Understanding Depression Through Love Sickness

               This is my third post on things psychological that I advise you not to read. This is not mainstream thinking. If that’s where you are, you will consider me nuts. Remember I claim no expertise in this field. I do know what is to be personally depressed, panicked, and obsessed. I don’t think the “depression as disease” model that carries the day, not only in secular society but Christian, is helpful.

               Burton’s massive (My modern edition is well over 1,000 pages of small type.) 17th century work, The Anatomy of Melancholy, was not thought by C.S. Lewis worth serious reading. He describes it as something to read in bits and pieces as a distraction. I was surprised at the breathe and depth of Burton’s treatment. He addressed treating melancholy, depression by means of ‘medicines.’ But the best thing I got from my reading was an understanding of “love melancholy” which better helped me to understand depression.

               Everyone has lived through love melancholy in high school or college. We all know the intensity, the seriousness, the acuteness, the highs and the lows, and the physical sensation of being ill with love.

               In many ways chemical depression or clinical depression is reminiscent of love melancholy. However, with the former we have medicalized it, classed it as diseased state that can only be cured with the help of medicine and ‘professionals’.  Having medicalized it we have put it in the category of a hard science rather than where it belongs in the category of heart and emotion. The hard sciences are objective, testable, and there really is no debate about what works and what doesn’t.

               As you can know what ‘lust’ in general is from the sexual lusts known to all, so you can know what depression is by the love-sickness you were sure you were to die from as a teen.

               Of course, we know the dangers of dismissing a teen’s ‘love’ as only puppy love (if from nowhere else but the song). So, we ought to know the dangers connected to treating depression too seriously, i.e. as a disease state.

               Where teen love does go horribly awry, think Romeo and Juliet, we know more than chemicals, more than the physical is involved. The spiritual is, the Old Evil Foe is. And so it is with depression. Even as there is the Spirit of hope, joy, love, peace, kindness, so there are spirits of despair, depression, hatred, agitation, obsession, and sensuality.

               The Christian has this glad confidence: “Greater is He that is in us than he that is the world” (I Jn. 4:4). It doesn’t mean we won’t continue to be bitten, haunted, vexed by those unholy spirits. But the Holy Spirit in us is like garlic is to a mosquito. Mosquitos still bite the person who consumes garlic, but they let go sooner.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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