When Depression Needs More than Prayer

I believe in the power of prayer. I’ve seen people experience a life-changing encounter with the presence of God

“I know the scriptures are bread for a hungry soul and water for the dry places of our life. But years of practicing medicine have also shown me when depression needs more than a prayer and scripture.

There are times when falling on your knees must be paired with professional counseling and appropriate medications to overcome the mental war raging within. This battle can be even more distressing when you are the pastor’s wife, the Sunday school teacher, the prayer leader, or in any ministry.

Some biblical solutions sound so easy. Pray more. Spend more time in the Word. Make quiet time with God a priority.

If you are already overwhelmed, stressed, and weary, this to-do list for stronger faith is just one more thing to feel you’ve failed. So the cycle of defeat and weariness continues with no exit of this emotional rollercoaster ride. The collective echo through the pews can seem to taunt your very desire to regain your emotional equilibrium, “If you only had more faith, you wouldn’t be depressed.”

It’s time to debunk the enemy’s lies about mental illness in the church. How much faith you possess (or lack) has nothing to do with clinical depression or any other type of mental illness.

Your faith can help you in the healing process, but it is not an aspect of the disease itself. There are levels of depression, and the necessary treatment is dependent upon the severity of the symptoms. If any of the following sounds like you, speak to a medical professional to help you determine your best options for managing your depression

Situational Depression: When Life Gets You Lemons

This type of depression is sometimes called adjustment disorder. It is short periods of feeling down triggered by an event, such as the death of a loved one, job loss, a bad breakup, or emotional trauma. This type of depression can often be managed without medication because it improves as the shock of the event subsides.

Symptoms can include excessive sadness, worry, or nervousness. If symptoms persist or begin interfering with your daily life, they may be warning signs of major depression.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: When The Blues Hit Once A Month

“Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a type of depression affecting 5 percent of women during their monthly menstrual cycle. Common symptoms include depression, anxiety, and mood swings but are much more severe than premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which affects up to 85 percent of women.

PMDD is often disruptive to a woman’s relationships during this time of the month and interferes with her ability to function to her full capacity. Treatments include nutritional therapies, stress reduction, counseling, and anti-depression medications.

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Winter-time Doldrums

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects 4 to 6 percent of people in the United States, particularly those living in areas with very little sunlight during the winter season. The tell-tell symptoms of this disorder include sadness, increased irritability, daytime fatigue, social withdrawal, and weight gain, which occurs when the temperatures drop and improve when warmer weather returns in the Spring.

This type of depression responds well to an increase in natural and artificial light. Early morning walks, sipping coffee or hot chocolate on the porch, or enjoying a midday bike ride can be effective at improving winter weariness in mild cases. More severe cases may require anti-depression medications and counseling to manage symptoms.   

Dysthymia: When Sadness Won’t Go Away

Dysthymia is a form of depression that results in a depressed mood over an extended time— up to a year or more. Symptoms include trouble concentrating, fatigue, changes in sleep habits (excessive sleep or inability to sleep), sadness, and changes in appetite (over or under eating).

Women with this type of depression can function adequately but not optimally. There can be a lack of well-being and joy, even though all may seem well from the outside. Women with dysthymia often fall through the treatment cracks because no one would know anything is wrong unless those suffering from this disorder make their feelings known. 

Dysthymia is the classification of depression that responds best to verbal therapies, including prayer, counseling, bible studies, and support groups. Those with dysthymia are at risk of progression to major depression and need a more aggressive treatment plan, including medications.

Major Depression: When Hopelessness Become Debilitating

Major “debilitating” depression is the most common form of depression. It affects up to 7 percent of the adult US population. If you have major depression, you may have feelings of hopelessness, extreme sadness, lack of energy, trouble concentrating, irritability, guilt, physical pain, changes in sleep or eating habits, and even thoughts of death or suicide.

These debilitating symptoms must be present for longer than two weeks to be considered major depression. The medical consensus is that all major depression should be managed with anti-depressant therapy and closely monitored by a licensed professional. Additional therapies like prayer and counseling can be added but should not be considered a replacement to medical management.

When given proper treatment, 80-90% of those with major depression can become free to enjoy life again fully.

Leading Hearts Magazine 2014 archives. #mentalhealth


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