Christians and Anti-Depressants

Discussion in 'Spiritual Warfare' started by De Jager, Jun 30, 2018.

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  1. De Jager

    De Jager Puritan Board Freshman

    Good morning,

    I am on an anti-depressant right now (its an SSRI) for anxiety/depression/ocd symptoms. I have been on it for about 2 years. I have not noticed a marked difference in my disposition or demeanor under this drug but have noticed a reduced frequency of 'crisis' moments.

    I began to take the medication after I saw a psychiatrist (not a Christian), spoke with my father (a pharmacist, and a Christian) and my pastor. They all agreed that the drug, in combination with some behavioural therapy would be beneficial in combatting my issues.

    I am aware that in the brain the physical and spiritual intersect, and this calls for much caution and discernment. I have heard that depression itself can be influenced by your spiritual life, and vice versa. It is a complex issue.

    I am wondering about your opinions on Christians taking anti-depressants. I am sure that many people would say that I am not relying on God. Or they would be suspicious of a secular psychiatrist like the one I saw (I am/was suspicious/cautious as well). I am not looking to be affirmed here, but rather if anyone could shed some light on this subject, bringing biblical wisdom and comments it would be much appreciated.


  2. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    I don't really know exactly how ocd/anxiety/depression work, and I'm sure everyone is different, but I had them severely bad around ten years ago. I never saw a doctor and was never put on medicine. The only thing I do know, is that when I became a Christian, I was radically changed, and those issues slowly started to became less and less, as my mind and way of living became renewed. I still deal with some of those tendencies, but nowhere near what I once did. Sometimes I have feelings I can do nothing about, almost like it's chemical related, but with the truth, self control, and sound thinking, they naturally just pass.

    I'm sorry I don't know about the medicines.
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I generally do not favor them. I worked as a counselor and psych nurse on a closed psych ward for a number of years.

    SSRI meds are advertised as safe, but they have long-term side-effects.

    I think the bible would allow them on principle as the bible allows other medicines...if they worked. We are bodies and souls and sometimes our chemicals do not work right. But many do not work well and have risks. I would avoid them if possible.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
  4. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Our minds and bodies are fallen. Taking any kind of medicine can ameliorate the effects of the fall and be a real mercy.

    It sounds like you have been extremely responsible in seeking the counsel of those who have a responsibility for you.
    Your father and pastor know you, know your strengths and weaknesses, and would be the first to guide you if you were pursuing an unwise solution.

    The other person who could help would be your family doctor. A physical could rule out any number of conditions that could contribute to your situation.

    Have you read Richard Sibb's exposition on Isaiah 42:3? We can find great comfort in God's goodness and mercy toward us.
  5. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable


    Here is a good read by Welch (from a Reformed perspective) on the topic:

    Also attached is a recent thought-provoking article that crossed my desk last evening, first in a series to come with more insights. The article also has insights related to the book above.

    Attached Files:

  6. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I am on anxiety pills. I used to think all were just a type of anti-depressants. So I called them "my happy pills." My wife had to explain the difference to me.

    I used to take Zoloft. It was worse than useless. My anxiety medicine seems to help, though.
  7. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    I love some beautiful people with severe, reality complicating OCD who have benefited from SSRI's. This book did a fairly good job when I was trying to understand what they face and how it is treated from a Christian perspective:

    At times my friends have discontinued medication either from some idea that it was not very spiritual to be on it or in fear of long term side effects -- sometimes for spaces of months or years. Even though they have used natural products during those times, I have been deeply grateful when they have gone back on the medication because of the marked difference it makes. They will always battle the illness but as you mentioned, the crises are noticeably less. I think that where medicine makes this difference it becomes a matter of love to take it. Love to the people who weep with us when we weep and laugh when we do.

    I have not noticed this hindering their love for Christ, others, ability to think deeply and be creative, growth in grace. One friend who will probably always need to take medicine is one of the richest people I know in all those areas. Not having to battle constant crises has helped with all those things.

    I was put on an SNRI recently for fibromyalgia and associated issues (sleeplessness, anxiety). I have not found it to help with either sleep or anxiety, but I'm also only able to tolerate 1/6 of the dosage I was put on. What I have found it to significantly help with, which I didn't even consider in taking it, is pain.

    I do believe these should be taken with prayer, and with care and supervision of medical or counseling personnel and with involvement and feedback from loved ones. Wrong medications and wrong dosages get prescribed, and there are spiritual aspects that no mere medication can address. But that such medications are one of the major advances of modern medicine for illness that affects our minds, I have no doubt. And that God cares for the physical aspect of our needs even when we are also spiritually out of sorts is clear from the way he dealt with Elijah, 1 Kings 19.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
  8. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Anyone who makes that argument is being foolish. You may as well say that taking medication per se means that you are not relying on God. We look to God to grant us healing, but, not being fatalists, we use the means that he has providentially provided as a means to that end.

    For what it is worth, though, I am of the opinion that anti-depressants only work in cases of mild to moderate depression. In a case of severe depression, it is my experience that they are not of any real help.
  9. Nathan A. Hughes

    Nathan A. Hughes Puritan Board Freshman

    I am currently on medication for OCD and depression myself. I take the same pills for other things also. The issue with depending on a pill to make us feel better is not good for the believer. We ought to trust in God. A lot of our anxiety is deeply rooted in fear. We have a lot to fear in this world, but God will keep us. I believe that some people who use pills to make them feel better are not really dealing with the issues of indwelling sin. I am preaching to myself here just as much as others. There is nothing sinful or wrong about taking pills to treat illness or physical issues but we should not depend on them. If we depend on a drug or pill to make us feel good then that could become an idol. I don't want anyone to misunderstand me. I am merely saying that pills can help if there is something physical wrong with us but spiritual issues such as fear are dealt with via prayer and a right relationship with the living God.
  10. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    I think so much depends variable factors, including the cause of depression? Spiritual causes can take a severe form -- but some severe cases of clinical depression have at times (and in my circle of friends) been helped by medication, though more drastic measures have also been used at times, like shock therapy etc. (Which sounds so terrible, but this author who has received it speaks of it as beneficial to him in a severe physiologically caused depression:

    Medicine is not our hope. It does often fail us even in its own proper sphere of treatment. We hope in God. But I think we should still encourage that people with severe depression seek good medical care, along with good pastoral care & Christian counseling.

    [editing just to clarify that by a 'spiritual' cause of depression, I don't necessarily mean sin, but all that wounds the spirit.]
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
  11. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    My late wife was bipolar, and the medication she took for that condition helped her tremendously. She was able to function normally just about all the time. One psychiatrist we talked to told us that he is convinced that many, if not most, of the issues that people term "mental illnesses" will turn out to be organically caused in the brain. It's possible to have a broken brain, just like it's possible to have a broken arm.

    If the medicine is helping, stay on it, even if occasional adjustments need to made regarding dosage. God has given us medicine for a reason.
  12. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I am depressed right now. Due to bad health (tooth abscess that ruined my immunity and malaria that keeps hanging on) and deaths in the village (mostly young children from preventable causes). I cannot sleep because I ruminate on the problems here and grieve.

    I take a benadryl for sleep but would not consider antidepressants because the depression is a direct result of the illness and situation in my tribal context. If I change those things, then my thoughts would lighten up. In the past (not sure if they still do) they would categorize depression as Exogenous or Endogenous, exogenous coming from outside sources (a tragedy, etc) and endogenous (coming from internal reasons such as a longstanding chemical imbalance). I would not recommend antidepressants for exogenous depression.

    Also, I don't want any side-effects.

    Here is a link about "Discontinuation Syndrome" - many folks simply cannot get off the meds:

    And I think I might be somewhat depressed than apathetic and indifferent and numb feeling:

    And 30% of SSRI users complain of sexual dysfunction due to the meds (and a good love/sex life should be one of the major joys in life lifting you out of depression):

    And then there are the "Brain zaps" -

    Finally, I have read studies on how our thinking changes our brain chemistry. We usually think the opposite and believe our brain chemistry impacts our thinking. But studies show that, for example, p0rn use "rewires" the brain and changes the way the neurons fire. And good or bad thoughts before bed do the same. The ways that you think form mental ruts like an old farm road where your tires of thoughts seem to drift towards if not careful. So those New-Agey types who are talking about the power of positive thinking are partly right.

    Also, light, music, quiet, good smells, good exercise, good food, good nutrients, good friends, good loving from your spouse, can all help elevate the mood and change your body chemicals, whereas some antidepressants suppress some of these natural drives.

    I know that there are legit reasons for some to take meds. But I do believe them to be way too over-used, especially among the young.

    If you've got a bad back, you can wear a back brace for a little while, but the long-term solution is to strengthen the back. I think some are wearing back braces (taking meds) when their backs could be strengthened, instead (by trying to rewire the brain naturally). I do have sympathy for those who feel they need meds. But I am more suspicious of the side-effects of many of those meds.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2018
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  13. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    I will be praying for you, Perg.

    Depression haunts me daily for many reasons (wife's long-term illnesses, financial needs, societal upheavals, unanswered prayer, and so much more).

    Having witnessed the effects of SSRI's up close and personal in my dear wife's case, I have never considered them as an option for myself. Like an athlete who is finely attuned to his body, the same applies for me and my mind. It is about the only real gift I have been given by the Lord. I resist any medications that impact that gift. I continue to trust in the Lord to share in His abundance with me, even when things are quite bleak (like now).

    At the risk of too much sharing, but in hopes of it being of use to some others, I will share something that could be the making of a good short story, entitled, "A Funny Thing Happened to Me on the Way to Ending it All".

    In one of my periods of deep despair, I was creating an email to be sent to some folks in the future, using, that was basically an explanation of my upcoming planned demise. Oh, how eloquent and full of myself was I in that letter being created at the web site to be delivered marking the one-year anniversary of my departure. [​IMG]

    About three-quarters of the way into my crafting and editing, my Windows computer BSODed ("bee-sod"—Blue Screen of Death, i.e., a major crash) and I lost all of my waxing eloquent content displaying how sorry I felt for myself.

    Now, being an engineering PhD—quite the technical guru that maintains my computer systems very effectively—I knew this BSOD was something that had not happened to me in at least the past ten years or so.

    So what was I to make of this startling interruption in my plans? Clearly, to me at least, the event was some providential working of God ("No! Stop what you are doing and planning!"). The event immediately snapped me out of my despair and obviously, I remain here present and accounted for.

    I suspect that SSRI's would have lulled me into not thinking clearly about the events that transpired. I also suspect I would likely have just restarted my goodbye treatise and never given the BSOD another thought. Thanks be to God, I had the presence of mind to stop and seriously consider what had happened.

    Naturally, I am not advocating that there is no place for these sort of medications. I know how they have helped those with pyschoses, like my wife and my brother who was bi-polar, yet eventually died homeless on a street corner. But depression can take on many forms that are quite removed from psychotic episodes that plague others and therein SSRIs, etc., provide a vital role.
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  14. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Wow! What an extraordinary providence. I think you really should write this episode out as a short testimony, I am sure it would bless many others.
  15. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Patrick I'm so very glad God spared you to all of us.

    Pergy -- that distinction between exogenous and endogenous is what I was groping after. I read that Hugh Martin, who wrote so sweetly and brilliantly about Christ's work and presence, died with a mental illness. I know we can't cure everything of that sort now but it seems likely on the 'endogenous' side. Reading John Newton's letters I was impressed with how regular a thing it was for strong Christians to be admitted to Bedlam (I think his adopted daughter had to be there for awhile). It seemed a frequent aspect of life, along with death from things we can treat easily now.

    My concern in commenting has been that often when we are conscientious or troubled and most need a certain kind of help, we are most easily discouraged from seeking it. Where anti-depressants are really helpful -- discouragement from taking them can add years of heartache to very heavy situations. And there are those I loved who would not try or take them and are no longer here.

    -- Incidentally I experienced brain zap with the first dosage of the SNRI. I'm sure it's a case by case thing that needs to be evaluated with care. For me it was way less significant than other physical pain I have regularly that the SNRI (at 1/6 prescribed dosage) has helped with. & it's clarified my foggy brain symptoms in some measurable ways, as I've seen also with loved ones.

    I am so sad to think of the children who have died and of how you carry the grief. I think of many lives you've been given grace to spare and ameliorate and see God's love. In his own days of healing here -- Lazarus (preventably -- this was his sisters' lament) died, and Jesus wept. Though Mary and Martha could not have understood before resurrection, He allowed that death in His love, and to more greatly show His glory. In heaven, our efforts are not valued based on outcomes or effectiveness which is in God's hands. I am sorry if these words are clumsy. I will pray for you and others who've commented.
  16. Grant Jones

    Grant Jones Puritan Board Junior

    Modern medicine is a gift from the Lord! BUT....Just like other things cars, phones, sex, and of course good ole Toby :detective: they can all be abused and idolized.

    If you need the meds take them but make sure you get Godly counsel if they can be addictive and have someone to hold you accountable and who is not afraid to call out sin. If the doctors say you may need the meds....Use it....don’t abuse it.... and don’t let it be a substitute for prayer and time in meditation on the Word!
  17. LilyG

    LilyG Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't know a whole lot about SSRI's (or SNRI's), but I know a few saints to whom they have been of great help.

    And joining others, having gone through a recent season myself, you are certainly not alone!
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2018
  18. Ben Mordecai

    Ben Mordecai Puritan Board Freshman

    When considering the intersection of a person's health and their sins, here is the way I think about it:

    If you get angry when you are hungry and you sin when you are angry, then from the standpoint of "lead us not into temptation" you should try to avoid putting yourself in a position where you are tempted to anger. At the same time, the root cause of your temptation to sin in your anger is that you have indwelling sin being fallen in Adam, not because there is a biological factor in being hungry that makes you sin. The true answer to your sin is to walk by the Spirit and you can learn to be hungry, angry, and not sin. Still, it is foolish to deliberately put yourself in a position of temptation when you have the opportunity not to be.

    This creates a balanced position when thinking generally about circumstances and dispositions. No one can say, "I have alcoholic genes" and excuse the sin of drunkenness. Nevertheless, a person with a family history of alcoholism can inform their relationship to alcohol to be extra discerning about how to avoid the sin of drunkenness.

    So bringing this back around to mental health, depression, and anxiety, these are all factors that can exasperate temptations to sin in people. There is a way for you to not yield to sin without drugs. Still, anything that can be done to manage those disorders will only help by leading you away from more situations where you are tempted.

    Now, the big question that you have to answer for yourself and with the help of a medical expert is whether or not the prescribed treatments are helpful. This is not really a spiritual question.
  19. ccravens

    ccravens Puritan Board Freshman

    A few differences need to be kept in mind here concerning depression and anxiety and the advice you are receiving.

    1. The difference between situational and clinical/genetic depression. In the case of situational depression, I would agree with many of the posters who have counseled against medicine, and promoted depending on the Lord. In the case of clinical depression, I would not agree with that advice. In that case medicine, or even ECT treatments can and have helped many.

    2, The difference between the spiritual and the psychological. M. Lloyd-Jones has a good sermon that mentions this. Satan will try to convince you that you have a spiritual problem, when it is in fact a psychological illness you were born with, often passed down through genetics (if it is not situational depression, of course). Poet William Cowper is a perfect example of this.
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