Paul's Passing Thoughts

Enough Already! Depression is NOT Always Caused by “Mental Illness”

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on September 26, 2013

ppt-jpeg4Look, even if I concede that the mind, i.e., our spiritual being can get a disease, which in this case I will, you can’t detract from the obvious fact that how we think can affect our mood. Chalking up all depression to mental illness strips people of hope and grievously misleads them.

Here is where pastors drop the ball: if a parishioner has been diagnosed with depression, all discussion of that person’s perspective on life and the way they think is off the table. To examine that would be judging some poor soul inflicted with a disease. Here is how I perceive pastors who buy into that: they are incompetent, borderline silly, lazy, cowardly, self-centered, and need to repent or get out the ministry.†

I believe the physical body can affect the mind’s ability to think and reason. I also believe choices made by the way we think in our mind (what the Bible often calls the “heart”) can affect us physically—it works both ways.* Depression obviously has to do with mood. How we feel is a major contributor to life. The apostle Paul commanded us to “rejoice always.”

Who denies that thinking affects mood? Who does that? Ever heard this? “I think I will go to a movie to get my mind off of what’s going on.” Right, that’s wise; if it is a situation out of your control, and dwelling on it is depressing you, don’t dwell on it!

Oh my, the Bible has so much to say about this issue; e.g., the difference between “dwelling” and other kinds of thinking etc. For example, the bible has a lot to say about worry. The Bible also divides worry and concern into different categories. Concern has to do with truth. Worry often concerns things that are not true. I always instruct people who worry to keep a Worry Journal. What they will find is that most worry never culminates into an actual event. This is why the Bible instructs us to “dwell” on what is true. Christ counseled people to focus on what they can do and control today.

From time to time, Susan and I are given opportunity to do marriage counseling. The opportunity usually arises from a spouse who is considering divorce. What I like to do is ask the spouse to name three good things about their spouse in thirty seconds. In most cases, it takes about fifteen minutes to come up with three, and that is with Susan and me coaching. Come now, is that true? Is most divorce caused by untrue thinking and perspective? Say, “yes.”

But note, worrying about things that may or may not come true can keep us awake at night, and sleep deprivation has a lot to do with mood. Thinking can evoke certain feelings, and feelings can evoke certain thoughts. It works both ways, and if you throw sleep deprivation into the mix, Katie bar the door.

Have you ever noticed that doing good makes you feel good? Have you ever noticed that doing bad makes you feel bad? Can depression be caused in people who continually violate their consciences? Say, “yes.”

Like I said, I concede that depression can be caused by biological considerations, but can thinking and perspective on life make it worse? Could it be that medication at times doesn’t work for that very reason? As one medical doctor told me, “antidepressants are mood-changers.” So is thinking and life perspective. Please don’t put a contract out on my life, I am merely saying one is as important as the other.

If I may, let me speak for myself. I have a practice in life that I have used for several years now. Whenever I feel depressed, I stop and take an inventory of what I have been thinking about. Usually, I can identify recent thinking that is making me feel that way. That is when I begin another custom of mine, preaching to myself, reasoning with myself, talking with myself, encouraging myself. We all do it.

But if it is effective, it is not fooling myself, it is a conversation based on the truth.


*A point I can make about the dichotomy of mind and brain (as body) is an unfortunate example. When I was young and foolish, and in fact a fool, I partook in LSD with my friends. That drug, to say the least has a profound effect on body chemistry. Nevertheless, when I hallucinated, I knew it wasn’t real. I also knew I felt the way I felt because of the drug. One particular friend who often partook with me complained that I was looking at him with an evil stare that was scaring him during one of our LSD trips together. I then evaluated what I was thinking and assured him that I was not thinking anything that matched the evil stare.

Likewise, people often question the reality of what they are seeing, and wisely so when the body is under some kind of distress. My point is that we have the ability to do that somehow. Though I am far from being a big fan of John MacArthur Jr., he once shared an experience he had with a demon possessed girl. If I remember correctly, I read it in Confronting the Enemy, or some such book that he wrote. He states that he was able to talk to the girl directly, and separate from the demons, and that is what freed her. Though I do not think much of him, I do not think he would make up such a story.

† In my own case, I eventually had what was known as a “bad trip” which was not fearful hallucinations, but an indescribable oppression. When I found out about “flashbacks,” my thinking was launched into a life of fear and dread regarding the fact that said oppression could come upon me unexpectedly at any time. Throughout my young life, I suffered from emotional distress accordingly, and was periodically under the care of psychiatrists. The real source of my fears were never discussed, nor the possibility explored. Foolishly, I did not want to reveal what my fears were because I didn’t want to reveal that I had taken LSD.

My own private research indicated that flashbacks were unlikely after ten years, but unfortunately, after ten years, I had mentally trained my body to react to fear in a certain way. This is where I believe biofeedback treatments could be helpful, but I make that comment out of school because I have never researched it.

Ironically, I discovered the possibility of flashbacks from a goofy gospel tract that some young Christian girl gave me. It was a story of a girl who was a LSD user who gave her life to the Lord, and then later died from a flashback. That tract led to years of fear that eventually caused me to look up. Just think, that girl has no idea how handing me that tract without saying a word changed my life for all of eternity. Should be an interesting conversation with her in the future.

Another side note: though I was young and foolish, and a fool specifically, I had my limitations on foolishness. The nickname for LSD at that time was, “acid” or “windowpane.” I would have never taken the drug under the nomenclature of “LSD.” I think this is a good lesson in regard to the use of terms and the subject of “terminology” and its ability to affect decision making in general—and what we believe in particular.

3 Responses

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on September 26, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.


  2. james jordan said, on September 27, 2013 at 1:21 AM

    Its more likely that depression leads to mental illness than is caused by it. To be depressed and simply fixate on how depressed you are is certainly psychologically damaging. Ever read 2nd Esdras? (Its in the Apocrypha.) In it Ezra is depressed and just kind lies in the dirt for days until God sends him an angel to be like “Dude, get up.” And his depression was caused by a sort of Calvinism. He was holding to a fatalistic view in which God predetermines everything that happens, yet unlike the Calvinists he didn’t like how things had turned out, so he kinda just checked out. The angel attempts to bring him out of it by constantly telling him his thinking is wrong. (I’ve never finished the book, so I don’t know how it turns out, but I approve the angel’s method.)


  3. Lydia said, on September 27, 2013 at 5:38 PM

    Paul, there is another aspect to all this. Get the “Christians” out of your life that are causing your depression. Nothing will lead to depression faster than some of the teaching that is out there. Things like telling women they must “take abuse for a season” and they are not praying enough or submitting to the abuser enough or molested children they are as big of sinners as their molester, ad naseum.


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