Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Cultural Contributions To Depression

The mystery of depression is looked at today as purely biochemical suggesting that it is a result of serotonin deficiencies in the brain. Medication is the answer. But why doesn't medication always work? Why are there no blood tests that confirm the chemical imbalance?

I do believe there is a chemical component to depression, but to date, science has not yet squared the hypothesis with the fact that depression is on the rise and medications are not working.

Dr. Edward T. Welch, counselor, and director of the School of Biblical Counseling at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, and Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary has written a book called Depression, A Stubborn Darkness, Light for the Path. In this outstanding book there is great insight into the mystery of depression.

Dr. Welch says that depression must be listened to, it must be understood from many perspectives because it is such a complex, dynamic malady. One size does not fit all. Dr. Welch offers a list of reasons why people get depressed. One often overlooked aspect is Culture.

Ways Culture Contributes to Depression

1. Too Many Decisions
Everything is up for grabs. Nothing in the future seems to be fixed. Life is a smoorgasboard of decisions. It is not the abundance of decisions that depress but the pressure to always make the best decision. A poor choice could affect the course of one's life. It is easy to lose the focus of life before a sovereign God who assures us that He is in control of all the decisions and outcomes. In His loving control over all of life, God is accomplishing his good plans despite poor choices.

2. Driven To Be Individuals
A top cultural value is individual self expression. Life is about "me" and "How do I feel." The individual seeks to satisfy personal needs. If something is not working out, cut bait and move on to whatever will. Today's pseudo-relationships are a great example. The affects of the individualistic "me" lifestyle are aloneness, isolation, and powerlessness. Furthermore, because of technology, everybody is mobile and there isn't much real face-to-face loving and reconcilling going on. However, standing before the throne of God, reflecting on His beauty and holiness, troubles become much smaller in contrast. How can one not be more in awe of God than themself? When the King of Kings is desired above all, listening and obeying Him will be of first order. He calls his creation to love (as He has loved) and that is what breaks the prison of individualism. New and better relationships are formed.

3. Self-Indulgence
Naturally, the culture of the individual leads to an increased drive toward self-indulgence of personal lusts and psychological needs. A primary belief here is that something exists outside of ourselves (in culture) that can satisfy or fufill us. Reality though proves this wrong (e.g. one of something is never enough, two is ok for a while, but then three of something is needed.) The cycle of craving and indulgence manifests itself usually in how long a person lives in it. Some people can go on for years stuck in it. Others see its folly and see through the false promises, and give up the rat race - interestingly, these are the people most prone to depression because of the hopelessness. Self-esteem is a majorly sought after psychological need that must always be affirmed in a culture of self-indulgence. Culture breeds the myth that everybody must feels good about themselves, if you don't then you are unhealthy. Depression devours a person (and culture) when self-esteem is feed. Depression and denial hit hard (and are the only options) when one realizes that they are not great, they can't do everything, they are not the best, and they can't get want they want.

3. Happiness Is The Greatest Good
"I want to be happy" is the mantra of culture. Hardship is not good, happiness is. If hardships in a relationship exist, end it. If an emotion is uncomfortable, medicate it. Growing through trials is not pursued as a skill to develop. It is not that hardships should be the norm, it is that happiness is idolized above all other pursuits in life. The chief end of man is not happiness.

4. Entertained and Bored To Death
Only new and exciting pursuits will dull the sense of boredom in life. Everything in culture these days screams "Amuse me." People do not know what to do with the quiet. But the overabundance of excitement and entertainment just leads to more boredom. The appetite is never met. Joy is the antidote - Christian joy that is. Delighting in the ultimate, supreme goodness of God, worshiping Him in His glory is where try joy is. But this pursuit takes work and does not come easy. Joy must be pursued, it must be practiced.

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