The Catholic Guide to Depression: A Book Review

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It started with me wanting to do some further research on depression for a future project. A quick search throughout the internet led me to this book. Thanks to Dr. Aaron Kheriaty for sending me this book to review.

This book is one that must be read thoroughly. It’s not something you devour in one sitting or just skim through superficially. Like the disease of depression, this book takes time to read. Too many people have preconceptions of what “depression” is and fall into one of two extremes. The first one being that depression is just a chemical imbalance that can be easily solved with a few pills and maybe some therapy. The other extreme is that it’s a spiritual issue that doesn’t need medication to fix. This book finds a good medium between the two extremes.

The book is divided into two parts, with the first part focusing on understanding what depression is and isn’t and the second part focusing on how to treat depression. The book as a whole takes a Catholic perspective that goes in depth on how the body and soul affect each other, rather than seeing the body and soul as separate entities as people often think today. This book describes depression as a complicated disease and I love the effort that Kheriaty puts into describing the symptoms and affects it has on the person in detail.

One interesting thing I found from this book is that there’s a difference between depression and what people call the “Dark Night of the Soul” as named by St. John of the Cross. The “dark night of the soul” isn’t depression as it is a purgation of everything that separates a person from God and allowing a person to share in the suffering of Christ. People who go through the dark night of the soul are given consolations and appear genuinely happy to the outside world. People with depression don’t get any consolation.

Whenever I say that a book needs “depth,” I mean to say that the writing needs to go beyond the superficial, glossy illusion of goodness and show the research and wisdom behind whatever one is saying. Feel-good books like Chicken Soup for the Soul are a great read as a quick fix, but this book acknowledges the darker sides of life instead of ignoring them and that’s what elevates this book as a great guide to those suffering from depression.

The book is woven with elements of Catholic spirituality, but it also says that there’s nothing wrong with finding a therapist who will treat the disease but isn’t personally Catholic or even a person of faith, so long as said therapist allows for the patient to integrate his faith into the therapy. I also liked that while Kheriaty understands the necessity of medication and therapy, he also acknowledges that many people take their medications unnecessarily and that some therapists may be wrong for the patient. Like with doctors, it’s a matter of trial and error and in this case, psychologists are “doctors to the soul.”

I recommend this book to those who feel like they are suffering from depression as well as for those who know someone who has this disease. Young adults especially should look into this book to learn what the difference is between being emo and true depression. I think this book would also be beneficial to psychologists who aren’t of any particular faith. One thing this book emphasizes is that just because a person has faith doesn’t mean that they are prevented from suffering. In fact, for Catholics, suffering is a part of life and depression can come to the greatest of saints. But there’s always the hope that God gives, like a lamp at our feet and the light in the path that guides us out of the dark.

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