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Switch to Forum Live View Buddhist perspective on mental illness?
6 years ago  ::  Dec 12, 2008 - 1:26PM #1
callumny
Posts: 2
I have had chronic depression since childhood, and it is not a reaction to difficult circumstances or unresolved issues.  I just get these horrible feelings of despair, rage, hatred, guilt, fear... for no reason, not in reaction to anything in particular.  It's as if someone flipped a switch that makes me feel sad, or angry, or whatever.

I did go to therapy for years; I faced a lot of issues and dealt with them.  It gave me some peace of mind, but did nothing for the depression.  I also have an extensive family history of this kind of chronic depression.

I have been taking prescription anti-depressants for quite a while, and they alleviate the depression and allow me to live a normal life.  But what is the Buddhist perspective on all of this?  Don't misunderstand--I'm not asking if I should stop taking my medication.  I'm wondering if Buddhist practice will eliminate depression, when it's a systemic mental illness rather than an extended case of the blues.
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6 years ago  ::  Dec 12, 2008 - 1:40PM #2
Chiyo
Posts: 5,799

callumny wrote:

I'm not asking if I should stop taking my medication. I'm wondering if Buddhist practice will eliminate depression, when it's a systemic mental illness rather than an extended case of the blues.



I, too, suffer from depression and I have been on prescription medications for the condition.

My personal experience is that; Buddhism dramatically helps me cope! :)
But the key word is, "Helps". It is not a curative. And it does not work all by itself. I also have to have my friends, my family, my therapist, continuing education into the nature of illness and what treatments (pharmacological and otherwise) are out there available and my medication.

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6 years ago  ::  Dec 14, 2008 - 4:41AM #3
Chiyo
Posts: 5,799

Dazzle wrote:

Hello Callumny and Chiyo,

This is a really excellent article about meditation and depression. I showed it to a friend in the medical profession who suffers from depression - and he was really impressed with it.


http://www.purifymind.com/MeditationDepression.htm


Kind wishes to you both



Dazzle -

That is in incredible article, indeed! Thanks for sharing. :D

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6 years ago  ::  Dec 16, 2008 - 8:15PM #4
nnn123
Posts: 1,536
so sorry about your difficulties...here are a couple of links that you might find interesting:

Natural and Alternative Treatments For Depression:

http://www.holisticonline.com/remedies/ … p_home.htm

(not spam, not selling anything, just good information)

+++

Articles on Psychotherapy, Meditation and Buddhism:

http://www.buddhanet.net/psyche.htm

+++

a number of practicing Buddhists are also practicing psychotherapists.   I used to see advertisements for them in (the Buddhist magazine) "Tricycle."

best of luck to you,

take care,

Jon
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6 years ago  ::  Jan 04, 2009 - 2:14PM #5
rickumbaugh
Posts: 1
I have just completed the first draft of a paper on how Buddhism came to the West. One of the most interesting things about Buddhism is how protean it is. When it is in India, it is very Indian. When it is in China it learns from Taoism and becomes Ch'an. When it jumps to Japan it takes from the Samurai culture and becomes Zen.

When D. T. Suzuki and his sensei come to the West Buddhism does its thing again and becomes more a form of psychotherapy than a religion. This is, of course, still something of a controversial issue, but once you look at the history you can see it. You can see it in how Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and its offshoots have taken Buddhist training and translated it into a kind of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Indeed, one of the more influential teachers of Transpersonal Therapy says that Zen in particular is nothing more than CBT.

Alan Watts was very much an oursider in both the Zen world and the psychotherapeutic world, but his 1961 book, Paychotherapy East and West shows how this works, and having been into Zen for a long time and having had to do psychotherapy for depression it makes sense to me.

If you go back to the original Pali texts and see what the Buddha actually taught it is easy to see the connection as well. The Buddha was talking Mental Health when he came out from under the Bohi Tree, he just didn't have the language of psychotherapy, so he couched his message in the only language he had, the language of religion.

Rick Umbaugh
qui bene amat bene castigat
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6 years ago  ::  Jan 04, 2009 - 11:37PM #6
darlin777
Posts: 1
I am someone who has a couple of relatives with mental illness and I also work in healthcare and have patients with mental illness, it is obvious that it stems in the mind. However this quote makes it seem like they have control over all that takes place. I disagree, mental illness is very real and no amount of prayer and mind control cures it, same with heart disease, or lung cancer. The quote works on the main population without mental illness, yes we have control over our thoughts, but not people who are bipolar, severely depressed or schizophrenic.
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6 years ago  ::  Jan 05, 2009 - 5:09PM #7
PsyDoc
Posts: 1
As a psychiatrist who prescribes psychoactive medications on a daily basis and a meditator, I have long been interested in the relationships between mental illnesses, the brain, the mind, Buddhism, and meditation.  According to the integral view developed by Ken Wilber, brain and mind are not separate but two aspects of the same substrate that also has cultural dimensions. The brain is the physical entity that can be examined in an objective third person manner, as an "it". The mind is the inner subjective aspect that is experienced as an "I". The mind cannot be reduced to the brain and vice-versa. When the brain is diseased, e.g. epilepsy or mental illnesses like depression and bipolar disorder, there are definite objective changes in it that can be qualified and quantified with scans, chemical analysis, etc. But there are also very powerful subjective correlates of these brain changes like hallucinations, sadness, despair, and hopelessness. Treatments that predominantly target the brain aspects, like medications, or the mind aspects, like psychotherapy and meditation, can all be effective in treating mental illness and alleviating suffering. In deciding how to approach an individual patient, a practitioner can make choices based on a myriad of factors like: which have been shown empirically to be effective in similar patients, patient preferences and orientations, and skills of the pratitioner. In one case, medication alone might be highly effective and perhaps the only effective treatment, in another psychotherapy alone is sufficient. In practice, treatments are often combined for an additive or synergistic effect. As a previous writer posted earlier, there are new hybrid forms of psychotherapy that have integrated practices like mindfulness and meditation. So I would advise anyone suffering from a major mental illness to consider using medications, psychotherapy and meditation all simultaneously. The goals are to reduce suffering, improve functioning, to advance consciousness, and to be more loving.
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6 years ago  ::  Jan 07, 2009 - 9:54AM #8
jerryjerry
Posts: 5
I, too, have had issues in the past with depression. Of course Buddhism as helped and has kept things in perspective. But in any case, I believe in Chinese medicine and natural healing when possible. Here are some ways to naturally combat depression-

1. Take vitamins and eat nutritiously. Vitamin deficiencies have been linked to depression. Avoid sugars and heavily processed foods. Avoid junk foods and foods filled with chemicals. (80% of the modern American diet)  Avoid alcohol and too much caffeine.

2. Take fish oils for the omega-3. If you're a veggie, find some other sources. Yes, lack of certain fatty acids, have been linked to depression.

3. Exercise and get adequate sleep and rest. (Again, probably 80% of people in America do not do this) 

4. Sunlight. Yes, sunlight. Plenty of sun, both in your eyes and on your skin. Sit in the sun as much as possible, even for hours at a time(in the winter), and make sure it gets directly into your eyes. Bright lights, especially sunlight, can actually alter your brain chemistry. It also helps to wake you up and get your going in the morning. Better than coffee. And a great way to get vitamin D. (For the third time now, 80% of Americans need more vitamin D) 
   In the summer wear sunscreen and less time in the sun is needed because obviously the sun is much stronger during the summer months.  Seasonal depression is a major issue, and one of the main culprits is lack of bright light/sunlight.

5. Meditation, Buddhism, spirituality, a calm and peaceful mind, all these things help too. In Chinese medicine, things are all about balance. Most all scientists agree that depression is caused by changes in brain chemistry, i.e., serotonin levels, dopamine, etc...  I believe that in most cases, it is possible to get things back to a balanced state. Taking anti-depressives and such works, but is it not just covering up the symptoms? As opposed to eliminating the root cause?
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6 years ago  ::  Mar 28, 2009 - 5:14PM #9
Bhakta_glenn
Posts: 888

Dec 12, 2008 -- 1:26PM, callumny wrote:

I have had chronic depression since childhood, and it is not a reaction to difficult circumstances or unresolved issues.  I just get these horrible feelings of despair, rage, hatred, guilt, fear... for no reason, not in reaction to anything in particular.  It's as if someone flipped a switch that makes me feel sad, or angry, or whatever.  I did go to therapy for years; I faced a lot of issues and dealt with them.  It gave me some peace of mind, but did nothing for the depression.  I also have an extensive family history of this kind of chronic depression.  I have been taking prescription anti-depressants for quite a while, and they alleviate the depression and allow me to live a normal life.  But what is the Buddhist perspective on all of this?  Don't misunderstand--I'm not asking if I should stop taking my medication.  I'm wondering if Buddhist practice will eliminate depression, when it's a systemic mental illness rather than an extended case of the blues.



You are quite right to continue with your medication. Diagnosis and treatment of mental illness is for the doctor and not for the shrine room.


"Will Buddhist practice eliminate depression?"


You are asking about clinically diagnosed depression rather than just feeling down.


I can only write from experience:


It rather depends upon the Teacher that you find than 'Buddhism'. In the hands of a qualified Teacher, Buddhism is a very sophisticated form of psychotherapy. There are two kinds so qualification required:


1     The Teacher should be Qualified to Teach Dharma.


2      The Teacher should be a qualified Physician, with a knowledge of the mental health  


         practices in your country.


The issues that you have raised are profund. It will take a very special kind of Buddhist Teacher to help you.


In my own experience:


I have clinically diagnosed mental health disabilities. Buddhist meditation has been very helpful but I have a Teacher who is a medical doctor by profession.


I have been involved with a Tibetan School of Buddhism that has the kind of expertees that I have mentioned above:


http://www.kagyuoffice.org/karmapa.html


Now, it may be that you cannot find a shrine in your area:


This mantra will be of assistance:


Karmapa chen-no


 

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