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Understanding Depression

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

We hear the word depression often. We casually use it in conversations – “This cold weather makes me depressed.” - and we see television commercials promoting prescriptions to combat it. But knowing the word and truly understanding what it is are very different things.

According to the Depression & Bipolar Alliance, “depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.” It’s not just “feeling down,” it impacts how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.

Part of what we do at Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries is provide education to help individuals better understand themselves so they can move forward in faith. And the first step to overcoming depression is understanding what it is.

Types of Depression

Two of the most common forms of depression include:

  • Major depression where a person exhibits consistent symptoms of depression for at least two weeks that interfere with their daily life.

  • Persistent depressive disorder (also referred to as dysthymia) where a person exhibits less severe symptoms of depression for a longer period of time (typically for at least two years).

Other forms of depression can include perinatal depression, which occurs when a woman experiences major depression during pregnancy or after delivery (postpartum depression), and seasonal affective disorder, which is impacted by the seasons.

What Causes Depression?

In the past, depression was often described as the result of a chemical imbalance, but it’s much more complicated than that. “Research suggests that depression doesn't spring from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Rather, there are many possible causes of depression, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, and stressful life events. It's believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression (Harvard Health).”

While brain chemistry and genetics play a role, depression can often be triggered by a significant life change or event, like losing a spouse or family member, trauma, or a health diagnosis such as cancer.

What Does Depression Look Like?

Depression can affect anyone—regardless of age, race, income, culture, or education. While it can vary from person to person, common symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood

  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism

  • Feelings of irritability, frustration‚ or restlessness

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions

  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping

  • Changes in appetite or unplanned weight changes

  • Suicide attempts or thoughts of death or suicide (If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273- 8255)

Young adults dealing with depression are more likely to be irritable, complain of weight gain and hypersomnia (excessive time spent sleeping or excessive sleepiness), and have a negative view of life and the future.

Middle-aged adults may experience more depressive episodes (periods of at least two weeks where they exhibit the requisite symptoms of major depression), decreased libido, middle-of-the-night insomnia, or early morning awakening.

Older adults living with depression commonly experience sadness or grief or may have other less obvious symptoms.

Finding Support & Help

We know depression is very real for many Christians. It can cause you to feel isolated, alone, and hopeless, and in today’s world, depression can be heightened by negative news and media.

At Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries, our mission is to help individuals find an objective perspective and offer them support and tools to overcome this season of life.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” - Jeremiah 29:11

Depression is treatable, and we work with individuals to help them understand depression, understand themselves, and find hope and purpose in their faith.

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