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Hypochondria and depression.


Two more forms of neurosis are also emphasized often — hypochondria and depression. Hypochondria is an excessive withdrawal into an illness, it is the syndrome of the "imaginary patient." It features constant digging in one’s own feelings, the main focus of thoughts and ideas on the problems of one’s "precious" health, sometimes the full belief in the presence of some dangerous illness, which doctors cannot reveal, or a greatly exaggerated sickness that is present.

With time, such patients become impossible to live with, "laughing-stock for the heathen," for doctors. They constantly test their pulse, measure blood pressure, take never-ending tests, undergo EKGs, fuss with medicines and medical recommendations.

Usually, such people do not have much faith or none, because hypochondria is the violation of the second law: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…" (idol Ex. 20:4). "Idol" or "graven image" in this case is the person’s health.

Many researchers note, that there is a "desirable escape into illness" in this neurosis, as well as in hysteria, from life’s difficulties. Hypochondriacs are in great measure egotists, this often provides serious problems in a person’s life and leads not only to spiritual illnesses, but to physical ones as well. By living only for oneself, a person dooms himself to suffering — while if he sacrifices himself for others, he gains happiness, because true happiness comes from love of God and others.

And finally, depression. In clinical psychiatry, two principal types of depressive states are underscored. One of them is related to internal (endogenic) reasons and is less dependent on psychological factors and situations (endogenic depression), and the other, in contrast, develops from different tribulations, troubles, which build up in the individual-psychological exceptionalities of a person, on the scale of his values (neurotic depression).

The expression of depressive disorders is noticed in various mental illnesses. This is the most widely disseminated syndrome of spiritual disorders; about 5% of the Earth’s population suffer from it, and up to 60% of all mental pathology consists of depression states. Depression has "grown younger": its victims are no longer only the elderly or middle-aged, but also youths and even children.

Dejection, unhappiness, and melancholy — these are so characteristic of our contemporaries. Today, many consider that depression is an illness of civilization. Science knows much about the origin of depressive disorders, but among scientists, it is unacceptable to speak of sin, while the reason for many forms of abnormal dejection is precisely the sinfulness of the person.

Depression — is in its way the soul’s signal about its unfortunate, disastrous condition. But this is not "crying over sins," but the suffering of an unrepentant soul, to which demons whisper: "All is lost, there is nothing to hope for… besides death there is nothing to expect…" Unfortunately, one often hears such complaints from patients.

Depressive neurosis sometimes begins because of life complications. The person’s mood falls, nothing makes him happy, everything irritates him, he becomes dejected, everything around him is seen in a dark light. Often similar states come about because life did not follow "the right scenario," the way one wanted; something desired was not achieved, some sort of conflict occurred, a breakdown, one offended another…

Depression has different masks: sometimes it is expressed physically, such as a stomachache, headache, regular sleeplessness. This type of disorder is called masked depression.

The Most Holy Bishop Varnava (Beliaev), in one of his works, includes the statement of the ven. Sincliticius of Alexandria: "There is sorrow that benefits and sorrow that harms. Sorrow that benefits consists of grieving over your sins, over the sufferings of others and about the evil in general taking place around us… This is "Godly sorrow" (2 Cor. 7:10). But our enemy brings us worldly sorrow, which leads to melancholy. This state has to be driven away primarily by prayers and psalm-singing." He writes further: "There is one act in the science of salvation, which brings a person to God by the shortest route. That is — sorrow for sins… Spiritual experience and the portent of grace in the heart convince us, that solitary prayer accompanied by hot tears of repentance is the most powerful method of comfort. True, the first tears are bitter, acrid, but later one feels relief, joy, a ray of light. The further a person moves along the path to salvation, the lighter the load on the soul… This is a wonderful act of grace!"

But there is another sorrow, which the Apostle Paul calls the sorrow of the world (2 Cor. 7:10). A fashion-plate cries about not having a new spring hat and that her boots have gone out of style, that "this one" began to court "that one," and "that one" is prettier or happier than she. A young person is sad about not having enough pocket money to spend on pleasures; a couple is unhappy with each other, each only seeing defects in the other. Workers, doctors, engineers, lawyers — all are unhappy with their insufficient salary, there is never enough; a merchant is in despair over a loss, and so on, and so forth. Everyone cries and mourns, even those living in wealth and luxury. They sorrow over things which are mortal. This is a demonic sadness… A person suffers, sighs, tries to live his life without sadness, forgetting about God and the salvation of his soul.

The person goes to a doctor, who prescribes sedatives and medicines for improving moods. Clearly, this is not healing a spiritual illness, but numbing the consciousness of a person… But we must mention that we have neurotic depression in mind here. In those cases when the depressive state continues for more that two or three weeks, has daily (morning — worse, evening — better), and seasonal (spring and fall) fluctuations, the sick person requires medical attention.

The most immediate connections are determined between neurotic depressive disorders and the virtuous-moral state of a person. As doctors, we, of course, relieve the sufferings of our patients with medications, discussions, as well as simple human sympathy, but satisfaction during a patient’s visit comes only when the discussion turns to soul, faith, and repentance. With the consent and willingness of the patient, we try to evaluate the symptoms of his illness from a spiritual viewpoint.

The spiritual roots of this neurosis descend into egoism, pride, passions… A Christian gains great joy from doing good deeds, caring for others, refusing personal benefits.

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