Depression is one of the most pervasive and crippling of all diseases. Fifteen-percent of all people world-wide will suffer from a Major Depressive Episode at some point in their lives. That means that of the 35,000 people living in the zip code 93561, over 5,000 of them will suffer from a serious case of depression during their life-times. How will you and your church minister to them?
A Brief Description of Depression
Depression is more common than cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It is one of the most painful of all psychological disorders. It is a serious medical illness that impacts us physically, neurologically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Depression is a physical “neuro-biological” disorder, or “disease,” caused by a flood of stress hormones which impact the way the brain feels and functions. Sometimes people who are depressed have trouble sleeping, or eating, or concentrating, which are all physical neuro-biological symptoms.
The word “depression” is used a lot in our society, and usually is it mis-used and mis-understood. There are different types or degrees of “depression.”
- Aversion – times of frustration, or short-term sadness
- Reactive Depression – Usually from grief or loss. There is often an event that one can point to as the cause, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or loss of a job. Everyone grieves differently. Support groups such as “GriefCare” can be very helpful to those grieving.
- Major Depression – This is a long-term loss of the ability/capacity to feel pleasure. It is painful. Deeply dark. Poor sleep, early waking. Unrealistic feelings of guilt or grief. Decreased appetite. Negative thinking. Self-injury including cutting or suicide attempts. Ten percent with major depression, un-treated, will commit suicide.
Hormones and Depression: Twenty-percent (20%) of the time Major Depression is caused by Thyroid problems; and sometimes women suffer from depression because additional hormone problems with estrogen or progesterone. In 50% of cases, levels of stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol are greatly elevated, causing decreases in dopamine levels.
People with depression often report that they don’t “feel” emotions like joy, happiness, or peace the way they once did, but instead only feel emotional pain. They often feel isolated from others, and begin to detach themselves from their friendships. And when people are depressed they often feel that God has forgotten or abandoned them. A deep, dark cloud of loneliness often descends on someone with depression.
Over 400,000 people experiencing the pain of depression will attempt suicide every year. People over the age of 70, and teenagers, are the two groups most at risk for suicide. The single biggest trigger for depression and suicidal thinking or attempts in people over 70 is the death of their spouse, and in teenagers it is breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Please take this seriously.
The good news is that there are many effective ways to help people who are suffering from depression, or long-term sadness. Because it is a medical problem, sometimes medications can be helpful. But not always. About 33% of people with depression will be helped by medications alone. But 66% will need additional resources such as counseling by a professional therapist or psychologist. And, frankly, sometimes the medication does strange things to people and puts them at additional risk, so it must be monitored closely by physicians.
For less severe cases of depression sometimes there are specific over the counter remedies that can be helpful as well. But treatment for depression should always begin with a physician.
Douglas Cowan is a Marriage and Family Therapist providing professional counseling to Tehachapi and Bakersfield, CA.
Because there are emotional and psychological parts to depression – from life’s circumstances, to the way that we think about people or things in our life – counseling from a professional is very important. And because there are also spiritual components to depression, counseling from someone who has been a Pastor, and is sensitive to the spiritual dynamics of life and faith can be very helpful.
For more information, please call Doug Cowan at (661) 972-5953