Tag Archives: Depression

Physiology Phridays: Deep Brain Stimulation


Next fall I will teach “Counseling & Physiology” for the first time so I am beginning now to plan through such a course. It’s my intention to use Fridays to blog on counseling stuff related to the brain and biology. Here’s my first post:

The March issue of the APA Monitor on Psychology magazine has an article on the use of deep brain stimulation for chronic and untreatable depression (after failures with medicine and ECT). DBS is a surgical procedure, first pioneered to stop Parkinsonian tremors, where electrodes are placed in the subgenual cingulate region and a “pacemaker” produces electrical current to the electrodes on a continuous basis. You can read about DBS here on wikipedia. The studies are small as of yet but the FDA has already approved this procedure for OCD patients.

This surgical procedure seems to produce positive feelings and relief from the depression. So, does this mean that depression is merely a biological problem? No. This is why medicines are quite helpful but it is counseling that maintains the relief from depressive symptoms.

Bottom line: Depression is a multi-faceted disorder–both from an etiological standpoint and from a treatment standpoint. One must consider biology, spirituality, cognition, and behavior. These areas are not mutually exclusive as work in one area has impact on the others. Efficacious treatment not only seeks to resolve the depression but also to consider how to live well–whether in a depressive state or not.

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Filed under biblical counseling, christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling science, Depression, Psychology

Spurgeon on depression


A couple of times a year Diane Langberg invites one of her pastors to come and minister to us at staff meeting. It is always a rich time. Last week, Greg MacDougall talked to us about some of Spurgeon’s thoughts on depression. He summarized a chapter from Spurgeon’s Lectures to my Students. Gotta love the chapter title: “The Minister’s fainting fits.” As Greg said, “No, this isn’t about histrionic ministers, though someone should probably write about that, its about why we find ourselves in despair, what occasions our depression, and the lesson from it” (I’m paraphrasing Greg here from memory). By the way, I think we could replace “depressed” with anxious, and tempted towards addictions in what is written below.

So, here are some of Spurgeon’s points.

1. Why do we get depressed?

  • Duh, we’re human. No, he didn’t say, “duh” but we are sons and daughters of Adam and so we know suffering and brokenness.
  • We all have physical and mental infirmities. “Certain bodily maladies, especially those connected with the digestive organs…Are the fruitful fountains of despondency….As to mental maladies, is any man altogether sane?
  • The work of christian ministry encourages us to despair when we see sinners sinning all the more boldly
  • The Christian leader is somewhat lonely by position
  • “Sedentary habits have a tendency to create despondency in some constitutions.” Studying, reading, etc. He suggests “stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.”

2. When are we likely to get depressed?

  • Right after a great success, after a “cherished desire is fulfilled.”
  • Before a great achievement (when we may be tempted to give up)
  • “In the midst of a long stretch of unbroken labour…” we wear out and despair
  • When we are betrayed by a beloved
  • When troubles abound
  • For unknown reasons. This must not be forgotten. Many depressions may not have a discernible cause. What we do with them is more of the issue. “Causeless depression is not to be reasoned with, nor can David’s harp charm it away by sweet discoursings….One affords himself no pity when in this case, because it seems so unreasonable, and even sinful to be troubled without manifest cause; and yet troubled the man is…”

3. The Lesson:“be not dismayed by soul-trouble.” “Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saint. Live by the day–ay, by the hour. Put no trust in frames and feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement….Be not surprised when friends fail you: it is a failing world….Between this and heaven there may be rougher weather yet, but it is all provided for by our covenant Head….Come fair or come foul…be it ours, when we cannot see the face of our God, to trust under the shadow of his wings.”

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Filed under Biblical Reflection, Depression, Despair