Depression Ways to Win The Battle

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  • epression has troubled people every-where in every age. The ancientswrote about it, often calling itmelancholia. Aretaeus, a physician

    living in the second century, A.D., describedthe melancholic patient as sad, dismayed,sleepless . . . They become thin by their agita-tion and loss of refreshing sleep . . . At a moreadvanced state, they complain of a thousandfutilities and desire death (Norman Wright,An Answer to Depression, 1976, p. 8).

    Depression is one of the most prevalentafflictions. Health practitioners encounter itso often that it has been called the commoncold of psychopathology. Psychologists haveestimated that during any month 5 percent of American adults suffer from depressive illness. Health magazine estimated that one in eight U.S. citizens has been treated withProzac, a popular antidepressant.

    Depression, however, knows no territorialor national bounds. William Manchester aptly

    described the outlook of someone who isdepressed: Every day he chisels his waythrough time, praying for relief (The LastLion, 1983, p. 23). Mood fluctuations are nor-mal, but severe melancholia resembles thepassing sadness of the normal man as amalignancy resembles a canker sore (ibid.).

    The depressed persons perspective alters.He views life through a distorting lens. Heoften imagines that he will never be well.Pervading everything is hopelessness, anirrational sense that, regardless of effort,nothing will change or that things will onlyget worse (David Cohen, Out of the Blue,1994, p. 76). The depressed persons beliefthat his life will never return to normal exacerbates his ailment, casting a pall overthe future. A gloomy outlook leads some to contemplate suicide.

    Depression is not a problem only for thesufferer. The strain on friends and family can

    be brutal. A depressed person may be easilyangered. A parents depression is especiallyhard on young children. It is probably notpossible to calculate the degree of pain andthe exhaustion such families feel (DemitriPapolos, M.D., and Janice Papolos, Overcom-ing Depression, 1992, p. 249).The causes of depression

    Depression is an illness so complex that theprofessionals dont really understand it. Forsome, depression is triggered by chemicalimbalances and is best treated with medica-tions. Sufferers are wise to seek help to deter-mine any underlying physical cause. Withoutaddressing the underlying cause, other stepswill not be of much help.

    For others, the roots of depression may bepsychological and social. These factors includegenetic transmission; personality characteris-tics; early life experiences, particularly child-

    hood loss . . . and stressful life events(Armand Nicholi Jr., M.D., editor, The NewHarvard Guide to Psychiatry, 1988, p. 323).

    Lifes major stages may bring on episodesof depression: the transition from teenage to adulthood, the approach of menopause,the arrival of the retirement years, the loss of a mate.

    The loss of something of great importanceis a major reason for depression. Significantlosses have long been viewed by clinicians asprecipitating causes of depression (Papolosand Papolos, p. 202).

    Almost all professional counselors agreethat depression is a human . . . response to painful life circumstances, frequently in the form of losses (Peter Breggin, M.D.,Talking Back to Prozac, 1994, pp. 203-204).In other words, depression is a commonresponse to pain.

    Anger may be a causeas well as a symptomof depression. Hostility and resent-ment are a psychological threat to those whoare brooding and resentful. Holding a grudge is particular harmful. If we hold grudges, wewill eventually become clinically depressed(Frank Minirth, M.D., and Paul Meier, M.D.,Happiness Is a Choice, 1996, p. 39). Some

    Surely the state of society is partiallyresponsible. David Cohen writes that dra-matic changes in social conditionsin thepromotion of materialism and egocentricity. . . the toleration of incompetent, irresponsi-ble, and antisocial behaviorcan producecorrespondingly dramatic changes in the rateof depression and other forms of mental illness (p. 58).

    No doubt a lack of specific goals and pur-pose are contributing factors. Many peoplehave been turned away from traditional spiritual values and firm belief in God.

    Before the scientific age, people derived a sense of purpose from their spiritual belief system. As scientific knowledge hasincreased, biblical knowledge has beenincreasingly rejected, or simply forgotten,resulting in widespread lack of understandingof why human beings exist. Cohen adds:As the physical world yielded up its secrets,humans became less central in the ultimatescheme of things (p. 279).

    Lacking knowledge of a clear purpose forlife results in a kind of existential anxiety

    with diminished inspiration about and towardlife. Anxiety spawns moods of depression. It is difficult to be positive in a universe voidof purpose. It is also hard to be upbeat whenscience has made it possible for the humanrace to destroy itself.

    Need for spiritual guidance

    But there is hope. Jesus Christ tells us,I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John10:10). To have hope we need to learn Godspurpose for human life.

    The Bible teaches us about that purpose.Gods design includes a plan that offers eternal life to everyone (Romans 6:23). Theapostle John wrote about it: God so lovedthe world that He gave His only begottenSon, that whoever believes in Him should notperish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

    Everlasting life will include peace, joyand happiness but no gloom, no depression.And God will wipe away every tear fromtheir eyes; there shall be no more death,nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no

    more pain, for the former things have passedway (Revelation 21:4).

    Scriptural promises like these assure us thatGods ways, when properly understood andapplied, produce the joy, inner peace and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) that so many arelacking. They can act as a powerful spiritualantidote to the spiritual and emotional painthat lies at the heart of depression.

    Reprinted from The Good News magazine, www.gnmagazine.org 1998 United Church of God140/0302/1.0

    1998 United Church of God, an International Association. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A. Scriptures in this publication are quoted from the New King James Version ( 1988 Thomas Nelson, Inc., publishers) unless otherwise noted.

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    D

    Depression:Ways to Win the BattleHow widespread is depression? What are its causes? Most important, what are the weapons in the struggle against depression?by Noel Hornor

    Recommended Reading

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    www.gnmagazine.org.

    Depression is one of the most prevalent afflictions.Health practitioners encounter it so often that it hasbeen called the common cold of psychopathology.Depression knows no territorial or national bounds.

  • The Way Out of Your Prison, 1996, p. 199).We recognize that sometimes we need

    a hand to hold. Two are better than one,because they have a good reward for theirlabor. For if they fall, one will lift up his com-panion. But woe to him who is alone when hefalls (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). Strong bonds arecrucial to happiness.

    The passing of time is also an importantally. Time by itselfand probably the personal resources and new experiences that surface as time passesseems to cure the vast majority of depressions(Breggin, p. 204).What about professional help?

    Whether to seek professional help is, ofcourse, a personal decision. The resources peo-ple use to tackle everyday problems may notbe effective in dealing with depression. In suchcases, professional help may be called for.

    Counselors know how to deal with depres-sion. They know the dynamics of the maladyand can help people realize that their problemsare manageable.

    Christians and others can benefit fromcounseling that includes a biblical approach

    to fighting depressionthe positive effects of trusting in God.

    Therapeutic practice relies on three primary means of treating depression: med-ication, counseling and electroconvulsivetherapy (ECT). Professionals often use med-

    ication or counseling therapy, or a combina-tion of both. When they place their patientson medication, they usually quickly feel bet-ter. How the treatment works is still partly a mystery. The cold, hard truth is that evenwhen these drugs work, no one really knowshow or why (Health, April 1997, p. 122).

    Prospective patients should be aware thatmedications do have side effects.

    Many clinicians recommend a combinationof counseling and chemical treatment. Somebelieve that medication therapy is a simplematter of replacing a depleted brain chemicalthat is responsible for proper neurotransmis-

    sion in the brain. A neurotransmitter is achemical that serves as a messenger betweenbrain cells. Medications generally focus on aspecific brain chemical.

    Many of the recent generation of anti-depressants affect the level of serotonin, one

    of the brains neurotransmitters. But, besidesserotonin, researchers have identified morethan 60 other chemical messengers (ibid.). Soto think that depression can always be curedby tinkering with one chemical is unrealistic.

    ECT (applying minor electrical stimulationto the brain) sometimes alters a depressivestate for the better. As with medications, howand why it works are not clearly understood.This therapy is rarely used, usually only insevere cases.

    Why the increase?

    Why is depression on the upswing?

    counselors believe that residual anger canadversely affect the chemical balance of thebrain, resulting in impaired mental functioning.

    Good news about depression

    The good news is that the majority of those who suffer from depression canrecover. Professional practitioners estimatethat 80 percent of people can gain substantialrelief. Routinebut importantsteps thatanyone can take can assist in avoiding depres-sion in the first place. Maintaining a pro-ductive, useful life is important. The expertsagree that an active life is beneficial therapy.

    An example of a man who overcamedepression and led a productive, fulfilling lifeis Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of theUnited States. Roosevelt suffered crises thatmight have ruined someone less determined.

    As a young husband, he was pounded by a double tragedy. His mother and wifewere stricken by unexpected illnesses. Atfirst their afflictions did not appear to be serious, but they grew worse, and both diedwithin a few hours of each other on the sameday, in the same house. To make mattersworse, Roosevelts wife had given birth to a daughter only two days before. He

    attended the double funeral in shock.One of his friends wrote that Roosevelt

    was so grief-stricken that he does not knowwhat he does or says. Roosevelt later wrote:When my hearts dearest died, the light wentout of my life for ever (quoted by DavidMcCullough, Mornings on Horseback, 1981,p. 285, 288).

    He put himself to work. Three days afterhis wifes death, he was back at his desk as a state legislator. He immersed himself in activity. His philosophy for life might be best expressed in his own words: Blackcare rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough (p. 15).Contact and support

    Cultivating relationships is vital to ones

    well-being. Psychologist Dorothy Rowewrote: You have to find . . . people to confide

    in, and you have to overcome the habit ofkeeping things to yourself (Depression:

    Sometimes were sad. When were less than buoyant, we may saywere depressed. But real depressionclinical depressionismore than just being sad or not quite buoyant. It involves severesymptoms and biochemical changes.

    Many minor episodes of depression are the result of disappoint-ment. Hopes may fail to materialize, and frustration results. The writerof one of the books of the Bible realized this: Hope deferred makesthe heart sick . . . (Proverbs 13:12).

    When hope is dashed, discouragement can grow. When this hap-pens, it helps to think the situation through and pinpoint the caus...