Naturalism’s Influence On How We Think About Anxiety, Depression, & Mental Health

Posted: January 7, 2014 in Apologetics, Christian Living, Christians & Culture, Ethics, Homosexuality & Same-Sex Marriage

Mental HealthThe Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders put out by the American Psychiatric Association attempts to categorize all mental disorders. Over the decades, this manual has grown in both size and scope. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 26% of the adult population suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder.[1] Americans are being diagnosed with mood disorder, anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bi-polar disorder, and others. Not only are we being diagnosed with these disorders, but many are taking medications for them. Antidepressant use has increased by 400% in the last decade, making it the third most common prescription taken among adults.[2] While these statistics are alarming and the causes are many, particularly troubling is the naturalistic mindset that pervades the mental health field.

How we view reality affects nearly every component of our lives. Views of the world, whether Christian, materialist, or Buddhist, have great influence on our actions. How one views human beings, especially concerning matters of the brain, mind, and soul, will impact our approach to mental healthcare, and specifically our approach to prevalent problems such as anxiety and depression.

As mentioned in the previous post, naturalism is the worldview that dominates the academy, especially the sciences. And where the academy goes, society can be found following behind. If you will remember, naturalists view the world as being comprised solely of matter and energy. People may have personal belief in the supernatural, but for practical purposes, the world is simply a scientific one – a series of material causes and effects. When considering the topic of mental health in America, and specifically the popular cultural opinions of mental health, one quickly sees how naturalism has impacted the understanding of society.

According to the naturalistic framework, human beings are nothing more than a collection of matter, void of a soul. The brain, and hence all mental activity, is reduced to physical and chemical reactions. Therefore, mental and emotional problems are viewed (and usually treated) merely as physical ailments. For instance, depression is often viewed as merely a need for more serotonin. While serotonin may help certain symptoms, reducing depression and other mental disorders to purely physical causes is certainly narrow-minded. Human consciousness is much more complex and should be treated as such.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of naturalism applied to the mental health field is the elimination of human responsibility. A world without souls becomes a world without human free choice, and in such a world “what is the case” becomes “what ought to be the case.” In layman’s terms, if it feels good or natural, then it must be right. This is most clearly seen in cases of sexual deviance. For instance, homosexuality is often justified because “it is the way I am.” The physical urges make the actions acceptable. This logical slippery slope is dangerous, opening the door for any behavior to seek justification from physical causes. So one can plainly see, in a naturalist world, responsibility, justice, good, and evil loose their meaning.

I strongly believe they key to mental health is found in a Christian understanding of man, body and soul made in the image of God. Man is essentially a soul – an immaterial being housed in a material body. We use our bodies just as a driver uses a car. In the same way that the driver and the car must be cared for, so too must the body and the soul be cared for. If either breaks down, the person cannot function properly. (I learned of this analogy from J.P. Moreland.) Therefore, a Christian worldview applied to this much needed field of medicine has tremendous advantages over the naturalistic application. It makes room for treating body and soul – the whole person. Naturalism, on the other hand, is narrow-minded and treats the person as lump of matter, nothing more. In fact, I would suggest that naturalism is dangerous and harmful to the mental health field and society as a whole. So do not be fooled, your beliefs matter – they matter to ALL OF LIFE.

Jordan


[1] National Institute of Mental Health, “The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America.” Accessed November 13, 2013. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml.

[2] Harvard Health Publications, “Astounding Increase in Antidepressant Use By Americans.” October 20, 2011. Accessed November 13, 2013. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/astounding-increase-in-antidepressant-use-by-americans-201110203624.

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