Depression can be clinical or spiritual

The writer is pastor of the Church of God Southern California, president of Guardian Ministries, Pasadena, and a professional counselor.

By David L. Antion

PASADENA, Calif.--Many people are not even aware of it, but they suffer from a low-grade mental depression. Many researchers are convinced that one of the causes of alcoholism is an underlying state of depression. Many people take drugs to relieve this depression.

In my pastoral work over the years as well as in my clinical practice, I have seen people try to mask the symptoms of depression by relying on substances. Some use prescription drugs, and others use alcohol or street drugs. By the way, the No. 1 cause of depression in America is overuse of alcohol.

Some people overeat to relieve depression. Many overeaters consume food to relieve feelings of low self-esteem and the depression that accompanies them.

Marriages are adversely affected by depression in one or both of the spouses. Imagine the irritability that exists when one or the other partner in a marriage is depressed. There is usually negative, pessimistic thinking employed as well.

What effect does depression of a parent have on the children? One can only imagine what it is like to live in a home in which one or both parents suffer from depression. Sadly, depression seems to run in families as well. So it is possible that one of the children will suffer from it.

Different forms

Clinical depression usually comes in two forms: reactive and endogenous.

Reactive depression can range from an emotional sadness that comes from a relatively minor event all the way to intense grief over the death of a loved one.

Endogenous depression is depression that exists for no obvious reason. The source is usually a disease or a chemical imbalance.

Common symptoms

Some symptoms are common to all depressions: sadness, emptiness, the inability to experience pleasure (called anhedonia), low self-esteem, withdrawal, low motivation, irritability, excessive emotional sensitivity and even thoughts of suicide.

Many diseases can cause depression. Among the most common are asthma, anemia, cancer, malnutrition, premenstrual syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, congestive heart failure, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, infectious hepatitis, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis and chronic infections.

Some psychologists believe that a cause or at least an exacerbation of depression is negative, pessimistic thinking.

When depression is pronounced, a person may experience decreased sex drive, appetite disturbance, impaired concentration and forgetfulness, restlessness, agitation, extreme fatigue, sleep disturbance and anhedonia (the inability to experience any pleasure).

In a recently recorded sermon on depression, I talk about how often low thyroid function is a cause of depression. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism (lower functioning): weakness, dry skin, coarse skin, lethargy, slow speech, sensitivity to cold temperature, thick tongue, impaired memory, constipation, gain in weight, difficulty in losing weight, loss or thinning of hair, muscle pain, joint pain, slowing of mental activity, choking sensations.

Not all of these symptoms have to be experienced to indicate hypothyroidism. Several tests can detect thyroid malfunction.

If you listen to my message on depression, you will learn about a noninvasive test that can be conducted in your home free of charge.

You can be fairly certain whether you are hypothyroid. The test was discovered by one of the foremost experts on hypothyroidism, Broda O. Barnes, M.D.

Spiritual depression

There is another kind of depression: spiritual. Spiritual depression is a malaise that seems to fall upon many people from time to time when they feel cut off or far away from God. While suffering it they have no enthusiasm for God's Word. They seem "weary in well-doing." They seem ready to collapse under persecution.

They sound like the psalmist when he asks: "Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?" (Psalm 42:5).

He repeats this refrain over and over. He says his soul thirsts for God (verse 2) like a deer longs for water (verse 1). He acknowledges that he is in mourning (verse 9) and that "deep calls to deep at the sound of thy waterfalls; all thy breakers and thy waves have rolled over me" (verse 7).

It is almost as though things are too hard to bear.

What is the solution to this depression?

It is self-talk. Psychologists have known for some time that negative, irrational self-talk in the form of simple declarative sentences often leads to depression.

Therefore, appropriate self-talk can lift us out of depression--unless depression comes from an endogenous source like hypothyroidism.

If you would like to hear "The Causes and Cures of Depression," a tape-recorded message on this subject will be sent to you free of charge. Write Guardian Ministries, P.O. Box 50734, Pasadena, Calif. 91115, U.S.A., and request the message on depression.

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