“I feel absolutely nothing. I am numb. I don’t care about anything or anyone. I hate food, I hate my life and I hate myself.”
“There is no explanation for this. I cry all the time."
I have everything a person could ever want but I frequently feel as though someone I love has just died.”
“When I am in bed I lie awake worrying that I will not be able to sleep. When I am up I am listless and become paralyzed when I have to make decisions.”
These are composite statements from people who battle one of the most devastating emotional conditions known to man: depression. The name “depression” may not be the most descriptive term available, but “affective disorder,” “despondency,” “melancholia” and “the blues” do not do any better. This is the first in a short series of articles on this topic that will start with common symptoms and offer solutions from a biblical worldview.
Let me first say that you are not alone if you struggle this way. Second, you should know that while some people are able to overcome the feelings that accompany depression, the real hope available to you is bigger than making a feeling go away.
Depression in its various forms has plagued our race since sin entered the world. It is not a respecter of persons, affecting believers and unbelievers, men and women, old and young, rich and poor. Well-known people of the past and present who have battled depression include Martin Luther, William Cowper, Frederic Chopin, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Charles Spurgeon, Emily Dickinson, Winston Churchill, Judy Garland, Karen Carpenter, Betty Ford, John Denver, Kurt Cobain, Princess Diana, Rodney Dangerfield, Jim Carrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Terry Bradshaw.
Depression affects families, workplaces and even nations. The economic impact of depression in the United States is very large because of the number of people who take prescribed psychotropic drugs and who require hospitalization. Other economic factors include lost wages and lost job productivity. Those numbers are apparently increasing.
Treatments professionals offer for this diagnosis include antidepressant medication, alternative medicine (acupuncture, yoga, nutritional supplements), exercise and psychotherapy. Many people who have been taken down this road volunteer that these solutions offer temporary relief at best.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), a diagnosis of “clinical depression” may be obtained based on prolonged manifestation of at least five of the following symptoms (Qualification: the symptoms must upset your normal routine and do not follow a major life upset, use of drugs or an illness.):
1. You feel sad most of the time.
2. You are numb to normal pleasures.
3. You have gained or lost weight without trying.
4. You cannot sleep.
5. You are nervous and distracted.
6. You have no energy.
7. You feel worthless.
8. You cannot focus or make decisions.
9. You have had thoughts of suicide.
After seeing this list you may ask, “Is there anyone who isn’t depressed?” Maybe that thought even got a rare smile out of you. This is my point. The trial (while admittedly on a wide range of severity) is common to man.
Several biblical characters who experienced some of the same symptoms of depression include Cain (Genesis 4:13-14), Job (Job 6:2-3, 14, 7:11), Hannah (1 Samuel 1:7, 16), Moses (Numbers 11:10-15), David (Psalm 32:3-4), Other psalmists (Psalm 42:1-3, 9; 88), Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-18), Ahab (1 Kings 21:1-4), Jonah (Jonah 4) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:14-18; Lamentations 3:1-6).
Some might wonder what possible benefit there is in discussing a psychological analysis from those who leave little room for the God of the Bible. I do see the benefit and here is an illustration of it: Atheistic scientists probe creation from the subatomic level to deep space. Their work usually records accurate data even though their opinion of origins may differ from mine. For instance, anyone with clear vision can describe an amazing sunset. Those with the eyes of faith use that description to glorify the one who created color, created human eyes to see it and created hearts to delight in it.
So if you feel horrible pain when you touch a hot pan you know you nerves are working. If you are crying all the time at least you know your emotions are working. But what to do? The next articles will seek to provide biblical names for these symptoms and suggest responses that honor God.
Ten articles in this series: