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How Depression Affects Christians

By: G.W. Mullen M.D.


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Chapter 1: Why is depression more painful for a Christian? Chapter 2: Is depression genetic or generational? Chapter 3: How does depression affect pastors? Conclusion About the Author

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How Depression Affects Christians

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About the author

Grant Mullen M.D.


I hope you have found this ebook helpful. Please send it to anyone who would benefit from this information by using the link at the top of this page. When I graduated from the University of Toronto Medical School, I knew nothing about mental health or the power of emotions to shape our lives. I actually became an anesthetist. Thats right, I was one of those doctors who put people to sleep. It was a perfect guy specialty because it was very technical, there were lots of gadgets and I didnt have to talk to people. My problem though, was that every afternoon when the ORs were closed, I had to do general practice. As a GP I had to talk to people and find out what was bothering them. Much to my surprise, I discovered that a very large percentage of my patients, including the Christians, were suffering from emotional pain rather than the physical pain that I was trained to treat. I had to start learning about emotions and mental health so I could help these

patients. Initially, I studied and began treating depression, anxiety and mood swings. These were the most common mood disorders. I discovered that these disorders caused people to think in distinct, predictable patterns. Then I learned which medications were best for each thinking pattern. I was astonished at how well the medications worked when they were given to the right person. Another discovery was that Christians suffer from depression in unique ways and they are often reluctant to accept medical treatment for these conditions. There was so much misunderstanding about psychiatry and mental health in the Christian world that I wrote and filmed Moods to help Christians understand what was going on in their thoughts and when they needed to see a doctor. I wrote Healthy Moods to help non Christians understand mood disorders. At that point in my life, I thought the solution to emotional problems was to just get everyone on the right pill. My perspective on this totally changed though, when my wife and I were struggling with our relationship. We needed to see a counsellor to help us through that difficult time. From this experience I Iearned there was more to emotional recovery than just pills. We discovered through our own healing journey, that emotional baggage and spiritual conflict can greatly affect our moods and relationships. Based on our experience, I wrote the book Emotionally Free . It explains how the healing journey requires us to get rid of our emotional baggage, find spiritual peace and take medications when necessary. Kathy tells our recovery story on her DVD, Our Will, A testim ony of healing . Over the past 26 years of medical practice I have learned how our moods, baggage and spirit can affect our relationships. For many years now my wife Kathy and I have been holding seminars internationally to teach people how to improve their lives by improving their relationships. This happens when we choose to walk the healing journey. All of our seminar sessions have been recorded and are available in the Books/CDs/DVDs section of our web site. If you would like to attend one of our seminars, check my itinerary in the Seminar section of our web site. During your visit to our web site, be sure to browse the free Resource Library , pick up some books, CDs or DVDs, and plan to attend one of our seminars. Expect to improve your relationships and your entire life. We hope you enjoy your visit and return often. Grant Mullen M.D.

www.drgrantmullen.com
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How Depression Affects Christians

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Chapter 1: Why is depression more painful for a Christian?


Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Psalms 69:1-3 Does the author of Psalm 69 sound depressed to you? He sure does to me. The Bible is not afraid to be blunt about human strengths and weaknesses. There are many Godly heroes in the Bible who struggled with their moods. It should be no surprise then that Christians still struggle with their moods today. The good news is that God loves us as much as he loved them. Since depression is the most common mood disorder, lets look at how it affects Christians. Depression disrupts all relationships including our relationship with God. A depressed Christian will feel that they have lost the joy of their salvation and that they no longer feel Gods presence. God will seem farther away, silent and unreachable. A depressed Christian has additional guilt added to their depression since they usually condemn themselves for not snapping out of it. They will assume that they have a spiritual weakness or a character flaw. Pastors may have taught them that a true Christian will never get depressed and that it is a sign of defeat, disobedience and unbelief, so they feel increasingly guilty. Lets look at how depression affects spiritual activities. There are four fundamental things that Christians do to maintain their walk with God. First, we pray. Prayer requires concentration and the presumption that a loving, caring person is listening to our prayer. Depression makes it hard to concentrate and the low mood makes one feel cut off from God. Prayer then becomes very difficult for the depressed person. Second, we read the Bible. This too requires concentration that a depressed person just doesnt have. As a result, Bible reading is abandoned since its too difficult. Third, we worship. Worship requires concentration and a sense of hope or

celebration. Depressed people cant concentrate and they have nothing to celebrate. They feel dead inside. So worship stops too. Fourth, we go to church. This involves seeing and talking to people. What do you think are the most awkward words that a depressed person can hear in a church lobby? They are, "Hi, how are you?" How can they respond to that question? They cant be honest and say, "I want to die, thanks, how are you?" Small talk is very difficult and usually avoided. Depressed people often stop coming to church since its just too difficult to be social. Depressed Christians feel like hypocrites for not being able to pray, worship or read the Bible. When concentration is so impaired, they get little out of sermons so they tend to change churches frequently since they "are not being fed" or the church "isnt meeting their needs." So you can see that the four fundamental devotional activities are almost wiped out by depression. Its very hard to have a healthy spiritual life when you cant pray, read, worship or go to church. At this point many assume that God is punishing them or that they have committed the unpardonable sin. A Christian will then suffer even greater depressive pain since not only do they feel cut off from people but also from God, their last resort for help.

Depression is a medical condition with spiritual symptoms


Disorders of mood, particularly depression, are the only medical illnesses that I know of, with spiritual symptoms. Unfortunately, when the church sees spiritual symptoms like the four mentioned above, it presumes there is a spiritual cause to the problem and that the solution must be spiritual.

When well meaning Christian friends find out how depressed the person is, they will suggest a greater commitment to prayer and Bible study as a treatment for the condition. This of course, is impossible as we have mentioned previously. Unfortunately, this inability to pray and study will indicate to the friends that the depressed person must have a spiritual problem, be living in sin, have a lack of faith or that they dont really want to get well. Self help books and tapes will then be suggested along with perhaps pastoral counseling. These methods only work when a person has total thought control which allows them to change their thinking patterns. When Christian self help methods fail, the depressed believer feels so spiritually dead and hopeless that they may give up Christianity completely.

Depressed Christians often feel beaten up by the church


You can see then that a depressed Christian not only suffers with the symptoms of the mood disorder but they also carry the guilt and shame put upon them by other Christians who dont understand the condition. Non Christians dont have to endure this added burden so thats why Christians have more pain from depression than non believers. The good news though, is that when the depression is treated, spiritual life will return to normal.
Copyright 2006 by Orchardview Medical Media. All Rights Reserved.

How Depression Affects Christians

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Chapter 2: Is depression genetic or generational?


Another source of confusion for Christians is over the question, "Is depression genetic or generational?" The medical viewpoint is that the tendency to have a mood disorder is inherited genetically because the problem runs in families. The spiritual view is that since it runs in families, it must be a generational curse of demonic origin. In my opinion both views are partially correct and both problems should be addressed. I have previously explained that mood disorders are the only medical conditions that exist in both realms, physical and spiritual. There is no doubt that the chemical imbalance is a physical condition that is biologically inherited. It should be treated medically. I also believe that Satan loves to harass those with mood disorders and he attacks families with depression since they are more vulnerable. This attack needs to be dealt with spiritually. These two viewpoints are actually quite compatible and there should no longer be any conflict between their proponents. As I have mentioned before, treatments should be combined if we are going to get the best results for the greatest number of people. When so many Christians are suffering from depression and not improving with spiritual treatments, it is very discouraging for the pastors who are trying to help these people. That leads us to the next question.

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Chapter 3 How does depression affect Pastors?


In the August 1998 edition of Dr. James Dobsons letter from "Focus on the Family," he stated, "Our surveys indicated that eighty percent of pastors and eighty four percent of their spouses were discouraged or were dealing with depression. More that forty percent of pastors and forty seven percent of their spouses reported that they were suffering from burnout, frantic schedules and unrealistic expectations. We estimated that approximately one thousand five hundred pastors left their assignments each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention within their local congregations." I have been called upon to treat a number of depressed pastors. In the opinion of Dr. Dobson and myself, pastors are commonly a very discouraged lot. There are a number of reasons for this. To begin with, since they have been called to be the extensions of Gods hands to society, they become targets for the attack of Satan. Discouragement is perhaps the most effective tool that Satan uses against the clergy. Pastors become very discouraged if they see few results from their ministry. If pastors are trying to counsel people with mood disorders who should be seeing a physician, then they are likely to fail. This makes them feel useless as a pastor and even question the power of God or their "calling." Most pastors are human, regardless of their own view of themselves, so they are just as susceptible to human disorders as anyone else. They too can suffer from depressive illnesses. An untreated depressed Pastor can cause serious damage to a church and to his own ministry. His negative outlook will contaminate all his relationships and his sermons. A cloud of condemnation and frustration will settle over the church. He will likely label his symptoms as "burnout" and may blame it on the congregation, his spouse or superiors. Most often he will blame himself for sliding into a spiritual valley where prayer and Bible study becomes very difficult due to the poor concentration that comes with depression. When the condition doesnt improve using the usual scriptural methods for drawing closer to God, he then will presume that he is too far from God to be helped and that his "call" or "anointing" has lifted. Pastors are very reluctant to seek help from fellow ministers due to embarrassment, so they suffer in isolation. If there is mood instability, they may act impulsively and slip into sinful behavior. This will then put them into a discipline proceeding. They will likely leave the ministry in personal disgrace. This sequence of events can be easily prevented if depression is recognized and treated early.

Traditionally, churches criticize and then expel any leader who seems to be slipping in their attitude or performance. I would like to encourage all Christians to be watching for any signs of depression in their leaders. Instead of criticizing them, offer to support and help them get treated. If treatment can be started early, a pastor may not even need to be away from his pulpit before he returns to full function.
Copyright 2006 by Orchardview Medical Media. All Rights Reserved.

How Depression Affects Christians

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Conclusion
There is no need for Christians to suffer more pain from depression than non Christians. With medical treatment and counselling, most people can recover from mood disorders and return to normal functioning. With information and education, the Christian community will better understand these illnesses and will no longer add guilt, shame and condemnation to an already painful condition. This booklet is an excerpt of Dr. Mullens book "Emotionally Free ," which is a more complete discussion of emotional recovery in body, personality and spirit. It explains how to combine medical, spiritual and emotional treatments to achieve true freedom.

To learn more about "Emotionally Free ," visit our Media Centre . Tell your friends and family about this Friend" at the top of this page. free booklet by cli cking on the "Email a

Copyright 2006 by Orchardview Medical Media. All Rights Reserved.