Anxiety disorders are a chemical response in the brain that occurs when an overabundance of stress chemicals change the way in which the brain responds to an experience. People who believe in and rely on God get diagnosed with anxiety disorders at about the same rate as everyone else. Anxiety disorders are not an indicator of a lack of spirituality or reliance on God--anxiety disorders are a chemical imbalance. To prevent further unnecessarily hurtful statements, direct your family to a website designed to help Christian families respond to a family member diagnosed with a mental health problem.
It's doubtful that same friend would tell you that those with diabetes have weak faith. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes symptoms of sadness, apathy, hopelessness, etc. The reality is that depression is a medical issue to be treated in the same way that diabetes is, and that it has nothing to do with a person's faith or lack of faith.
Absolutely not. Mental health struggles are as prominent in the church as they are outside of the church. In fact, many founders of the faith have struggled with mental illness. In the Bible, there are several examples of individuals who struggled with mental health:
We are all created differently and we all will encounter our own unique physical, mental, and emotional problems. Yet, we are all created with a purpose and are loved and valued by God equally, despite our struggles.
Faith can absolutely help with mental health issues. Studies have shown that faith and spirituality, coupled with other forms of treatment like medication and therapy, can lead to concrete results in stress reduction and mental health improvement. Faith can be a powerful tool for healing, but keep in mind that struggling with mental health does not mean that your faith is weak. Christ, not us, is in control, and He cares deeply for us and has a plan for each of us.
An individual struggling with mental health should be able to find a helpful, supportive, non-judgmental, love-filled, and encouraging community in the church. It should be a place where grace and the love of God is demonstrated in a person's time of need. The church can care well by praying, asking the individual what he or she needs, and seeking out concrete ways to provide support, like offering meals or rides. Although the individual may not have a desire to engage in conversation regarding their struggle, it is important for the church to respect where they are and love them in that place.
It is important to keep in mind that mental health struggles are not due to sin or a lack of spirituality, but may be attributed to any number of things like predisposition, family history, trauma, etc. That being said, prayer is a powerful tool. Prayer provides an opportunity for us to cry out to God, let Him know where we are and how we need His help, to acknowledge His power in every situation, and to thank Him for His love and care despite our struggles. God listens to and responds to every prayer, but it may not be in the way you want. Even though you ask in prayer, your struggles with mental health may not go away. But trust this: God is in control, God has a plan for you, and God loves you even in this struggle.
That is your choice. Generally, individuals in treatment are more satisfied and progress more rapidly with therapists who have shared values. However, there are many competent, skilled professionals that provide beneficial treatment without having to share a faith with their clients. Whether or not the therapist shares your faith and values, it is important to find someone who will be supportive of your beliefs and ensure that the treatment you receive is congruent with those beliefs.
In most cases, seeing a Christian counselor means that the counselor conducts his or her practice from a Christian perspective consistent with the teachings of the Bible. Before beginning treatment, you may want to research whether or not your counselor is a licensed professional. There are Christian counselors that provide helpful biblically-based counseling, but may not be trained in therapeutic methods specific to mental health issues.
Medication does not in any way imply a lack of faith. Does taking blood pressure medication imply a lack of faith? No. Medication for mental health responds to biological, physical issues in our bodies, just like blood pressure medication.
Scripture can be very helpful in coping with mental illness. The Bible provides examples of people that struggled with mental illness and contributed greatly to the kingdom of God. Scripture also provides messages of hope, grace, and unconditional love. God's written messages to us in times of weakness help us find the strength to carry on. Reading scripture will not be sufficient to resolve significant mental health struggles; counseling from a trained professional is recommended.
Certainly. It can be a very positive experience to discuss emotional issues with your pastor and receive their support and guidance, but do not confuse talking to a pastor with counseling from a therapist. Both can be helpful, but they are not the same. A therapist has been trained in brain functions, emotional and behavioral disorders, strategies for treatment, and coping skills. Avail yourself of all supports possible, including your pastor, but keep in mind that for mental health treatment, you should seek the assistance of a mental health professional.
You should expect your pastor to listen to you, pray with you, support you, and provide spiritual guidance. Your pastor may give you informational resources, suggestions as to how your faith may help you, and will often encourage you to seek the support of a professional therapist. Your pastor may have names of trusted counselors to refer you.