Overcoming Depression with Christian Counseling
Although everyone faces ups and downs in their lives, individuals suffering from mild to severe depression are unable to shake the blues feeling. Depression is a mental health disorder that manifests itself as a condition that impacts our moods and physical health.
Causes of Depression
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all cause for depression. The root cause for each person is specific and could include:
- a brain chemical imbalance
- the effects of an illness or medication
- the aftermath of a trauma
- genetic predisposition to depression
- the birth of a baby
- the death of a loved one
- divorce or break up
- some other another mental health condition
- poor quality of life
Those dealing with depression should seek professional treatment for the overwhelming feelings of sadness that not only negatively affect the person but their family and career as well.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Researchers are still learning about the neurological changes present in depressed patients. Certain regions of the brain in both the right and left hemispheres are affected by depression, including the hippocampus (which controls your fear and memories) and the amygdala (which controls your emotions). The amygdala in depressed adults is hyperactive. Recently, researchers learned that the amygdala is abnormally hyperactive in depressed adolescents as well.
Scientists have learned that the hippocampus is smaller in patients predisposed to depression. These patients also have higher levels for cortisol, the stress hormone. Stress and other factors can change the way the neurons in your brain behave and communicate with other neurons through neurotransmitters.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (2013, 5th Edition) lists criteria for physicians to use to diagnose major depression. A patient must demonstrate five or more of these symptoms within a two-week period of time, and the depression cannot be a side effect from another condition. But even mild depression symptoms can mirror some of these.
The following are common signs and symptoms of depression:
- Depressed mood every day (or almost every day)
- Lack of interest in hobbies and other interests
- Appetite changes that lead to noticeable weight gain or loss
- Recurring insomnia
- Fatigue or weakness
- Diminished self-worth
- Trouble concentrating on tasks
- Issues with motor skills and coordination
- Suicidal thoughts or a preoccupation with death
If you find yourself checking off five or more symptoms from this checklist, contact a mental health professional to confirm if you are in a state of depression and for ways to alleviate these symptoms.
How Counseling Can Help with Overcoming Depression
Although your physician may prescribe antidepressant medications as part of your treatment for overcoming depression, therapy for depression should consist of a well-rounded treatment plan. The following are common therapies used in depression counseling.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT focuses on helping you to recognize negative thoughts and flipping those thoughts to more positive ones. It’s a change in your perspective and your beliefs about yourself.
If you think that you are a failure or that no one likes you, CBT teaches you to refute those lies and replace them with the truth: that you are a winner and people do like you (and more importantly, you love yourself).
Your therapist will work with you to identify those negative thoughts and set goals to turn them around. The number of sessions you may need is determined by the severity of your depression.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
IPT is another form of talk therapy. This psychotherapy method homes in on your ability to effectively communicate with people. People dealing with depression sometimes have strained relationships due to the condition.
This can be relationships with family, friends, or coworkers. Since many depressed patients become withdrawn and isolate themselves, IPT can help to bring the person out into the open and strengthen their relationships with others.
Patients experiencing grief or loss, feeling they’ve missed out on a major life event like getting married, or struggling to accept their role in a relationship may benefit from IPT.
Depression not only leads to mental and emotional decline, but it also changes behavior. Behavioral therapy works to reinforce positive actions while diminishing the negative behaviors. This type of therapy is typically used in conjunction with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Family or Marriage Counseling
Relationships are critical for people overcoming depression and attending family or marriage counseling sessions may prove beneficial. A clinically depressed person’s behavior does affect the entire family.
For example, a parent may not feel up to the social interaction from attending their child’s extracurricular activity which leaves the child feeling neglected. Or the spouse may feel unwanted romantically because their partner is depressed and doesn’t feel “good enough.”
Family and/or marriage counseling open these lines of communication and allows for a dialogue of solutions to emerge.
Counselor-Led Group Therapy
Although you can find online support groups and peer counseling that can give you ideas for overcoming depression in a real-life setting, a counselor-led support group will assist you in moving out of depression and making the necessary changes.
The setting for group therapy encourages openness due to the confidential nature of the group. Most participants feel they can openly share their struggles with the group, and it will not leave the room, making it easier to confide in the group on certain topics than with their family or friends.
Speak with your doctor and care plan team about the types of therapy and treatments that are best for your specific disorder. They may decide on a combination of all of the above. You may also work with psychiatrists in private practice, or at an outpatient or inpatient facility.
Speak up if you do not feel that a particular treatment is working, or you are not quite ready for it. A mental health care provider should listen and work with you to find alternative methods.
Why Christian Counseling Can Help with Overcoming Depression
Due to the stigma of mental health disorders in the past, many Christian families may have been reluctant to seek help for depression. However, more people realize that in order to heal from loss or grief, trauma or circumstances, they need to be able to seek counsel from educated professionals.
Many pastors open their doors to their congregation to give advice but in some situations, the severity of the person’s depression may require more help. You can find a faith-based counselor in your area who can work with your primary doctor.
What is the benefit of seeking out a Christian counselor for depression counseling? These counselors are trained in psychology and are up to date with clinical findings and methodology. But they also infuse their practice with the word of God and impart wisdom from Scripture.
These professionals teach others to rely on God and to seek Him as they are overcoming depression. When someone feels worthless or too overwhelmed to go on living, Christian counselors point out that they were not only known but loved by God from the beginning of time; so much so, that He knows the number of hairs on their heads.
Following Christ is living a life of faith. Waking up in the morning during depression can mean focusing only on stepping out in faith, one step at a time to get through your routine. Calming yourself with prayer. Thanking God for the blessings you do have. Journaling your thoughts and gratitude in a notebook. Reaching out to others for help.
Christian counselors feel led to serve people in the community who are suffering. You might discern that your depression feels like a heavy weight on you, a thick cloud, that refuses to lift.
These professionals lead a Bible-based practice to combine faith and science to promote healing and help you find your way out from under that cloud. No matter what condition you are in, God loves you and accepts you just as you are. God wants you to rest in Him as you change and heal.
“Barely Making It”, Courtesy of Anh Nguyen, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Encouragement”, Courtesy of Dan Meyers, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Group Prayer”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Open Bible”, Courtesy of Carolyn V, Unsplash.com, CC0 License