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The most overlooked culprit in today’s mental health crisis

Unsplash/Yuris Alhumaydy
Unsplash/Yuris Alhumaydy

While an untold number of devoted doctors, therapists, and educators — to name a few — work to remedy the widespread mental-emotional suffering rampant among today’s U.S. student and adult populations, a major contributing factor has gone almost entirely overlooked. To be clear, this culprit is at the core of nearly every mental health struggle, from mild bouts of anxiety to the most severe cases of mental illness.

So, what do depressive moods, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and separation anxiety all have in common?

In a single word, fear.

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Listen long enough to anyone describe their mental-emotional anguish, and fear-laden statements are sure to surface: dreaded outcomes, terrifying memories, relational fears of rejection and abandonment, shame-based fears of being too much or not enough ...  fear takes on countless forms. Meanwhile, those seeking relief are often met with a “one-size-fits-all” treatment plan that does little or nothing to resolve their fear, and in some cases, makes it worse.

One-size-fits-all treatment plan

It’s well documented that fearful beliefs and thoughts trigger stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, eliciting physical sensations and reactions. Over time, fear can lead to chronic conditions that negatively affect the brain and body, as well as emotional disorders such as clinical depression and anxiety.

In recognizing these hormonal implications, the go-to fix-all has become psychotropic drugs — artificial adjustments to brain chemistry. While this can provide some amount of relief when neurochemicals are brought more in balance, it does nothing to address the fear causing the imbalance to begin with. What’s more, psychotropic drugs can be addictive, cause adverse side effects, and even worsen a person’s mental-emotional state, depending on how their body reacts to the medicine.

With or without the aid of psychotropic drugs, substantial healing is most often found when a mental-emotional sufferer can reconcile his or her fears, replacing them with trustworthy assurances. This notion of dispelling fear tends to draw interest from Christians, particularly since the Bible contains over 300 passages championing victory over fear. Unfortunately, once again, well-meaning people — of faith, in this case — have often set out to help remedy mental-emotional anguish, only to further wound.

The Church’s misguided response to mental illness

While it’s hardly fair to presume every Christian or faith community employs the same practices, it is reasonable to say that, in turning to the Church for help with mental-emotional turmoil, many sufferers testify to having received trite counsel, such as, “Just choose joy,” or a sucker punch of condemnation: “If you had faith, you wouldn’t be depressed, anxious, etc.” Then there’s the harmful practice of treating mental psychosis as a demonic possession.  

Great damage is done in the name of Christ when the compassion of Christ is left out of the equation for healing, along with a solid understanding of human psychology.

An effective approach to rehabilitation

A holistic approach is vital. In other words, we must treat all three aspects of human beings: body, soul, and spirit.

Body: From the onset, we should aim to rule out any biological causations of mental-emotional dysfunction, such as a vitamin D deficiency, which can intensify feelings of fear and anxiety and cause depression.

Soul: With the guidance of a qualified counselor, we should seek to uncover and alleviate any fear-based beliefs or traumatic memories.

Spirit: This is where it becomes vital to examine one’s core belief system. This includes revisiting the notion of demonic influences but in a balanced, empowering way. While notably a ridiculous idea to many, the nature of fear warrants open-minded consideration.

The critical voice of fear

The concept of a critical inner voice has become widely accepted in the psychological community. After all, who can’t relate to self-critical thoughts from time to time, if not often? Case in point, fear has a voice. It accuses, shames, degrades, predicts imminent defeat, and drowns out hope. As stated in a PsychAlive article:

Some common voices include thoughts like “You’re stupid,” “You’re not attractive,” or “You’re not like other people.”

Some people have voices about their career, like “You’ll never be successful,” “No one appreciates how hard you work,” or “You are under too much pressure, you can’t handle this stress.”

Many people experience voices about their relationship, such as “He doesn’t really care about you,” “You’re better off on your own,” or “Don’t be vulnerable, you’ll just get hurt.”

A common complaint among those suffering from mental disorders is the distressing inability to silence the bombardment of hurtful, fearful thoughts. While there’s nearly always a traceable connection back to early life messages from parents or influential people from our young lives, with every fear-based, punishing thought, each person must decide: is it true? Furthermore, to regard the voice of fear as true is to suffer mentally-emotionally; to reject it as lies is to protect our mental-emotional health.

The battle for rehabilitation, then, becomes one of truth versus lies — and biblically speaking, that conflict is the very essence of spirituality. What’s more, the Bible testifies to the existence and deceptive nature of demonic beings, exposing the chief attribute of the satanic kingdom to be lies (John 8:44) — distortions aimed at the human heart and mind to provoke fear-ridden shame, self-hatred, self-destruction, and death.

While some scoff at the assertion that an unseen army of demons preys on humanity, can we not all agree that suicide, for example, is the end result of a tormented person’s tragic belief in lies about his or her self-worth and life purpose? Case in point, there’s never been a more crucial time to take a holistic, body-soul-spirit approach to mental-emotional health and to consider the possibility of unseen evil torment, including how to overcome it. In so doing, people can find hope and healing from everyday mental-emotional struggles to seemingly incurable mental disorders.

Laura Gallier is an author and national speaker whose inspiring life story empowers students and adults to overcome enemies of the soul such as oppressive thoughts, emotions, and habits. Having battled her own enemies of the soul throughout her teen and young adult years, she is on a mission to expose deception with the light of truth, bringing hope and healing to a generation in need. As an advocate of biblical truth in a skeptical generation, Gallier sheds light on many of today’s most highly debated moral and social issues. She is the author of the Christy Award award-winning novel series, The Delusion. Gallier is the lead developer of the I AM WORTHY Mental-Emotional Wellness and Character-Building Program for Students in public schools.

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