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 physicianliving 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 aptlydescribed 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 canbe 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 depressionDepression 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). SomeSurely 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 anxietywith 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 guidanceBut 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 nomore 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, 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. WORLDWIDE MAILING ADDRESSESNORTH, SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICAUnited States: United Church of God P.O. Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254-1027Phone: (513) 576-9796 Fax (513) 576-9795Web site address: E-mail: info@ucg.orgCanada: United Church of GodCanada Box 144, Station D, Etobicoke, ON M9A 4X1, CanadaPhone: (905) 876-9966, (800) 338-7779 Fax: (905) 876-0569 Web site address: www.ucg.caCaribbean: United Church of God P.O. Box N8873, Nassau, Bahamas Phone: (242) 324-3169 Fax: (242) 364-5566Martinique: glise de Dieu UnieFrance127 rue Amelot, 75011 Paris, FranceSpanish-speaking areas: Iglesia de Dios UnidaP.O. Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254-1027, U.S.A. Phone: (513) 576-9796 Fax (513) 576-9795 E-mail: info@ucg.orgEUROPEBritish Isles: United Church of God P.O. 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Most important, what are the weapons in the struggle against depression?by Noel HornorRecommended ReadingTo learn more about buildinga successful, happy life basedon biblical principles, requestyour free copy of Making Life Work. This full-color, illus-trated guide will show yousome of the best biblical ad-vice on health, family, friend-ships, job and career, mar-riage, parenting and finances.Discover how you can make life work today.Contact any of our offices listed on page 2, orrequest or download them from our Web site 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 approachto 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, oneof 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 depressionThe 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. Heattended 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 supportCultivating relationships is vital to oneswell-being. Psychologist Dorothy Rowewrote: You have to find . . . people to confidein, 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 cause.This can restore a positive perspective.Some peoples marginally blue feelings become a way of life.Such people seem unable to sustain an optimistic outlook. The roots of such feelings can run deep. Such a person may be modelingbehavior he saw as a child in someone else.Habitual harshness by parents can drive a child toward perpetualgloominess. The apostle Paul advises parents: . . . Do not provokeyour children, lest they become discouraged (Colossians 3:21).An expert on depression, Dr. Peter Breggin, observes: Many peo-ple go through life with what might be called a low-grade depres-sion. They are apathetic and life seems monotonous with nothing tolook forward to. There are no highs anymore, nothing to delight thesenses, the heart, or the mind . . . Lacking in energy, seemingly unableto find any brightness in life, life becomes a treadmill of boredom andbleakness (Talking Back to Prozac, 1994, p. 201).Here are some ways to overcome the blues:Alter your routine. Start a new hobby or other interest. Differentactivities can renew a zest for life, resulting in an outlook that leavesno room for dejection. Depression is especially responsive to changesin circumstances . . . [It] is lifted by falling in love, making a new friend,adopting a pet, learning a new skill, joining a church, traveling, [or]participating in volunteer or reform work . . . (Breggin, p. 204).Volunteer work seems to be particularly helpful. A study of 3,000people reported that 95 percent of them experienced increased opti-mism after volunteering.Beginning a program of regular physical exercise can help. Exer-cise has known physiological and psychological benefits, includingstimulation of the production of endorphins, natural substances thatincrease peoples sense of well-being. Psychological advantagesinclude increased self-confidence and less depression (EdmundBourne, Ph.D., The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, 1995, pp. 91-92).Research shows that diet plays a role in psychological well-being.For example, highly refined, high-sugar foods have been linked todepressive tendencies.Focus on accomplishments rather than failures. When we suffersetbacks, we should not view them as failures, but as learning orgrowth experiences. Too many people become depressed when they err and punish themselves for their mistakes. We shouldlearn from our errors and turn potential stumbling blocks into stepping-stones.Forgetting past problems is a valuable key. Mental-health coun-selor Kathleen Powers says: An optimist has the ability to let go ofthe past, while a pessimist holds onto everything. Its kind of like dri-ving while looking through the rear-view mirror. It looks like the roadto where youre going, but really its where youve already been(Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, Feb. 23, 1996).Applying these practical points can help when we are down in thedumps. The most important key of all is to trust God. We can increaseour hope in Him by reading and applying the Bible. The Scriptureswere written so that we can have hope (Romans 15:4). Hope anddepression are incompatible mind-sets. We can repel gloomythoughts when we build up our hope through Gods Word.Is It Depression or Only the Blues? Godalong with His inspired Word, the Bibleis the most pow-erful resource for combating depression. The Bible providesenlightenment and encouragementtremendous help in depress-ing situations. Here are some examples.The Bible acknowledges that depression can be debilitating. Amans spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who canbear? (Proverbs 18:14, New International Version). The ExpositorsBible Commentary says about the same verse: In physical sicknessone can fall back on the will to live; but in depression the will to livemay be gone, and there is no reserve for physical strength. The fig-ure of a crushed spirit suggests a broken will, loss of vitality, despair,and emotional pain. Few things in the human experience are as difficult to cope with as this (Vol. 5, p. 1026).The Scriptures can be particularly helpful when sin and the result-ing guilt lie at the root of depression. The Bible shows how recoverybeginswith repentance and forgiveness. The experience of Davidis enlightening: What happiness for those whose guilt has been for-given! What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for thosewho have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record. Therewas a time when I wouldnt admit what a sinner I was. But my dis-honesty made me miserable and filled my days with frustration. Allday and all night your hand was heavy on me. My strength evapo-rated like water on a sunny day until I finally admitted all my sins toyou and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, I will confessthem to the Lord. And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone (Psalm32:1-5, The Living Bible).The Bible helps sufferers from depression brought on by anger.For example, the prophet Jonah grew angry at his circumstances(Jonah 4:1). Later we read that he was depressed and even wantedto die (verse 8). But the Bible counsels us to put away anger: Donot let the sun go down on your wrath (Ephesians 4:26). In otherwords, we are not to allow anger to carry over from day to day, butto conquer it.The Bible provides us with examples of men of God trusting inHim to recover from depression. The Lord shall enlighten my dark-ness, as David so eloquently stated (2 Samuel 22:29). David knewGod would help.The Bible gives good advice about a related problemstress. JesusChrist promised relief from the stresses of life. Come to Me, all youwho are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew11:28, New International Version).Stress begets anxiety. Jesus gives advice for the anxious: There-fore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care foritself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34, NIV).Dont add to your stress by worrying about the complications youwill face tomorrow and beyond. Live one day at a time.The events, forces and circumstances of the world around us cannegatively affect us in many ways. But we need not be controlled bythem. In the world you will have tribulation, Jesus said; but be ofgood cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33). We can over-come the negative influencesthe depressing aspectsof our world.The Bible shows that depression can be induced by the spiritworld. It presents Satan as having an unseen influence on humanity.He and the demons are called rulers of the darkness of this age(Ephesians 6:12), swaying people with negative influences, inspiringdestructive thoughts (Ephesians 2:2), which add to the spiritual influences we have to resist.Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walksabout like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, the apos-tle Peter tells us. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that thesame sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world(1 Peter 5:8-9).These are only a few scriptures that can be helpful in overcomingdiscouragement and depression. The Psalms are filled with encour-agement. Make a habit of using the Bible as your key source of spiritual strength.of Christians.Seeking Help From GodGods ways, when properly understood and applied, producethe joy, inner peace and self-control that so many are lack-ing. They can act as a powerful antidote to the spiritualand emotional pain that lies at the heart of depression.The good news is that the majority of those who sufferfrom depression can recover. Professional practitioners estimate that 80 percent of people can gain substantial relief.