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  • David Flowers

Depression and anxiety are not spiritual issues


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Depression is not sin. It is also not just “being sad.”

In a March 5 post, Amy Viets of the blog Depression’s Collateral Damage, wrote:

Depression is an illness so terrible and stark that no one would actively seek it as a means to grow in the spiritual life.  And with such a burden to bear, when priests and ministers talk about how a person can find relief if they only ask and turn it over to God, it makes my hair stand on end. It’s not that easy, that simple.  All a platitude like that serves to do is to make the depressed individual feel that for some reason he is not good enough, is not really letting go, is not trusting God. Often for the depressed person an even worse downward spiral occurs as a result. Source: Depression’s Collateral Damage

Calling depression sin is damaging to the depressed person

I could not agree more. I highly encourage you to follow the source link above and read the post. Christians who say or suggest that depression is a spiritual issue do so largely out of ignorance, but that doesn’t make it any less damaging. I addressed this issue to a smaller extent in my post about my own struggles with depression and anxiety, and I often feel compelled to set people straight about it on Facebook when I see various comments made about it.

Acedia

This is not to say there are not areas where clinical depression and spiritual issues overlap. The desert fathers and mothers wrote about a condition they called acedia, which they understood as the inability to care, or refusal to care. It is characterized by boredom and restlessness, and an inability to commit to people and projects out of a sense that something better might come along. In other words, this has been understood as a spiritual issue for almost a couple of thousand years. Clinical depression, though it may sometimes share some of these characteristics, is a different animal.

Anxiety is not sin. It is also not just “worrying.”

Likewise, many Christians believe anxiety is sin, largely because of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34. But there is a big difference between standard worry, which is little more than an occasional habits of mind which can fairly easily be changed just by learning some new habits, and anxiety, which dominates the life of the anxious person for days, weeks, months, or years, and lies far beyond the ability of the anxious person to control.

The truth about depression and anxiety

Though we still don’t know conclusively, there is evidence that both depression and anxiety (along with a host of other mental issues) are connected to chemical or structural issues in the brain, “structural” meaning something wrong with the brain itself.

If you disagree with this post and the one I am linking to, or you are still on the fence, or care for someone who struggles with either of these issues, I encourage you to take the depression myths quiz at WebMD.com. You can learn the myths and facts about anxiety here.

Consider and comment:

  1. Do you or someone you love struggle with depression or anxiety? Have you been told it’s sin? How do you feel about that?

  2. Are you a person who believes depression and anxiety are sin? I would love to hear your thoughts.

  3. What is your depression/anxiety story? How are you coping?

A key previous post of mine on this issue

#acedia #anxiety #depression #sin