PURPOSE OF ARTICLE
The Bible has much to say about depression; interestingly, the causes and solutions are not what are commonly thought in Christian circles. This article will offer insights that may help erase the stigma
associated with depression and to see it in a new light. When seen correctly, there is no more stigma or shame associated with depression than any other illness.
What is Depression: Depression is a prolonged emotional tone dominating an individual’s outlook and mood. Normal moods of sadness, grief, and elation are typically short-lived and part of
everyday life, but these can progress into a depressed mental state. Other symptoms often accompany depression but the most common symptoms of major depression are:1
- deep sadness or emptiness,
- apathy, loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities,
- agitation or restlessness, physical hyperactivity or inactivity,
- sleep disturbances,
- weight/appetite disturbances,
- diminished ability to think or concentrate,
- feelings of excessive guilt, self-reproach or worthlessness,
- feelings of fatigue or loss of energy, and
- morbid thoughts of death or suicide.
If a person experiences at least five of these symptoms for one month they have major depression. Mild depression would typically be defined as having two to four of these symptoms for over one month. Bipolar disorder (manic depression) includes swings from deeply depressive moods to wildly manic moods (elation, irritability, hostility, inflated thoughts of self, boasting)–with many intensities and
Biblical Occurrences: Depression is the ascendancy and tyranny of our emotions over our lives. Thus, Proverbs 15:13 says, “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance; but by sorrow of the
heart the spirit is broken.” Often an initiating discouragement leads to sadness, which leads to prolonged grief, and then into a downhill spiral to depression. Depression is a universal problem, but no
one really knows if Biblical characters had what we call depression, or if it would be more appropriate to say they suffered emotionally. However, Paul in I Corinthians 10:13 says, “There hath no
temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able…”. Temptation can mean trial, calamity, or affliction. Accordingly, we should understand that our present day afflictions were also common to the
great Bible characters.
David was overwhelmed with grief and sadness, his heart was desolate, and his tears fell all night (Psa. 61:2, 77:2-3, 142:4, and 143:4). Jonah, Jeremiah (Jer. 15), Job, and Elijah (I Kings 19) are other
examples. Whenever characters express rejection, loneliness, self-pity, hopelessness, overwhelming grief, and wish they had not been born, it seems they are expressing more than temporary sadness but
classic symptoms of major depression. Paul had classic symptoms: his flesh had no rest, he was troubled on all sides, he was cast down, he had fears within, and he despaired of life (II Cor. 1:8 & 7:5-6).
Hannah (I Samuel 1) had many of the symptoms of depression and her spiritual leader instantly and incorrectly accused her of a spiritual problem.
Depression Considerations: Each year depression strikes ten million people in the United States. Older Christians have more depression than younger; does this mean that spiritual maturity is
of no avail? No, what this indicates is that older people have more biochemical and brain malfunctions as they age; depression is a natural consequence. Similarly, more women (two to three times) have depression than men. Women do not have more spiritual problems than men, but they do process adverse events differently than men, and, they have a complex body chemistry that can get out of
balance, both leading to depression. Women tend to take adverse events and internalize them and take the blame–this is a thought-processing problem. Men tend to react to the same events with escapism (sports, TV, sexual obsessions, alcohol); which can later result in heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, etc.–again, a thought-processing problem but with different results. There is another difference: women tend to feel their depression (sadness/guilt) while men act it out in their behavior (rage, hostility and frustration).2
Causes: Understanding the causes of depression is very helpful to finding the solution. It is rare that there is only one causative agent, generally there are several at work. Listed below (no specific order) are some factors known to contribute to depression:3 4 5
- nutrient deficiency or excess
- drugs (prescription, illicit, caffeine)
- hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- hormonal imbalances
- heavy metals
- sexual abuse as a child
- microbial overgrowths/toxins
- medical conditions (stroke, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, thyroid)
- natural light deprivation
- psychological factors (generally poor thought-processing)
- spiritual factors
Depression can have its source in our body, soul or spirit. Our body can affect our soul and spirit and vice versa. For example: if one has a low thyroid function it may affect the soul (for example the emotions) leading to depression which then affects one’s spiritual life. Affecting our spiritual life does not mean it changes our standing or position in Christ, it means things like a less productive outreach/ministry and a more self-oriented prayer life.
There is now no question that reductions in frontal lobe function lie at the core of depression. Complimenting this research is the finding that depressed children have significantly smaller frontal
lobes than non-depressed children. The evidence indicates that frontal lobe problems are the cause and not the effect. The frontal lobe’s proper function requires adequate blood flow and nerve chemistry.
As fog veils a beautiful meadow, so depression clouds life itself; existence becomes dreary and dark. It has been described as darkness visible. One can go to bed feeling fine only to wake with an overwhelming gloom that cannot be explained or escaped. With proper nutrition, lifestyle changes and a renewed way of processing the events of our lives we can break through that fog into a sunny day.
Consequences: Now that it is clear that depression is related to many factors, primarily to frontal lobe malfunction, let’s consider the consequences of depression. Depression weakens the immune
system’s power to attack cancer cells, increases the risk of fatal stroke by 50%, increases the risk of sudden cardiac death in heart attack survivors by 250%, and increases the complications of pneumonia.3 It has been found that depression increase stress hormone levels,
hypertension, and headaches; it complicates diabetes and is the leading cause of suicide (its close relative). The point is clear, depression should be addressed early or it may lead to fatal consequences.
However, because of their illness depressed persons have diminished ability to combat their own disease, so help is often needed to lift them out of the pit of despair.