Everyone has had a hard moment in their life. A moment where they feel sad, upset, or “down.” We might say we’re experiencing the doldrums in these moments. These are situations that will come and then go. What happens when these feelings persist? This is when we realize we are dealing with depression.
Depression affects millions of Americans. It is something we are still learning more about every day. In this article we’re going to look at common signs and symptoms of depression, ways folks are dealing with depression, and talk about depression counseling.
What is Depression?Perhaps what becomes the most difficult part of a depression conversation is knowing if one is dealing with depression or a difficult time. Folks often wonder when they are feeling sad if they’re dealing with depression. It’s important to first know more about what depression is to understand if one is dealing with depression.
The primary characteristic of depression vs “the blues” or “the doldrums” is that it’s pervasive. This doesn’t come and then go. You can’t “snap out of it with a favorite activity, a good night’s rest, or a change of scenery.
Different Types of Depression
This can present itself in different ways. The two most common types of depression are:
Persistent Depressive Disorder
These are symptoms that last at least two years. They may vary in intensity but will persist to some degree for at least two years.
These symptoms persist for at least two weeks. This can be confusing to navigate as “the blues” or “doldrums” may come and go for longer than two weeks. The main difference here is these feelings are pervasive. They do not go away. No matter what you do, you cannot shake them.
This is a unique depression following the birth of a baby. While most often associated with a woman who has recently given birth, many experts believe men may also suffer from a form of postpartum depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)SAD affects people during the longer darker days of autumn and fall. It is a depression that usually lifts during the spring or summer. Those dealing with SAD may benefit from medication, counseling, or lifestyle changes just as those with other types of depression do.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Below are common signs and symptoms for adults:
- Pervasive sadness
- Crying spells
- Feelings of guilt and/or worthlessness
- Anger outbursts
- Thoughts of death
- Suicide attempts, or suicidal thoughts
- Fixating on past mistakes
- Difficulty focusing
- Lack of concentration
- Trouble making decisions
- Low, or total lack of, libido
- A lack of interest in hobbies
- A lack of interest in normal activities
- Work interference
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Binge eating
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Easily becoming fatigued
- Slowed body movements
- Back pain
Women are more likely to display tearfulness, worthlessness, and guilt. While men are more likely to display symptoms of anger, irritability, and emotional outbursts.
Children may show the above as well as these signs:
- Excessive worry
- Refusal to go to school
- Crying when separated from a parent
- Worrying that a parent is going to die
- Unexplained stomachaches, headaches, or other illnesses
Teens and young adults may also exhibit the following:
- Poor attendance at school
- Withdrawal from their “normal” peer group
- Decreased grades
- Inability to focus on schoolwork
- Avoiding social interactions
- Substance abuse
- Self-harm (adolescents are especially at risk for self-harming behaviors)
Risk factors for depression
Those with a family history of depression may be at a greater risk of depression themselves. Folks who have another mental health struggle are often at a greater risk. Women are at a much higher risk of depression.
Some estimate more than twice as many women as men suffer from depression. Postpartum women are at an even higher risk. Folks dealing with addiction are also at an increased risk of depression. Addiction and depression can easily become a self-defeating cycle. People with chronic or pervasive illnesses are also at a higher risk.
A Note on Suicidal Comments or Behaviors
Suicide should always be taken seriously. Call 911 or your local emergency number anytime suicide or self-harm is involved. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 800-273-8255.
Depression is not sinful or a reflection on your walk with God
Depression carries a stigma in Christianity. This is slowly becoming overcome but still exists in many churches. We want you to know that depression is not a sin. Nor is it a punishment for sin. God wants you to be whole and complete in your identity as God’s beloved child.
Many folks find that as they work through their depression journey, they must confront their sin. This does not mean your depression is a sin or a result of sin in your life. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Every single one of us. God is not punishing you.
Nor is depression a reflection on your walk with God. Well-meaning Christians may say that you just need to pray or read the Bible more to overcome depression. This is often because they don’t understand depression, or they’ve been given the wrong information about it. While it is important to seek God in your pain, struggling with overcoming depression does not mean you don’t have a relationship with God.
Depression can present itself after a difficult situation, during an illness, or out of nowhere. Coming near to God during this time can be healing. God longs to comfort us as our heavenly parent. It is also not a sign of weakness, sin, or distrust in God to pursue professional help for depression. God gives us helpers and experts for a reason.
Help for Overcoming Depression
In-patient treatment: In some cases, an in-patient program may be helpful. This is true especially with suicidal tendencies, eating disorders, and addiction. These need to be addressed before the depression can be effectively treated. In many cases, these behaviors formed to cope with depression. In an in-patient setting, an individual may have counseling, medication, therapy, alternative therapies, and more.
Therapy for depression & depression counseling: This is a critical component to coping with depression. Counseling will help the individual uncover the patterns of behavior that have emerged because of the depression, be a sounding board for processing emotions, and provide integral support for overcoming depression. Behavioral therapy is often employed as well as talk therapy.
Christian counseling for depression: This has proven to be life-changing for folks. Working with a Christian counselor will help you to stay focused on God and finding God’s will for your life. Your counselor can be a sounding board to express pain to God, frustrating at God, and understand your faith better as well.
Home support & lifestyle changes: A supportive family is also a big key to overcoming depression. In some cases, a negative cycle with some codependent behaviors may have emerged. Accountability from the family for lifestyle changes can also be an important factor in overcoming depression. Your counselor and doctor can help you identify any needed lifestyle changes. Your family may also become involved in counseling as well.
Medication and other interventions: Medication may be used short-term or long-term. These medications can help the brain to produce the right chemicals and hormones to overcome depression. In some cases, other interventions such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Restoration (EMDR), electroshock therapy, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), meditation and mindfulness training, and other interventions will play a part.
Medication can take a few weeks to begin working. Folks often get frustrated because they do not think it’s doing anything. It can take some tinkering to figure out what is best for each person.
Alternative treatments: There are a variety of alternative treatment approaches as well. Your counselor can help you explore these and figure out which may be best for you in your journey to overcoming depression.
“Raining again…”, Courtesy of Kristina Tripkovic, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Lost in Thought”, Courtesy of Bruno Cervera, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Standing on the Bridge”, Courtesy of Soroush Karimi, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Motes”, Courtsey of Dyu-Ha, Unsplash.com, CC0 License>