Los Angeles Christian Counseling
But depression is medically real. In the U.S. alone, more than 16 million adults (6.7% of the population) suffer from this mental disorder. And this is not just an ailment that strikes those who do not believe in God — even Christians can suffer from depression at some point in their life.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Depression
Because not all acknowledge depression, it can be difficult for a person to understand if they are suffering from depression, especially since there are different kinds (e.g. major depression, persistent depressive disorder, postpartum depression, etc.) with varying triggers.
Regardless, the different types do share telltale signs that can inform a person if they are suffering from some form of depression. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) lists nine symptoms of depression that one should look out for. An awareness of these can help a person determine if they or their loved ones are in need of professional help.
9 Commons Symptoms of Depression
(Note: Quotes are from DSM-5.)
1. “Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad, empty, hopeless) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful).”
Those who are depressed are not just sad; they are usually overwhelmed by a sadness they cannot describe. Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness plague them day in and day out. While some may be tearful most of the time, others may shed no tears, choosing to keep them bottled inside or shedding them only in private.
However, almost all eventually choose to isolate themselves as they believe that their presence is no longer needed by others. This may even cause them to act differently than usual such as becoming unusually angry, especially when confronted about their situation.
2. “Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation).”People who are depressed usually lose all interest in their former activities – whether these are for work, family, or fun. Workwise, those who were once very diligent and enthusiastic may become tardy and disinterested, even to the point of getting fired. At home, basic family duties may be neglected with the person claiming to be too tired to do anything. As for social activities, depressed people often find an excuse for not going anymore or they may ignore the invite all together.
3. “Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.”
A major change in eating habits is another sign of depression. Depressed people may either lose their appetite or eat more than usual, causing them to seriously drop in weight or bloat significantly within a month’s time.
Though there can also be other causes behind a friend’s or family member’s change in weight (e.g. new diet, medication, illness), depression is something to watch out for, especially when other symptoms of depression are present.
4. “Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.”
Those with depression usually experience sleep difficulties. Some may seemingly sleep the whole day (hypersomnia) as they feel no need to get up to do any activity. Others, however, may have problems falling asleep (insomnia) as negative thoughts run through their heads, keeping them awake.
Similar to eating problems, sleep difficulties can also be caused by other issues such as problems at work or home, an illness, sleep apnea, or drug use. But if combined with other symptoms of depression, this could mean depression is present.
5. “Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).”Another possible sign of depression is the uncontrollable shaking of the person’s extremities (e.g. shaking hands, arms, legs) which can be seen by others. Those who are depressed may also move more sluggishly than usual.
Again, individuals with such symptoms can also be suffering from something else. However, when combined with the other symptoms, professional help should be sought.
6. “Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.”
People dealing with depression often feel very weary every day, regardless of how much sleep they had at night or how much coffee they may drink to perk them up. This feeling saps them of their enthusiasm to do anything so they may constantly complain of wanting to just rest. Such weariness also becomes a good excuse for them to avoid others as they claim that they need to go straight home to rest.
7. “Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick).”
Those who are depressed usually suffer from low self-esteem for a number of reasons. Many times this stems from a negative experience with family, often a parent, or other past situations (e.g. childhood bullying, strict school environment). However, it may also come from current problems at work or in their love life.
Though others may try to talk them out of it, as the depressed person may be talented in many areas in life, the sufferer has difficulty believing that they are worthy and lovable. While not all of their negative beliefs may be delusional (reasons not based on what is really happening), those who are severely depressed may have elements of delusion, especially when it pertains to negative self-beliefs or personal guilt.
8. “Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either by subjective account or as observed by others).”
People who are depressed usually lose the ability to focus and make decisions, possibly due to their lack of interest in life. Because of this, they may instead ask others – particularly their spouse, other loved ones, or colleagues – to decide for them instead. This, however, can become very frustrating or annoying for the people involved when done on a regular basis.
9. “Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.”
Although depressed people may have feelings of hopelessness, not all have thoughts of harming themselves. However, there are those who do have recurrent thoughts of suicide or death in general.
While some may keep such ideas to themselves, others may directly share such thoughts to close confidantes or express them in other ways (e.g. drawings of death). Some may even passively share such ideas with statements like, “I should just die so they’ll all be happy.”
Again, though the admission of such thoughts may not directly lead to any attempt, close friends should be wary about what their loved one is going through and find ways to get professional help.
Christian Counseling for Depression
To be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, a minimum of five symptoms of depression should be present. But even if only two or three can be identified, it would be wise to seek Christian counseling for depression to ensure that all is okay.
Similar to secular therapists, the faith-based counselor will apply the latest counseling techniques to diagnose and treat the client. However, the treatment will not stop with just the mental and physical aspects; equally important, the spiritual issues will also be addressed. Many who are depressed also struggle spiritually, either questioning God about their life circumstances or questioning His existence.
In Christian counseling, the depressed person will be introduced to the saving power of God through prayer and meditation on Scripture so that there will be true holistic healing. Any issues about God, faith, or Scripture will also be tackled in the sessions so that a stronger relationship with Christ can be established.
If you or a friend is exhibiting symptoms of depression, seek help soon. Depression can be overcome with Christ’s loving help.
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