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Re-Framing Depression and Anxiety: Part I

Re-Framing Depression and Anxiety: Part I

Recent events have once again brought to the fore a problem that plagues many men and women, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. Cases of depression, anxiety and irrational anger are increasingly more common in today’s society.

The Skyrocketing Statistics


If you believe the statistics, 17 million Americans- nearly 7% of the adult population (NIMH 2012 data) suffered from depression the previous year. Is this accurate- or could there be something else at play?

Well, according to the American Psychiatric Association:

“Depression in women is misdiagnosed approximately 30 percent to 50 percent of the time. Approximately 70 percent of the prescriptions for antidepressants are given to women, often with improper diagnosis and monitoring. Prescription drug misuse is a very real danger for women (McGrath et al., 1990).”

With these statistics, I think it’s time to look at this problem a bit differently.

Mental illness – and more specifically depression, is a condition that most people are familiar with. They may have experienced it themselves, or have watched a loved one battle this potentially debilitating illness. Depression can rear its head in the guise of general listlessness and withdrawal- and even more serious symptoms, such as self-harm and suicide. And while I by no means purport to know everything there is to know about mental illness, I do offer the below as an alternative way to look at- and combat depression and anxiety.


Another Way to View Depression


From a holistic perspective, there are a number of contributing factors to the development of depression and anxiety, which usually fall under several categories including:

Medical/biological, spiritual fluctuations, environmental, relationships, socioeconomic factors, abuse and trauma, stress management and inherent coping abilities. Below are some of the contributing factors in each category:


– Hormonal fluctuations

– Brain chemical imbalance

– Post-partum depression


– Major scarring or infirmity

– Inherited mental illness (it’s not always that the illness is inherited, but often behaviors and patterns are adopted {learned helplessness})



– Bullying/Peer Pressure (children and adults)

– Media (Music, Videos, Advertising)

– Lack of morality

– Racism/Classism

– Impoverishment

– Rampant Unemployment


::Self Worth/Self Esteem::

– Compare and despair syndrome (judging yourself by other’s accomplishments)

– Lack of achievement, feeling unfulfilled or that you are wasting your potential

– Not having goals or lacking the understanding or resources to bring them to fruition

– Not being pleased with your outward appearance; trying to live up to societal beauty standards.

– Verbal or emotional abuse from parents, spouse, friends, employers, etc.

– Infidelity, battery or sexual abuse

– Being a chronic over-achiever or people-pleaser



– Reduced Spiritual connection

– Not performing Salat- which is cutting off the best portal of support and solace

– Not surrounding yourself with friends that call to Allah

– Low Iman, which leads one to doubt and question her life, worth and circumstances

– Abandoning the Book of Allah

– Indulging in much sin, without Istighfar (repentance)

– Striving to please others, in opposition to pleasing Allah

– Striving to accumulate much dunya and being preoccupied with worldly affairs

– Losing hope in the aid of Allah



– Lack of support or resources/lack of job opportunities

– Unfulfilled in your career

– No/inactive Muslim community or social support system

– Inadequate living situation, drab or crowded surroundings

– Loud, rushed and stressful environment

– Witnessing much sin and transgression around you

– Poverty or squalor



– Yearning to be married/ frustrated in the search for your soul mate

– Lack of emotional support from significant other or friends

– No extended familial support system, especially if you have children

– Abuse or abandonment

– Being used by others

– Lack of familial connection (adopted, parents deceased, bad blood)

– Loneliness/Relationship trouble

– The need for close, trusting friendships. Women need community and support from friends in a way that men don’t and even a beloved husband cannot in some ways replace a good girlfriend.


::Coping Skills::

– Not dealing with disappointment effectively

– Inability to work through financial problems

– Faulty decision making skills

– Lack of general coping skills (loss, disappointment, etc)

– Poor stress management

– Chronic anxiety/ tendency to worry

– Lack of Tawwakal (trusting in and relying upon Allah to aid you)


All of the above factors play a role in the development of the broad spectrum of conditions/mind frames that today are placed under the umbrella of “depression”. And while there are absolutely cases that fall outside of this construct that I mention, m – instead of drilling down to the root cause and it’s my opinion that as a society we have made the dangerous mistake of labeling symptoms and “behaviors” and then rushing to medicate them spending the time and energy to address those on both an individual and societal level.


Also a the former employee of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, and someone who still follows the industry closely- I know that most treatment for chronic conditions such as depression are not designed or equipped to address the true cause of dis-ease and provide real, lasting therapies and tools for recovery. They are designed largely for dependence and profit. This is confirmed by the fact that the use of anti-depression medication has increased an unbelievable 400% over the last twenty years.


Take a look at these additional troubling statistics (CDC Data):

–> 11% of Americans over age TWELVE take an anti-depressant regularly and of that group, 14% have been on them for more than ten years.

–> Women are prescribed antidepressants 2.5 times more men.

–> 23 percent of women ages 40 to 59 take antidepressants, more than in any other age or sex group.

–> Of those on antidepressants, 14% are taking more than one type, yet less than half of them have seen a mental health professional in the last year.

It doesn’t require a degree in statistics to see that something is very wrong with this picture.


Pharmaceutical companies are reporting billions in profits, yet as a society, we seem to be even more sick and troubled than ever. Something is seriously amiss here.

There is an inherent conflict of interest in the current model of treating depression, which is reflected in the barrage of direct to consumer advertising, children being medicated at alarming rates, skyrocketing diagnosis numbers, and the sheer dizzying array of players vying for a piece of this market.

Of course, there are some cases in which medication may be necessary to correct brain chemistry or help halt dementia (which can also be done naturally in some cases). Also, in some situations, there may also be a need for intervention while the root cause of mental illness or depression is uncovered. However, even accounting for those situations, we have to acknowledge a serious problem when:


–> Every overactive child is now labeled with ADHD. As of 2013, 11% of American children had received a diagnosis of ADHD (CDC data) – and this is excluding other mental or behavioral disorders (do you really think that more than a tenth of the nation’s children suffer from this?).

–> Furthermore, according to the CDC “Rates of ADHD diagnosis increased an average of 3% per year from 1997 to 2006 and an average of approximately 5% per year from 2003 to 2011.” These children are then subsequently medicated for behavior that was once deemed normal for an “active” or “inquisitive” child and takes not into consideration the numerous environmental factors that impact a child’s behavior.

–> Women are given antidepressants like candy to treat everything from PMS to normal life changes.

–> Direct to consumer advertising by drug companies is rampant in an effort to increase dependent individuals, thus increase sales. We’ve all heard the famous line “… Ask your Doctor if XYZ drug is
right for you”.

In fact, Physicians have reported patients demanding a specific drug, because they think they need it- and more often than not, they give the patient what he wants to avoid potential problems or complaints down the road.

–> Many of the perpetrators in mass shootings and murder tragedies in recent years have been discovered to be taking psychotropic prescription drugs (anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication), which have been shown to increase anger, depression and suicidal thoughts.


Again, this is not to trivialize or judge the experience of anyone dealing with depression or mental illness– but to provide an alternative backdrop upon which to search for and employ real and lasting solutions. To promote true health- not dependence.

In the current environment, we have largely lost (or been conditioned against) the ability to activate our innate coping mechanisms, reliance on Allah, our option of free thought… and our ability to learn from our experiences (because we can’t see the bigger picture or are too medicated or submerged in our troubles to see the lessons).

InshaAllah, over the coming months, we’ll examine some alternatives, solutions and therapies to address the root causes of depression listed above. This will span many areas and angles- Islamic, biological, societal, holistic and ways in to reduce stress and increase personal fortitude.

*Medical Disclaimer: This article is not intended as medical advice, but is for education purposes. Never stop taking prescribed medication without the consent and supervision of your doctor or qualified medical professional.

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About The Author


Sister Khadija Abdus Sabur is a Transformational Coach who works with Muslim women to peel back the layers, heal old wounds and rekindle a deep sense of self-love, spirituality, and purpose - which allows them to stand up, show up, and level up in every area of life. Sister Khadija supports dynamic women who are looking to overcome their inner obstacles and commit to filling their cup first, in order to live out and share their true potential with the world. Who do you know in need of this type of transformation?