Grief and Anxiety: Diseases or Not?

Good Mood, Bad MoodHere is the latest entry of Dr. Charles Hodges’s blog. Dr. Hodges is the author of Good Mood, Bad Mood: Help and Hope for Depression and Bipolar Disorder.  In this blog post, he cites a leading British Professor, Peter Kinderman,  who comments about new findings in the psychological community regarding grief and anxiety. Since these issues touch so many, these are important matters to consider. Dr. Hodges has done a tremendous service in bringing the light of Scripture to bear on a problem where the secular medical community is finding more problems than solutions.


Grief and Anxiety: Diseases or Not?
by Dr. Charles Hodges

A little more than two months ago, Peter Kinderman wrote an editorial for BBC News Health and in it he said “Grief and Anxiety are not mental illness.” Kinderman also said that changes in the revision of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Illness, due out in May, would increase the numbers of people diagnosed with mental illness. He went on to say that what they really need is “help and understanding, not labels and medication.” Kinderman is the Professor of Clinical Psychology at theUniversity of Liverpool and the Chair of the Division of Clinical Psychology at the British Psychological Society, good credentials if you want to say these kinds of things about the current state of psychiatry and psychology.

The problem for those who use the DSM criteria to label strugglers with depression and anxiety is that the criteria have been relaxed even further than they were in 1980. The proposed changes will give an individual who loses a loved-one two weeks to make an adjustment to the loss or they can be labeled and treated as if they have a disease called depression. Anyone who has suffered this loss knows that the grief goes on well past two weeks and even into years.

The same problems can be expected for anxiety or worry. “The criteria for “generalized anxiety disorder” will be significantly relaxed, making the worries of everyday life into targets for medical treatment.” And so it is as I practice medicine. I regularly see people who struggle with real problems in life that make them feel ill at ease. The solution that medicine offers that is widely accepted by our society is a prescription. One commenter said about the article, “There is a no man’s land between GP’s (General Practitioners of medicine in Britain) and mental health professionals…neither set of these professionals are the ones to provide it(the help needed)…Our GP’s can’t do it and now the US suggests medication. Wrong, we need another form of help.”

When it comes to grieving loses and worry, truer words were never spoken. We do need another form of help to deal with the sadness of loss and the struggle of worry. Nearly 2000 years ago Jesus Christ offered the help that
the anxious and the grieving need.

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing…” “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive
today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? …for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things, But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus pinpoints the source of much worry and sadness in life. It is a subtle form of worship. We worship having the things we have lost or wish we had. Some worry over their health or the fact that they have lost it. Others worry about material things including food, clothing and income. Jesus tells us that we cannot serve God and stuff! God will provide our needs for food, clothing and safety. But, our needs will not always coincide with our wants. And, that is where worry and sadness often come.

Jesus tells us that God knows our needs and instead of worrying about them, we should seek His kingdom and His righteousness. That gives an alternative to worry and it is good news for those who struggle. We can apply our lives to worshipping and serving Him in a Romans 12:1-2 sense. Instead of focusing on the things we lose or our trials we can focus on serving Christ.

I can tell you from personal experience that the truths of scripture hold the answer to worry. When Jesus tells us not to worry, He intends to enable us to obey Him by His grace. Paul deals with the problem in the fourth chapter of his letter to the Philippians. Chapter 12 in Good Mood Bad Mood deals with worry and examines Paul’s words in more detail than I can in a blog. Philippians chapter 4 was a great help to me and I know it can help anyone who struggles with worry. Kinderman was right. People need help and understanding more than they need labels.

All quotations for this blog came from BBC NEWS/Health and can be found in the January 17, 2013 article “Grief and Anxiety are not Mental Illnesses” by Peter Kinderman.


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