Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fear, Anxiety, Neuroticism, and Depression

Have you noticed this saying going around the internet ...

"The phrase 'do not be afraid' is written in the Bible 365 times. That's a daily reminder from God to live every day being fearless"?
Did you know is it not actually true?

1. The phrase "fear not" in the intended context is only used 80+ times

2. The phrase “fear not” is used in other contexts, but you wouldn’t want them to apply to you

3. Other word pairings that would be equal to “fear not” (“do not be afraid”, “do not fear”, “be not afraid”) is used 30+ times

What IS significant is that the command "do not fear" is given more than any other command in the Bible (84 times). This should tell us something ... and I think it means that God intended for us to live without fear.

I recently took one of those online personality tests utilizing a really cool tool call Five Labs. Five Labs analyzes the language of your Facebook posts to predict personality using a method based on the world's largest study of language and personality. The report said I am "disciplined, inventive, restless, analytical, and outgoing". Wow! All of these were traits seemed very positive, except for the restless one, that one made me think, but overall I agreed 100% Plus it told me which of my friends have similar characteristics.  

What was really interesting was that it said I also scored high on openness, NEUROTICISM (yep, that's me!), and conscientiousness.  Now two of these latter qualities seem very admirable.  But NEUROTICISM??  not so much !   

So my next step was to look up the definition of neuroticism and here's what I found ... 

Neuroticism is a fundamental personality trait in the study of psychology characterized by anxiety, fear, moodiness, worry, envy, frustration, jealousy, and loneliness.

Yikes!  There's that word "FEAR" again, added right next to ANXIETY, and WORRY, and FRUSTRATION and LONELINESS .... ugh ... makes me neurotic just thinking about it.  

Then, since I am currently taking a course in Abnormal Human Behavior, I was doing some research on Major Depressive Disorder. Major depression is a disabling condition that affects a person's family, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and health in general. Depression can run in families, but can also be triggered by a stressful life change or event.

I discovered that Major Depression Disorder is referred to as "the common cold" of mental health, but don't let that description fool you.  Major Depression is the most serious, and the most life-affecting, mental health problem that people suffer. It can occur not only in adults, but also in children and teenagers.  

What was really enlightening to me is the fact that depression can occur by itself or in combination with other mental disorders and it co-occurs with anxiety more than 50% of the time.  For this reason depression is often mis-diagnosed as an anxiety disorder. Depression also co-occurs in people who suffer with chronic pain, dementia in the elderly, and with drug or alcohol abuse.

Now, back to my original thoughts on conquering fear. Not everyone who has fear will have an anxiety disorder, but you can see how progressively fear can lead to more anxiety and an increased risk for depression.  Knowing the risks that fear can lead to isn't likely to deter us from acting out of fear. So what's the solution?   

The answer is knowing the truth of God's word.  Only when we know and put our faith and trust in what the word says, can we truly overcome fear. Something helpful would be to find a scripture that directly relates to the fear you have. The next step would be to commit that scripture to memory. Maybe you don't think you can memorize scripture, but you can write it down and carry it with you or put it in a prominent place where you will see it. Read it over and over and say it aloud.  The scripture will become a part of you and when you are tempted by fear, the Holy Spirit will bring the truth to your mind and calm your spirit.

I didn't say it would be easy, this habit takes practice.  It also takes practice noticing the things that prompt you to be fearful, worried, and anxious. (Some refer to this as "mindfulness".) But the more you incorporate this habit into your daily life, during your quiet time, or devotional time, the more you will find yourself living a life without fear.

No comments:

Post a Comment