The Mental Health Solution . com
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Depression

Depression can be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most people feel that way at one time or another for short periods. But true clinical depression involves feelings of sadness, loss, anger and/or frustration that interfere with everyday life for an extended period of time.

If you're wondering if what you have is depression—or how severe your depression is—I suggest using the Burns Depression Checklist. You can easily find this checklist by doing an internet search. This is the best depression test available.

In order to understand and overcome your depression, it is necessary to first get saved.

Sometimes, people who are unsaved do get through depression without being saved. Usually, these are people who have a history of good mental health who have gone through a traumatic circumstance. However, the best way to deal with depression is with the help of God and utilizing the counsel of His word.

It is suggested that you also read the following articles before continuing: What is a Spiritual Foothold, Spiritual Warfare, Anger Management, Stress Management and Anxiety. This article is built on information presented in these articles. Essential information is presented in those articles that is not repeated in this article.

There are physical and purely psychological causes of depression. They should be taken into account before considering spiritual issues. Thus, they will be considered first.

Some medical causes of depression are well-known (e.g. Thyroid) and your doctor should be able to evaluate them, when asked. However, not all medical causes of depression are well-understood and recognized by the average physician. Pituitary problems are one example. Do your own research and get more than one medical opinion, if necessary.

The use of drugs (legal and illegal) should also be evaluated by your doctor. The use of illegal drugs, especially, are often associated with clinical depression. Also, have your doctor evaluate any current exposure you may have to environmental toxins.

If your doctor is unable to find a medical reason for your depression, he will tell you that you have a "chemical imbalance" and prescribe drugs. Whether you should actually use them depends on your individual circumstances.

There are definite changes in brain chemistry (Serotonin etc.) associated with depression. However, these changes are themselves the result of negative thinking and/or of Satan having a spiritual foothold. Medical science does not understand spiritual footholds.

It is usually difficult or impossible to make real progress while taking psychotropic medication for depression. Antidepressants eliminate the consequences of negative thinking and maladaptive behaviors. They also tend to reduce mental acuity and produce lethargy. You cannot learn to control your thinking and become proficient in spiritual warfare while you are on them.

Now, back to medical and psychological causes of depression.

Childbirth: The "baby blues" are normal and usually last only a few days. Postpartum Depression is more serious and should be reported to your doctor. It is unclear how much of this type of depression is due to hormonal factors. Postpartum depression is treated the same as regular depression.

Menopause: Menopause is also associated with depression in some women, even in those with no prior history of depression. It is unclear how much of this depression is simply a reaction to the new health problems associated with menopause.

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Sometimes, spending more time in the sun improves depressive symptoms. Try it. Also, if your depression tends to be seasonal, light therapy may be helpful. The Mayo Clinic has information on this topic.

Overwork: When the amount of work responsibilities taken on is extreme and there is insufficient time for rest, relaxation and recreation, this can lead to depression. This is true even if you love the work that you do. Lifestyle changes are essential. Also, the short term use of psychotropic medication (i.e. 6-9 months) may be appropriate in such cases to reduce the amount of time in which you are unable to work.

Bereavement: Feeling depressed is the natural reaction to any major loss. This loss may be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of your business, the loss or a dream etc. This grieving process is healthy and--in time--these feelings will subside--though the amount of pain you feel will be variable in the interim. This is the only type of depression that is healthy--and you need to experience it to get through it. It has nothing to do with the Devil.

Most depression is not caused by the issues mentioned thus far. Most depression is the combined result of three factors: 1) Negative thinking. 2) Maladaptive behaviors. 3) Spiritual Footholds (Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV).

Negative thinking and maladaptive behaviors were addressed in my articles on Stress Management, Anger Management and Anxiety. Be sure to review these articles.

However, one issue is particularly important when it comes to depression: Keeping your mind off of the past. Even Paul the apostle, who was emotionally strong, made a point of doing this. He said: "one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13 NASB)."

There may be many things in the past that will make you depressed if you think about them. You don't have to suffer: Just don't think about them and you will be fine (Philippians 4:8-9).

Dealing with past wrongs that you are unable to stop thinking about was addressed in my article on Anger Management.

Now, spiritual footholds. Anything other than mild depression likely involves a spiritual foothold. The two spiritual footholds that cause most depression will be considered next.

First, anger. Anger at others is the primary cause of depression. God requires that we forgive others from our heart--no matter how badly they have behaved. The Holy Spirit provides some assistance when we try. However, when we fail to do this, Satan gains a foothold as a result of the sin of unforgiveness. This foothold allows Satan to torture us in many ways--including depression (Matthew 18:35).

Anger at God and anger at ourselves also result in Satan getting a spiritual foothold. Dealing with these issues was explained in the earlier articles.

Often, anxiety and depression go together. And both are caused by the same spiritual footholds. The difference is in the strength of the foothold. More severe anger and hatred tends to cause both depression and anxiety (In individuals genetically susceptible to both disorders). Lesser anger generally causes just anxiety.

In order to make progress with depression, you must make an effort to forgive whenever angry thoughts come up; you diminish the foothold by taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

A daily reminder of the need to forgive is included in the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us (Luke 11:4 NIV)."

Praying for those who have wronged you, whenever these individuals come to mind, will go a long way toward helping you forgive. However, these prayers must be genuine.

Second, fear. The Bible is clear on this point: "Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad (Proverbs 12:25 NKJV)." Fear and worrying often lead to depression. Instead: "Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken (Psalm 55:22 NASB)." Then wait until God makes it clear what to do.

Some of you will remember the church song "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." Remember these verses:

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry,
Everything to God in prayer.

Learn to bring your problems to God and not worry (Philippians 4:4-7). You were not created to be able to handle life's problems without God's help.

Some additional suggestions for dealing with depression follow.

The depression itself is a burden that you can give to God. Let Him handle it. You can also, by faith, thank Him that this too will work together for your good (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). This prevents unnecessary anger at God from building up. Sometimes, doing this also relieves the depression.

Don't spend too much time trying to figure out how to solve your depression problem. While you're depressed, avoid spending any time at all--this will only make the depression worse. Dwelling on your depression conditions your subconscious mind to focus on and try to resolve this issue 24 hours a day. Since it cannot, the result is guaranteed to be depression even if you do everything else right!

Socialize with those who know about your depression and who are supportive. This will help because conversation forces you to stop thinking about negatives, consciously and subconsciously.

Socializing with those who don't know you--while depressed--is usually a bad idea. People often react negatively to those who are depressed--usually because they misinterpret your behavior.

Don't beat yourself up for being depressed. This will give power to the Devil and make your depression worse. If you find yourself cursing yourself, the best way to put an end to this is to recite Scriptural principles in regard to your identity in Christ (Examples: "I am a child of God (John 1:12)." or "I am the the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13)."

Don't tolerate self-pity. This also gives power to the Devil. Self-pity is a sin because the Bible says to "give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV)."

Don't entertain thoughts of suicide. Doing so is also a sin (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and will make things much worse.

Confess your sins to God whenever you become aware of them. Unconfessed sin can lead to depression (Psalm 32:1-5).

Break big tasks into small ones. Try to stay busy and accomplish things. Pay bills right away.

Do whatever you can to remove or minimize stressors. Try to solve problems right away.

Exercise daily and eat a healthy diet. Improving your health will reduce your depression.

Always have realistic goals that you are trying to achieve. Goals are necessary for good mental health. Anything positive that you accomplish will improve your mood.

Try to put your hope in the things of God--and not be overly troubled by your circumstances here on earth. The Bible states: "Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him For the help of His presence (Psalm 42:5 NASB)."

Work on improving your attitude. Dr. Tim LaHaye states: "Unless individuals are willing to face the fact that their mental attitude toward the circumstances, not the circumstances, causes their unhappiness and depression, they are, in my opinion, incurable."1

Overcoming even severe depression is possible with God's help. But it can be a slow and difficult process. It may require sustained effort over an extended period of time.

Success in overcoming depression requires putting an end to continuing abuse. This may involve setting boundaries, assertiveness or a change in your circumstances. Your depression will never go away if you continue to allow other people to abuse you.

Expressing your feelings, when appropriate, is important. Practice standing up to other people. Just do the best you can.

Success in overcoming depression also comes one thought at a time: Forgiving instead of hating, trusting God instead of worrying and especially keeping your mind off of negatives. You do not have the power to overcome the depression directly as a act of your will. However, you can avoid entertaining the thoughts that lead to depression. Every time you are successful in resisting the Devil, you are making progress.

Finally, we are in a war with Satan. Nobody can win every battle. Read my three part series entitled When Satan Gets a Foothold.

1 LaHaye,Tim, How to Win Over Depression, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974) 19.

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