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Understanding and Overcoming Depression—Part 1

[The following information on the depressive disorders will be presented to you here, much like it was at our community-wide seminars. I did re-write this and update, for our benefit, but I have left it with the same feel as a live presentation.]

If we have come here today, it’s because we are people in a world of hurt, or we know someone who is. And we need not just information, but wisdom, insight, and direction.

Diagnosable depression is:

Painful, debilitating, miserable,


More common than we know,

And too often misunderstood.

The immediate goal of this presentation is to help you or someone you care about, to better understand depression, and overcome it.

This is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical attention, nor is it designed to be a diagnostic tool.

However, I do hope that it brings you a sense of hope, gives you a place to start, and leads further towards your healing and freedom.

Let’s look at some Basic Facts:

Depression is a serious “medical” condition that affects the body, mind, spirit, and relationships.

Depression is the 2nd most common mental health challenge. In a given 1-year period, about 10% of the population will suffer from one of the depressive illnesses, that’s one out of ten people that you know for that year. The lifetime prevalence for clinical depression (the percentage of the population that will have a life-altering depression within their lifetime) is about 20-25% for women and 10-12% for men—that’s a lot of people!

Without recognizing and treating depression, its symptoms debilitate a person for months, or even years. It drains luster from your life, destroys your hope, and threatens your existence.

The total cost to you, family, friends, employers, and community is staggering. It is an enemy we must contend with.

The good news is that we have healing-options that can totally relieve, or at the least, help you effectively manage depression.

A depressive disorder is NOT the same thing as feeling down with the blues. You cannot just “suck it up, and get on with life,” any more than you could do that with the flu or diabetes. It’s a medical condition. Therefore we cannot presume that depression is a sign of character weakness or failure.

There is no need for shame about the things we suffer. We all have shortcomings and fall short of perfection. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Let us not get off into feeling superior or inferior.

So no more hiding away. But instead, we move towards humbly expressing who we are, and where we are right now. The appropriate response back—is to be understood, cared for, and gradually healed.

Let us not pretend that we are ok. We all have our struggles and need to be restored.

Take the opportunity right now and consider some of the following indicators of depression that you, or someone you care about, may be having.


Depression affects our whole being—the physical, mental-emotional, spiritual, and relational realms of our lives. Observe the common wide-reaching symptoms.

1. Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism

2. Persistent sadness

3. Feelings of guilt

4. Loss of interest or pleasure

5. Decreased energy

6. Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

7. Insomnia or over-sleeping

8. Thoughts of death

9. Irritability

10. Withdrawal

11. Persistent health problems

12. Feeling disconnected from friends, family, community, or God.

It is also important to note that men and women experience their depression differently. I will say more about that later.

Now, if you have 5 or more of the 12 categories of symptoms listed here (continually for 2 weeks or longer), then it might indicate major depression. That would be fairly serious. We cannot really self-diagnose, however—so it is best for a professional to assess this accurately.

Regarding symptom #8, “Thoughts of Death,” I want to make something clear right away:

730,000 people attempt suicide every year in the U.S., and 30,000 succeed. It outnumbers homicides 3 to 2. 90% of the people who die have a diagnosable disorder (most could have been treated).

Women are 3 times as likely to attempt suicide compared to men, but men are 4 times more likely to die, because men usually use the “no-turning-back” methods.

Suicidal thoughts should be taken seriously, especially if there is a specific plan, and the means nearby to do it.

What can you do for someone you know is suicidal?

Listen to their pain compassionately. Take them seriously; do not convey criticism; share your value of and concern for them, and ask them directly about any plan to harm their selves.

Along with your counsel, get them professional help right away, and increase their family and friendship support. And, if there is a specific plan to harm their selves, with the means to do it, remove all harmful items around them; and do not leave them alone in that condition.

If you have thoughts to harm yourself, do not wait to see a doctor. Get help right away.

What ARE the known primary Causes of depression?

  1. Genetic causes—Having it in your family (parent, sibling, uncle, aunt, grandparent) increases your risk (it gives you a genetic pre-disposition towards it).

  2. Biological cause — People with depression typically have too few “neurotransmitters,” or too much nerve damage in their brain due to stress When the “depressed brain” takes over thinking patterns, the person is truly “not themselves.

  3. Situational challenges — Difficult life events – stressors – such as financial, relational, employment, abuse, or the loss of a loved one – these can all trigger the onset.

  4. Medical co-occurrence — Depression is more likely to occur when medical illnesses are present, as related to thyroid, heart, diabetes, hormones, vitamin deficiency (iron), cancer, stroke, tumor, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s. These conditions cause, or contribute to, depression.

  5. Cognitive style — People with negative thinking, perfectionist tendencies, or poor self-image are at higher risk for depression.

Other possible types of characteristics that might lead to depression:

  • Not following doctor’s wise recommendations and directives, involving diet, exercise, proper medications, etc.

  • Not following a mentor’s, close friend or spouse’s recommendations.

  • Ignoring or leaving others out of your problem and/or pain.

  • Unforgiveness, resentment, and bitterness.

  • A lack of gratitude and appreciation for what is good.

Identifying the real causes, guides us to better treatment.

In my next blog post (Understanding and Overcoming Depression, Part 2), we will look at 3 special categories of depression: men’s, women’s, and Bipolar Disorder.

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