Monday, March 5, 2012

Avoiding Nervous Breakdowns

According to a 2000 report published in American Psychologist, 26% of Americans felt "an impending nervous breakdown." Many say this is a feeling most people nowadays experience periodically. This seems frequently to be triggered by a divorce, a death, or financial and job stress. In addition to the feeling of going crazy, some of the symptoms include heart palpitations, chest pains, shortness of breath, uncontrollable crying, dizziness, disorientation, exhaustion. Unfortunately this condition is becoming more normal. We live in times when personal crisis are quite common. Such anxiety is a result of our separation from God. To cope with today's tumultuous world we must grow spiritually.

With a strong Orthodox faith we can better deal with this over stressed condition. This requires a faith that is more than the notion of "Faith Alone" preached in many Protestant churches. It is a faith that is linked with works, with our personal effort, working in cooperation with God's grace. It is a faith where we desire and have great zeal to be with God. It is faith of unbounded love of God.

The Orthodox way of life provides a time proven structure for developing such faith. With the ongoing practice of repentance and forgiveness it demands, one does not keep as much "stuff" bottled up inside. One who lives a true Orthodox way of life when faced with stressful uncertainties learns to call on God for help when faced with uncertainties. One who lives a life of repentance learns humility and is ever aware of their fallen and sinful condition, knowing they cannot cope with life's trials and tribulations alone. They know death is at the end of this earthly life, but beyond is what they hope for, eternal life in Paradise. They learn to seek forgiveness, to admit their weaknesses and know that God will help them. They participate in Confession and regularly partake of Communion, the true Blood and Body of Christ, by properly preparing themselves. They develop self-disciple through fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays as well as the special fasting periods like Great Lent. They have a daily prayer life and are able to communicate with God for help in times of need. They have a Spiritual Father for guidance and a spiritual family of believers whose love they can count on. They have developed a spiritual relationship with several saints, who now reside in heaven near the throne of God, who they also call on for help, especially Mary, the Mother of God. They are never alone.

Stress comes when we lose hope in a situation, become fearful, and do not have faith that we will be able to work through the difficulty we face. We only see our limitations and believe that all things are dependent on our own efforts which seem inadequate. We feel alone. We lose our vision of the spiritual aim of life. We no longer see the struggles of life as part of the ongoing development of our faith in God. We forget that God loves us no matter what and supports us by His promise of eternal life with Him if we only continue to act out of love for Him as well as others.

The Orthodox way of life is like an insurance policy against stress where we feel like we cannot cope. Like an insurance policy we have to remember to pay the premiums. In the Orthodox way of life, this involves prayer, fasting, worship and participation in the Sacraments. It is a life of repentance lived with a zeal, a desire, an intense love of God.

More on Orthodox Way of Life


  1. I find this insulting & patronising. I have mental health issues which recur, whether I am growing in my faith or not. Thank you for making me feel even worse.

  2. Forgive me Anonymous. We all have our suffering, our own Cross to bear. If we are able to maintain our love and connection with God in our times of difficulty we know He will comforts. Even those of great faith can experience sever difficulties and times of separation from God. This is the nature of our fallen condition. We simply have to pick ourselves us and seek Him. We do this over and over. This is the nature of a life of repentance. We should never become discouraged. Also there are those of us who have a physical condition that we must learn to live with our whole life. For some, this effects our mind, and for others is is another type of physical disability. These may not be avoidable but are burdens we must learn to bear with love and gratitude for God. All of us can always progress in our faith to gain further strength through the Orthodox Way of life no matter how far we have progressed. The ultimate test we all face is our death. This is the truth of Christ of which we must become. He conquered death by death on the Cross as we to must eventually do for eternal life in His kingdom.

    Although its not on exactly the same topic, here is a link to an article by Orthodox Psychologist Fr. George Morelli on overcoming Depression:

  3. Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
    Today I don't have time to write an essay, so I will share my thoughts with you in this note. This Monday, I was under A LOT of pressure at work, I had to meet two deadlines, and I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown.(Of course it doesn't help that I am a procrastinator.) Anyway, as I was getting ready to go to work I was so stressed I thought that I was going to lose control. I just wanted to sit down, cry and give up.
    The only thing that kept me going was a thought about my mother. When I was sixteen years old my father died suddenly of a heart attack. He died right in front of me. At the time my mother was only 42 years old. She did not know the English language, she didn't have any marketable skills to help her land a job,and she had three daughters to raise.
    Needless to say this was a traumatic time in her life. Many years later she told us that when this happened she was so scared that she wanted to run away, but she didn't because she knew that she had a responsibility to her three daughters. She thought to herself, it's not their fault that this happened, and she also thought about who was going to raise us, so like a good Christian woman, she stayed and with God's help, and the support of her parents and siblings, she fulfilled her duties as a mother.
    Monday, when I thought I was going to loose my mind from the pressures imposed on us at work, I thought about my mother. I told myself, if Mommy can successfully overcome what she overcame, I certainly can get through my challenge. ( At work we are having some extreme pressures imposed on us, yet compared to what my mother went through the pressures were nothing.)
    Then, when I arrived at work the security guard, another Christian woman, was sitting at the front desk. When I saw her I got reminded of what she said to me last year, when our school was again facing some difficulties. That woman told me that the Bible says, No weapon formed against you shall prevail. This too got me through the day, and by the end of the day everything fell into place and I had a sense of release, and a feeling of peace.
    The moral of the story is that no matter what we go through in life; our cross, our victory over our testing, it is not in vain. Besides the fact that we become perfect through suffering, our experience just might be that one ray of hope that will help someone down the road to stand on their feet. If my mother had not been a survivor, Monday may have just had a different outcome. I just may have lost it, because at that point that was all that I had to hang on to. So my friends, don't give up. Ask God for His grace, and humbly and patiently endure the trial until God gives you the victory. To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen and Amen.

  4. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
    Hebrews 2:10 (NIV)

  5. What is the sense of suffering in our lives? A talk with Anthony Bloom, Metropolitan of Sourozh (The Eastern Orthodox Church in Britain). Three tube videos:

  6. I think this article is not only erroneous, but dangerous. There is no real definition of a "nervous breakdown." It's not a clinical term. The symptoms you cite are general and can be reactive to a real life crisis, or chronic anxiety, depression, PTSD, Bipolar, etc. The term means all kinds of things to different people, so it's not at all helpful. To even address such a vague "condition" here is insulting to people who do suffer from severe mental illness and have tremendous functional impairments. Therefore, to state that "one who lives an Orthodox way of life is less likely to have a disordered life and therefore is less likely to face as many crisis situations as others" is off mark and completely condescending to those who suffer from real illnesses and/or have had tremendous damage and trauma in their lives.

    "Stress" can come from a real life crises, not just in your limited ways of defining it. Try losing a job and facing life on the streets, not being able to afford to provide for your family, or be a child of parents who are drug addicts... I work with Orthodox people of great faith, who also have severe mental illnesses and/or tremendous psychosocial stressors. I know it's common for people to think they are psychologists, but these kinds of attitudes are really harmful and show an ignorance both of mental illness and faith.

  7. Your point is well taken. The section you quote is possibly an overstatement and not necessary to the main point of the article. The main point is that with the work of the Holy Spirit we gain much aid in coping with a stressful world. This power is available to us all if we properly develop the fullness of faithfulness. As the article points out much work is required to cope with the stresses of our life, which some of us have more of than others. For Orthodox Christians we know we must have more than belief, but must also cooperate with God to develop ourselves spiritually, to purify our heart or soul so it is free from the worldly passions. This can be gained through the daily practice of the Jesus Prayer combined with participation in the Sacraments of the Church with the guidance of a spiritual father. Of course there are situations where this must be combined with medical treatment. The spiritual healing is one often neglected in our modern materialistic age where we have few qualified spiritual doctors.

    Fr George Morelli address this topic. V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. address this topic. He is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist, Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, ( and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion. Fr. George is Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California. Fr. Morelli is the author of Healing: Orthodox Christianity and Scientific Psychology (available from Eastern Christian Publications, $15.00).
    Here is a link to an article of his that may be of more use to you:

    I did make a few changes to the article to soften the tone in light of your comments but hopefully not the essential importance of a focus on our spiritual growth.


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