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Treating Depression From Two Perspectives: Psychology And Religion

Treating Depression From Two Perspectives: Psychology And Religion

"You largely constructed your depression. It wasn't given to you. Therefore, you can deconstruct it." ― Albert Ellis.
PsycholoGenie Staff
As old as humanity, the condition of depression is not just the problem of our century, as it may have been tagged before, but its roots go back in time to the Garden of Eden. Depression is seen as a dispositional disorder that is cognitively emotional, motivational, and somatically manifested. From the bodily point of view, depressive persons suffer modifications of the appetite, sleep, and sexual desire. Transformations can also be seen at the cognitive level, where negative and dysfunctional thoughts induce feelings of guilt and inappropriateness. Negative emotions and thoughts influence the motivation of the depressed persons, which refuse to initiate new behavior, and are totally lacking perseverance. According to Aaron T. Beck, negative thoughts are generated by irrational beliefs, which represent the main cause of the symptoms that are stated above. He claims there is a direct relationship between the quantity of negative thoughts, and the severity of depressive symptoms. Beck presents three major themes, which underline the dysfunctional beliefs of the depressed persons: (1) I am a useless, defected, and an inappropriate person, (2) All my experiences end up in failures and disappointments, and (3) My future is totally lacking hope.
So, depression is a fact, a reality that is not only "the disease of the century", but also is the manifestation of irrational beliefs, and this probably happened when humanity came into being. One of the domains that deals with depression, is the spiritual or the religious sector. From this perspective, depression is seen in various ways. It is considered as a sin, as a means of punishment, and as a simple consequence of one's actions and thoughts. This largely depends on the way that God is perceived.
One of the psychological models, which combine psychology and spirituality, and which tries to answer questions like what is the role of depression, and why did God allow depression among humanity, is "The Heart Cry Model" (HCM); it is elaborated by Armentrout (1995, 2000). The essence of this model states the idea that depression, especially in its initial forms, represents a motivational state, allowed by God in order to make people adopt corrective measures. Because God's intention is to make humanity resemble to Him, and to actualize His image in His creation, He intervenes into the human existence through diverse methods, which offer opportunities of changing and renewal.
According to the HCM, depression represents an alarm signal. Combined with Beck's theory, the model claims that this signal is intended to make the depressed person realize the beliefs, which govern his irrational and dysfunctional behavior. These beliefs hide the misconceptions of God and attitudes behind them, which lead to a low quality relationship with God. The mechanism is the following: irrational thinking, and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that create psychological discomfort and pain. Both these aspects come together as an alarm signal, when something is wrong. When the depression is minor, the person can directly intervene and change. When this thing doesn't happen, its deepening will represent an alarm signal for the social network that surrounds the depressed person, to take action.
Thus, in order to treat depression, there are two areas in which the intervention needs to be done. Firstly, medication is needed in order to bring the level of neurotransmitters into balance, and secondly, there is an essential need for cognitive-behavioral therapy. If the patient is religious, the therapist can change his perceptions according to a set of religious principles, such as the one that iterate that every person was "wonderfully made" in God's image, or that Jesus promised that He is with us every day. Hence, all the experiences that one goes through are known to Him, and He is always taking care of the future, bringing hope and help in times of need.
Depression is a very common disorder, which occurs as a consequence of a dysfunctional thinking system. God allows it to happen because, throughout the psychological suffering, He can get closer to the hurt people, and can trigger a signal that things are not on the right path. Thus, depression is treated when the irrational perceptions and beliefs are replaced with other rational and functional ones.