● Angela is frightened. Each morning she struggles to find the energy to get out of bed. She feels so listless and down. Her kids need her, but she can’t summon the energy to even interact with them—much less prepare meals or clean the house.
● George is having a hard time thinking clearly. He lost his job and just can’t seem to crawl out of the hole he feels like he’s fallen into. He can’t interview because he’s so down, so he sits around at home and plays on the computer. And he just keeps spiraling downward.
DEFINITIONS AND KEY THOUGHTS
● Depression differs from sadness. When people are sad, they keep their self-respect, they feel better after crying, and they confide in others and it helps.
With depression, self-respect fades, crying does not help, and depressed persons often feel alienated because other people cannot seem to understand how they feel.
● Depression is a mood disorder and can be caused by difficult situations, unhealthy thought patterns, or can have a physiological cause.
● The most important symptoms are sadness and loss of interest in enjoyable activities.
● Depression is often undiagnosed and untreated in older adults and can be viewed as a natural result of aging.
● Women are twice as likely to be depressed as men.
● One in eight individuals may require treatment for depression in their lifetime.
Despite the progress in detecting and treating depression, the majority of depressed people never get treatment.
Causes of Depression
–Inherited predisposition to depression
–Hormonal or chemical imbalance
–Feelings of failure or rejection
–Grief or loss
–Family problems—separation, divorce, abuse
–Thinking one has no control over any part of life; feelings of futility
–Isolation or loneliness
–Side effects of prescribed medications
Depression is not something you can just “snap out of.” It’s caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals, along with other factors. Like any serious medical condition, depression needs to be treated.
“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”
—PROVERBS 12:25 (NKJV)
The most dangerous symptom of depression is suicidal ideation. If you think you might hurt yourself, do not hesitate to get immediate help from family members or a mental health professional.
It is OK for you to take medications if needed to get depression under control. It doesn’t mean you are weak or don’t have enough faith. It is possible that the depression is biochemical and that medication can straighten out the chemicals in your body and help you get over the depression.
According to the 2003 National Comorbidity Study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health:
● 35 million Americans (more than 16 percent of the population) suffer from depression severe enough to warrant treatment at some time in their lives.
● In any given period, 13 to 14 million people experience the illness.
1. Take care of yourself physically.
● Research shows that thirty minutes of moderate daily exercise is very helpful in elevating mood. If there would be no health risks, assign yourself to moderate exercise such as a brisk walk. Do this every day and get a partner to walk with—it makes it harder to skip a day if someone is waiting for you.
● Depression is best treated by a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Get a medical checkup, and work with a doctor on a diet and exercise program. Medication may be needed to treat a chemical imbalance. Better eating habits (for example, less sugar and more vitamins) can also be a big help.
2. Deal with whatever situation might be behind the depression.
● For example, if you have recently suffered a significant loss, acknowledge that loss and begin to let yourself grieve. Give yourself permission to feel, but then bring yourself back to the light. It’s OK to feel bad, but it’s not OK to feel bad forever.
● Encourage honest thinking about what might be deep down, behind the depression.
You may need to talk to someone who is adept at drawing out buried hurts that might be fueling the depression.
● Keep a journal in which you write down thoughts that occur over the next couple of weeks regarding what is behind the depression.
3. Reconsider your thoughts.
● For example, you may be thinking, “I’m totally worthless. I have nothing to give to anyone.” These are common lies people tell themselves. The fact is that every person has value.
● Prepare a list of ten things you like about yourself—and three of them have to be physical characteristics.
4. Assess your social support systems and consider joining a support group.
● Who are your friends? Are they people who help you feel better about yourself?
● What groups are you currently involved in?
● What is your church involvement? Who at church could be of help and support?
Depressed Christians certainly should continue praying, reading the Bible, confessing sin and pursuing holiness, but unless God or a professional Christian counselor says otherwise, don’t assume the depression is caused by a spiritual problem. That type of thinking can keep a depressed Christian from seeking professional help.
But [Elijah] went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” —1 Kings 19:4
● Life has highs and lows, and as in a mountain range, the lows often come right after the highs. Like Elijah, we may scale the heights of spiritual victory only to soon find ourselves in the dark valley of depression.
● While certain forms of clinical depression should be professionally treated, many depressed feelings are part of life’s ups and downs.
● Like Elijah, we should listen for God’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) to
Then as [Elijah] lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. —1Kings 19:5, 6
● Depression drains energy, twists values, and assaults faith.
● Depression can affect anyone.
● God responded mercifully. He did not castigate or condemn Elijah for his condition—something that many depressed Christians expect from God. Even in the depths of depression God shows loving concern and a way out.
Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.— Psalm 42:5
● Depressed feelings sometimes cause some people to turn away from God.
● Others like David, however, allow those disquieted, depressed feelings to make them “hope in God,” remembering His goodness.
● During such times, living by faith takes on new meaning. Depressed people must learn to trust what they cannot feel or see.
To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
— Isaiah 61:3
● The Bible recognizes the heaviness of depression. God’s love and understanding reach out to those who are depressed and discouraged.
● He promises to give consolation, beauty in place of ashes, oil of joy in place of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness.
“Lord, I feel like I am in darkness with no way out. I pray that You will help me discern what is really going on deep in my heart. If there is a chemical problem, help the doctors to discover it and treat it. If there is deep pain or shame, help me to bring it into the light and deal with it by Your grace.”