Mourning with those who mourn

This is an old post from Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog, but they recently re-posted it on their RSS feed: “Should Christians Take Antidepressants?

That headline is infuriatingly stupid. The subhed for the post is even worse: “Medication can help, but it can also hinder our reliance on Christ.”

Is insulin just a crutch that Christians use to cope with diabetes instead of relying on Jesus?

This is cruel and ignorant.

And when ignorance strikes a pious pose of sanctimony, that makes it worse, not better.

No pious jackasses sit around pondering “Should Christians Take Insulin?” No insufferably holier-than-thou idiots pretend it would be deeply spiritual if they said, “Rattlesnake anti-venom can help, but it can also hinder our reliance on Christ.” Or “An emergency appendectomy may sometimes be beneficial, but only if we’re careful not to allow it to overshadow our true savior.”

Yet when it comes to any kind of mental illness, evangelical Christians suddenly turn into Christian Scientists or Scientologists — preferring “spiritual” treatments over medicine.

This hurts people. This kills people. This needs to stop.

Here’s a taste of the article:

In a 2010 Revive Our Hearts radio interview, Reformed writer Elyse Fitzpatrick, author of Will Medicine Stop the Pain? (Moody), said:

It’s so important for us just to remember that yes, perhaps the anti-depressants are making it so that we’re not feeling those raw, painful emotions. But those emotions are given to us by God to drive us to himself and then to force us to ask questions about our faith and about the way that we’re living and thinking and responding to things.

Should Christians avoid taking antidepressants, instead “letting go and letting God” lead us through the ups and downs of life? I’m not sure.

Again, would these people talk like this about any other ailment? What if she had written this?

Should Christians avoid taking antibiotics, instead “letting go and letting God” lead us through the ups and downs of infection? I’m not sure.

Or who wrote the following as the conclusion of the essay?

Certainly antibiotics can take the edge off the pain of living in this broken world. But is it possible that we need those edges, which so often lead us to Christ?

I only changed one word in that — the rest is verbatim from the last two sentences of the actual article.

Seriously, this is abysmally stupid and it does real harm to real people. Knock it off.


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  • Müntzer

    But that still should be checked, yes?
    I am not advocating ‘Chems are bad, always’, i am saying that anti-depressants are not as easy as ‘take them, and then you are alright’.
    There are of course numerous reasons way one takes them and if the biochemistry of the brain is out of whack, then they might be the only way to fix that. But even biochemistry might be out of whack for more than ‘thats just how it is’.

  • Müntzer

    It depends on how one takes painkillers and what one believes what pain is for.
    I am relativly wary of painkillers because they make me sluggish and it takes me longer to heal if i take them.
    Do i take them if i cannot sleep or move otherwise?
    Of course.
    I actually think we are quite close together in our views here, but where, i think, you would rather err on one side, i rather err on the other.

  • Hexep

    I never take painkillers; I’m terrified that one day I’ll actually need them for something but they won’t work because I’ve built up a tolerance.

  • Hexep

    In order to establish a sort of world equality, I hereby vow that I personally will get mad at everybody in the world for every disease and malady.

  • Hexep

    I respect your decision not to link. Secrecy is always safer.

  • I’m not sure what side you think I would rather “err” on, or what side you would rather “err” on, or how the sides differ, but I certainly agree that there are costs and benefits to the use of painkillers, and that it’s important to be aware of the tradeoffs we make.

  • (nods) I felt that way about blood pressure medication for years.

    Then I had a hypertension-induced stroke.

  • Lori

    I hope to FSM this is snark, because it doesn’t work that way.

  • There is such a thing as tolerance to painkillers, but I’m not sure you can reach any significant level of tolerance off, say, aspirin… stronger stuff, yes, though. I know people who were taking hydrocodone and built up a tolerance to it.

  • P J Evans

    Some can be addictive, but those are the ones mostly likely to be controlled substances. Acetaminophen isn’t addictive (it has other hazards, though) .

  • Just Sayin’

    But perhaps current antidepressant drugs are not the best treatment. Perhaps there needs to be more research. That’s all he’s saying.

  • Just Sayin’

    He could be writing in the Beano comic paper or on his personal roll of toilet paper and his arguments will still stand or fall on their merits (or otherwise). Simple really. So he’s presented his arguments — where are yours?

  • smrnda

    I thought I’d weigh in on the discussion since I have schizo-affective disorder and am an atheist.

    For most of my life, I’d had serious manic episodes and a few times when I had full blown auditory, visual and even tactile hallucinations. So after one hospitalization, they gave me some blood tests, changed a few meds I was on, waited a few weeks, recommended a few lifestyle changes, and for the last maybe 4 or 5 years, no problems at all. Nothing, not even hypo-mania or anxiety or depression. Nothing. Part of the reason why I think treatment works for me is that I’ve never felt a need not to take meds. I take medication few other health conditions, and I’ve never decided that taking them was a bad idea since they work.

    I think the dismissal of mental illness is that the belief that all human emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are within a person’s conscious control is a necessary part of some belief systems. Many forms of religion , particularly some schools of Christianity, call for a sort of emotional legalism – it’s not just actions which can be sinful, but emotions as well. If we admit that people don’t control their emotions, the belief that feeling a certain emotion might be sinful has to get thrown out the window as just as stupid as believing that having a cold is sinful. Many systems of Protestant theology are based on a notion of innate and willful depravity of all people, and the idea that people don’t have total control not to feel ‘sinful’ or ‘bad’ emotions is a threat, so it has to be dismissed.

    In terms of the body count, I’m sure that religious leaders spouting this nonsense don’t care. It’s a power game for them from which they don’t lose if they just decree that the latest suicide just didn’t have the right type of faith.

  • Just Sayin’

    If that’s really the case, then . . . your scientific qualifications to give your opinion on this are . . . ?

  • Victor Savard

    (((so faith is totally the answer, never medication.)))

    Sister, I’m sorry about what happened to you and what “I’M” about to say might sound a little insane but “I” don’t believe that all of your reality and/or spiritual cells truly believe that statement above

    I hear YA! You’re half right! I was being sarcastic there! :(

    OH! OK! I understand NOW!

    I could write 66 books about this but so I don’t start name calling, I’ll simply say that “IT” all started in the early 90’s when “I” took my life and…..

    Got YA Victor! “I” knew you were dead NOW and….

    And sinner vic, please give “ME”, “ME” and “ME” a chance to get YA back NOW. (lol)

    As I was about to say sister, my wife was sitting on the sofa and watching me literally shaking like a leave and believe U>S (usual sinners) “IT” was very funny but “IT” was not if YA get my drift when I heard my wife say outloud something like; are you stupid, stop that shaking. Long story short, if GOD (Good Old Dad) and HIS ANGELS took over this world, let’s just say that NO BODY told me about “IT” so right there and then every “ONE” of my reality cells planned to take our lives, I mean our life and longer story short, my con science gave me a gulit trip and so i promised that i would give “Jesus” a chance to save me but after Seven days this flesh was history. Anyway, I continued receiving The Body and Blood of Christ and long, long story later, I was reborn on the turd, I mean 3rd day and here “I AM” just another peter and….

    And Victor! YA just got lucky! Come on NOW! Didn’t the doctor tell YA after you give him back his pills that you would be ok on the turd, I mean 3rd day butt do you still expect your wife after 43 years of marriage to forgive YA NOW?

    Go Figure NOW! :)

    What’s that sinner vic?

    P.S. Fred! You’ve got 2 more post UP there so forgive me if “I’M” a little slow NOW!



    Hey! Stop reading my mind NOW Victor!

    Piece (lol)

    I mean Peace NOW.

  • Just Sayin’

    I’m saying he has a point: more research needs to be done into adverse effects of current antidepressant drugs if it can save lives.

  • Just Sayin’

    Ad hominem (the Limbaugh nonsense) is not a valid argument. So you should have left it aside. But you didn’t.

    He’s written many articles on this topic, perhaps you just read the first one. As for blind faith in doctors, I don’t advise blind faith in anybody.

  • Just Sayin’

    Well, that depends on the medication, which is precisely the matter in debate.

  • Just Sayin’

    So please address his arguments then.

  • Just Sayin’

    More ad hominem. Arguments from the pro-anti lobby here seem to be in very short supply. Just name-calling doesn’t cut it.

  • Becca Stareyes

    In my experience, ‘a heavy dose of happy’ wasn’t how anti-depressants worked on me. It was more about not walking around feeling like I was alone in the world, and that eventually I would case to exist. Or not being convinced that every time I did less than perfectly on a test, or asked a stupid question, or made a faux pas when talking to someone on the internet, it was proof I was a horrible person who was doomed to end up friendless in a cardboard box. (Well, that and the first month or two, I was sleeping twelve hours a day and would fall asleep almost immediately after dinner. Side effects stink, but this one wore off once I adapted to the dosage.)

    Therapy helped identify these feelings before they got overwhelming and disrupt them.. Adding medication plus therapy to the mix basically meant that I was less likely to end up in a spiral of anxiety and despair, and if I did, I could use the techniques I learned in therapy to pull myself out of it. I also learned enough about the workings of my mind to know when I needed more care from a psychologist or psychiatrist and when I needed less.

    You could say ‘the problem’ was that I was doing challenging things, and my situation was such that I had to do them away from my family and closest friends. Quitting to move home was not an acceptable solution, any more than ‘never go outside’ was a solution to my hay-fever.

    Of course, I am lucky in that both my psychiatrist and all the psychologists I’ve seen (I have a track record of picking ones that retire or move a year or two in…) do talk to me about my mood issues and stress and generally make sure I have what I need and that they know what my condition is.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Or maybe you need to present your qualifications. (I count ‘have a mental illness and am familiar with the use of antidepressants as a patient’, ‘have a degree in studying mental illness and am familiar with the use of antidepressants as a medical professional’, and absolutely nothing else.)
    If you have no qualifications, you need to shut the fuck up.

    Speaking as one of those people in the first group I describe as qualified: I am not, if I can avoid it, going off my meds ever again. Because, and this bit requires a trigger warning for suicide, the meds keep the suicidal ideation at bay. And I like being alive.

  • And there are many controls in place now in medical settings to greatly reduce the chance for patients to get addicted to painkillers.

    When, for example, they hook you up to a morphine drip, you can’t just push the little button 478 times until you’ve pumped all the morphine in the world into your system. The machine won’t let you.

    Painkillers are extremely important, and not just for the very important reason of, yanno, reducing pain. If your body is freed from even some of the pain of an injury or illness, it has that much more energy to spend…fighting the injury or illness.

  • They obviously don’t consider sexual assault as a factor.

  • GDwarf

    Since I was diagnosed with clinical depression I’ve become a bit of an advocate for medication for mental disorders. I realize it’s generally not a perfect solution and generally has unpleasant side-effects, but one of ’em changed and saved my life.

    Then I read things like that article and I come distressingly close to just losing it. These people clearly have never used the products they’re condemning. They think they’re “Happy Pills” and that you can cure mental problems just by thinking hard at them. I have several friends online who are suffering and who can’t tell their families because they hold opinions like that.

    You don’t want to use medicine on yourself? Fine. In many cases I’ll probably think you a fool (It is true that medicine for mental disorders isn’t right for everyone, and I don’t begrudge people who’ve tried it and decided that the side-effects just aren’t worth it) but that’s your choice. But to go out and to directly and unequivocally harm others this way? No. That I will not stand by and watch. There’s little enough I can do, but at least it’s proof that I need to keep up my education of others.

  • Probably too late for you to read this given the number of comments that have come before, but thanks.

    It took more than ten years and various doctors before a medication was found that helped, or at least helped enough to be outside of the margin of error (there were several things were it was a case of, “It might be helping, but that could be normal variation between different levels of depressedness,”) and then even when a medication that helped was found it turned out other shit was, and still is, co-occurring so dealing with the depression wasn’t enough. I have mental illnesses plural. Actually, given that I have two types of depression, I knew that beforehand.

    Since I am a part of no religion no one tried to convince me to forgo treatment because God, but because I can imagine what that would have been like, and because I care about other people, I definitely think what you’re saying needs to be said:

    This hurts people. This kills people. This needs to stop.


    Seriously, this is abysmally stupid and it does real harm to real people. Knock it off.

    So far as I know you’ve never suffered from depression. This, if true, is a very good thing. I would not wish it on anyone.

    It also means that you don’t know what it’s like. I’ve seen how some people, generally nice loving people, react to not knowing what it’s like by being, without realizing it, incredibly hurtful assholes who just make things worse. Sometimes a lot worse. You’re not doing that. You’re standing up for people whose pain you can’t really understand.

    Thank you for that. You do it for all kinds of people all the time, and this isn’t the only one that is close to home for me, but it is one that’s been with me for so long that seeing you stand up for people who suffer what I’ve suffered produced, I guess, a different kind of gratitude. More emotional than usual.

    Thank you for posting this, thank you for standing up for people who, on account of their illness, might not be able to stand up for themselves, thanks for countering bad advice by saying it needs to stop, thanks for taking mental illness as seriously as physical. Thank you for all these things and more.

    You have my gratitude.

  • hidden_urchin


    This one hits pretty close to home for me. Last semester I was having some wild mood swings and everything that comes with it. I realized I wouldn’t be able to stay in my program unless I solved the problem because I was not able to focus on my classes. I went to Student Counseling and they assigned me a therapist who promptly ignored everything I said about having a history of mental illness, family history of mental illness, inexplicable mood swings, and no time to screw around with it. Well, suffice it to say he was one of those people who believe feelings were a choice. Unfortunately, he didn’t tell me outright that’s what he believed until the end of the semester when he said, “You want to know what I think? I think you’re just choosing to be unhappy.”

    I walked out but the damage was done. My GPA is unrecoverable and I do not have the energy to make the straight As I need in order to have a shot at graduating. I especially can’t do it without both faculty and mental health support and, at a top tier research institution, the former is non-existent and the latter, well, you saw how that went. I’m withdrawing at the end of this semester and I’m pretty broken hearted. It’s my second major failure in as many years.

    It’s got to get better now. It really can’t get worse. Except for my mother is also in the “mental health is a choice camp” and she is not happy about my leaving grad school.

  • SisterCoyote

    You’re right, Victor, I was being sarcastic myself – I do believe that medication is (often) the answer to depression or mental illness.

    I’m sorry to hear what happened to you as well. That sounds like a pretty rough story.

  • Monala

    I suffered some mild post-partum depression, and my ob/gyn had me consult with a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist concluded that I had situational depression rather than clinical depression. We had just been through what I called our “year from hell” in which I got pregnant (and ended up having a lot of complications and on bed rest for several months), my husband had emergency open heart surgery (meaning neither my husband nor I was able to work for months, so we had no idea how we would pay our bills), our car was totaled, several relatives including my father-in-law died, and several other family crises occurred. And of course I was flooded with hormonal changes, having just had a baby.

    Going through all that was enough to make anyone depressed, she pointed out. But, even though I was crying a lot and feeling overwhelmed about motherhood, I was sleeping well (to the extent you can with a newborn), I was eating well, and I wasn’t having any trouble getting out of bed and taking care of my baby. Given that, she said it didn’t sound like I had clinical depression. Her advice was for me to get as much rest as I could and to rely on other people as much as I could, and in time it would pass.

    So in a situation like mine, antidepressants weren’t needed. But that was a judgment for a psychiatrist to make.

  • Monala

    That’s horrible. I’m so sorry that happened to you.

  • smrnda

    Thought I posted before but it didn’t go through…

    I have schizo-affective disorder and have had severe mania phases, along with visual, auditory and tactile hallucinations. Once I was put on the right meds, everything got fixed. No time spent in therapy or sorting out issues even – simply swapping out one med did the whole job. On top of that, no spiritual anythings, and I had plenty of social support before.

    If I had to guess a reason for the hostility towards psychiatry or using medication to treat mood disorders (psychotic disorders are a whole other beast) it’s that many Christian sects denounce not just actions but certain emotions as evil. If you admit people aren’t in control of their emotions, you can’t keep condemning them morally for how they feel, and a whole theology of everyone as willfully doing wrong has to be pitched out the window. Once you can’t blame people for something you used to say was a willful sin, you have to re-examine other points.

  • Monala

    Did you read Hexep’s post below? Zhe lives in China, and wrote about how admitting to physical or mental illnesses can damage one’s career. I don’t think this is snark.

  • Is there anything you can do to report that therapist as someone who doesn’t do his job? Won’t help you any (I offer my condolences for whatever they’re worth) but maybe the next person who needs help would be better off.

    I really do wish that I could do more than say I’m sorry for what happened and is still happening to you.

    Not in grad school, much lower pressure. Even so last semester ended with three incompletes and a failure. Of course last semester, and this semester, I’m only in university for the health services anyway. Getting medical care: hard as fuck. Getting a student loan: easiest thing in the world. Getting mental health treatment through the university: easy. That said, failed the first time (ages ago), but then someone set me up with the best person there and now it’s working, agonizingly slowly and with some false starts, but working.

    At this point I could have graduated with two degrees and be in my second year of grad school assuming I didn’t wash out, by my priorities stopped being academic around the same time, “I could have graduated with two degrees,” became true. First I stayed for certain classes, now I’m staying for the medical care.

  • David S.

    No. If a paleotologist tells me that the ur-mammal was a theropod, then I will take that under advisement. If a psychic tells me that, I will ignore them. Over and over newspapers have established that they can’t even report on a single scientific journal article correctly; they are not trustworthy sources for science.

  • David S.

    Of course current antidepressant drugs aren’t the best treatment. That’s why medical companies are pouring billions into producing better treatments. Of course there needs to be more research. That doesn’t mean that current antidepressants aren’t the best tool we have right now.

  • banancat

    I just want you to know that people die because of people like you and Hitchens. Yes, you are directly responsible for the deaths of people who need treatment and don’t get that life-saving treatment because of stigma and misinformation. Their deaths are on your hands. Never forget that. Every time someone dies because of untreated depression, pat yourself on the back because you did that. I won’t play nice and worry about your fee-fees when actual humans lives are at stake. Remember what you’ve done, and remember the death that you have directly caused.

  • banancat

    They consider it, but generally these are the same people who blame the victim in the vast majority of cases. And even in the “legitimate” cases of a strange man (probably with dark skin, an accent, or a hoodie) jumping out from behind a bush to rape a young virgin RTC white girl, if she ends up getting cancer and dying from it, that’s just collateral damage that they consider worth it to make sure the actual sluts are duly punished.

  • lodrelhai

    Believe me, you are not alone, and you DEFINITELY warrant being alive. I walked away from Christianity as a church ages ago, but I still believe in Jesus as an intercessor and savior for us to god (or a god?), and as a teacher and example to all of us.

    So if it’s weakness, it’s one I happily share. But I don’t believe it is weakness. If you think about it, the religious naysayers’ arguments against faith are not all that different than the mental-health naysayers’ arguments against antidepressants – unnecessary, a crutch. And so I give them the same answer. Just as there is something in my brain that needs help to regulate its chemistry, there is something in my soul that needs help to regulate its hope. They are not mutually exclusive, and while some people need neither, others need both.

  • P J Evans

    First they need to figure out how to tell which ones will work best for a given person. Most antidepressants have one or more side-effects, and there are a zillion warnings in the package insert already, INCLUDING ones about if you feel suicidal: it’s a matter of whether the person *taking* it can handle the side-effects.

    Pay attention, because we-all be speaking from experience here.

  • Lori

    You don’t get to ignore what people say and then claim they’re not making an argument just because it’s not what you want to hear.

    I’ll go through this for you one more time. I will type slowly for you.

    Antidepressants are not right for every person suffering from depression.

    Qualified doctors, not newspaper columnists or random people on the internet, are the appropriate people to determine who should and should not medication for depression.

    Some people do experience suicidal thoughts after starting antidepressants.

    In the vast majority of cases that is not caused directly by the medication, it’s a symptom of the depression itself.

    No one should be on antidepressants without appropriate medical supervision.

    Suicide is far more likely to occur as the result of untreated depression than as the result of taking antidepressants.

    People who spread fear of and misinformation about antidepressants should be ashamed of themselves because they’re helping to cost people their lives.

    I am not “pro anti” and there is no “pro antii lobby” involved here. What I am is a person who worked in social work for years and who has known many people who suffer from depression. The fact that you would use that term says a great deal about you and your agenda and nothing at all about me. I am anti people suffering unnecessarily. I am anti people dying as the result of untreated depression. I am anti ignorance. I am pro people receiving life-saving help in the form that works best for them. For many people that includes antidepressants.

  • P J Evans

    That therapist shouldn’t be in that job. Maybe a different field entirely – because depression bloody well is real, and so is bipolar, and mania (a couple of my uncles had that), and, and, and.

  • Lori

    His argument is nothing more than “some people have suicidal thoughts when they start antidepressants.” I addressed that. Twice before you posted this comment and once more since then. At this point I don’t really feel that your willful lack of reading comprehension is my problem.

  • Lori

    I am so sorry that the therapist was worse than useless and that you are not going to be able to continue grad school. I know how hard that is. I wish there was something more useful that I could say or do.

  • Fusina

    I don’t think they are placebos, as they have one side effect that only manifests when one stops taking them. Also, I do both pills and therapy–therapy for when the pills alone are not enough. And I’ve been taking anti-D for some fifteen years now. It has kept me mostly functional. I’ve talked a bit about my past here, and anything that keeps me functioning is, IMO, of course, a good thing. Which is not to say that discussing my problems with a therapist isn’t also a good thing, and indeed, it helps me to figure out why I feel about some things the way I do. But I was born with the possibility of being depressed, and childhood events triggered it. I even know that it was my paternal genes that were the most influence on my mental status–two of my Dad’s brothers and two of his nieces committed suicide.

    Anti-D works for me. Took a while to find one that worked reliably, but I did. And if it was just placebo, it wouldn’t matter, I don’t think, which one was taken.

  • It’s worse than that. It’s that anything that makes sex LESS safe is a just and righteous punishment for sluttiness.

    Does anyone else remember someone posting to Slacktivist, oh, say, four years ago or so, who said she wasn’t going to get her daughter vaccinated because “modesty behavior will be prophylactic enough”? I mean, set aside that saving yourself for marriage won’t save you from the STD your husband’s carrying around. Set aside rapists – goodness knows plenty of people seem to believe that only sluts get raped. Set all that aside – this woman was blithely trusting the specter of STDs to keep her daughter modest – and didn’t seem at all perturbed at the idea of HPV and cancer as consequences for her *daughter’s* hypothetical premarital sex.

    I shouldn’t be shocked, but I am, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop being shocked by sentiments like that. “Better dead than dishonored, daughter.” Brr.

  • Speaking of writing, I ran into stupidity about depression in a writer’s group of all places. I know! Weird, right? But no. A prominent member said he understood if, like, injury or family emergencies or *legitimate illness* led to a writer having a prolonged dry spell, but – and he did not mince words here – he did not consider depression to be a legitimate illness. It really is a matter of mind of matter, folks! It’s all a matter of willpower! Discipline! If you let “depression” be your excuse for not writing, instead of expecting other writers’ support and sympathy, maybe you should reconsider whether writing is really your calling.

    I had to drop out of the discussion because he was making me see red. To this day I tend to skim his posts and I feel rage just looking at his avatar photo. But before I dropped out I sure as hell told him I thought he was ignorant, wrong, and needlessly cruel with it. And that the LAST thing a depressed writer who wasn’t writing (which tends to make the depression deeper) needs is real live people agreeing with the Voice o’ Depression when it tells the sufferer that they’re despicable and weak and worthless for not being able to write today.

    (I’m happy to say a non-trivial number of other group members agreed; if enough of them had agreed with him I might no longer be a member myself.)

  • I wish in the church we could be free enough to talk about such things. Unfortunately we’re only allowed too after we’re “fixed.” Then we can talk about how wonderful Jesus is and that he “saved” me from my bipolar, my alcoholism, my schizophrenia, or whatnot. Before, though, we can’t bring it up, because it reflects badly on the church. I wish we could all be real enough, so that I could confess to the small group that sometimes I sit at home, trying to justify my next breath, and think about opening up a vein.

  • AnonaMiss

    I’m sorry.

    Would it be doable to find a different church? Not all of them are like that…

  • “…so stop thinking you’re telling us this _Great Secret The Doctors Don’t Want You To Know_…”

    By the way, and this is totally off-topic, I predict that very phrase, give or take a word, will be the cover headline of on an issue of Reader’s Digest within the next 12 months. It will. You can check back later that I said so.

    (Either my mother or my grandmother have been renewing a gift subscription to RD for me for the past too many years and I CANNOT GET THEM TO STOP.)

  • Ah, the “Ad hominem fallacy” fallacy!

    “Yeah, but Hitchens is a poopyhead just like that other poopyhead Rush Limbaugh, so don’t trust his article.” = Ad hominem. The insult is offered as sufficient reason to discredit the authority, which isn’t logical.

    “Yeah, but that poopyhead Hitchens has repeatedly demonstrated in the past that he has as much knowledge of mental illness, and about as much empathy for its sufferers, as that other poopyhead Rush Limbaugh, so his article isn’t exactly authoritative.” = Not ad hominem. The expert’s past reliability on the subject is evaluated as bearing on whether to discredit him. The insult is not given as the reason to discredit the expert; it’s just the speaker’s unrelated and unsolicited opinion.

    But don’t give up – with a little practice, you too can learn to distinguish between attempting to discredit someone via insults, and attempting to discredit someone by criticizing their track record! Good luck!