Depression can be called a disease of the emotions. Its classification, as a mental illness does not make it any less real or painful. It is common in that in the U.S. around one in twenty people will be suffering from it. Depression is a disturbance in mood characterized by varying degrees of sadness, disappointment, loneliness, hopelessness, self-doubt and guilt. These feelings can be quite intense and last for a long period of time. Daily activities may become more difficult…but the individual may still be able to cope with them. It is at this level, however, that feelings of hopelessness can become so intense that suicide may seem the only solution.
A person experiencing severe depression may experience extreme fluctuations in moods or even a desire for complete withdrawal from daily routine and/or the outside world. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of, and is not a sign of weakness. It is treatable, whether by medication, by therapy and counseling, or both.God answers prayer, and persistent prayer facilitates the process of emotional healing.
For the depressed Christian whose world has fallen apart, prayer may not seem like an option. In this case, the persistent prayer of close friends or relatives will help.
What Depression Is Not
Depression is not ‘just in your mind.’ It isn’t a made-up illness; it isn’t laziness, or a couple of days of feeling sad or blue. It isn’t stress. It is not rejection by God nor is it abandonment by God. Depression may be from God, as a result of specific sin (i.e. refusal to end an adulterous affair), you will know it. You will not be left wondering.
- Pre-menstrual and postnatal hormone changes
- Some types of manic depression have been shown to have a genetic basis
- Hormone deficiencies (such as thyroid disturbances)
- Generalized illnesses such as kidney or liver disease
- Lack of natural light during winter in some susceptible people
- Drug dependency
- Food allergies and strange reactions to medicines, chemicals or food additives
- Unconscious impulses (from Freudian and Jungian psychology)
- Learning the wrong way to cope with difficulties
- Learned helplessness (from behaviorist psychology)
- Overload or stress
- Lethargy (everything seems just too much trouble to do)
- Disturbed sleep (early waking, difficulty getting to sleep, waking up tired after “normal” night of sleep)
- Lack of concentration
- Lack of sexual drive
- Sensation of utter despair
- Sense of hopelessness or uselessness of everything
- Fear of death
- Obsessive behavior
- Permanent sense of anxiety
- Feelings of wanting to cry, but inability to do so
- Thoughts of suicide, or fear of committing suicide
- Change in appetite and weight
- Other symptoms, this is not a definitive list
Likely effects of depression in Christians:
John Lockley says, “In Christians, spiritual effects follow from the depression and seldom the other way around. I repeat – in Christians nearly always the depression comes first, followed by a sense of remoteness from God, rather than depression being the result of “falling away.”
A Practical Workbook for the depressed Christian
Being a Christian does not offer immunity from trials, troubles or illness. God is making us holy and perfect, and may involve dealing with your past. It is not an overnight process, and it may be painful. We may have leftover baggage of hurts suffered, wrong attitudes, incorrect information and so on. This can slow us down, and can be a source of depression.
You do not have to feel guilty about being depressed. It is not a sin to doubt what you have been told (this is what everyone does before they become a Christian, and God loved them then too), and the doubting process can build a strong foundation for you to re-build on later. We are not mental health professionals, or doctors. If you think you may be suffering from depression, please go and see a doctor straight away for professional advice.