"...my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:20-23, NIV
What is Depression?
All people experience sadness at one time or another. Whether due to losing a loved one or in response to a traumatic event or life change, feelings of sadness are normal and common in every age group.
"The counseling department of Cedarville, was the only place I felt comfortable going to when I was struggling with depression.... The staff welcomed me with open arms, showed me Christ's love, and always made sure I was not alone. They helped me see who I am in Christ and walked me through some of my darkest days at Cedarville. I would encourage any student to take the first step of walking through their doors because the impact is life changing."(CU student)
For some people, however, the sadness they feel begins to impair their everyday lives, and their ability to function diminishes. Their sleep becomes disrupted, their appetite changes, they are more prone to stress, and they may withdraw from people or activities that have always brought them joy. When enough of these and other symptoms present themselves, the person has progressed from sadness to depression. And while we may not talk much about this in the church, the reality is that depression affects 15 million adults each year – roughly 5-8% of the general population, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Additionally, nearly half of all college students say they have felt so depressed that they found it difficult to function during the last school year.
People experience depression to varying degrees and for various reasons. Some of the more common precursors to depression include a physical chemical imbalance, unhealthy thinking patterns, relational and spiritual issues, or past/recent trauma. However, some people may never be able to pinpoint the cause. No matter the cause or intensity level, however, depression can significantly interfere with daily life and thereby cause a lot of pain in relationships, at work, and with one’s relationship with the Lord. The list below outlines the symptoms that would be present if someone was suffering with depression.
Symptoms of Depression
According to the DSM-IV-TR, the diagnostic manual used by mental health professionals in diagnosing and treating mental health problems, depression is a mood disorder marked by many but not necessarily all of the following symptoms:
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all, activities
- Significant weight loss without dieting or weight gain
- Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly everyday (inability to sleep or sleeping significantly more than normal
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (feeling physically sped up or slowed down)
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day
- Recurrent thoughts of death.
There are many variations of depression as well as a variety of causes. To be defined as a major depressive episode or clinical depression, five or more of the above symptoms must be met for two weeks or more, with at least one of those being symptom one or two. Finally, when clinical depression is present, the sufferer will experience a change from previous functioning.
What You Can Do
If you or someone you know is struggling with some of these symptoms, be honest with yourself about the changes in mood or intensity of negative feelings. Consider whether some areas of life may be out of balance, such as a lack of sleep, lack of activity, lack of exercise, or poor nutrition because small practical steps may bring improvement in these areas. If these feelings are brought on by a loss of relationship or security, you may need time to grieve and process them with a trusted friend. If struggles continue or are significantly interfering with normal functioning, please consider seeking professional help. Additionally, an online depression-screening test may help you understand how you may be affected.
Individual counseling can be helpful in treating depression. Counselors in the Counseling Services office are trained to understand and treat depression and seek to serve the whole person, being aware of the challenges of college life, the spiritual concerns of students, and consulting with the University Medical Services when it seems there may be a physical element.
Many medications are available to treat depression. These may be prescribed by a general practitioner or a psychiatrist who has vast experience with treating mental health issues. Some physical conditions may also cause or contribute to depression, so consulting with a physician may help to ensure there is no hidden cause of the depression.
"The Gospel According to Prozac" from the March 2009 issue of Christianity Today
Is it wrong to take medication for depression if you're a Christian? Does that diminish what the Holy Spirit can do in your life?
"The Depression Epidemic" from the March 2009 issue of Christianity Today
This article sheds light on the growing number of Christians struggling with depression.
"My Encounter with Mental Illness" from the blog Her.meneutics, 2010
This article is written by a college RD (resident director) and talks about her personal experience with depression. The blog entry addresses the frequency of depression on college campuses, the reasons behind the frequent hesitation that Christian college students display in seeking help, and ways that those who love them can help hurting students find support.
"Light When All Is Dark" from the March 2009 issue of Christianity Today
Finding hope in Christ when dealing with depression.
"A Fresh View of Blue: Thoughts on Depression" from the March 2006 issue of Boundless Webzine
This website encourages Christians who struggle with depression to strive to grow closer to God through their pain.
The Lies We Tell Ourselves by Dr. Chris Thurman (1999)
This book categorizes 5 types of lies Christians commonly believe: self-lies, religious lies, marital lies, distortion lies, and worldly lies. A questionnaire in the book helps readers determine which area(s) are most problematic for them. Additionally, each category has a correlating section in the book, making it easy to attack and uproot specific lies with the truth from Scripture. This book has been instrumental in the lives of many people struggling with depression or those simply wanting to rid themselves of attitudes and beliefs that hinder them from knowing Christ more fully.
Victory Over Depression: How to Live Above Your Circumstances by Bob George (2001)
This book helps readers look to Christ to find victory over specific emotional struggles like anger, disappointment, and depression. Mr. George’s book teaches readers to identify where they set their expectations too high, to find the source for depression, and to put their hope in the trustworthy nature of the Lord who is deeply invested in our emotional, spiritual, and mental health.
Praying God's Word by Beth Moore (2000), specifically the chapter on Overcoming Depression *
In a brief chapter, Beth Moore offers a few thoughts on her personal experience with depression and then shares 18 pages that include 98 scripture prayers that can be applied to anyone dealing with the yoke of depression.
When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God--and Joy by John Piper (2007) *
This is an excellent mini-book of 79 pages. We believe you can't go wrong with John Piper. He covers aspects of depression from the darkness of melancholy, to unconfessed sin, to reaching those who dwell in the darkness. Solid teachings and reflections inspired by the Word of God.
The Freedom from Depression Workbook by Les Carter & Frank Minirth (1996) *
This interactive workbook helps readers undertake a 12-step program to understanding, managing, and finding lasting freedom from depression.
Moving Beyond Depression: A Whole-Person Approach to Healing by Gregory L. Jantz and Ann Mc Murray (2003)
This book, written by an accomplished therapist who has been in practice for years, walks readers through dealing with depression. Dr. Jantz voices the frustration of many by pointing out that there is no one answer for depression and no one path to recovery. In the book, Jantz thoroughly discusses the importance of considering the whole person when dealing with depression and helps readers find the right path for them individually as they pursue emotional healing.
Happiness is a Choice: The Symptoms, Causes, and Cures of Depression by Frank Minirth and Paul Meier (2007) *
This book explores the symptoms, causes, and impact of depression from a variety of angles. They also address the question many believers ask: Why do Christians struggle with depression? By using counseling experience and Biblical truth, the authors help readers approach healing by keeping both the spiritual and emotional in mind.
Unmasking Male Depression by Archibald D. Hart. (2001)
Lift the denial, recognize the signs, and reclaim your life. More than 20 million men will become depressed in their lifetime. But the news is good! Dr. Hart, speaking from personal experience, a Biblical perspective, as well as educational expertise, helps men learn to deal with life’s losses, manage unhealthy thinking patterns, and seek clinical help.
*Denotes the book is available in Centennial Library
"ULifeline is an anonymous, confidential, online resource center, where college students can be comfortable searching for the information they need and want regarding mental health and suicide prevention. ULifeline is available where college students seek information the most - at their fingertips on the Internet."
- from ULifeline's website
The Jed Foundation
"College and the transition to adulthood is a time of infinite possibilities. But for students struggling with unaddressed mental health problems, those possibilities fade.
As the nation's leading organization working to reduce emotional distress and prevent suicide among college students, The Jed Foundation is protecting the mental health of students across the country."
– from The Jed Foundation's website
"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you…"
- Psalm 42:5-6, NIV