Coping with Depression in the Church with Matt Rogers – Part V
“THE MEDICATION DEBATE”
Most doctors and counselors will tell you that the best treatment for major depression is usually a combination of psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medication. So why do so many people resist the use of antidepressants? The objections range from the rational (though misinformed) to the outright absurd. Let’s look at a few of these and see if we can resolve the hesitation people feel over medical treatment for depression.
“I don’t like the idea of putting chemicals in my brain.”
I tried this line on my doctor, to which he wisely replied, “But Matt, that’s where the problem is.” And those “chemicals” are not a witch’s brew. They’re a tested and proven aid for the neurotransmitters in our brains. More on that later.
“But what if the problem is spiritual, not mental (or physical)?”
This is a false either/or. We are both physical and spiritual beings, and whatever we feel, we feel in the body. Even if your depression has a spiritual component to it, the problem is playing out in the very physical synapses in your brain.
“I don’t want to be dependant on drugs.”
The truth is we’re all dependant on the same neurotransmitters—serotonin is one—for feelings of peace and wellbeing. Some people’s brains produce enough naturally to help them through difficult times in life. Some people’s brains do not, and, therefore, need a little help.
“If I were a real man, I wouldn’t need medication.”
Many, if not most, guys needing or taking medication battle this thought. But what is more masculine: wallowing in a problem you can’t solve on your own, or tackling the problem by all good means available to you, including medical treatment?
“Medication is the easy way out. You can feel better without facing your problems.”
This is sheer crazy talk. Medication is not a medically sanctioned avoidance of life’s problems. Quite the opposite, actually. Medication usually helps depressed people confront their problems, whereas before they couldn’t think clearly enough to do so. Once the mind is free of its fog, then psychotherapy can do its work. Remember, it’s medication plus therapy that most professionals recommend.
“We should trust God for our joy, not medication.”
Antidepressants do not produce joy. They cannot. That’s not how they work. Medication can, however, create space for joy. Depression results from the depletion of neurotransmitters in the brain that make joy possible. Until that problem is resolved, appeals to faith will do little more than further frustrated victims of depression.
There is not space or time enough here to fully answer all the objections to taking antidepressants. But trust me. I’ve heard them all by now, and none hold a lot of water. I personally spent ten years trying to reason my way out of needing medication. In the end, I only prolonged my pain and delayed the inevitable. Finally, last year (after my book on depression was already off to the printers), I saw a doctor during a serious and lengthy downturn in my mood. The doctor confirmed what others had been telling me for a decade: I needed medication.
Why did I, and why do so many, fight so hard against mediation, opting instead to believe objections that hold little to no water?
|Matt Rogers is co-pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship [nlcf] at Virginia Tech. He is the author of When Answers Aren’t Enough: Experiencing God as Good When Life Isn’t (Zondervan, 2008) and Losing God: Clinging to Faith Through Doubt and Depression (InterVarsity, 2008). Learn more about his writings and his blog at his website.|