Posts Tagged ‘mental disorders’

Should Christians take Antidepressants?

I’ve written quite a few posts about psychological disorders on this blog but I have yet to talk about taking psychopharmaceuticals. Taking drugs like antidepressants seems to carry a stigma in general, anemia but especially in the Christian community. I think this is partly due to a lot of confusion about mental illness in general so in this post I want to try to demystify depression and anxiety and the medications that can be used to treat these disorders.

My first semester of my freshmen year in college I was struggling. I had just ended my way-too-rushed time at an eating disorder treatment program (just ended as in the day before I left for college), skincare I had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, and was experiencing intense, almost constant anxiety. It was also the semester I took Abnormal Psychology, a class that was all about the causes, treatments, and methods to diagnose psychological disorders. At times, the class was really difficult for me, not just academically but also emotionally. The day the professor lectured about anxiety disorders was really triggering for me and I was sitting in my chair tensely thinking, “I’m not going to make it.” But you know what? I did make it through that class and all the others that semester and it’s still one of my favorite college courses I’ve taken (that’s how you know you’re in the right academic field). In Abnormal Psych I learned a lot about a ton of mental disorders but I found that learning specifically about the neurological underpinnings of depression and anxiety disorders and how medications that treat these disorders work gave me a lot of clarity when it came to my own struggles. I’m going to share my super simplistic understanding of the things I learned in my Abnormal Psych class with the hope that it will be helpful for you, too!

There are neurological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to all psychological disorders. These include things like stressful family situations or life events (social factor), a tendency to focus on negativity or a heightened vigilance to threats in the environment (psychological), or abnormal brain areas, genetic influence, and an imbalance of neurotransmitters (neurological). All three of these factors interact together to lead to these psychological disorders. I feel like the social and psychological factors are more self-explanatory and easy to understand so this post focuses on the neurological causes and treatments.

Forgive me, this is going to be so simplified but my goal is to give you a small sense of what’s happening in the brain of a depressed or anxious person, not to enable to you pass a neuroscience class!

Here is a synapse:

synapse

Source: Scienceblogs.com

Let’s pretend this is a serotonin synapse, meaning that this synapse is in charge of releasing the chemical serotonin to the receptor. Serotonin is a chemical that does a large variety of things for our bodies, including regulating mood, appetite, and sleep. Can you see why serotonin irregularities might have something to do with depression which is marked by symptoms such as depressed mood, low or increased appetite, and insomnia/sleeping all day? There are multiple neurotransmitters that are implicated in depression, including dopamine, but regulating those chemicals has not proven to be very effective in the treatment of depression. Serotonin irregularities are also found in anxiety disorders, which is why the same or very similar medication is used in the treatment of both anxiety and depressive disorders.

The most common drugs that are now used for the treatment of depression and anxiety are called SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). How these work is that they slow down the reuptake of serotonin released from the synapse. In the diagram, do you see the little black dots labeled “neurotransmitter?” The serotonin is released from the synapse into the synaptic gap (the space between the synapse and the receptor) and then the receptor takes up that serotonin. SSRIs stop/slow the reabsorption of serotonin by the receptor meaning that the serotonin is floating around your system for a longer time, changing the balance of serotonin in your body, which helps lessen depression and anxiety. As said above, the same drugs are often prescribed for both anxiety and depression, with smaller doses prescribed for anxiety.

There are a lot of different categories of drugs used to treat anxiety and depression including SNRIs, TCAs, and MAOIs for depression and SNRIs and benzodiazepines for anxiety (there are a wide variety of anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and OCD which may require different medications). But all of these medications target different biological irregularities that influence depression and anxiety.

Why is all of this information important? Because I think many of us have this view of antidepressants as mysterious and possibly dangerous drugs that will alter who we are. And while changing our brain chemistry is no insignificant thing, I would submit to you that taking an SSRI for depression is not so different from taking Advil for a headache or Claratin for allergies or chemo drugs for cancer.

“But shouldn’t we trust that God will heal us of depression? Why should we take medications? Aren’t psychological disorders sin that should be dealt with like all other sin?”

My response would be this: Psychological disorders are NOT sin. If you are struggling with a psychological disorder, it is NOT your fault, it is NOT your choice, and it is NOT your sin. It is partly caused by very real things happening in your body. Do I believe God can heal us of depression? YES! Because I’ve seen him do it in my life. But who are we to say that God doesn’t want to use SSRIs and therapists to help us heal?

My story: Let’s go back to my first semester in college. Two of my therapists felt that I would be an excellent candidate for SSRIs and recommended that I try them. I had been struggling with depression for a long time at this point and hadn’t gone on an antidepressant because the thought of gave me such anxiety. It was learning about the neurology of depression and SSRIs that convinced me that taking antidepressants wasn’t as scary as I thought and could be hugely helpful to me. So I prayed about it and asked God if I should go on antidepressants or not and I felt like the Lord told me that he would support me either way and that it was up to me. So I decided to go on them. But the trouble was, I couldn’t find anyone to prescribe them to me! I couldn’t find a psychiatrist to meet with, the university doctors wouldn’t prescribe it, my psychologist wasn’t a psychiatrist so she couldn’t prescribe it, the university health services wouldn’t let me meet with a psychiatrist, and it just went on. It felt like everyday I was at therapy or with the nutritionist or doing weight-checks at university health services and fighting with health insurance. I was fighting so hard for my recovery that I ended up not having the time and energy to actually recover! So I finally decided that I wasn’t going to go on the antidepressants and God supported me in that decision and gave me tools to overcome my depression which I talk about in this post. The Lord was faithful to me and helped me overcome my depression, but I think that my recovery might have been easier had I been on an SSRI. There were a lot of times I wished I were on an antidepressant and if I could do it over again, I might have kept trying to get one prescribed for me.

If you are struggling with depression, an anxiety disorder, or any other psychological disorder, I pray that you would first be released from anyone or anything that says that your struggle is caused by your sin or that it’s your fault because it’s not. I also pray that you find community that will help carry you and support you through this tough season. I also recommend that you regularly meet with a therapist and then maybe consider trying psychotropic medications (with the guidance of your therapist/psychiatrist).* A whole combination of things contribute to psychological disorders and there are a whole combination of things that lead to recovery. And finally, I pray full healing over you in the name of Jesus! He is faithful and will bring you through.

*People who receive therapy and medication are more likely to have sustained recovery than people who just take medication. I always always recommend therapy.

What an eating disorder sounds like—The life in the mind of an addict

eating disorder awareness- what an eating disordre sounds like-the life in the mind of an addict

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist and am not trained in eating disorder treatment or prevention. I struggled with disordered eating/eating disorders for 12 years and I am now in recovery. My purpose behind writing these posts is to start the conversation about eating disorders, malady which continue to be misunderstood and stigmatized, thumb  share my experience with those who have eating disorders or know others who do, viagra sale and to hopefully give some clarity and understanding about these complicated and dangerous diseases. I also want to give hope that recovery is possible!
Trigger warnings: In all of my posts about eating disorders, I try to be very sensitive and avoid triggering language. However, the reality is that I am talking about eating disorder thoughts and behaviors and recognize that these posts could trigger people struggling with EDs. If you think that these posts could be the least bit triggering for you, please do not read them. The last thing I want to do is to set anyone back in their recovery process.

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Through my recovery process from my eating disorder, I’ve really come to understand how hard my eating disorder was for my friends and family. I go back and read journal entries from when I was sickest in my ED and I do not recognize myself. I read words and am so sad for the person who wrote them. Writing out the words of this post is sad–facing the reality that I wasn’t living out a full and joyous life in the Lord for so many years is hard. But God is a God who redeems all things–our testimonies have the power to release others from darkness.

I can’t imagine how hard and confusing it is for people who have loved ones with EDs to understand what is going on. I know that I said and did things that were really hurtful to people I loved and I made it really hard for people to be around me. I know that it’s hard to continue being persistent in the way you love, support, and show up for the person in your life struggling with an ED. My purpose behind writing this post is to give you a small glimpse of what it’s like to live with an eating disorder. And even the words I’ve typed in this post are insufficient to explain the burden you carry when you have an eating disorder–it’s painful every moment of every day and it’s with you every moment of every day. I hope that this post will help you understand your loved one who is struggling and help you give them more grace and love.

I also hope it will also encourage you. This post describes my past, but praise the Lord it does not describe my present and will not describe my future! The Lord is so faithful. Recovery is possible. But I’m letting you know now- it’s not going to be an easy road and it’s not going to be a short road. Be gentle on yourself as you try to love someone in your life who right now is probably not very easy to love. But also be unrelenting in the way that you pursue them, love them, support them, forgive them, and pray for them. 

Here it goes.

I’m sitting with my friend at a worship night. The pastor is giving a powerful message about God lifting away past baggage, hurts, and pains and bringing healing. All I can think about is the fact that my friend and I are going to Sonic after this.

Am I going to get anything to eat? A milkshake? A milkshake and a burger? Burger and fries? Milkshake and fries? How many calories in a milkshake? How much have I eaten today? I didn’t really have dinner but I don’t know about the milkshake. What about just a burger? What do I weigh? Have I gained weight lately? Does my workout cancel out enough milkshake calories? What is the pastor talking about? Burdens? Sounds about right. Maybe fries and the milkshake will be the best combination. What is my friend going to eat?

This was not a one-time occasion. This was my life.

Every day I would go to school. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

Talk with friends. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

Go to church. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

Spend time with my family. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

Do homework. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

Watch TV. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

Shoot a photo session. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

Bake. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

Workout. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

Spend time with God. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

At night I would lie in bed, unable to sleep for hours. Every bite of food I had eaten that day would haunt me. I would pinch the fat on my body, stare at it in the mirror. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

The panic would build. It’s 2am. Just do 100 crunches. Then 100 more. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

The irrationality of it all is astounding, but it all seems rational in the moment…I have saran wrap in my room from a project I was working on. I should saran wrap my stomach…that will make me feel better. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

It’s 3am. Let’s write out a list of all the food I ate today and how many calories it was. Then I’ll cut it in half and that’s what I’ll eat tomorrow. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

I walk around feeling so empty. It’s late at night and I’m in the kitchen. I start eating. In my mind I’m screaming, “I’m not hungry! I don’t want this food!” But I can’t stop. I’m powerless. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

I go to bed feeling ashamed. How much do I weigh? I need to be better tomorrow. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

God, take this from me. I don’t want to live this way anymore. No! Don’t let anyone take this from you! You have to be in control! You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

I sit in my classroom through lunch. I’ve already finished the half of a sandwich I packed so I sit at the computer and bookmark another twenty recipes I want to make. I want food. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

This is not a life worth living. I have an eating disorder and need help. You’re wrong. You’re way too fat to have an eating disorder. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

I got an A on my exam. Good job, you’ve avoided embarrassing yourself this time. But next time you’ll probably fail because you’re a failure. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

I hear mean, rude, hurtful words coming out of my mouth. I see my relationships with my friends and family members disintegrate in front of me. But I’m powerless to stop it. You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

“Oh, how He loves us, oh how He loves us, how He loves us.” But God doesn’t really love you. How could He love a worthless piece of crap like you? You’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re stupid, no one loves you.

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In recovery, getting rid of eating disorder behaviors is hard, but even that is easy compared to getting rid of the thoughts. It’s the thoughts that plague you ever single day. You may look like you have it together on the outside but on the inside you’re fighting a war.

Psychological disorders are hard and messy and confusing. I encourage you if you have a loved one struggling with an ED, don’t assume that you know what they’re going through. Ask them questions, even if it’s hard. Read memoirs about people struggling with EDs and ask them how their experience relates to that of the book authors. Use this post to start a conversation. Keep showing up in their life–their ED tells them that they aren’t loved, aren’t worth anyone’s time or attention- don’t let their ED win. And please, please, please, help them seek proper treatment. And please, please, please, never stop praying for them, for a total defeat of the Enemy.

Need to read something encouraging after this post? Here is my post where I talk about my recovery from my eating disorder.

Want to learn more about eating disorders? Click here to read other posts I’ve written on the topic.