“Are Chemical Imbalances Real or a Worldly Idea?”

Some people in my family have been diagnosed with chemical imbalance in their brains. In the past I have been a reader of Jay Adams. How does this idea of chemical imbalances (CI) measure up to the Scriptures and spiritual problems? Is this CI something the world has come up with denying the spiritual or is it really legitimate? Where can I find scriptural or spiritual input on this subject? At this point, I believe it is primarily a spiritual problem. Please help!!

When it comes to depression, I have seen people dealing with it because of spiritual issues, emotional issues and physical issues (chemical imbalance). In fact, my husband had anemia-induced depression that was treated by taking anti-depressants for three months. If it were a spiritual or emotional issue, simply taking the meds for such a short period of time wouldn’t have solved the problem.

Our brains are an organ, like our gall bladder, lungs and liver. They can develop physical problems and chemical imbalances; why would the brain be any different? We are not our brains. We are souls—personalities—that have a brain and who live in a fallen world where physical brain problems arise.

I am aware of Christians who try to make everything a spiritual problem, but I think that’s simplifying things too much. After all, scripture says we are made of three parts, spirit, soul and body (1 Thess. 5:23). To try and make depression (which is experienced in the emotions) solely a spiritual issue, doesn’t make sense. Unfortunately, there is a lot of shame heaped on people for treating depression chemically, which I think is unnecessary shame. For instance, I know someone with manic-depression who NEEDS her medications to allow her to function, just as I need physical assistance to make up for orthopedic weakness from polio. There should be no shame in either my cane or my friend’s medications; they are both a matter of accepting help for a real, physical problem.

Along a different line, another friend is a longtime school teacher and principal. She used to pooh-pooh the use of Ritalin for ADD and ADHD, until she researched the issue in depth and reversed her opinion. While there are certainly many kids who are taking it needlessly (quite possibly the majority of them), there are others who have a true chemical imbalance and benefit greatly from taking medication.

I hope this helps!

Sue Bohlin

Probe Ministries