Monday, February 18, 2013

Good Mood Bad Mood: Help and Hope for Depression and Bipolar Disorder

When I first heard of this book I was more than a little skeptical. When it comes to issues of depression and bipolar disorder, there quite few opinions out there, even amongst Christians. The two camps that I usually hear from the most are the demon spotters and Job's friends. The one believes you only need to find a good deliverance ministry and the other has the uncanny ability of being able to clearly see your sin and God's corresponding judgment.

Thankfully the author, Charles D. Hodge M. D., is a member of neither of these groups. His approach is one of a compassionate Christian and a concerned doctor.

Why now?

He begins Good Mood Bad Mood, by asking the question of why the number of cases of depression and bipolar disorder have skyrocketed in recent years. What factors could account for this sudden and drastic change?

Drawing from his medical background, he walks us through the difficulties in diagnosing diseases such as depression and bipolar disorder. The biggest obstacle being the lack of an objective test to determine their presence. He uses the example of strep throat to demonstrate. If strep is suspected, then procedure dictates that a culture is taken from the back of the throat. Eight minutes later, the test will reveal the presence or lack of strep, enabling a diagnosis to be made or ruled out. Unfortunately, when it comes to depression and bipolar disorder, there is currently no such test available.

So how is a diagnosis made?

Doctors are to use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a guideline for determining if a person is depressed or bipolar. This doesn't sound so bad till you see the list for yourself and realize you have most likely qualified at some point in your life. The experts are beginning to realize that more people are being labeled as depressed and bipolar than actually are. Many are simply experiencing sadness due to loss or some other tangible factor, yet are mistakenly diagnosed.

How do we help?

Contrary to what all of the television commercials would have us believe, recent studies have revealed that only a small percentage of those who are treated with antidepressants experience any lasting improvements. In fact, the placebo test group generally responds as well as or better than those who actually receive the drugs.

Is medicine our only hope?

So if we are miss labeling people as sick who aren't, and the meds for their not-sickness isn't helping, then what will?

Here the author shares the blessedness that comes from having hope that lies beyond medicine. He shares the peace and assurance that comes from knowing Christ and his promises, while detailing many of the scriptures that speak of God's love and care for each and everyone of us. The Good News really is good news!

Sadness - What's it good for?

He also explores sadness and its worth. Yes, its worth. Today sadness is regarded as a dangerous intruder who needs to be eliminated at all cost. We are told that we deserve to always be happy! But is this how scripture speaks of sadness? While we aren't to be without hope, there are times and benefits to our sadness. Paul speaks of the good work sorrow had brought to the Corinthians. Their sorrow over their sin showed forth the earnestness of their faith, leading them to repentance. Here we see the good that come from sadness, if we seek to serve God and allow him to work in us for his glory.

This leads us to one of the main points that Charles Hodge makes in dealing with our sadness. Our focus should never be on our sorrow and how to treat it. Our first responsibility is to our God. He ask his patients the question, "Do you want to glorify God with your life, more than you want to breathe?" Often sadness is the result of our priorities being misplaced. When we begin to think of ourselves more than others, depression often follows. Correcting one's focus is one of the best ways to relieve suffering.

So does anyone need the medicine?

Yes. I'm am thankful for Charles Hodge's gentle tone and careful explanation, that there are indeed cases of depression and bipolar disorder that should be treated with medication, and that while many are misdiagnosed, there are those who are truly suffering from a disease in need of treatment.

A Great Resource

I greatly enjoyed Good Mood Bad Mood, and recommend it to those who are or know someone who is suffering from depression or bipolar disorder. The concerned heart of a doctor and Christian shows itself on every page.

I would like to thank Cross Focused Reviews for sending this free copy for review.

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