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Hope for People with Depression

People with depression often experience hopelessness. The Good News is: Jesus Christ is our Hope!

Depression is experienced differently by different people. Basically three types of depression can be distinguished: Dysthemia, Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder.

  • Dysthemia is a long term depression that restricts optimal functioning, and is characterized by bad appetite or over eating; sleeping disorders; fatigue; negative self-evaluation; bad concentration and decision making; experiences of hopelessness.
  • Major Depression usually follows a repetitive pattern of relapses over a period of six months and longer. During a relapse the following may be experienced: persistent sadness, anxiousness or feelings of emptiness; hopelessness and pessimism; guilt, worthlessness, helplessness and self-reproach; losing interest in hobbies and enjoyable activities, including sex; insomnia, waking up very early, or excessive sleeping; changing in appetite and/or weight loss or gain; decreased energy levels, fatigue and feeling run-down; increased use of alcohol and drugs; thoughts of dearth or suicide, and suicide attempts; restlessness, irritability and hostility; difficulties with concentrating, remembering and decision-making; persistent physical symptoms that don't respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain; deterioration of social relationships.
  • Bipolar Depression is marked by extreme changes in mood, energy levels and behaviour. It involves cycles of depression and elation (mania). The switch from depression to mania can be rapid or gradual.  In the manic phase people may act uninhibitedly (with regards to spending, drinking and sex) or their thinking may be delusional (regards himself as somebody special with an exceptional calling).

People with depression have characteristic behaviour and thinking. Behavioural patterns include sleeping disorders; decrease in productivity; retardation in speech; agitation (restlessness, nail biting); anxiety (irritability, heart palpitations, sweating, bad digestion); pain; changes in sexual drive; possessed with health issues; changing in eating habits and weight; obsessive-compulsive behaviour; social withdrawal, etc.

Characteristic thinking include guilt; thoughts of suicide; feelings of incompetence,  failure and hopelessness; concern about health; thoughts of losing control; Thoughts about God e.g. He doesn't love me, or: He is punishing me; thoughts and fear of failure and rejection.

People with depression usually have a lack of serotonin, a very important chemical involved in the transmission of impulses in the brain. A lack of serotonin inhibits the transmission of impulses. When somebody has been exposed to certain stressors over a period of time, and she reacts negatively to the pressure, excessive adrenalin is secreted which breaks down the serotonin. The person stresses and depresses (becomes depressed).

Depression is not merely a medical illness, but a spiritual, psychological, physical and social condition. Therefore it is very important that people with depression should get comprehensive help:

  • A doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe medication, e.g. a mood stabiliser or antidepressant. The psychiatrist must be consulted regularly in order to monitor the effects of the medication and to make necessary changes.
  • A dietician can prescribe a diet and natural supplements such as co-enzymes, vitamins and minerals.
  • A biblical counsellor can help the person to understand his depression in the light of Scripture and develop guidelines to manage stress and depression. It is very important to assist the client to (re)establish biblical ways of thinking about God, the self and others/circumstances. Healthy habits of living must be established.
  • Next–of-kin, friends and the church must be involved to play a sensitive supportive and encouraging role.

Frank Minirith en Paul Meier give guideline for the life of a person with depression:

  • Commit your life daily to the purpose of glorifying Jesus Christ
  • Meditate each day on God's Word and apply it to your life
  • Handle grudges and aggression daily
  • Get more intimate with your mate, children and family and resolve conflicts
  • Have fellowship and fun each week with Christian friends
  • Be involved in a daily routine according to Gods will
  • Do something nice for one special person each week

As believers our identity is not determined by depression, but by Jesus Christ. In Him a am a new creature (2 Cor 5:17), and nothing - not even depression - can part me from God's love (Rom 8:38-39). He is with me, even if I don't feel it. He calls me to live intimately with Him (2 Cor 6:18).

I believe in the sun -
even when it is not shining.
I believe in love -
even when I'm not feeling it.
I believe in God -
even when He is silent.
- Unknown

To read::
Frisby-Lowe, A. 2007. Victory over Depression: My Journey to the Light. Vanderbijlpark: Corals Publishers
Minirith, F. & Meier, P. 2003. Happiness is a Choice: The Symptoms, Causes and Cures of Depression. Grand Rapids : Baker.
Welch, E.T.  1998. Blame it on the Brain? Distinguishing Chemical Imbalances, Brain Disorders and Disobedience. Phillipsburg : P & R.
Welch, E.T.   2004.  Depression - A Stubborn Darkness : Light for the Path. Greensboro:
New Growth Press.

17 March 2009

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