Is it okay for a Christian to take mental health medicines like anti-depressants?
Though mental health medications are becoming more commonplace, a certain stigma continues to surround them. At times this stigma seems even greater in Christian circles. We are sometimes embarrassed of mental health illnesses such as depression or anxiety, believing that if we were truly following God we would not struggle with such maladies. Even those with conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, which generally always require psychopharmacological treatment, may feel their faith is somehow less. But is this what God thinks?
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Many mental health disorders generate in the psyche. For instance, we may be depressed because of wrong thinking or unresolved emotions. Anxiety may result from an unwillingness to trust God. However, many mental health disorders are biologically based. We are not depressed for a particular reason or for a lack of processing on our part, but due to a malfunction in our physical body. And even those disorders that begin with wrong thinking or inappropriately processed emotions will affect a person's biology. There are various neurochemicals in the brain that are believed to be implicated in disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and the like. Medications are designed to target the brain chemicals and help restore them to a proper balance.
Most Christians do not have a conflict utilizing medications designed to treat physical illnesses. We believe that God created our minds and intended for us to use them. We see Him as the creator of our bodies and as the author of the scientific and medical discoveries that promote our physical health (Proverbs 2:6; Colossians 2:2-3). Certainly God can heal without medication (Matthew 8:13; Matthew 9:22; James 5:14-15). However, He has also given us the gift of medication. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We are expected to steward our bodies and care for them. We should be careful what we place into our bodies, not wanting to abuse them or put in chemicals that will harm us. However, sometimes medication is an effective tool to help care for our bodies.
In the sense that psychological medications can promote our health, they are no different from other medications. However, when contemplating use of psychological medications, there are a few other considerations to be made. Because many mental health disorders either begin in the psyche or affect the psyche, therapy is often a good adjunct to medication treatment. Anti-depressants and other mental health medications should not be taken in an effort to avoid dealing with any psychological roots of a disturbance. Therapy or psychopharmacology should also not be used to avoid dealing with spiritual issues. We are called to cast our anxieties on God and to rely on Him (1 Peter 5:7). We are told that freedom is found in Christ and His truth (John 8:32). Psychology is not the cure; God is the only true Healer! But, God can use psychology – both in its medical and therapeutic forms – to help bring healing. Using the tools God has given us is one way to honor Him.
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