Depression is often misunderstood for a number of reasons.
Perhaps the number one reason is that people think of it as a weakness rather than an illness. The stigma connected with mental illness continues to this day in spite of great progress during recent decades in understanding and treating it. Comments referring to an image bearer of God as crazy or lazy are inappropriate. Is there any other illness where people who have it are defined and devalued in this manner? How about diabetes, cancer or heart disease patients? The fact is that mental illness affects the functioning of a body organ called the brain-specifically depression affects two identifiable areas of the brain, the amygdala and the hippocampus which are small structures located deep within the brain which function to regulate mood and memory consolidation respectively.
A second reason for misunderstanding depression is that it can have a variety of causes. Allow me, briefly to suggest some of these with examples:
1. Emotional: loss of a loved one, of independence, of a job, death of a dream, or moving.
2. Mental: preoccupation with stinking thinking, cognitive problems, and memory loss.
3. Physical: low thyroid function (hypothyroidism masks as depression), vitamin B12 deficiency, especially in older women, hormonal issues, closed head injuries, long-term stressors (care : giving without relief)
4. Social: pressure to conform to peers unresolved conflicts from the past inhibited grieving.
5. Spiritual: A Christ follower who lives in disobedience, duplicitous living etc
Note: Although spiritual issues may be involved in some cases, the Christan community needs to realize the fact that depression does not necessarily reflect a lack of faith or will power.
A third reason depression is often misunderstood is that there are several types which can occur at varying levels of intensity:
1. Blue funk- This is caused by daily events which bum us out for a day or two.This is common.
2. Dysthymia - This is a chronic low grade depression and may be the result of untreated clinical depression.
3. Clinical or Major Depression- This is caused by a chemical imbalance and usually requires professional help to overcome.
4. Post Partum Depression, PMS, being perimenopausal, menopause.
5. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is usually in winter when there is less daylight.
6. Situational Depression, These can be caused by calamity type events like losing your home
depressed or the death of a loved one, or a divorce.
7. Bipolar depression -which either precedes or follows mania and is cyclical in nature.
Generally, depressed people are unwilling to initiate getting professional help. They often don't share their feelings. Denial runs rampant among the depressed (trust me on this one.)
Do you know if you have inherited tendencies toward depression or other mental illnesses? Have you talked with your parents, grandparents and extended family to find out if anyone has experienced it. This is the place to start. I learned that my maternal grandfather and two aunts had bouts of depression, however, neither my mother, father or sister have experienced it. In addition, some of my first cousins are dealing with it as well as two of my second cousins.
There are definitely inherited tendencies for it in my family. Making a family tree of health history
for both sides of your family could serve you well and could be a gift for the generations to follow.
Guest blogger Gloria Baker
This article has been edited for length.