She sat across from me with tear-stained cheeks and looked at me with misty eyes.
“I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. Maybe it’s just stress.” She shared of her stresses at work, at home, and even with extended family. Yet after a few particularly important questions, I zeroed in on the heart of the problem.
“What you’re dealing with is depression,” I relayed.
“Depression? Are you sure? I don’t feel depressed, or at least I don’t think I do. But I’m a Christian. Does that mean I don’t have enough faith? Or that I don’t pray enough?”
“Absolutely not. That’s a myth that we need to dispel right now. Depression doesn’t discriminate. In fact, 70% of pastors admit to struggling with depression. And let’s think about it…Job suffered from depression, as did David, and so did Jonah. But we can have a role in our healing.”
The truth is, the majority of patients who suffer with depression don’t have any idea that’s the cause of their suffering. That just prolongs their getting help. But frequently, once the diagnosis is made, things start making a bit more sense to them.
It begs the question, how do I know if I’m depressed?
Sometimes you can get a sense just by asking the following questions.
Questions to ask when wondering, “How do I know if I’m Depressed?”
- Do you look around and it seems like everyone is laughing but you?
- Does it ever seem like you went to sleep one night but when you woke up the next morning, somehow your joy, your enthusiasm, or even your motivation disappeared overnight?
- Do you hear others talk about joy, or look at others and they exude joy, yet you think to yourself, “I have no idea what joy feels like, but whatever it is, this isn’t it”?
- Does it ever feel like you feel “constantly overwhelmed” and what you crave is a sense of peace?
- Does it feel like even the simplest tasks require more effort than you can handle (e.g. think brushing your teeth or taking your vitamins)?
- If you take an honest appraisal of yourself, would you or those close to you consider you to be more of a “glass half empty” kind of person?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is possible that you are experiencing or have experienced symptoms of depression. Many people experience depression, but don’t even realize it, and even if they did, they wouldn’t admit it. For a long time, I didn’t want others to know I had suffered. The shame I felt about being a mental health professional yet suffering from a condition I thought I should be able to avoid just compounded my depression.
Every year, more than 18 million American adults suffer from a depressive disorder. One in four will struggle with depression at some point in their lifetime. Left untreated, it can be a debilitating condition of the most painful sort.
Possible and most common symptoms of depression:
- Feeling down, sad, blue, or numb
- Feeling irritable or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling helpless, hopeless, and/or worthless
- Feeling guilty
- Difficulty making decisions
- Lethargy or decreased energy
- Lacking motivation or initiative
- Feeling less interested in previously enjoyed activities
- Decreased social interaction (or decreased desire for social interaction)
- Sleep disturbance (either too much or too little)
- Appetite disturbance (eating too much or too little)
- Unintentional weight gain or loss
- Aches and pains that are medically unexplained or don’t improve with treatment
- Excessive use of alcohol or other substances (including prescription medication)
- Thoughts of suicide
There are a myriad of other associated symptoms. But most people who suffer from depression will experience a subset of symptoms. Furthermore, the severity ranges from person to person. Most people who suffer from depression experience several of these symptoms for more than a couple of weeks at a time.
People experience depression in different ways. Men and women display symptoms of depression differently. Additionally, children with depression present much differently than adults with the same condition. Further, older adults suffering from depression also present differently and often with less obvious symptoms, may be more hesitant to admit to feelings of sadness or grief, and their presentation may be hidden by other physical or medical conditions.
If the questions or symptoms posed above ring true for you or a loved one, there is help and there is hope. I always first recommend that an individual see their primary care physician to rule out a medical condition that may be contributing to symptoms of depression.
If a medical diagnosis is ruled out, then I’d suggest consulting with a licensed clinical psychologist or counselor. Therapy can be very effective for treating depression. Sometimes treatment resistant depression responds well to medication. It’s also important to eat a balanced diet rich in protein, fiber and nutrients to support your emotional health. I also recommend regular physical exercise, which helps to increase your endorphins and help improve your mood. You might also find additional resources, such as the book “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and/or the “Hope Prevails Bible Study” helpful in addressing the spiritual component of depression.
As someone who both treated patients for three decades and suffered from depression herself, let me encourage you that you are not alone, but there is help, hope, and healing available. “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (Psalm 34:18 NLT).
If you know someone who is suffering from depression, you might benefit from reading the following resources.
15 Top Blog Posts on Depression
- 10 Verses of Hope for When You Are Down or Depressed
- Depression Feels Like a Broken Heart
- What Not to Say When a Loved One is Depressed
- What to Say When a Loved One is Depressed
- Combat Depression with Truth
- Ask Dr. B: When a Spouse Is Depressed
- Don’t Treat Depression with a Band-Aid
- 10 Scriptures for Mothers Suffering from Depression
- 3 Things Depression Does To Us Spiritually
- 3 Hope-Filled Ways God Limits the Impact of Depression in our Lives
- There is No Shame in Depression
- How to Help a Depressed Loved One
- Is It Exhaustion Or Depression?
- Thankful for Depression
- How to Share About Your Depression With Your Loved Ones
Resources on Depression: Recommended reading on depression
May I pray for you?
Father, I lift up the one reading these words right now. Would you, as our Comforter, bring comfort to their hearts. Though their weeping may last for the night, I ask you to bring joy to them in the morning. You say in your word that you are near to the brokenhearted…be ever near to this one right now. Bring your help, hope, and healing, Father. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.
October is National Depression Awareness Month. Given how many people suffer from depression, would you consider sharing this post with others or on your social media so that those who are suffering can find help and resources?
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!