they “have no idea” why, after decades of studying psychotropic drugs and treating people, some people get better, and why such a large percentage do not.
Encouragement for The Large Number of People Not Helped by Medication
Let me give encouragement for The 30% of people Not helped by medication. If your medication is messing you up… or if your drugs aren’t getting the job done– then in consultation with your doctor or therapist, I suggest trying something else… or at least adding to what you’re doing.
Here’s a fact: NOT ALL MENTAL PROBLEMS ARE TREATABLE BY DRUGS.
Sometimes the problem isn’t MENTAL but is more accurately, “Psychological,” if I can make that distinction. Keep reading.
In other words, sometimes depression isn’t rooted in your BRAIN (MENTAL) but in your PSYCHE (MIND). Meaning, sometimes depression is psychological (Meaning in your SOUL).
Don’t miss this: If your depression is not due to your BRAIN– then MEDICAL TREATMENTS TO THE BODY WON’T FIX YOUR PROBLEM– SINCE YOU CAN’T TREAT SPIRITUAL PROBLEMS WITH PHYSICAL REMEDIES. DOES THAT MAKE SENSE?
Let me say it again– you can’t treat spiritual problems with physical remedies. That’s why SOME– up to 30% we think, of people don’t respond to their medications. And that is why I think that sometimes Your Pills aren’t Solving Your Problems.
Non-Drug-Related Solutions to Depression
Now, let’s go to some non-drug solutions suggested by researchers as reported by Time’s Mandy Oaklander, then I’ll go deeper into the spiritual issue.
What are some possible non-drug-related solutions science gives us– for those who aren’t being helped by powerful psychotropic drugs?
1. Exercise— it’s one of the most studied approaches to treating depression, and it helps a lot of people. And it’s free.
2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy— meaning, thinking and behaving differently, where you talk to a counselor or therapist– often 10 to 20 sessions, where you learn techniques of changing negative thought patterns. My opinion on this is that these work for many people– and yet sometimes, they don’t. We want more than “coping” skills, so if Cognitive Behavioral Therapy doesn’t work, keep trying other things.
3) Behavioral Activation Therapy– Another non-drug related treatment is Behavioral Activation therapy- where you take up new behaviors and activities to replace behavior with negative thinking.
4) Mindfulness Training– A fourth major treatment is what’s called “Mindfulness training.” This involves things like daily meditation and yoga.
Let me add to that something that’s more important than mere meditation, and that’s PRAYER.
Meditation is THINKING, while PRAYER is TALKING to God and asking for His Help. So don’t miss that and don’t neglect it. Meditation can help if the problem can be solved by you, but if you can’t solve it within yourself, then you need God’s help.
Understanding Human Nature: A Key To Understanding Some Depression
Now let me take you deep, deep, DEEPER into a critical area of understanding in the topic of depression.
I personally believe that the reason that SOME (note that I am saying SOME, not all, but SOME) treatment for depression, and other maladies that may be related to depression– again, insomnia-sleeplessness, PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, and so on, the reason I think those may not respond to medication is because they aren’t all “medical” issues.
Some problems we face aren’t physical but spiritual.
If you try to solve spiritual issues in the soul with medical solutions in the body, they won’t be effective, and they can cause more harm than good. Just like if you try to solve medical problems in the body with spiritual solutions alone.
Sometimes you need to take an aspirin IN ADDITION TO PRAYING that God would relieve your headache.
But what I mean here is that, some of us may be looking for medical solutions to spiritual problems. Let me teach you a little about human nature– and this is where Christian educators sometimes differ from other fields of study.
Here’s where you need your thinking cap.
People’s Worldview Impacts Their View of Human Nature and of Treatment for Depression
Many in the Behavioral Fields (secular-behavioral-and some Humanistic psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, therapysts, physicians, etc.) hold a view of human nature that is at odds with scripture, and this is why I think some of their treatments miss the point.
A Secular View of Human Nature- And Its Short-Sightedness
There is an entire field out there that rejects the idea that human nature (how humans are composed) has any type of soul. Some believe we are nothing more than physical bodies… or matter. They are materialists or Physicalists, as the case may be. If you believe as a therapyst or psychiatrist that the only thing that exists is the physical body, then you will treat depression and other maladies as if the only solution is PHYSICAL.
Accordingly, if you believe the human person is nothing more than MATTER and that matter is human flesh made of (a) chemicals and (b) electrical impulses– how will you try to treat such problems? With other chemicals and sometimes electrical impulses. That is what has led to the behavioral community’s production of chemical medications as the primary, and in some cases, only treatment for behavioral issues, depression, and the like.
Does that make sense?
In other words, if the brain is chemicals– then you treat it with chemicals to fix the chemical imbalance in the brain. And in large part– “with regard to the brain and truly brain-related issues,” I agree. But if some medical and counseling professionals assume that “there is no soul” and there are no “inner states” (viz., no conscience, no soul, no real “mind”), then their only treatment option becomes brain-and-not-mind-related treatments– which are largely medications (chemical).
But that’s where SOME– SOME– NOT ALL– in the field of psychiatry and psychology go off the rails.
The Biblical View of Human Nature
Christian educators take their view of human nature from scripture, because we believe God made the body… but that God also made the entire human person.
Podcast Seminary thinks this is important for you to understand. So, let’s go into a little theology.
The Bible teaches that human nature, people, are body, soul and spirit. (1 Thess 5:23). That means the Bible teaches that God made people with BOTH a BODY (chemicals, matter, electrical impulses) AND a SOUL. We are PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL. So human nature is body, soul, and spirit.
The body is FLESH. The body includes the PHYSICAL BRAIN.
But the soul is not physical. It is not corporeal. It is not material. The soul is, if you please, for lack of a more precise word, “spirit.”
The soul is immaterial. It is not physical. It is not chemical. The human psyche (your mind, emotions, and deliberative choices or “will”) is not matter. Therefore [don’t miss this], the Soul, the Bible teaches, includes the mind, and your emotions, and your will. And these influence and largely regulate our ability to choose, and how our conscience interacts with us. And that’s what we’re studying the human conscience in Podcast Seminary in a very special series at the time of publishing this post.
The Brain and Mind Aren’t the Same Thing
YOUR MIND is a part of your soul. Your BRAIN is a part of your body. Your BRAIN and your MIND are not the same thing.
Your Brain is physical. Your Mind is not.
If the problems you have are caused by problems in your BRAIN, then they are PHYSICAL and can be treated by CHEMICALS or some other cognitive and behavioral techniques.
If your problems are ROOTED IN, caused by, or related to your SOUL– then they are not happening in your BRAIN, but in your MIND. And since the MIND is soul or spirit– you can’t treat SPIRIT with CHEMICALS. The Spirit has to deal with God.
The spirit or soul has to be fixed by spiritual means because it has spiritual causes. So if you have a troubled mind, start with spiritual solutions and work outward toward other behavioral and chemical solutions. If you’ve already tried medications and they haven’t worked… My guess is that the problem is likely something in your soul. That means your issues and problems might be caused by something wrong in your relationship with God.
Relationships Can Also Be Affected By a Wrong Understanding of Human Nature
In addition, in the event that you have “relational” problems– interpersonal problems with others, it’s important to understand that, to the extent the other person approaches the problem the right or wrong way, that too will affect you. So when we (or others) in relationships approach their personal problems or other issues the wrong way, that can affect our relationships. That’s just another reason to get this right.
An Appeal to Take the Bible Seriously About Human Nature and Human Problems
Medication can’t fix the soul– if that’s what’s wrong with us. Medication can’t fix the mind– if that’s what’s wrong with us. Medication can’t ease the conscience– if that’s what’s wrong with us. And medicine can’t solve spiritual problems. In those cases, medication can only mask the real problem and its root causes, and simply dope you up. Ironically, that places you farther than ever from a real solution to your problems.
Our Advice: Start with Your Soul
If you have legitimate problems with depression or other issues that are rooted in the Body and Brain, seek medical help. Then you should even seek psychiatric help if and when needed. But my advice is to START with your SOUL. The brain is a delicate instrument and mind-and-mood-altering drugs are very powerful. They often have profound side-effects. It’s best to look INSIDE your soul before INSIDE your body. More often than not, our bodies are functioning as God intended. The soul is *much more* susceptible to malfunction because we live from our hearts (as writer and brilliant spiritual formation author Dallas Willard said).
If you have depression or other issues rooted in the SOUL and SPIRIT, you might seek nouthetic (biblical) counseling or a solid, biblical Christian counselor. You may want to, if needed, consider other therapeutic help where a solid Christian counselor integrates scriptural truth with helpful integrative counseling and other techniques, and even ultimately medication. But don’t medicate first. And never over medicate.
Most importantly, SEEK SPIRITUAL HELP. SEEK GOD. Seek God’s help.
And that’s my challenge to you IF YOUR PILLS AREN’T SOLVING YOUR PROBLEMS… If you feel like you’ve tried everything else– try God. Try God first, not last. If you’ve tried medication for the body and that didn’t work, try medication for the soul.
God can help.
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