What You Should Know About Depression
It's not sinful to be depressed; it's only sinful to ignore or dismiss the problem. The symptoms, reasons, and what to do about the grey feelings you may have.
No doubt you know someone who suffers from depression. It might be you! In fact, nearly 7 percent of the U.S. population had at least one major depressive episode in 2016. Hear me on this: There is no shame in suffering from depression even when some Christians believe, and sometimes suggest, that one should "pull up their bootstraps" and get over it. Nor do I believe that is there any shame or sin in moderating depression with appropriate levels of medication – often it's necessary. Dr. Marcus Bachmann, a good friend, a brother in Christ, and the president of Counseling Care a faith-based counseling practice in Minnesota says, "There is never any shame in a person taking antidepressant medication" when dealing with depression. So here are a few things I have learned about depression and what to do about it.
Symptoms of depression.
Here are some common symptoms of depression: irritability; anxiety; restlessness; trouble with anger management; loss of interest in activities; tiredness; lethargy; increased or decreased appetite; difficulty concentrating or making decisions; fixation on the past or things that have gone wrong; even thoughts of death or suicide (If you have thoughts of suicide, find help now. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255).
The problem with depression is that it often upsets the chemistry in our brains causing us to think irrationally (i.e., "I am a terrible person," or "there is no way out"), and it can cause a high degree of anxiety over things that typically would not affect us. Dr. Bachmann says, “Depression is like having a shade pulled down in front of us at all times, and all we see is viewed through this shade.” Until our brain chemistry is brought back into balance, one may not be able to deal with the issues behind the depression – hence depression medications.
Reasons for depression.
There are many reasons for depression including our genetic inclinations, changes in your brain chemistry brought on by stress, and even season changes from lack of sunlight. Depression can be situational (as happens in the case of the death of a loved one), or the result of a season of high stress that can continue for a more extended period. In many cases, depression upsets the balance of chemicals in the brain which is why medication is often prescribed for short or longer time. Untreated depression can result in a person feeling bland, grey, and dreary that can lead to an eventual downward spiral into deep depression and even despair leading to all kinds of erratic behavior. In a discussion I had with Dr. Bachmann he said, “depression is not a character defect" and added that "no one is exempt from being or feeling depressed.” This includes you and me.
For some reason, there is a stigma attached to depression, especially within Christian circles where it is seen as a lack of faith or trust in Christ. And, shame is many times connected which is why we are reluctant to share our struggle with others. Having struggled with depression, I can often spot it in others, and when I bring the subject up, there is a sigh of relief as if there is finally a safe person to talk to. Often, they feel a sense of shame which is misplaced.
What to do if you suspect you're depressed.
Talk to your doctor or trusted psychologist! There is much greater understanding of depression today than there was just a decade ago as it is so widespread. A professional may refer you to another expert or even a psychiatrist, whose role is to determine the best medicines for you to take. And tell some guy friends who you trust so that they can pray for you and who will be available on those days when life is especially hard. Don't do try to handle this on your own, see help.
Vince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to audiences on the topics of mentorship, fathering, leadership and manhood. He has authored 13 books and small group curriculum for men and is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here. His newest book is Thirty Virtues That Build A Man.