Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Depression: Many Faces and Many Seasons

By Pat Jonas, MD

"I know just how you feel. I was really depressed after my grandmother died when I was in high school." Someone may use a comment like this to be supportive of a friend who is feeling lost or down or blue or empty. The comment may be helpful or it may miss the mark, even leading to more feelings of emptiness in the sufferer.

Depression has many faces, and many meanings to individuals, families and communities. Most are familiar with transient feelings of loss, grief, emptiness, fear, or loneliness. Most adults have also heard of "clinical depression" separating it from the type of "common" depression that comes from life's many stressful or negative experiences and situations.

What kind of messages does the Bible give about depression? Here are a few verses that seem to set the stage for more understanding.

Depression can follow exhausting times (Judges 15:18)
God can encourage hurting people (2 Samuel 22:29-31)
Depression can follow success (1 Kings 19:3-4)
God helps those who feel crushed (Psalm 34:18)
Abraham had hope when there was no reason to hope (Romans 4:18-22)
God will wipe away depression (Revelation 21:4)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation.
Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? (Neh. 2:2)
My soul is weary of my life. (Job 10:1)
Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. (Ps. 69:1)
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. (Prov. 17:22)
Encyclopedia of Bible Facts.

What we refer to as Clinical Depression is defined medically by the National Institutes of Mental Health:
"Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. Depression is a common but serious illness.
Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression."

Clinical Depression may show up differently across the lifespan, from childhood to the senior citizen years. Yes, even children can feel the pain and emptiness of clinical depression.
Pastors, poets, authors, scholars, song writers and many others have described "common" depression in many ways, since it affects so many of us. Reference to sadness, discouragement, loss, loneliness and grief abounds in our hymns (e.g., "His Eye is on the Sparrow" starts with "Why should I feel discouraged?")
Physicians recognize the challenge in identifying and treating clinical depression, which doesn't arise or depart quickly. They also recognize how easy it is to misunderstand the seriousness of clinical depression because of the exposure we all have to sadness, loss and grief. Many persons who are "becoming themselves" again on medication and/ or psychotherapy for clinical depression stop the medication or therapy prematurely. A trusting relationship between patient and physician and/or psychotherapist becomes critical for success.

"If there be a hell upon earth it is to be found in a melancholy man's heart"
........Robert Burton in Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World.

If you and your loved ones are bouncing back from stress, loss and grief, prayerfully give thanks for your blessings. If you or your loved ones are feeling empty with emotional pain or continuous deep sadness in spite of your best efforts to cope with life situations, consider a visit to your physician or a mental health professional for further clinical exploration of a diagnosis and treatment plan. Clinical Depression may be a factor.

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