How Modern Psychology Contributes to the Mental Health Crisis

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How Modern Psychology Contributes to the Mental Health Crisis
How Modern Psychology Contributes to the Mental Health Crisis

America is being overwhelmed with a public health crisis. This is evidenced in rising levels of anxiety, depression, isolation, drug addiction, suicide and other psychological disorders, not to mention the deviations of homosexuality and transgenderism, which modern psychology largely fosters.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the crisis, with a notable impact on the elderly and young, leading to jails and homeless shelters housing the mentally ill, as the institutions that previously treated the most severe cases have been permanently shuttered.

There is a direct correlation between the rise in mental illness and the rejection of Catholic doctrine. Freud’s id, ego, and superego have proven to be a disaster. Psychology devoid of God’s grace cannot solve the crisis. For over two millennia, the Catholic Church has addressed and alleviated psychological disorders through wise counsel and the efficacy of the sacraments.

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In addition to serving the community’s spiritual needs, it also served its general welfare, operating hospitals and orphanages and providing food and shelter as needed. To sustain this charitable outreach, the Church owned farmlands and estates maintained by monks. Monks and clerics commonly practiced and developed medicine, and medical students often pursued minor holy orders to serve the Church and society.

Alas, these private charitable social services have mainly been replaced by the modern welfare state, which lacks the Church’s maternal heart and its regard for the eternal salvation of souls. Neither does it possess the doctrine or the sacraments needed to guide them in overcoming mental and psychological disorders.

The American Psychological Association reports a significant surge in rates of severe psychological distress over the past decade, particularly among young adults and teenagers.

This alarming trend has led to heightened demand for mental health professionals, but few clamor for the Catholic Church to resume its role in solving these problems; quite to the contrary.

Multiple factors contribute to this crisis, including the impacts of abortion, euthanasia, social media, the dehumanizing effects of technology and the social disruption arising from the COVID-19 lockdown. In a more comprehensive view, however, the crisis should be seen as a clarion call for greater attention to spiritual well-being, not a prescription for more drugs and other “quick-fix” nonsolutions. The latter reflects an alarming shift in society. Instead of seeking solace in God, adopting the perennial doctrines of the Church and Her salvific sacraments, people turn to secular psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, and their ilk for answers to mental and emotional struggles.

A secular approach that fails to acknowledge God and His natural law cannot provide lasting solutions to human problems. From the time of the French Revolution, Deists have argued that Catholicism is a corruption of an “original religion” that was pure, natural, simple and rational. Thus, one can see how psychiatry, psychology and sociology emerged from a revolutionary perspective that rejected the supernatural, proclaiming that every problem has a purely natural and rational solution. This is the logical consequence of the Renaissance, which held that reason is superior to faith.

At the heart of the matter lies a fundamental difference between Catholic theology and modern psychology in understanding the human being.

Catholic theology sees man as created in the image and likeness of God, comprised of body and soul. Everyone is called to pursue freely good over evil, truth over error and beauty over ugliness. To do this, the intellect must dominate over the will and the will over the passions.

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Saint Thomas Aquinas defines the three faculties of the human soul as intellect, will, and passions. The passions inform the person of desires, while the intellect directs a person towards needs.

For example, if the passions indicate thirst, the intellect directs the will to drink. However, the intellect should also temper the person’s will against what it knows to be sinful as, due to fallen human nature, the passions often mislead. Thus, there are times when the intellect aligns with the passions, but also times when it must restrain them. With a proper understanding of this delicate interplay, one can control unruly passions and strive for the legitimate, limited happiness possible in this life.

Saint Thomas argues that perfection is impossible without reshaping the passions through the intellect, thus bringing people closer to the image of God by aligning their behavior with God’s rationality and will.

Applying Saint Thomas’s premises indicates that, often, mental illnesses reflect a sickness of the soul in which unruly passions dominate and silence the intellect. This could not be more evident than in the LGBT mentality, in which illogical passions suppress reason, logic and facts and defy empirical evidence in pursuit of sin.

In contrast, secular psychologists view the person as only a material body that seeks to satisfy bodily passions. This perspective neglects the soul, resulting in a distorted concept of the human being. Mental health professionals often treat a person as a combination of chemical reactions interacting with one another in a complex organism, a notion that differs significantly from a being that is body and soul.

This is not to say that medications are not necessary to help a person get started on the road to virtue or address imbalances, but they cannot be seen as a panacea to one’s problems.

Modern psychology largely addresses anxiety as a chemical imbalance requiring medication and therapy focusing on discussion of past traumas, but this approach neglects the healing power of examining one’s conscience and availing oneself of the graces of Confession and Holy Communion. At best, it offers a partial and unstable remedy.

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The misconceptions of the nature of the human being held by secular psychologists lead down a slippery slope. Thus, such moral evils as abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, and genital mutilation are often justified.

Psychology took a wrong turn with the emergence of Sigmund Freud’s theories. According to Freud, humans are driven solely by animal instincts, particularly sexual urges, reducing human nature to the instincts of beasts.

While Catholicism rightly governs human passions through prayer, penance and frequent reception of the sacraments, an approach decried as oppressive by secular psychologists who encourage clients to satisfy every desire, ignoring their consciences, to “assume complete control of their lives.” However, surrendering to illicit passions enslaves them, keeping them trapped in a state of sin by foregoing repentance and amendment of life.

Moreover, secular psychologists often deny objective truth. This notion aligns with moral relativism, applied by Joseph Fletcher as situational ethics, creating confusion in those suffering from mental illnesses.

In contrast to the clear moral framework provided by Catholicism, modern psychology offers a confused analysis of morality that disregards God and places the individual’s subjective interpretation of truth above the objective and absolute order designed by Him.

Devoid of moral guidance and responsibility, therapy sessions tend towards justifying patients’ flawed acts. How often has it been said, “It’s not my fault; I was born that way”? Therapy should encourage proper behavior.

Confession offers a therapeutic action that can alleviate mental strain through forgiveness. What could lift the weight of sin better than receiving God’s forgiveness? In turn, by forgiving others, one can find release from deep-seated resentment and begin healing.

The Church’s doctrine and sacraments provide additional benefits in addressing mental health problems. Instead of relying solely on long-term medication, prayer can offer much-needed restoration and has been shown to reduce stress and depression and enhance cognitive control over emotions, as evidenced by increased activity in the prefrontal cortex.

The excessive prescription of drugs is a growing concern as a significant portion of the population relies on psychotherapeutic drugs to cope. Known as psychotropics, these medications regulate serotonin levels to influence mood and behavior.

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Comparing secular psychology with faith brings to light a critical distinction. Modern man extols self-esteem while shunning self-examination, particularly of one’s conscience. Faith attests to fallen human nature and recognizes one’s brokenness as crucial to healing.

America’s current mental health crisis has broad social and moral consequences. However, the solutions to these complex problems are not elusive. The soul’s first need is order, which can only come from God, its Author, who provided the remedy to its ills in founding the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, whose loving wisdom can aid the afflicted, whatever their problems may be.

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