Overcoming Depression

W


hen his father had a sudden heart attack and died, Jack Lawson was devastated. He withdrew from friends and family, was unable to sleep at night, and just couldn't stop crying. It took him a good six months to resolve the resulting depression, but afterwards he said he felt "better put-together than before."

Depression is something most of us grapple with at some time or another. As Dr. Frederick Flach, professor of psychiatry at Cornell University, explained, depression is a normal reaction to many of life's situations, such as the loss of a loved one, a valued object, or job, or experiencing divorce.

Depression is only destructive if we fail to resolve it. When we work through it, our life, like Jack Lawson's, can be enriched. Until resolved, however, its symptoms can be very painful and include a loss of self-esteem, appetite or libido. It can induce indecisiveness, alcoholism, sleeplessness, irritability, bad temper, tearfulness, dejection, procrastination, apathy, headaches, backaches, chronic fatigue, nausea, digestive upsets, and many other ills.

Its causes can be many and complex. They can be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. There are no simple answers, but once we understand and treat the causes, we can resolve and get on top of our depression.

Physical Causes. For several years Joan was plagued by fatigue and depression. A thorough medical examination showed that she had low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). After a short time on a suitable diet she was back to her old, bright self.

Considerable depression is
caused by repression of negative
feelings such as anger.

Physical exhaustion, burnout, an unbalanced diet, too much refined sugar, lack of exercise, a chemical deficiency in the brain, or hormonal changes can make people vulnerable to depression too. The latter is especially true for women during their menstrual cycle or pregnancy, immediately following the birth of a child, or during menopause.

Emotional Causes. Some depression is the result of normal mood swings that most healthy people experience at some time. Other depression can have its roots in painful childhood experiences such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or from a feeling of not being fully loved. Lack of purpose without meaningful work and worthwhile goals, not using one's abilities, too few friends and loneliness, unmet needs, and unfulfilled dreams, can all cause or increase depression as well.

Considerable depression is caused by repression of negative feelings such as anger. Dr. Theodore Issac Ruben, eminent psychiatrist and author of The Angry Book, reminds us that when we deny our true feelings and smile when we feel like snarling, the suppressed anger can lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia, psychosomatic illness, alcoholism, frigidity, impotence, and downright misery.

Anger turned in on ourselves can drive us down into a spiral of depression. No wonder the Bible advises, "Don't sin by nursing your grudge. Don't let the sun go down with you still angry—get over it quickly."1

Depression can be a denial of emotions. This is why the healthy reaction to adverse situations is to accept our feelings and express them creatively—verbally or through writing—whatever they are.

Mental causes. Faulty thinking is another cause of depression. Many counselors believe that feelings follow thoughts. That is, negative feelings follow negative thoughts while positive feelings follow positive thoughts.

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