Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Christian Perspective on Bipolar Disorder

The Lord has given me an interest in many things that you've probably seen me write about on this blog--anywhere from evangelical feminism to mental health concerns and learning and processing disorders.  My interest in mental illness began during my sociology studies in college.  Since then, God has brought many people into my life who have shared their stories and lives with me.  

A few years ago, I read the book The Mind has Mountains: Reflections on Society and Psychiatry by Dr. Paul R. McHugh.  It was a wonderful book that gave me much food for thought about mental health and our society.  If you haven't read it, I'd highly recommend it.  Dr. McHugh goes against the grain of popular thinking in this book and examines the truth of what he saw in his patients.  He was the head of the school of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University for a time.  

Since then, I've read a few other books about mental health, including PTSD: Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home by Marshele Carter Waddell and Kelly Orr, PhD., A Stubborn Darkness by Ed Welch about depression, and Borderline Personality Disorder: A Scriptural Perspective by Cathy Wiseman.  All are books that I would recommend.

Back in February, Shepherd Press published a new book written by Charles D. Hodges, M.D., about 
Depression and Bipolar Disorder, Good Mood Bad Mood.  I was very curious to read it. This book by Shepherd Press is very different than the other books I've mentioned, yet also shares some things in common with them.  It is different because it is focusing specifically on Depression and Bipolar Disorder.  But, it is similar in that it examines what our society says about mental health and the causes of mental illnesses.  Good Mood Bad Mood examines, over the course of the book, the history of Bipolar Disorder, formerly called Manic Depression.  This book examines the thinking of someone with bipolar disorder and how to view sadness in a new way.  

From what I understand, the primary difference between depression and bipolar disorder is that bipolar is characterized by ongoing depression with manic periods.  People who are diagnosed with depression do not typically experience the manic episodes, I believe.  This book uses the words depression and bipolar throughout the book.  At times, I felt a bit confused, but Hodges primary focus is on how to view the sadness which is applicable for people living with either depression or bipolar disorder.

I think this book has a lot of good things to add to the ongoing discussion of how to love people who live with bipolar disorder well and how to counsel them if one does pastoral or biblical counseling.  I don't feel it is a complete picture, but there is a lot of great food for thought in it.  One way to possibly view this book is for someone who lives with Bipolar Disorder II or depression is as a tool to help answer this question: "what can I do to help myself if medication isn't working?"  This book's primary focus is on one's thinking, rather than on medication.  He digs deep into the purposes of sorrow and how God can use it in our lives to draw us closer to Him.  He goes to the Word and examines several stories that are relevant to this discussion.  I appreciated his insight and thoughts.

Dr. Hodges has seen many patients whose lives were only further complicated by medication, rather than helped.  I can understand this sentiment.  Our family physician once explained to me that if depression is biological, then a change in feeling should be seen within two weeks of beginning an antidepressant.  I have family members who have chosen to take medication and also others who have not.  I know that it has made a significant difference in the lives of those who have chosen to take medication. Several reviewers on Amazon commented about Dr. Hodges neglecting a discussion of medication and how it can help people.  I agree that I wish there had been more discussion of how medication can help and even how one can tell if it is helping (though that would likely cause some debate I'm sure).  

Unfortunately, what I had hoped for most in this book was not there--more help for people who love people suffering from Bipolar Disorder or depression.  That is a much needed discussion in the body of Christ.  

I am glad that Shepherd Press has published this book and I would recommend it.  I agree with Dr. Hodges that there many people today are too quick to think antidepressants are the answer to fixing their sadness rather than looking at their own hearts and patterns of thinking.    So, in the case of someone who has a melancholy personality and has not been helped by antidepressants, this book could be helpful.  But, I think this book is a place to start one's understanding and other information is needed as well.  

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Shepherd Press.

1 comment:

Kim said...

This is a very good book on depression and the Christian life. It's currently unavailable, but I do have a copy if you want to read it.