Book Review on Good Mood, Bad Mood: Help and Hope for Depression and Bipolar Disorder by Dr. Charles D. Hodges M.D.
What is a worldview? It is a way of looking at the world and allowing that viewpoint to influence the way we work, play, communicate and relate to people, and everything else. The way we interpret the world events influences the way we think. Dr. Hodges, the author, has written this book based upon his medical experiences and worldview as a person who loves the Lord Jesus as his Savior. Sadly, this viewpoint is rare in the medical community which makes this book very welcome and valuable to me and to other Christians who have been in need of a reference in this field for a long time.
This book is also up close and personally involving for me because I grew up in a home with a parent who, in my opinion, demonstrated the characteristics of a manic depressive person (the way it is described technically as Bipolar I) who was never diagnosed and never treated for it. In addition, I was diagnosed as bipolar by a psychiatrist when I was in my young 30’s and a mother of young children. My life experience, watching my mom react in extremes and deny any problems led me to study special education and abnormal psychology in college where I graduated with a degree in special education, psychology and elementary education. I experience an empathy for anyone who struggles with the symptoms of this condition, whether it has a pathology or not.
I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was in Junior High and lived in an atmosphere that was not very encouraging for spiritual growth. In spite of that, Jesus changed the way I perceived the world and the events of my home life. So I share the same worldview as Dr. Hodges, the author of this book. That does not mean I agree with everything he said in this book. But the points I disagree with him are minor and may be applicable to the 10% of people diagnosed with bipolar II for whom the medications and diagnoses actually do help the patients. In my opinion, that is the category I may very well be in myself. I hope my views written here in this review will encourage the reader to read this book.
From a Christian worldview I agree with Dr. Hodges when he stated, “Over the last twenty years, there has been a major effort to educate people about depression. The main tenet of that education is that depression and mood disorders are medical problems that require medical treatment. When most people feel depressed today, they go to the doctor in search of a medical answer. Today very few would go to their pastor first and few caregivers would view the Bible as relevant to the problem (p.21).” And with this statement on page 34, “The end result is that people with very dissimilar problems wind up with the same labels: depression and bipolar disorder…millions in our country [are] diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder and then treated medically.” In a study written about in 2010 in a major medical journal, patients with mild, moderate and even sever depression experienced the same therapeutic benefit from a placebo (sugar pill) as an active antidepressant medication in 70 to 87% of the patients! So while it would appear that medical professionals who treat patients with depression agree about its causes and treatments, there is actually more disagreement than you would at first expect.
The first three chapters of this book discuss how our increasingly secular society views depression and treats it. Chapters 4 and 5 examine the way sadness has been confused with depression. As a result, the amount of diagnoses of a disease called bipolar looks as if we are nearing epidemic proportions. The reason for over-diagnosis is not always obvious. For one reason, there has been a lack of medical pathology for depression in spite of the theories in the 1980’s about a chemical imbalance. Studies and trials do not back up the theory. And second, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was changed in 1980 to broaden qualifications to add a Bipolar II category (DSM-III). Dr. Hodges likens this action to qualifying all people with sore throats as having pneumonia. Third, many physicians admit they do not even use the DSM-IV (current) criteria when making a diagnosis of depression.
“The medical profession may have good intentions…[but] without a way to make a reliable diagnosis, physicians do not know exactly what they are treating (p. 29).” In my opinion, some doctors do not even know that they do not know. So if about 87% of patients with “mood disorders” are not getting real assistance from medicine, where can they turn for hope and help? A study notated in this book reported research that “believing in God appears to be a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. Even better, believing in a God who cares about you makes medical treatment 75% more likely to work among the clinically depressed. (p. 51).”
This leads to the remaining subject material outlined in chapters 6 through 13 where Dr. Hodges’ qualifications as a licensed marital family therapist coupled with his vast Biblical knowledge and the amount of experience he has accrued allows him to bring hope to the hopeless. This book is a valuable resource for churches who desire to assist the many who suffer silently, especially those who are Christians fearful of the stigma still attached to so-called mental illnesses in Christian circles. But I can also see how this study lends itself to a completely differently ministry, where churches are led to reach out to the secular community who feel depressed, anxious, stressful, anger, and worry and reach out to them on this basis with the hope and rest we can all find through a relationship with Jesus Christ. They can step in and succeed where the medical alternative has faltered. The end result of such counseling can be summarized this way: “When we choose to see sorrow the way God intends, we do not sorrow as those who have no hope. Godly sorrow leads to changes in our mind’s perspective and our heart’s priorities. The sorrow of the world [in contrast] often leads to deadly detours in living (p. 155).”
It has been twenty years since my own diagnosis of bipolar. The psychiatrist did not distinguish what type and to me it really did not matter. I was only looking to get some assistance with mood swings. I was superficially familiar with manic depression through my special education and psychology studies, but was not aware of the development of additional bipolar classifications back then. So when I started reading books and articles in libraries and eventually online I learned that my particular symptoms may fit the Bipolar II qualifications, mainly because of the addition of a symptom called hypo-mania. Hypomania is a milder episode of the mania which is present in patients with Bipolar I. I noticed that the DSM-IV still requires a two week period for hypo-mania, something I have not experienced. My periods of mania-like symptoms usually only last a few hours, about once a year. Over the years as I learned to recognize my own symptoms of depression, hypo-mania and euthymia (the normal between time), the labels just didn’t matter. I was a Christian and I employed coping techniques to deal with the swings.
In addition to reading, I also visited several communities, mostly online, where many people diagnosed with bipolar hung out. I observed and listened to people talk out their difficulties. In one community, I made some lifelong friendships. I discovered a huge disparity in peoples’ syndromes all in the name of Bipolar Disorder. I came to the same basic conclusions Dr. Hodges came to. The label does not matter. People living in the new secular environment still need to learn biblical perspectives on suffering, sadness, and hardships and learn how to cope with their symptoms. To me, coping techniques that work and fit within biblical parameters (excludes alcohol and drugs, etc.) should be our top priority once we are able to view our life circumstances from God’s perspective. If a person needs some medication along with coping strategies, then fine. But in my opinion, we could do without the labels. What a wonderful ministry a church could have.
In reflection, I recognize that I did need some medications, but not because I have a disease. I may fit some qualifications of some type of bipolar. Perhaps Unipolar. But my goal back 20 years ago was to cope with circumstances well without ruining someone else’s lives in the process. That’s because my experiences growing up with an explosive parent made me sensitive to the damage a person without a biblical worldview and coping strategies could have on others. This book is a wake-up call for Christians and church ministries alike. We have an opportunity and some tools to serve others around us with compassion and hope. I highly recommend this to church personnel involved in ministries to hurting people, and for that matter, to anyone suffering from depression, anger, and anxiety.
A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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