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When Your Teen’s Depressed and Anxious: Dr. Ed Welch

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
July 3, 2023 5:15 am

When Your Teen’s Depressed and Anxious: Dr. Ed Welch

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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July 3, 2023 5:15 am

Skyrocketing numbers of anxiety, depression, and self-harm can be downright intimidating to parents of teens. Psychologist Dr. Ed Welch offers you-can-do-this guidance to shape a home environment that welcomes, supports, heals—and helps kids navigate their way to hope.

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Connect with Ed Welch and catch more of his thoughts at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (,, and

And grab Ed's book, I Have a Psychiatric Diagnosis: What Does the Bible Say? in our shop.

Intrigued by today's episode? Think deeper about Christianity and psychology with Ed's many FamilyLife Today episodes.

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To speak to the Lord in the midst of anxiety, sort of the everyday anxiety, or those more dumps of anxiety that we identify as panic, to be able to speak to the Lord seems as though it would be the most natural thing to do. Help! I need help! This is what it's like.

But it's not natural to our souls. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson.

You can find us at or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. Do you ever struggle with anxiety? I should know I've been married to you for two years, but... Do you think I struggle with anxiety?

More than I expected. Really? Yeah. I want to know what the definition of anxiety is, and I don't think there's probably a listener that hasn't had this question or hasn't known someone that's dealing with anxiety. Whether themselves, family member, friend, child, this is a good topic.

So in other words, you're not going to answer the question, but we're going to talk about other people answering that question. And we've got the right guy. Ed Welch is with us. Psychologist, doctor.

Ask the Christian counselor. You're that guy. Ed, welcome to Family Life.

And I enjoyed seeing you put your wife on the spot. I had no idea he was going to answer. And you know what? Now I have an answer.

Here's what I remember. Two o'clock in the morning, I wake up. My heart is beating so fast. This is great.

We've got a counselor in here that's going to help her understand this. I am in a dead sleep and it wakes me up. My heart's beating so fast. And I'm thinking, I'm having a heart attack.

A friend of ours is a cardiologist. And I said, do I need to come in? Here's what's happening. I can't breathe right now.

My heart's racing so much. And he said, you know, I think you're having a panic attack. And I said, no, you don't understand. I was sleeping. I wasn't thinking.

I wasn't worrying. He goes, yeah, and that's what it can look like, which I had never experienced anything like that. And now that we have a doctor with us. Yeah. Well, every human being is familiar with anxiety and fear. So that's a given.

But what you're talking about is something a bit different. The idea of panic attacks. Maybe we should introduce our guests first. Well, I mean, this is the way I am as a counselor.

I just jump right in. By the way, my name's Ed. Well, how many years have you been practicing?

Since 1981. Wow. And your book is called I Have a Psychiatric Diagnosis.

What Does the Bible Say? So I think this is fascinating. Now, let's go back to that. Anxiety is everywhere. Yeah, everywhere.

Absolutely everywhere. Panic attacks, however, they haven't been everywhere. I can remember I probably was working as a counselor for a good five years before I heard of panic attacks.

Really? I suspect it was 15 years before I saw someone who struggled with panic attacks. But psychiatric disorders, all of them seem to be growing at a rapid rate. Panic attacks among them. I can't remember the last time I spoke to a pastor who hasn't had a panic attack during the pandemic. So somehow everybody has a panic attack story and I have a panic attack story as well.

Ed, was that one? Because I haven't had anything like that since. Well, that's the nature of panic attacks. They typically come when nothing seems to be bothering you.

Really? You can't identify something that was a trigger for it, but it's as if somehow your mind is communicating to your body that there is a kind of threat out there and you need to be mobilized. How that happens, your mind is not sending the accurate message at that time, but your body is willing to react.

And there are plenty of threats out there. We can imagine our bodies would be ready to react to it at any particular time. Now what was yours? Mine was a little bit different. It was a fear of drowning.

I can tell you the story a little bit more later if we want to get into it. I would have the experience of not breathing. I would have these waking dreams right when I was falling asleep that I was, sometimes it was an enclosed situation.

It was a cave and it was getting smaller and smaller. A lot of times it was underwater and I would wake up panicking. The panic attack, however, was a particular mental experience that was so profound I woke up and I knew my life was going to be different after that. Your panic attack wasn't quite that.

It was something that happened and it didn't persist. I knew that my life was going to be different from that point on. I didn't even bother going back to bed. I just stayed awake all night and just, Lord help, Lord help. I feel like I'm going to die. I'm pretty sure it's a panic attack and I don't think I'm going to die.

And then it moved into various, various iterations. It was, I feel like I shouldn't be panicky if I'm going to die. I should be able to trust you. I would like to have more confidence and peace going into this and I am a mess. So I've experienced it as well and there aren't going to be many people in the church who either haven't experienced it or they don't have a good friend who's experienced it. Yeah, but we often think, and I'm even listening to you, like, you're a doctor. You help people with this every single day and yet you were experiencing it. Was there like a process that you knew, I need to do this in my thinking to get out of this? Or was I, you sort of stuck like most of us?

That's an important question, I think. For me, I went to scripture. I went to Philippians 4, you know, think about those things that are good and true. And so I tried to think about those things that were good and true and nothing worked. Absolutely nothing worked. Nothing was strong enough to somehow push the image that invoked the panic attack off to the edges.

Nothing was strong enough. I was, however, somewhat encouraged that my instincts were to go to scripture, even if scripture didn't help. But here's what came out of it, especially that initial panic attack. It wasn't until the next day where somehow it was the Spirit working, it might have been reading scripture, it might have been talking to another person. But this keen understanding that I never simply spoke to the Lord about it. I used scripture as a way to try to solve the problem.

I have this, I don't like it, I want to get rid of it. I was using scripture in a sense as a pill, as some kind of medication to quiet the problem. That's not the nature of scripture. Instead of your relationship with God and Jesus.

Absolutely. It was stunning to me that I never simply said, Lord, this is what it's like. Well, walk us through what that would look like because I'm guessing there are listeners resonating with this anxiety and fear discussion.

They've got kids maybe as well. And if they're like me, they're like, help me, what do I do? You know, I want to get out of this. And maybe they're resonating with like, I've tried scripture too.

Yeah. But go deeper into... Well, the nature of the panic attack is it doesn't matter how much you go to scripture. I've never known anyone who was able to somehow extinguish the panic attack by going to scripture.

That doesn't mean it's not good. But in a sense, that's not unusual to us because if we use the larger category of suffering, that would be probably the easiest way into it with scripture. We aren't guaranteed that somehow going to scripture, thinking the right thoughts is going to alleviate the suffering. Instead, what the Lord gives us, he gives us himself typically in the midst of it.

That might not be what we're hoping for in the midst of a panic attack, but that is the best. To be able to turn to Jesus in the midst of it. To simply say, Jesus, help. To put words on it.

What is it like for you to speak those words to Jesus? Let me give you a little bit of detour on this. And I think this was probably helpful for me. I was awake all night and my wife gets up early and she sees me in the living room. And I usually get up before her, so it's not that unusual, but I must have looked different. You just pulled an all-nighter. And she said, well, what's happened? I said, I had a panic attack. And the first thing she said was, I wish you would have awoken me. And my first thought was, well, why have two people losing their sleep? But my second thought was, I wish I would have woken you up so you could be with me. You see the human analogy that our instincts, the right instincts, is how can there be a person close by that we can rely on, that we can even speak with?

What is that? It's a spillover of these spiritual realities that we have access to the right person to speak to. I mean, I heard you speak, you might remember where, I don't know where you were, I was watching this. And you talk about this cat that you lost and you went in this alley or something. You got to tell that story because your summary of what that cat meant in that moment hit me. I mean, I'll never forget it. It's like, wow, that is true.

You just sort of hit it there. But tell that story. I think that's probably one of my most embarrassing stories. And I think I perhaps told it once and you're pulling it out. And I'm making you pull it out.

It is relevant. I had a cat. It was an indoor cat and got out. And we live in suburbia where there's a gap between the two houses. And I had to walk between the gap between two houses. And there are all these bushes that I planted over the years. And all of a sudden, I don't know what I'm thinking, but it's like a little kid thinking there are probably boogeymen in those bushes. I don't know what a boogeyman is. But there's probably something nefarious in there.

This is where they live. It's lunacy, but the mind does those kinds of things. And so I'm looking for this cat and I start making noises. I start clapping. I don't know what I was doing.

It's like a lunatic. But I was thinking maybe I would scare away whatever was bad in that corridor. But I think what you're identifying is I found the cat. I almost tripped over the cat. The cat didn't even move. I almost tripped.

It was pitch black. Picked up the cat. And I had to walk back through that corridor. And I wasn't nervous anymore.

Now there are two possibilities. One is I drove out all the bad things with all the noise. But really what it felt like was I have a living being with me right now.

I am not alone. And it felt a little bit different. It was just a cat that- That couldn't protect you.

It was declawed in the front. So it could do nothing. But when we have struggles in life that are overwhelming, sort of the reality of how we're made oftentimes comes out. And the reality of how we're made is we're not made to be alone.

We're not made to be able to manage the world on our own. And that's what the Spirit gave me as a gift after that panic attack. Yeah, I mean, when I heard the story, I'm like, that image, even though it was a cat, hit me like you said. And yet it seems like, at least for me, and I know a lot of people do this, when we're fearful, when we're scared and we feel anxiety rising up, we often pull away. We're ashamed. I'm not saying you did that that night, but you were alone.

And your wife's like, I'm right here. Why do we do that? And why don't we reach out?

Yeah, you're right. There are two competing experiences. One is I need the right person, but I need to manage my world.

I need to control my world. And we feel like we can do that on our own just a little bit better. Now, here we are talking about anxiety and the more extremes of it in terms of panic.

We're not identifying the causes for it yet. What we're doing now is even without knowing the details of why this happens, to know where to turn, to whom to turn, it's right, it's good, and it's hopeful. It's the way the Lord does things. And we'll have to get into the question, is anxiety sinful?

Because I think most people assume that it is, given what Scripture says. But what we find in Scripture is the Lord reserves some of his most precious words to people who struggle with anxiety. The most precious words are, I am with you.

I am with you. That's not the entire answer to these things. But somehow it goes deeper than any other answer that we could possibly find. So to speak to the Lord in the midst of anxiety, sort of the everyday anxiety, or those more dumps of anxiety that we identify as panic, to be able to speak to the Lord seems as though it would be the most natural thing to do. Help, I need help.

This is what it's like. But it's not natural to our souls. It isn't natural to our souls. So if we find that we say help in the midst of our anxiety or our panic, there is a certain way that we can say, thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus, because I see evidence of your work in me, even in the midst of this. Because to be able to say help to Jesus, the Spirit has to provoke that in our hearts. We have evidence, even in speaking out to the Lord, that He is close to us and working in us. So we're just sort of touching into it.

But it's a precious truth. He is the God who is with us. And it's this back and forth relationship. We're accustomed to thinking about how the Lord speaks to us. It's a big Bible and lots of things He says.

But so often, and you find this in the Psalms, the Psalms have a kind of implicit beginning. And it's this. What's on your heart? What's on your heart? What's on your heart?

That's the question the Lord asks. And He says, you can talk about anything. You can talk about your cat. You can talk about anything. But talk about those things that are most important to you. The joys, the sorrows, the anxieties of life. That's certainly- Be honest.

Yeah. Who are you and what is your real struggle? That's the way the Psalms tend to begin. He says, talk to me, talk to me. And tell me more, there's some Psalms, I'm thinking of Psalm 10 in particular right now, where there's an extended section of the Lord essentially saying, tell me more, what is this oppression like? Tell me more, tell me more about it.

Well, tell me a little bit more. And then it's back and forth. And He responds. He responds with compassion, knowing how the world is filled with all kinds of threats and all kinds of dangers.

He responds with compassion. Never minimizing the anxieties that we have. Because most of our anxieties, when we think about them, when we're not quite as anxious, they can seem sort of silly. But He never says they're sort of silly. And notice what would happen. If we thought they were sort of silly in some way, we wouldn't speak to Him about them. Which is exactly what He's seeking to work against. If we minimize them, we'll think, well, I can figure this out on my own. I can work this one out, and Lord, I don't need you.

You're busy with other things. So the fact that His compassion is all in, no matter what the provoking incident might be, it is a great gift to us. I mean, do you find that there are times when you process like the Psalms, where you are honest with God, tell me what you're feeling, and you're like, man, I'm lamenting, I'm scared, I'm feeling anxious about the future, whatever it is. And often, you know, you look at the Psalms, and as I preach through them as a preacher, often I'd be like, and look what happens towards the end of the Psalm. David, or the Psalm writer, goes from fear to, okay, I told the Lord, and here's what the Lord is speaking to me, I'm with you.

But when you don't sense His comfort in that anxiety, what do you do? Because I think that's as real for us sometimes, too. Sometimes it seems as though the Psalms are this compressed episode, that it might have been years, and they're compressing it into a short story. Now, it could be otherwise. It could be that all of a sudden they understood the truth of their covenant, God, and they were delighted.

It could be. That doesn't work for me. I think what the Psalms do is they point us in the right direction. That's why when I had a panic attack and I was reviewing Scripture, I was thinking, well, maybe I could be doing better, but I'm headed in the right direction. I know who to turn to.

I know who to try to listen to. That's what we're doing. Sanctification, the maturity in life, is not necessarily so much how far down the road we are. Is it are we on the right road? Do we see Jesus out there? Are we walking with Him and aiming for Him? What you're raising is important. We anticipate that anxieties, if we deal with them well, they're going to immediately, we'll immediately be relieved of them, which is the way we would prefer.

Of course. And that's a good perspective, though, because you often think the psalm I'm reading was written in 15 minutes, and this entire journey was a less than 30-minute journey, and you're right, it could have been days or weeks. The Psalms are going to be pointing, the psalmist is pointing, follow me, this is the right direction. This is speculating a bit, but certainly the Spirit could do all kinds of things, and He could stop our anxieties as soon as we speak to Him and speak of our confession of faith. Lord, I trust you. He could terminate the anxieties immediately, but there is a certain way that anxieties are this wonderful little reminder for us. Let's assume that all of us have anxieties at some point in the course of a day.

Those anxious moments are reminders to us that we have a God who knows us, who cares for us, who is with us, and who will never leave us, never forsake us. And by the way, the promise, I am with you, He never gets tired of that one. He just looks for other ways to say it.

Let me just give you one way that I found so charming. Hebrews, I think, says this, I will never leave you, I will never forsake you. But it's almost as if you see the Lord saying, how can I say this in a way that will add oomph to it, that will be even more memorable? And so when you read it, it says, I will never, never leave you, and I will never, never, never forsake you. In Hebrew, things tend to be repeated. That's how you add that oomph.

The significance of it. Excuse the long story, but my daughter was young, and it was a busy time of life. I have an office in my basement. She came down to the basement, and she just wanted to be near me, the sweetest thing in the world. And she said, I don't need to play, I just want to be around.

Well, when you see your daughter doing that, you say, life is short. And so I can't remember what we did, but we went out and just had this wonderful day together, which of course meant that the work I had to do was going to be later in the evening. So here I was, she was getting ready for bed. Later in the evening, she started walking down the steps I heard her. She didn't say a word, she just gave me this little note. And the note was, dear daddy, X, X, X, X, X, O, O, O, O, X, X, X, X, O, O, O, over. X, X, X, X, X, O, O, O, love, Lisa. And I can remember, I cried as a result. Because it was like the Hebrew Psalmist where you could see the little girl was saying, I love my daddy. That's not it.

How can I add more oomph to this one? I love him so much. No, no, no, no. I love him so, so, so, so. Every X and O is so, so, so, so, so, over so, so, so much. And that's the way the Lord speaks to us in the midst of our anxieties. We're expecting to think that we're going to be rebuked but you will not find a rebuke in scripture to a person who struggles with anxiety. You will find the Lord speaking words of comfort into them. Hang on just a second because we're going to hear Ann explain why she's been teary-eyed the whole time today that they've been talking with Ed.

But first, I loved his practical illustration of his daughter's letter to him. God welcomes us with open arms. In fact, when we're anxious, I've learned this.

It's a time when he wants, God wants to lavish his comfort on us all the more because it puts his love and grace on full display in our lives. I'm Shelby Abbott and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Ed Welch on Family Life Today. Ed has written a book called I Have a Psychiatric Diagnosis.

What Does the Bible Say? That's a very fascinating title and one that I think many can connect with. You can pick up a copy at or you can give us a call at 800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word Today. And one of the guests that we are going to have later this week is Paul Miller. He has written a book called Love Walked Among Us, Learning to Love Like Jesus.

This is an encouraging and convicting look at Jesus' life on earth. Now through that lens, it gives practical answers to questions such as how do you love someone when you get no love in return? That's a great question.

Or how do you love without feeling trapped or used? Well, Paul answers questions just like this in his book Love Walked Among Us. This book is going to be our gift to you when you partner with us financially. You can go online to or give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word Today. And feel free to drop us something in the mail.

Our address is Family Life, 100 Lakehart Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32832. All right, here's Anne with why she's been so teary-eyed during today's interview. I'm trying to figure out like why I've been teary this entire time, like the entire time. And I think it's that, that He has, Jesus has been that for me. I'll go on a walk, and He's my best friend. And so I'm telling Him everything, my highs, my lows, my frustrations, I'm tired, and my joys.

And so I think that has become my favorite thing to do in life. And then I also think of having a friend, Michelle, that I used to walk with several days a week. We'd walk miles, and we'd do the same thing. And we'd talk, we'd pray, we'd laugh, we'd complain.

And it was that same kind of relationship. I'm telling her everything, all of my thoughts, my vulnerabilities. It's holding the cat, where I feel heard, I feel seen, I feel loved. And I don't know where as a listener you are, but I resonate with all of this, like there is a Father who loves you. There hasn't been a time where you've been anxious or sad or mad that He hasn't been with you. And I love the importance of Scripture, but I also love the idea of just being vulnerable and telling Him everything that you feel, that you need, that you long for, that you hope for.

He loves us that much, that He wants to be with us that much. Now, coming up tomorrow, Ed Welch is going to be back again with Dave and Ann Wilson to talk about coping with yourself and others when you and they both experience fear and anxiety. That's tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-03 07:30:49 / 2023-07-03 07:41:47 / 11

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