Spirituality & Religion: A Treatment for Depression?
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Religion has always been a very important part of my life. However, I don’t call myself a religious fanatic. I accept most scientific findings, but I don’t waiver from my faith, so can religion be another treatment for depression? Some researchers and psychologists believe that religion can be another form of treatment for depressed invididuals.
Dr. R.Y. Langham’s article, Treating Depression with the Power of God, thoroughly explains how religion can be a treatment for depression. Dr. Langham’s article explains that people who believe in some kind of “God” or higher power are more likely to overcome depression when compared with a person who is not religious (2015). Dr. Langham further explains how prayer and letting go of your burdens is how religious believers who are depressed quickly overcome depression (2015).
Some of Dr Langham’s statements appear to be true. As believer in Christ, I believe in the power of prayer and in the teachings of Jesus Christ, including scriptures that tell you how get through painful times in your life. However, one must also apply common sense. I believe that God gives us the common sense needed to make rational decisions, but I don’t think that religion can be considered a type of “treatment”. Dr. Langham disregards the fact that there are people in the world that are depressed, but don’t think that they are depressed. Furthermore, “finding faith” can’t be the only way to treatment for depression. You must remember that there are many types of disorders, such as major depressive disorder (MDD), anxiety and bipolar disorder. These types of disorders require medication and treatment from a licensed professional.
Religion can play a key role in dealing with depression, because people who believe in God or higher power are able to cope with stress more effectively than those who believe the world and our existence is filled with meaningless pain and suffering. A belief in the power of prayer can alter a person's idea of the nature of reality in positive ways or in nonsensical ways. For example, an individual might pray to God for help with their financial problems, but this won't work if the individual fails to prepare and live on a budget. Many religious communities believe that depression is not a disorder, and they do not believe in modern psychotherapy. Many religious people believe that an individual should pray, meditate, or simply “snap out it”. This is particularly true true with my community, which is African-American. However, there are researchers who suggest that people who believe in a higher power are more likely to suffer from depression than people who aren’t religious.
Spirituality and Religion = Increased Depression?
Dr. Persaud and Dr. Bruggen discuss in their article, Being Religious or Spiritual Is Linked with Getting More Depressed, how there is no evidence that religious belief can be a treatment for depression (2013). Both doctors base their theory on a case study performed by Professor Michael King. King’s study included 8,000 participants from seven European countries from different socio-economic backgrounds (2013). King and his colleagues followed the participants from six to twelve months, and concluded that people who have strong religious beliefs are more prone to depression. Also, religious people have had more episodes of depression than non-religious people (2013).
How can this be true when religion is always thought to be the saving grace of the human race? Simple. Human beings have a natural instinct to belong to a group, and religion is the quickest way for someone to join a group. Although religion can be tool for individuals who suffer from depression and have a strong religious background, it's not necessarily the cure. In-fact, depressed people may flock to religion as a solution but find that it has not alleviated their pain at all - This could artificially increase the levels of depression found in religious communities.
From my own experience, I have found that my faith and belief in the teachings in of Jesus Christ gives me peace, especially during hard times and terrible life events. I can honestly say that my faith has changed my attitude, how I handle stressful situations, and how I deal with difficult people. More importantly, my faith has made me a better person. So, can fundamentalist religions be the sole treatment for depression? I personally don't believe so.
Depression is a mental disorder that requires an individual to admit that he or she is depressed, and they must seek appropriate medical treatment depending on the severity of their depression. From my perspective, religion is more of a coping mechanism for depressed people. After an individual is able to better cope with symptoms of depression, religion can be a source of comfort and a guide to live a more productive life, but I don't believe that it's the cure.
- Heather Browning, MBA
Bruggen, P., Persaud, R. (September 15, 2013). Being Religious or Spiritual Is Linked with Getting More Depressed. Retrieved January 20, 2015. Langham, R. Treating Depression with the Power of God. Retrieved on January 20, 2015.