How to Overcome Depression in Islam

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This question troubles many in the faith because they haven’t considered the difference between sadness and feelings of hopelessness and actual, clinical depression. The former is in line with challenges we all face in our daily lives and results from setbacks and tragedies that strike everyone. The latter is a medical condition.

When depression rises to the level of a treatable mental illness, it is no longer something in the realm of prayer and contemplation – no more than any other medical condition is. There is no demand in the faith to avoid medical help when there is an illness present. The short answer is then to see a therapist or other professional when depression arises.

Unfortunately, in some Muslim communities, depression is mischaracterized as a personal failing and a falling away from God. If this is an issue, it is perfectly appropriate to talk to your Imam or a respected elder in your mosque about the issue. This will not be the first time they have heard a story like yours. They may even have experienced a profound depression themselves.

What is just as troubling as the depression for the devout is the feeling of a separation from God and other relationships – they mistake this for a loss of faith. Actually, withdrawal is a symptom of depression. The psychic pain causes us to remove ourselves from the society of others. Unfortunately, acting on this symptom tends to make the depression worse.

For these reasons, it is perfectly appropriate to seek help – in fact, it may be the only path to getting better. Remember, Islam does not require us to be more than human beings. There are times when positive thoughts and prayer are not enough to lift us out of a continuing depressive state. We are, however, required to take charge of our own lives and this is where taking action is the imperative. Remember this: “And make not your own hands contribute to your destruction; but do good; for Allah loves those who do good.” (Quran, 2:195) Doing good in this case means getting treatment for an illness instead of just suffering for no purpose.

The modern understanding of depression as a medical disease should reassure you that there is no shame and no guilt attached to it. It is not a personal failing; no more than having a broken leg is a personal failure. If others do not understand this, you may be able to educate them. If you still fear getting help, consider doing it anonymously or privately.

 
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