Depression – Christian Counseling

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Christians experience three levels:

#1 – Mountaintop Days – when everything is going well and the world looks bright. This is temporary; things can’t look like this forever.

#2 – Ordinary Days – where we work at our usual tasks neither ecstatic nor depressed.

#3 – Dark Days – where we trudge heavily through confusion, doubt, despair, and discouragement. When these days persist, they become depression.

Depression is no respecter of persons.

#1 – In its milder form, depression may come as a passing period of sadness that follows a personal disappointment.

#2 – More severe depression may overwhelm its victims with feelings of despair, fear, exhaustion, immobilizing apathy, hopelessness, and inner desperation.

Signs of depression may include:

#1 – Sadness, often accompanied by pessimism and hopelessness;

#2 – Apathy and inactivity make it difficult to “get going” or face decisions;

#3 – General fatigue, along with loss of energy and a lack of interest in work, sex, religion, hobbies or other activities;

#4 – Low self-esteem, frequently accompanied by self-criticism and feelings of guilt, shame, worthlessness, and helplessness;

#5 – A loss of spontaneity;

#6 – Insomnia and difficulties in concentration;

#7 – Loss of appetite.

Masked depression – the person has many of the above symptoms but denies that he or she feels sad.

Depression classifications:

 #1 – Reactive – (Sometimes called exogenous or neurotic depression) – usually comes as a reaction to some real or imagined loss or trauma.

  • It’s accompanied with high levels of anxiety;
  • It’s of short duration;
  • It’s often called self-correcting.

#2 – Endogenous – (also called autonomous and sometimes psychotic depression) – more likely to arise spontaneously from within and involves intense despair.

  • Sometimes accompanied by self-destructive tendencies;
  • Persists for a long period of time;
  • Is more resistant to treatment;
  • Has high recurrence rate.

#3 – Primary – occurs by itself

#4 – Secondary – comes as the side effect of some medication;

  • Influence of one’s diet;
  • Result of an illness like cancer, diabetes, or even influenza.

#5 – Unipolar – refers to a condition where there are one or more episodes of depression as the primary disorder.

#6 – Bipolar – involves periods of mania is mixed together with the depressive behavior.

  • Most professionals would distinguish all of this from discouragement, which is a mild, usually temporary, and almost universal mood swing that comes in response to disappointments, failures, and losses.

The Bible and Depression

Depression is not discussed in the Bible but the conditions, however, seem to have been common. (Ex. Psalm 69, 88, & 102 are songs of despair set in the context of hope.)

Some other examples of depression in the Bible are:

#1 – Job, Moses, Jonah, Peter and the whole nation of Israel experienced depression;

#2 – Jeremiah wrote a whole book of lamentations;

#3 – Jesus in Gethsemane was greatly distressed.

  • “He began to show grief and distress of mind and was deeply depressed. Then He said to them, My soul is very sad and deeply grieved, so I am almost dying of sorrow” (Matthew 26:37-38, AMP).

Each of the believers in the Bible who plunged into depression eventually came through and experienced a new and lasting joy. The biblical emphasis is less on human despair and more on belief in God and the assurance of abundant life in heaven, if not on earth.

The Causes of Depression


  • Depression always results from sin or a lack of faith in God;
  • All depression is caused by self-pity;
  • It is wrong for a Christian to ever be depressed;
  • Depressed feelings can be removed permanently by spiritual exercises;
  • Happiness is a choice;
  • A “depressed Christian is a contradiction of terms”.


  1. The Genetic-Biological Causes – the physical basis of depression.
  • At the simplest level: lack of sleep, insufficient exercise, side effects of drugs, physical illness, or improper diet.
  • Women may experience depression as part of a monthly premenstrual syndrome and some are victimized by postpartum depression following childbirth.
  • More complicated creators of depression: neurochemical malfunctioning, brain tumors, or glandular disorders.
  • Some depression runs in families.
  • Some depression has been linked to brain chemistry.
  • Post adrenalin depression – is what some believe Elijah experienced after he encountered the prophets of Baal, because he had just experienced an emotional “high”.

*It is not known if depressed thinking causes biochemical changes or if a chemical imbalance in the brain causes the depression

  1. Psychological – Cognitive Causes

Depression is more likely to occur when:

  • Family and background causes – depression in one’s later life may have been a result from a childhood experience.
  • Parents blatantly or subtly reject their children;
  • Status-seeking families have set unrealistically high standards that children are unable to meet;
  • Teenagers are in conflict with their parents;
  • Young adults are having trouble becoming independent of their families.
  • People have come from unstable homes;
  • College students have negative opinions about their families.
  • Stress and Significant Losses: Stresses of life; Loss of opportunity, job, status, health, freedom, a contest, possessions, or other valued objects;
  • Loss of people
  • Divorce, death, and prolonged separations.
  • Learned Helplessness – A theory in which depression most often comes when we encounter situations over which we have little or no control.
  • Cognitive Causes – if we think negatively (about life, self, future) then depression is almost unavoidable.
  • Anger – humans are generally taught that anger is wrong and should not exist, therefore, it is held inside and begins to fester, thus effecting us in some other way.
  • Sin and Guilt – when a person feels that he or she has failed or done something wrong, guilt arises and along with it comes self-condemnation, frustration, hopelessness, and other depressive symptoms.

The Effects of Depression:

(The deeper the depression, the more intense the effect.)

#1 – Unhappiness and Inefficiency: as a result of feeling hopelessness, self-critical, and miserable, depressed people, a lot of times, lack enthusiasm, are indecisive, and sometimes have little energy for doing even simple things (like getting out of bed in the morning).

#2 – Physical Illness: Depression, including the sadness that comes with grief or loneliness, tends to suppress the body’s immune system, which causes them to be more likely to get sick.

  • Also, when someone has a psychiatric disorder of physical illness, they often develop depression as a result.

#3 – Low Self-Esteem and Withdrawal

  • When a person is discouraged, unmotivated, and bored with life, there often is a low self-esteem, self-pity, a lack of self-confidence, and the strong desire to get away from other people.
  • Social contacts may be too demanding and the depressed person may not feel like communicating.

#4 – Suicide

  • There is no more complete way to escape than to take one’s own life.
  • Often, attempts at suicide are an unconscious cry for help, an opportunity for revenge, or a manipulative gesture designed to influence some person who is close emotionally.

Preventing Depression

Depression cannot be completely prevented, however, there are some ways to try and prevent it and/or soften the blows of depression:

Trust in God

  1. A conviction that God is alive and in control can give hope and encouragement, even when we are inclined to be discouraged and without hope.
  2. However, when people are told to “trust in God and the depression will go away,” there can be guilt and deeper discouragement if the depression persists.
  3. Christian formulas
  4. Expect discouragement.
  5. Jesus warned that we would have problems and the Apostle James wrote that trials and temptations would come to test our faith and teach us patience. Jesus, at the time of His crucifixion, was “deeply distressed”. He expected pain while still trusting in His Father.
  6. When we are realistic enough to expect pain and informed enough to know that God is always in control, then we can handle discouragement better and often keep from slipping into deep depression.
  7. Be alert to depression-prone situations
  8. By anticipating the sadness of the “first birthday” of the deceased loved one, and by being present, each person can prevent predictable depressions from being worse.
  9. Learn to handle anger and guilt.
  10. Some people slide into depression because their minds dwell on past injustices or past failures. These people must ask God to help them forget the past; forgive those who have sinned against them
  11. Forgive themselves.
  12. Is the anger or guilt an excuse for avoiding responsibility or seeking forgiveness?
  13. If individuals can learn to handle anger and guilt, much depression can be prevented.
  14. Challenge thinking
  15. Self-talk during throughout the day can convince our minds of ideas that may be harmful and wrong (like that we are incompetent). People need to question that thinking and try to find evidence of that.
  16. Instead, one should be meditating (a form of self-talk that directs our minds away from thinking that is negative and inclined to produce depression). One should be meditating on God’s Word, things that are positive and just.
  17. Learn coping techniques
  18. When people feel like they have some control over their circumstances, individuals are less likely to feel the helplessness that leads to depression.
  19. If people can see how others cope, and can learn how to cope themselves, then circumstances seem less overwhelming and depression is less likely.
  20. Finding support
  21. Studies show that Christians are less likely to commit suicide simply because they put people into groups and they feel less lonely and isolated.
  22. Reaching out
  23. Helper Therapy Principle – those who reach out to help others are the ones who benefit and are helped the most; however, depressed people can pull one another down, especially if the helper selfishly concludes “I don’t care about others but I’ll help grudgingly if this is what I have to do to feel better myself.” The helper has to be willing. Only then will everybody benefit and depression be reduced.
  24. Encourage physical fitness
  25. Since poor diet and lack of exercise can make people depression prong, individuals can be encouraged by word and by example to take care of their bodies.

Depression – Christian Counseling

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