Before I answer that question let me ask another. Is accepting medication a sign of personal weakness, lack of faith, lack of trust in God or the grace of the sacraments, or from not addressing problems.
Most mental health blogs and websites would probably say yes or no to this question. However, on this blog the answer is “Maybe, maybe not”.
Sometimes we can jump to what is easy in order not to face the difficult. For example, a woman in an abusive relationship may lie about it to her doctor and then accept an antidepressant for relief. Does she really need the antidepressant? Maybe. Maybe-not. Perhaps she would not have needed it if she worked on her problem to a healthy conclusion. However, chronic stress does change brain chemistry so perhaps she needs the medicine in order to have the energy to work on her problems.
This same maybe, maybe not can also be applied to a man who is having difficulty with his job or significant other, or a person who has been betrayed by one he or she has trusted. It can be true of one who doubts God exists or disagrees with a Church teaching as it applies specifically to him/her and has had the experience of rejection because of it. Helplessness, hopelessness, and alienation can influence the start of depression.
There are cases when it is obvious medicines must be strongly considered. Severe post-partum depression, especially if there are thoughts to harm the child, earing or seeing things that don’t exist, or becoming depressed after a period of high energy with little sleep along with great creativity are some. That last one may be mania.
Personal weakness, lack of faith, chronic stress, even serious sin, does not necessarily cause or even influence the presence of depression. We all know people in those categories that DON’T experience depression. That’s because there is always a genetic and biological influence it its development. The same is true for the condition of high cholesterol. Some eat wrong foods to their heart’s content and have no problems. Others look at the wrong foods and have high cholesterol.
Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and anti-psychotics can be lifesavers. Here are some other indications you need to seriously consider taking them.
• You feel suicidal (call 911), seeing or hearing things you or someone else knows does not exist, or you cannot muster the energy to complete basic tasks.
• You can’t concentrate, focus, or participate in conversation because your mind keeps drifting off to thoughts that are painful, sad, or bizarre.
• You have been to a physician and other medical problems have been ruled out. Gallbladder and thyroid problems have been known to influence the presence of depression. Sometimes fixing those problems ends the depression.
• You have been treated or have had surgery for heart conditions. Heart conditions and depression have been strongly associated with each other.
• You have friends, life is good, and you are exercising regularly but you still feel persistently sad and become teary-eyed or cry for know reason.
• You are in therapy and/or spiritual direction, participate in the sacraments and parish community yet guilt or constant sadness plagues you.
We cannot help being vulnerable to something because of genetic or biological make-up. Choosing to use medicine is not a sign of weakness in any way, shape, or form. Keep the option on the table and ignore blogs, websites, and people who have the narrow viewpoint that there is something wrong with your character because you struggle with this.