A Christian Counselor’s Perspective
There are different types of depression, or what mental health and medical providers call “depressive disorders.” These include disorders like Major Depressive Disorder (i.e. “clinical depression”) and Persistent Depressive Disorder (also known as “Dysthymia”). Depressive disorders are most notably characterized by extended and impairing periods of sadness, hopelessness, or lack of interest in most or all activity.
A Prolonged Sadness that Impairs Daily Life
Sadness is one of several emotions, such as happiness, anger, fear, and disgust, and is natural to the human experience. In fact, it is healthy to feel sad when faced with loss or disappointment. However, a prolonged sadness that significantly impairs one’s overall functioning may indicate the presence of a depressive disorder. Depressive symptoms can have a profound effect on daily life, making it difficult to experience enjoyment, complete tasks, and fulfill responsibilities such as reading, cleaning, homework, or chores. It can make it difficult to take care of oneself or relate to others.
Research suggests that depressive disorders affect individuals, irrespective of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic class. The causes of depressive disorders have yet to be determined. However, chemical or hormonal imbalances, significant stressors (e.g. relational issues, unemployment, financial difficulties, trauma, etc.), drug or alcohol use, and medical conditions (e.g. Parkinson’s disease, hypothyroidism) may contribute to the onset of depression (National Institute of Mental Health, 2015; American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Symptoms of Depression
Depressive disorders are differentiated by the duration and course of their symptoms. Health providers are able to identify the presence of depressive disorders by looking for particular signs or symptoms. These may significantly impair one or more areas of functioning (e.g. school, work, relationships) or cause significant distress for the individual with the symptoms. The following symptoms correspond with Major Depressive Disorder, which may be referred to as “clinical depression.” The following symptoms persist for a period of at least two weeks:
1. Feeling down or hopeless for most of the day, almost every day.
2. Feeling unmotivated to take care of one’s personal hygiene, get out of bed, participate in school or work, or spend time with others.
3. Feeling numb or bored, and unable to enjoy the things that used to be pleasurable.
4. Significant weight gain or loss or an increase or decrease in appetite.
5. Difficulty falling asleep (i.e. insomnia) or staying awake (i.e. hypersomnia).
6. Being restless or, by contrast, moving or speaking slower than usual (as observed by others).
7. Feeling tired or energy-zapped nearly every day.
8. Feeling very poorly about oneself.
9. Feeling excessively guilty about a current or past situation.
10. Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
11. Thoughts of not wanting to be alive or of suicide.
12. Self-harming behavior (e.g. cutting or burning one’s skin).
13. Irritability (in children and adolescents).
(Adapted from the American Psychiatric Association’s 
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fifth Edition)
Depression in Children and Adolescents
In comparison to adults, it may be more difficult to notice depressive disorders in children or adolescents. Because of their developmental stage, children and adolescents may not be aware of how they are feeling. They may also have difficulty in verbally communicating their needs to caregivers. However, observable changes in behavior (e.g. fighting with family or friends, becoming isolated, having difficulty concentrating, experiencing a drop in grades, refusing to go to school, having difficulty sleeping, inflicting self-harm) and attitude (e.g. a lack of interest in normally enjoyable activities, irritability, claiming to be “bored,” hopelessness) may provide an indication that they are depressed.
Treatment for Depression: Christian Counseling Can Help
Research shows that individuals who struggle with depressive symptoms may benefit from treatment through medication and/or counseling. As a Christian Counselor, I am a mental health professional trained to identify the presence of depressive disorders, and to provide support that equips clients to cope with their symptoms and pursue a healthier life. Depression can be incredibly isolating and can leave sufferers feeling lonely and discouraged. Moreover, while Christians dealing with depression may find it difficult to connect with family and friends, they may also find it difficult to connect with God.
** Individuals suffering from depressive disorders may experience suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm. If you believe that your safety is in danger, please call the Crisis Clinic’s 24 Hour Crisis Line at 206-461-3222 or emergency services at 9-1-1.
• National Institute of Mental Health. (2015). Depression. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml#part_145394
• Mayo Clinic. (2015). Disease and Conditions: Major Depressive Disorder. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/basics/definition/con-20032977
• American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
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