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Rid yourself of the dark shroud of Mental Depression

Perhaps you are needlessly experiencing the feeling of hopelessness and despair.
Isn't it time you understood the reasons for this all-too-common human affliction?


IT is a tragic but real fact of life.

Mental depression has run like a heavy dark thread throughout the fabric of human history. Men and women, the great and small, have been afflicted with it. Brave, brilliant and insightful individuals have suffered periods of "the gray menace" — dark emotions that shrouded their lives in feelings of utter despair, hopelessness and helplessness.

Winston Churchill, one of the greatest statesmen of the World War 2 era, was beset by what he called his "black dog" of depression. Abraham Lincoln suffered frequent depressive moods in his life.

Biblical heroes — men of great courage — at times showed their human frailty and weakness by suffering from this problem. King David of Israel, Elijah, Jeremiah and others, all powerful prophets or leaders, experienced deep depressions, some to the point of wanting to die.

These men, however, found a way of escape from depression. They, and others since, were able to tap the right power and resources to conquer fear, worry, and deal with seemingly hopeless situations. Out of weakness they were made strong (Hebrews 11:34). Out of their suffering they became more stable, more compassionate, more mature persons.


Wearing Many Faces

Mental depression wears many faces. It knows no class barriers. It afflicts rich and poor alike, and even people who don't realize they are suffering from it. Mental depression is a major affliction in young children, leading to increasingly more youthful suicides.

And, though mental depression afflicts young and old, it rises abruptly in incidence with adolescent years.

Depression is a broad range of negative states of mind. At one end of the scale, depression shows up as the common, short‑term down or blue feeling after hearing bad news. Or perhaps learning of the loss of something or someone. Sometimes it results from a blow to the ego. This blue feeling may last for only a few hours or days at most.

At the other extreme are chronic or lifelong crippling emotions of futility, hopelessness, emptiness, lack of joy and energy. These can be coupled with total loss of self-esteem, unremitting guilt, shame and eventual suicide. There is much ground in between these two extremes. Mental depression may be mild, moderate or severe. Or it may be masked — a person doesn't even realize he is suffering from it, though he manifests symptoms to others.

Every one of us has his blue days. It's our common response to losses or setbacks, or to something we feel we failed to achieve in life. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick," says scripture (Proverbs 13:12).

The vast majority of depressed persons (90 percent, estimate some authorities) eventually snap out of it, although it may take days, weeks or even months to fully recover. These persons resolve their losses, setbacks or failures and go on.

For around 10 percent of afflicted persons, however, depression becomes chronic or frequent, way out of proportion to a loss. For these persons, depression is unresolved and leads to week after week of feelings of helplessness and guilt — that life isn't worth living. This condition is serious and needs skilled help.

Yet, most depressed persons are too ashamed to admit to anyone that they can't cope with a certain problem or set of problems in life. Their depression, though painful, is covered up.

That's false pride at work. No person is always strong or capable under every adverse condition, circumstance or setback in life. Everyone needs help with some problems in life.


What Depression Is

The majority of depressed feelings begin in response to a specific loss, fear of loss or adverse occurrence in life — something one can pinpoint. There seems no way of retrieving or achieving what is lost or what is threatened with loss.

The depressive cycle leads to collapse of self-worth, then to self-deprecation, then to a feeling that the situation is hopeless. Hopeless attitudes produce changes in responses of the mind and body, which begin to immobilize the person. Perhaps you have felt that helplessness.

In depression, all systems — mental and physical — slow down. Growing evidence from medical and mental health research indicates changes occur in the chemical balances of the brain and nervous system. These changed chemical balances alter transmission of brain and nerve impulses, which in turn, produce disturbing brain patterns and painful or crippling emotional and physical feelings.

Serious depressives often say: "I can't get out of this. . . . It's hopeless. . . . I'll never get better. . . . Things will never change." Others feel: "I'm powerless to do anything; what's the use of trying? . . . There are no options. . . . I'm drained, empty. I can't sleep. I can't keep going on like this, but I see no way out."

In serious depression, almost everything is viewed negatively. The future is seen as bleak, unrewarding, and there appears no way to change it. Depressives mentally stop fighting. They are possessed with their own sad feelings. They often assume others are equally obsessed with the same feelings (they are not).

One type of depressive, the manic‑depressive, swings between periods of extreme optimism and unfounded pessimism.

Depressives stubbornly resist reassurances of their worth. Statements to "snap out of it" or "pull yourself together" usually have little effect. These persons, of course, do not need ridicule or further loss of self-esteem; their morbid mind is full already.


Hidden Depression

For every serious depressive there are several masked depressives — persons functioning, howbeit at far less than their ability, in Jobs, homes or schools. They don't realize that their emotional problems, difficulties with a job or other people, or many of their physical ills, are caused by a subtle depression, which they do not recognize. For many of these persons, lack of positive emotions and attitudes have become a way of life for so long, they don't realize why happiness and good feelings perpetually elude them.

Masked depressives find little true joy in life. They are constantly restless and irritable. They fill doctors' offices with real or imagined complaints of lack of energy, chronic headaches, stomach problems, constipation, and similar ills. They are a large part of the army of up to 85 percent of patients visiting doctors' offices whose health problems are largely mentally (psychosomatically) induced.

Many of these patients seek a miracle pill or drug to free them of their ills. The peace of mind and better health they seek will only occur when they develop a positive and constructive state of thinking and handling their problems!

Still others, because their depression is mixed with anxiety, engage in frenzied pleasure‑seeking, sexual activity or even violence. Growing numbers of depressives drown their depression in alcohol or drugs to kill the mental pain of weakness, emptiness and futility.

What a tragic toll! And the reason is humanity has jumped the track! Let's understand.


Vulnerable to Depression?

In normal grief at a loss, a certain amount of sadness or crying is often helpful and necessary to work through to normal feelings. Grief at the loss of a loved one or something highly valued is not wrong. It becomes unhealthy and damaging when it causes total loss of personal self-worth, or the desire to live. Grief is damaging when it is unresolved and one is crippled from ordinary human functions for weeks or months on end.

The line between natural remorse and pathologic depression may be a subjective judgment. To make an illustration, a man who loses a job and is unable to mobilize himself to find work for weeks after being fired or losing his job is seriously depressed and needs help and encouragement.

While the cause of a depression is often related to a loss one can pinpoint (sometimes called a reactive depression), the cause at times can be much more vague — a mood we don't understand. Depressed feelings can come over a person for no seemingly rational reasons. But there are reasons nevertheless — mental, physical or spiritual reasons.

Endogenous depressions are related to less distinct causes that develop within a person — perhaps from subconscious or denied fears, needs or desires, which unsettling or unfavorable events now threaten. This kind of depression may develop either slowly or suddenly.

Vulnerability to frequent depressions often depends on the kind of encouragement, values, self-esteem, love or support (or lack of them) that we received in early years of life. Vulnerability may be related to how we learned to respond to losses or problems in life. In addition, certain personalities seem more sensitive to blue moods than others.

A depressive mood can float over the mind for no apparent reason. It could be the result of a final straw — reaching a breaking point in a series of unfortunate setbacks in life. Or it could happen for reasons that many totally overlook or are unaware of.

How many are aware that the violation of God's spiritual laws — the laws of love to God and other human beings, as revealed in the Ten Commandments — sets one up to experience problems or attitudes of mind for which there seems to be no hope or help?

And doing things we know are wrong results in negative or depressive feelings.

Unresolved resentment, bitterness, jealousy, envy or anger lead to feelings of loss, hence to depressed feelings. "Envy is as rottenness to the bones," correctly states scripture (Proverbs 14:30). For such sins one needs to ask for forgiveness from God, and others you have offended. Then set your values right and resolve not to do them again.

Though many do not believe in evil spiritual forces — Satan and a host of fallen angels (demons) — they do exist and they do influence the minds and attitudes of unwary humanity. No wonder so many psychiatrists and their patients don't understand some of their negative moods or attitudes! (See Ephesians 2:2-3)

Scripture warns, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness [wicked spirits, margin] in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).

These evil spirits place damaging and negative moods and feelings in vulnerable or unwary human minds. In some weakened persons, they implant impulses to want to give up on life and end it.