There's a Better Way To Live

How to Heal through Understanding Depression

Understanding Depression is one of the most misunderstood illnesses of our day. Most other illnesses are socially acceptable, even spiritually tolerable, but suffer from depression you are labeled as being mentally ill. Some people expect that one who has fallen beneath the massive wheels of mental illness will never rise again or live a productive life. The Christian victim of depression is accused of lacking faith, having hidden sins, laziness, or unbelief, which is to say you aren’t a Christian at all. Those who have never suffered the debilitating effects of depression can’t begin to understand the complexities of the illness. 

The statistics show that one in five people will suffer for an extended period of time from depression at some point in their lives. These statistics include those with clinical depression as well as individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress.

Richard O’Connor, a psychologist who has written extensively on depression, writes in his book, “Undoing Depression,”   

“I realize now that no simple, single-factor theory of depression will ever work.

Depression is -partly in our genes, partly in our childhood experience, partly in our way of thinking, partly in our brains, and partly in our ways of handling our emotions. It affects our whole being. [Richard O’Connor, Ph.D., Undoing Depression, (New York, NY: Berkley, 1997), p.8]

Understanding Depression: The Symptoms

Depression Isolates WomanThe symptoms of depression can vary drastically from minor feelings of sadness, irritability, sleep difficulties, avoidance of others, anxiety attacks, crying uncontrollably, or phobias. A combination of such symptoms can result in a severe incapacitating disability. 

Understanding Depression: The Causes

Understanding depression can be inherited through our genes and be part of our temperament type. If we are a deep thinking, deep feeling, artistic, perfectionist, we will most likely struggle with depression.

Depression can be a learned way of responding to stress. If we were raised in an environment where one of our parents reacted to disappointment and stress by means of depression it is most likely that either we or one of our siblings will develop this way of responding to anxiety.

Poor diet contributes to depression. People who consume large amounts of sugar or caffeine may find themselves craving more, or depressed when the sugar or caffeine high wears off. Lack of exercise and insufficient sleep also feeds depression. 

If a person struggles with low self-esteem or poor self-image, he or she will undoubtedly battle depression. If our self-acceptance is based on what others think or say about us, we will live with daily anxiety and despair.

If we carry damaged emotions from childhood trauma, we will respond to adult situations through the emotions of the wounded child within us. We will find relatively mild circumstances to be overwhelming, resulting in hopelessness and depression. False guilt often accompanies such after effects of childhood trauma. Adult survivors of childhood abuse and neglect often carry around false responsibility for what happened to them. They feel guilty for not preventing it, for not being lovable enough to prevent it from happening in the first place. False guilt leads to a feeling of helplessness and depression.

When we have not dealt with, or taken the time to heal past wounds, we will be susceptible to feeling-flashbacks and triggers. Present experiences tap into an immense reservoir of past emotion resulting in excessive emotional responses. This occurs when the pain of past wounds travel forward and connects to present situations. When more emotion is expressed than what the situation calls for, we are experiencing a feeling flashback.

Loss is a major contributor to depression; in fact, depression is recognized as one of the phases of grief. If we do not allow ourselves the privilege of grieving our losses as we experience them, eventually, the combination of such losses will merge into one major loss. The resulting severe depression will debilitate the sufferer and may produce a need to grieve each of the past losses individually.

Another concern that causes depression is habitual sin. Few are the individuals who are more miserable than one who loves the Lord, yet gets himself caught in one of Satan’s traps. Such individuals find themselves in bondage. They are weighed down with guilt, shame, remorse, and self-loathing.

Our perception of our Heavenly Father affects our emotional and mental health. If we have a faulty spiritual belief system we will short-circuit our relationship with our Heavenly Father. If we do not have a healthy understanding of who God is, and who we are as His child we will not be able to trust the love of our Heavenly Father. We will limp from crisis to crisis wondering if God truly is good and if He really does care.

How is your relationship with your Heavenly Father? Ask yourself:

How does God feel about me as His child?

How does God feel about me when I pray?

How does God feel about me when I have disobeyed Him?

How often do I tell my Heavenly Father, I love Him?

How often do I thank God for loving me?

A healthy spiritual life will require an in-depth study of the love God has for us. The best way to build your self-image is to meditate on and interact with Scriptures that express God’s heart for His children. This should be a daily practice until these beliefs become part of who we are. My book, “From Victim to Victor” provides a plentiful source of such Scripture verses.

When we feel secure in God’s love, we will learn to love and accept ourselves the way He made us. Then we will not be concerned about other people’s attitudes toward us. Freedom from “people-pleasing” opens us up to become the unique person God created us to be.

Bitterness is another major cause of depression. It eats at your soul like a cancer, burrowing you deeper into depression. When we don’t choose to forgive, all our other relationships will be contaminated by our bitterness, and we will inevitably hurt those we love most. When we choose to forgive, we are opening the door to allow God to change us as an individual.

Depression is caused by long-lasting stresses in every area of our lives. Over-extension of ourselves, painful memories, low self-worth, change, interpersonal relationships, death of a loved one, financial reversals, deteriorating health, destructive compulsive behaviors, addictions, and bitterness all contribute to depression. These stresses causing excessive anxiety for a prolonged period of time sometimes result in the depletion of chemicals in the brain. The outcome is diagnosed as clinical depression and is treated with medication.

The Cure for Depression

Reach out to friends to help understand depression and for supportFor those suffering from depression, there is much you can do to bring healing to your memories, thoughts, and emotions. Even for victims of clinical depression, medications become more effective once the emotional baggage is dealt with.

Seek help in learning how to handle stress in healthy ways and understanding depression 

  • Maintain a healthy diet, get sufficient rest, and exercise
  • See a counselor or join a support group for assistance in processing past emotional trauma
  • Forgive and ask for forgiveness promptly
  • Build your self-worth by inserting your name in Scripture verses of your Heavenly Father’s love for you and meditating daily on them.
  • See a doctor to determine if medication is necessary.

Learning how to heal through understanding depression can shorten the recovery process.  It is a long difficult journey, but with the help of your Heavenly Father, you too can have a healthier, happier life.

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How to Heal through Understanding Depression