Home » Depression » Depression and Religion / Will Power

Depression and Religion / Will Power

Asked by on with 1 answer:

I just want to ask a controversial question. I know my question is not supported by the psychology literature but let me play the devil’s advocate.

Can a “true”; devout Christian have depression?
My definition of depression: Depression meeting the psychology/psychiatry guidelines.
My definition of a “true” Christian: A Christian who understands that we have a purpose in life, accepts a simple life, not competing to have more material goods, accepts the sufferings life as part of Gods’s plan.

I know of people who were diagnosed and on medications for depression, but when they become devoted to Christianity, they no longer are “depressed” and needing medications.

I do understand the following:
-there is data that there are chemical imbalances associated with depression
-there is no single chemical imbalance that accounts for all depression
-therefore, depression is multifactorial
-but let me guess that since depression is claimed to be multifactorial, could it be that all those date is just a red herring???
Bottom line is that from people I know who have clinical depression, they all have unfulfilled expectations, and people I know who accept life, sufferings, struggles, and a Godly purpose in life, they don’t have depression.

I would like to have an educated discussion on this if you don’t mind.

Depression and Religion / Will Power

Answered by on -


  Thanks for your thoughtful question and I don’t see it as coming from “the Devil’s Advocate” at all. Psychologists study the impact of faith, religious practices, will power, and even the degree to which gratitude toward God impacts upon well-being. A few of the references that discuss these elements are located below. I believe the same assertion could be posed for Buddhism, and most other religions, or belief system where there is strong purpose and meaning in life, and a belief that there is something greater than you. Accepting suffering, struggle, and purpose doesn’t inoculate you from depression any more than understanding germs inoculates you from getting a cold. While I agree there is no single cause for depression there is strong evidence for much of it stemming from loss and lack of connections. Most religions can help people cope with the clinical depression that can follows loss, but not prevent it.

In general, people are more likely to have greater well-being and suffer less depression who have more calibrated expectations — particularly if they have a sense of purpose, good relationships, the capacity to engage in the activities of their life, and the ability to experience joy, love, hope and the other positive emotions. This includes those with — or without — a specific religious belief.

Further reading:

Baumeister, R. F., & Tierney, J. (2012). Willpower: Rediscovering the greatest human strength. Penguin.

Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. Vintage.

Hari, J. (2018). Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression–and the Unexpected Solutions. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Rosmarin, D. H., Pirutinsky, S., Cohen, A. B., Galler, Y., & Krumrei, E. J. (2011). Grateful to God or just plain grateful? A comparison of religious and general gratitude. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(5), 389-396.

Seligman, M. E. (2012). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Simon and Schuster.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Depression and Religion / Will Power

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Depression and Religion / Will Power. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 16 Jun 2018 (Originally: 17 Jun 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 16 Jun 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.