As a biblical counselor, I get calls every week from people who want counseling for depression and other “mental illnesses.” Most of these people already have been through some other form of counseling and are usually taking psychotropic medication (drugs that act on the mind). The world and its “experts” tell us that depression is an illness, a sickness that can be treated only by a “qualified expert.” The DSM-IV classifies depression as a mental illness. Various organizations and web sites on depression concur. Consider the following quotes:
Depression.com states, “Depression is not something you can just ‘snap out of.’ It’s caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals, along with other factors. Like any serious medical condition, depression needs to be treated.”
“Depression has no single cause; often, it results from a combination of things. . . . Whatever its cause, depression is not just a state of mind. It is related to physical changes in the brain, and connected to an imbalance of a type of chemical that carries signals in your brain and nerves.” 2
The National Institute of Mental Health says, “Some types of depression run in families, suggesting that a biological vulnerability can be inherited….
In some families, major depression also seems to occur generation after generation. However, it can also occur in people who have no family history of depression. Whether inherited or not, major depressive disorder is often associated with changes in brain structures or brain function. People who have low self-esteem, who consistently view themselves and the world with pessimism or who are readily overwhelmed by stress, are prone to depression. Whether this represents a psychological predisposition or an early form of the illness is not clear.” 3
“The causes of clinical depression are likely to be different for different people.” 4
“Today, we are able to treat depression much more effectively because we have a better understanding of the causes of clinical depression. Many people begin to feel depressed as the result of some recent, notable event or events, which occurred in one’s life. We also know that family history and genetics play a part in the greater likelihood of someone becoming depressed in their lifetime. Increased stress and inadequate coping mechanisms to deal with that stress may also contribute to depression. We know that there are biological and psychological components to every depression; it is not a purely biochemical or medical disorder.”5
Not all quotes are stated as conclusively. Clinical psychologist Bruce Levine writes, “No biochemical, neurological, or genetic markers have been found for attention deficit disorder, depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, compulsive alcohol or drug abuse, overeating, gambling, or any other so called mental illness, disease, or disorder.” 6
Elliot Valenstein, University of Michigan neuroscientist, writes, “Contrary to what is often claimed, no biochemical, anatomical, or functional signs have been found that reliably distinguish the brains of mental patients.” 7
Joseph Glenmullen, M.D., clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says, “A serotonin deficiency for depression has not been found. . . . Still, patients are often given the impression that a definitive serotonin deficiency in depression is firmly established.” 8
Maurice Victor, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Neurology at Dartmouth Medical School; and Allan H. Ropper, M.D., Professor and Chairman of Neurology at Tufts University School of Medicine, agree: “At
the present time, it must be conceded that there is no reliable biologic test for depression.” 9
The Bible records the thoughts of a depressed psalmist:
“Because of your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because of my sins. My guilt overwhelms me—it is a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and stink because of my foolish sins. I am bent over and racked with pain. My days are filled with grief. A raging fever burns within me, and my health is broken. I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart. You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh. My heart beats wildly, my strength fails, and I am going blind. My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. Even my own family stands at a distance.” Psalm 38:3-11 (NLT)
How do we reconcile the conflicting opinions of those who say depression is an illness, others who say that claim has no basis in fact, and the words of the Bible regarding the causes and cures of depression?
In my quest to understand this complex issue, I sought out materials written by medical professionals; medical doctors, neuroscientists, neurobiophysicists, and psychiatrists who have done extensive research on the theories about this prevalent physical and emotional state. I have quoted them extensively above. Some medical professionals radically disagree with the proponents of the theories of mental illnesses. At this writing, there is no consensus in the medical field on the cause of depression and other “mental illnesses,” nor is there a cure. Treatment includes manageability of behavior and symptoms through medication but no cure. There is great confusion and disagreement within the medical and scientific communities about depression and other mental illnesses, yet theories are being presented as scientific fact.
My goal is to expose you to the alternative legitimate viewpoint on what the world calls depression and mental illness. Like my colleagues, I am greatly concerned and alarmed about the onslaught of these diagnoses. Entire segments of the population (e.g., lonely housewives, drunkards, those enslaved to sexual sin or anger, undisciplined children) are being diagnosed as mentally ill on a daily basis. The National Institute of Mental Health surveyed more than 9,000 U.S. adults and concluded that about half of all Americans will develop a mental disorder at some time in their lives! 10
How did we get to such a place? How can it be that in the last 40 years, the world has seemingly (pardon the pun) gone mad? My assessment is that because of the influence of evolution, psychiatry, and social liberalism, our society has effectively eliminated God, standards of morality, and absolutes. Behaviors once considered deviant and immoral are being redefined as medical conditions and illnesses by the psychological professionals. You can find them in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV).
1 “Take Charge of Your Health 1 Step at a Time,” GlaxoSmithKline, http://www.depression.com, 1997-2006.
2 “Causes of Depression,” GlaxoSmithKline, http://www.depression. com/causes_of_depression.html, 1997-2006.
3 Margaret Strock, “Depression,” NIH Publication No. 00-3561, National Institute of Mental Health, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/ depression.cfm, 2000.
4 Prentiss Price, “Causes of Depression,” http://www. allaboutdepression.com/cau_01.html, 1999-2004.
5 “Depression (Unipolar),” MentalHelp.net, http://mentalhelp.net/ poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=438&cn=5, Oct. 24, 2001.
6 Bruce E. Levine, Commonsense Rebellion: Debunking Psychiatry, Confronting Society: An A to Z Guide to Rehumanizing Our Lives (New York: Continuum Publishing, 2001), 227.
7 Elliot S. Valenstein, Blaming the Brain: The Truth about Drugs and Mental Health (New York: The Free Press, 1998), 125.
8 Joseph Glenmullen, Prozac Backlash (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000), 197-198.
9 Maurice Victor and Allan H. Ropper, Adams and Victor’s Principles of Neurology – Seventh Edition, (New York: McGraw-Hill, Medical Publishing Division, 2001), 1616-1618.
10 Ronald Kessler, et al. “Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication,” Archives of General Psychiatry Vol. 62, No. 6 (June 2005), 593-602.