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Understanding and Overcoming Depression
by Andy J. Johnson

Bob was a fifty-four-year-old accounting executive with a life full of success and happiness. He spent time with his family, enjoyed his work, played sports with his friends, and was active in his church and community. But then his employer had financial problems and had to lay Bob off. Bob did a thorough job search but openings were just not available. He even tried finding other types of work but potential employers said he was overqualified.

Over time, Bob became increasingly discouraged and sad. He had difficulty concentrating and his thoughts

Understanding and Overcoming Depression

often wandered to how worthless he felt. He believed everything was his fault and was certain things would never get better again. He no longer enjoyed his family, recreational activities, friends, or even his church and relationship with God. Bob would wake up in the middle of the night and have a hard time getting back to sleep. His family noticed how he had lost weight, slowed down, withdrawn from others, and felt sad or irritable much of the time. Bob told me, "I feel like I'm behind a glass wall. I can see and hear things that used to make me happy, but they don't any more." Even reading the Bible and praying did not provide Bob the encouragement they used to, although they sometimes helped a little.

Tonya is a thirty-two-year-old lawyer who feels depressed and pessimistic and has very low self-esteem. She cannot remember a time in many years when she has not felt depressed. She is unhappy with her family, her job, and her entire life. It is as though a black cloud of gloom covers her entire world. Although she has a job in a successful law firm, Tonya believes that she does not measure up to her co-workers. She purposely married a man she considered "average" because she thought he would be less likely to leave her.

Bob and Tonya both suffer from depression. Bob suffers from Major Depression, a condition that causes enormous suffering for the depressed person and often for his or her loved ones. Research studies have found that between 5 to 9 percent of adult women and 2 to 3 percent of adult men in the United States suffer from Major Depression at any given time.1 Tonya suffers from Dysthymia, a rather common form of depression with fewer and less severe symptoms than Major Depression, although it can last for years unless treated. Depression robs people of joy in living, and in its severe forms, drives some to end their lives through suicide. Feeling absolutely worthless and believing they have no hope for a better future, they choose to take their lives in order to find relief from unrelenting sadness and despair.

Research studies have found that
between 5 to 9 percent of adult women
and 2 to 3 percent of adult men in
the United States suffer from Major
Depression at any given time.

People who are suffering from depression may experience more pain and physical illness than others and have a more difficult time in social relationships. Depressed Christians can be riddled with guilt, preoccupied with feelings of failure, and have difficulty believing God loves and forgives them. Even though they intellectually know that God loves everyone, they don't feel as if God cares for them. Fortunately, depression can be effectively treated, and the earlier it is detected the easier it is to treat.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Everyone feels sad or down at times. But Depression and Dysthymia are different from ordinary sadness. Ordinary sadness is temporary and a normal part of life. Depression is much worse, lasts longer, and involves terrible feelings toward one's self. Major Depression interferes with the person's ability to function on the job, at home, in social situations, or in other important roles for an extended period of time. Dysthymia also interferes with an individual's ability to function at work or in relationships while normal sadness does not.

Someone with Major Depression will have at least five of the following symptoms most of the time every day for at least two weeks. Someone with Dysthymia will have fewer of these symptoms but will be depressed most of the day, on most days, for at least two years.1

  • A depressed, irritable, or cranky mood most of the time nearly every day
  • Greatly reduced interest or pleasure in daily activities
  • Changes in appetite that result in a significant weight loss or gain
  • Sleep disturbance (difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping)
  • Agitation or slowing down
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Decreased ability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Decreased ability to concentrate or make decisions.

Similar Conditions

Several other problems have symptoms or side effects that are similar to depression, but different enough to require a different kind of help. These include the following:

Continued on Page Two

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