Anxiety Medication: To Take or Not to Take?

I've had so many hurting people come to me and tell me that they don't know what to do. They have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and encouraged to take medication, but their Christian friends and family discourage it, saying, "The Bible says to be anxious about nothing. You don't need medicine; you just need to trust God." What do you say to that?

I asked my sweet cousin, Sarah Kauble, who is a psychiatry intern to share with us on the topic. Here are her comments:

You heart is beating fast, its hard to catch your breath, you're sweaty and you feel like every thought is racing through you head. Many of us at one point or another have experienced this...Anxiety. Maybe you're like me and you lie awake at night thinking about what happened that day or what you need to do the next day. While all of us have experienced this at one point or another, for some this is daily life. For the Christian it can pose a dilemma.

As Christians how do we decided we need to seek medical treatment for our anxiety?  I would like to first make a proposition for you to consider. In Arthur Holmes book, The Idea of a Christian College he asserts that because God is truth, "all truth must be God's truth". Current research using MRI to study the brain have shown that certain areas of the brain are affected in a person who has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. These areas of the brain are responsible for the flight or fight reaction we experience when we are startled by something. These areas of the brain also release certain chemicals that increase our heart rate, cause us to sweat, and make us breath quicker, leading to  the physical symptoms of anxiety that we experience. At this point research shows that those with an anxiety disorder have chemical imbalances in their brain much like a patient with bipolar or schizophrenia. If we accept this research as truth then we must also accept that it is God's truth.

Symptoms of anxiety are sometimes due to a medical problem such as a heart condition, gland problems, or tumors. It is important when experiencing anxiety symptoms on a regular basis to the point that you are facing impairment in your everyday life, that you seek medical counsel so you can be evaluated for life threatening conditions. But what do you do when a physical cause for your symptoms has been ruled out as a cause for your anxiety? According to diagnostic criteria an anxiety disorder is diagnosed when anxiety causes impairment in the person's life and interferes with daily activities. Medication can be given to control the symptoms of anxiety, but research shows that medication in conjunction with therapy is the best treatment for anxiety disorders. Medication helps control the symptoms but does not get to the root cause of anxiety.

A counselor can help you discover what causes your anxiety and learn how to better manage it. Medication may not be needed for a lifetime with anxiety, it may just be needed short term to help the patient learn coping skills and get through a particularly anxiety ridden time in their life. Seeking the help of a Christian counselor can help you manage your anxiety in a Godly way and may even suggest when you might need to see a health care provider.  Philippians 4:7 says to cast your cares on God because he cares for you. We should pray when we are anxious and we should let God know how we are feeling. As a result of our sinful nature, disease entered the world. While we have to face the consequence of disease we do not have to live in bondage to it. The Bible says that Jesus came to give us an abundant life and that He came to heal us. I believe that because of God's great love for us He provides ways for us to overcome our illness.  We can rejoice in the fact that God has already won the victory over sin, hardships, illness and yes even anxiety.  He wants us to be whole, complete, and lacking in nothing.  He has endowed doctors and scientists with the knowledge to develop medications and to study disease processes to help us with our illness.

Kaplan and Saddock's Handbook of Clinical Psychiatry 5th Ed, Benjamin Saddock M.D. and Virgina Saddock M.D.;  Chapter 15: Anxiety Disorders, Wolters & Kluwer 2010.

The Idea of a Christian College, Arthur Holmes; Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1987

Philippians 4:7
John 10:10
James 1:4

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Tears to Joy: Anxiety Medication: To Take or Not to Take?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Anxiety Medication: To Take or Not to Take?

I've had so many hurting people come to me and tell me that they don't know what to do. They have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and encouraged to take medication, but their Christian friends and family discourage it, saying, "The Bible says to be anxious about nothing. You don't need medicine; you just need to trust God." What do you say to that?

I asked my sweet cousin, Sarah Kauble, who is a psychiatry intern to share with us on the topic. Here are her comments:

You heart is beating fast, its hard to catch your breath, you're sweaty and you feel like every thought is racing through you head. Many of us at one point or another have experienced this...Anxiety. Maybe you're like me and you lie awake at night thinking about what happened that day or what you need to do the next day. While all of us have experienced this at one point or another, for some this is daily life. For the Christian it can pose a dilemma.

As Christians how do we decided we need to seek medical treatment for our anxiety?  I would like to first make a proposition for you to consider. In Arthur Holmes book, The Idea of a Christian College he asserts that because God is truth, "all truth must be God's truth". Current research using MRI to study the brain have shown that certain areas of the brain are affected in a person who has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. These areas of the brain are responsible for the flight or fight reaction we experience when we are startled by something. These areas of the brain also release certain chemicals that increase our heart rate, cause us to sweat, and make us breath quicker, leading to  the physical symptoms of anxiety that we experience. At this point research shows that those with an anxiety disorder have chemical imbalances in their brain much like a patient with bipolar or schizophrenia. If we accept this research as truth then we must also accept that it is God's truth.

Symptoms of anxiety are sometimes due to a medical problem such as a heart condition, gland problems, or tumors. It is important when experiencing anxiety symptoms on a regular basis to the point that you are facing impairment in your everyday life, that you seek medical counsel so you can be evaluated for life threatening conditions. But what do you do when a physical cause for your symptoms has been ruled out as a cause for your anxiety? According to diagnostic criteria an anxiety disorder is diagnosed when anxiety causes impairment in the person's life and interferes with daily activities. Medication can be given to control the symptoms of anxiety, but research shows that medication in conjunction with therapy is the best treatment for anxiety disorders. Medication helps control the symptoms but does not get to the root cause of anxiety.

A counselor can help you discover what causes your anxiety and learn how to better manage it. Medication may not be needed for a lifetime with anxiety, it may just be needed short term to help the patient learn coping skills and get through a particularly anxiety ridden time in their life. Seeking the help of a Christian counselor can help you manage your anxiety in a Godly way and may even suggest when you might need to see a health care provider.  Philippians 4:7 says to cast your cares on God because he cares for you. We should pray when we are anxious and we should let God know how we are feeling. As a result of our sinful nature, disease entered the world. While we have to face the consequence of disease we do not have to live in bondage to it. The Bible says that Jesus came to give us an abundant life and that He came to heal us. I believe that because of God's great love for us He provides ways for us to overcome our illness.  We can rejoice in the fact that God has already won the victory over sin, hardships, illness and yes even anxiety.  He wants us to be whole, complete, and lacking in nothing.  He has endowed doctors and scientists with the knowledge to develop medications and to study disease processes to help us with our illness.

Kaplan and Saddock's Handbook of Clinical Psychiatry 5th Ed, Benjamin Saddock M.D. and Virgina Saddock M.D.;  Chapter 15: Anxiety Disorders, Wolters & Kluwer 2010.

The Idea of a Christian College, Arthur Holmes; Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1987

Philippians 4:7
John 10:10
James 1:4

Labels: ,

1 Comments:

At July 30, 2013 at 6:52 AM , OpenID billduvall said...

Great post and unfortunately too true. I've seen far too many Christians struggling with the issues you describe. What a lot of those "friends" don't realize is that both where Jesus talks about worry in Matthew and Paul talks about anxiety in Philippians, the tone is not so much Don't you dare feel anxious or your sinning! It's much more Look, don't waste your time with that. Focus here instead. In fact, right after Paul writes about turning from anxiety toward peace, he gives a laundry list of suggestions for better things to think about that sums up with "If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things."

That being said, if taking medication helps a person to get to the place where they can reorient their focus and get away from panic attacks, I really don't see anything in Scripture that says, "You should live for Christ, however, if you take medication, then forget it because you're clearly going to Hell."

As in the vast majority of the Bible, it's about the motive of the heart. If the medication is intended for aid on the road to transformation, that's one thing. If it's a bandaid to prevent needing to deal with a genuine problem, that's something altogether different. Neither statement is universally true.

 

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