Part 2 of a Depression Biopsychosocial-Spiritual Perspective Series
In my previous article, I took a look at the big “D” – depression, as it affects and is treated by means of biological and psychological mechanisms. In this article, I consider two more realms that are often overlooked when considering a person’s makeup.
Depression Involves More than Just You
Classically, psychology has been seen as the study of the individual, with a focus on the mind. As technology advanced, the biological processes were also included. However, it does us all a disservice to neglect the fact that no human being exists in a bubble of isolation. We all have people in our lives with whom we interact, or could interact.
Furthermore, as a Christian, I believe that we also tend towards a spiritual connection with our Creator. Even in the secular world, the ever-growing identification of “spiritual but not religious” indicates an innate connection to something beyond oneself. Therefore, the all-consuming nature of Major Depression will inevitably also affect the social and spiritual aspects of human beings. But as a Christian counselor, I am convinced that we can work with you to help you overcome the fog of depression.
Depression presents a double-edged sword when we look at how it impacts individuals’ social circles. On the one hand, society as a whole has simply blown it in regard to how it handles mental health. Stigma abounds and prevents people from expressing the true nature of their situation. Social isolation is already a symptom of depression, but it becomes compounded when individuals feel guilty for feeling the way they do. Moreover, it results in a perceived inability to reach out to help. As a result, such individuals may sink deeper into isolation and their depression may worsen. Just as depression emerges as isolation, so isolation also perpetuates depression, leading to a most unhelpful cycle.
This should not be confused with introversion, a perfectly normal personality trait with many upsides. However, your friends and family may initially perceive that something different is occurring when social engagements are not met. Facing these people in your life can seem a Herculean task. However difficult it may feel to get the wheel turning, eventually re-engaging with loved ones can help you to begin to your improve mood. A therapist can help you to find motivation to move forward and identify the people in your life who are most helpful for mental health recovery. For some, this means coffee with a close friend, for others, possibly joining a recreational sports league, book club, etc. Here in the greater Seattle area, there are groups and communities for every interest you might have, no matter how obscure. Engaging in something like this that ignites your passion can be a great step in moving forward.
Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble. – Psalm 10:1
For many suffering from depression, one of the most difficult and often unspoken elements is the existential grappling with meaning and with God. As with social isolation, depression causes people to distance themselves from their Creator, the giver of all life. For far too long, many people in the church have misunderstood the cause and effect nature of depression and their spiritual life. You may have heard something along the lines of, “If you’re feeling depressed, you’re just distant from God and need to get yourself right with Him. Just pray more.” While it comes from a good-hearted place, this advice has compounded depression for many people. Not only are you feeling down, not finding pleasure in your old activities, and becoming isolated from your loved ones, but you’re also a sinner! You become morally culpable for whatever you are feeling (please note my well-meaning sarcasm). That is not going to make you feel any better. Rather, let me present an alternate view: Instead of being aa cause of depression, perhaps a hurting spiritual life is a symptom of depression. Depression, as a biological, psychological, and social entity, has entered your life and become a barrier to spiritual fulfillment.
Full connection with God, then, may seem impossible until depression has really been addressed. As the Psalm above indicates, human beings have perceived themselves to be disconnected from God for a very long time. In fact, you can find comfort in the fact that the authors of scripture – the very vessels of God’s word to humanity – felt a disconnection from time to time. This experience is perfectly normal. That it is not to say that it feels good, but rather that it is simply something that happens. So please, continue to pray and ask for deliverance from depression. Our God is one who heals and cares for his people. But do not feel downtrodden if the depression is not lifted immediately. Rather, continue to fight and seek treatment through therapy, medication, community interaction, spiritual activities, and whatever else you find helpful in chiseling away at depression.
Christian Counseling for the Holistic Treatment of Depression
As a Christian counselor, let me finish with a thought on the treatment of depression. By illustrating the different aspects in which depression affects individuals, I hope that I have shed light on the fact that depression is an invisible yet intrusive beast that can wreak havoc in the lives of those who find themselves in its grasp. Furthermore, since we are more than just biological, psychological, social, and spiritual beings, we should seek to treat depression by all of these avenues. No single treatment in any of these realms is likely to be enough to lift depression on its own. However, the cumulative effect of working with a therapist or counselor who can walk through all of these realms with you might just bring about healing. In the pursuit of mental health recovery, an entirely holistic approach gives us the best opportunity for success.
“Coffee conversation,” courtesy of pexels.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Bonfire,” courtesy of pexels.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Pray,” courtesy of pexels.com, CC0 Public Domain License;