Depression

Barb Green, Parish Nurse

Milton, WI

 

Abraham Lincoln, Elijah, Winston Churchill, and King David had one thing in common: they all suffered at various times from the dark cloud of depression. It is called the common cold of emotional illnesses, affects many people, and is misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and confused with lack of faith. One out of every four women and one out of every seven men become clinically depressed at some point in their lives. People of all ages and racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds experience it.

Depression can be simply a mood or, at the other end of the continuum, a serious disorder. It can range from feeling a little down to feeling suicidal. It is an emotional state of pain, a thinking state of confusion, and a physical state of dysregulation. Psalms 6 and 13 describe it with such expressions as: “my bones are in agony, my soul is in anguish, I am worn out from groaning, I flood my bed with weeping, and my eyes grow weak with sorrow. How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”

Symptoms of depression may include: low self esteem, fatigue, unexplained headaches or backaches, loss of appetite or overeating, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, restlessness, irritability, feelings of hopelessness, difficulty making decisions, loss of interest and enjoyment in most things, loss of sexual desire and recurrent thoughts of death or dying.

The precise cause of depression is unknown. Some are genetically predisposed to the chemical imbalances that bring on depression. Certain medications and physical illnesses have

depression as a side effect: for example, hypothyroidism, migraine, heart disease, fibromyalgia, and others. It may be the result of trauma, loss or adjustment, or be caused by burnout, chronic unmet needs, unresolved grief, unresolved anger, pent-up emotions, bitterness, lack of forgiveness, helplessness, negative thinking patterns, stress, sleep deprivation, shame or spiritual dryness.

While there is not a blood test or diagnostic test for depression, a doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history, giving special attention to: alcohol and drug use, thoughts of death or suicide, family history, and sleep patterns. A physical exam can help rule out other symptom causes. A mental status exam or neuropsychiatric evaluation may also be performed.

Having depression doesn’t mean that a person is weak, or a failure, or isn’t really trying… it means he needs treatment. Most people with depression can be helped with psychotherapy, medicine, or both together. Talking about feelings with a trained professional can help one learn more effective ways to deal with problems or to identify and resolve the conflicts contributing to depression.

Up to 70% of depressed people find relief from their symptoms with antidepressants. These drugs simply replace what is depleted in the body and help the return to normal. They can take 2-6 weeks to reach their maximum effectiveness, and more than one type may need to be tried before finding the right one. Once medication that works is found a person needs to stay on it until the doctor says he can safely stop. Medications for depression may need to be taken for a lifetime. Don’t resist this advice; there is no shame in taking something that improves your quality of life. Praying and reaching out to others that one trusts can also help depression. A person might feel far from God or find it difficult to experience His love or joy — yet it may be a time when he needs to cry out to Him as David did in the Psalms.

To reduce the chance of becoming depressed be aware of family risk factors, develop social supports, learn stress management techniques and stay healthy by eating right, getting adequate sleep and exercising. Depression is a very painful but treatable condition. Please do not suffer alone. Seek help.

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