Depression – Manifestation and Treatment
VARIATIONS IN HOW DEPRESSION MANIFESTS BASED ON AGE AND GENDER.
While depression manifests itself uniquely in each person struggling with it, there appear to be some patterns based on age and gender that can be helpful in identifying struggling individuals. Please note that not all individuals will fall neatly into these categories.
Children. Depression in children most often occurs when there are major family issues such as marital conflict and instability; divorce; or physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Depression is often seen in adopted and foster children who are unsure of their attachments and/or who will take care of them. Depression in children will most often be observed in behavior such as acting up, school problems or social problems. Often it is not verbalized by the child.
Adolescents. Depression in adolescents has many different forms such as boredom, irritability, poor grades, social problems and withdrawal. Some adolescents will verbalize their feelings to friends, while others will simply “stuff” their feelings. Depression is often seen in observable behavioral changes. Adolescents who verbalize hopelessness and/or suicidal ideation should be referred to professional counseling right away.
Adult Women. Depression in women often occurs after long periods of stress. Hormonal imbalances and physical conditions also contribute to depression in women. They often have a sad mood, feelings of agitation, tearfulness, low self-worth and low energy. Watch out for “Depressed Christian-wife-and-mother syndrome.” This occurs when mothers become so consumed by the needs of their families that they slowly become depressed because they have overlooked their own needs.
Adult Men. Men dealing with depression may not look sad/tearful or express feelings of being depressed. They are often fighting burnout and work stress. They may find little pleasure in things they once enjoyed. It is quite common for men struggling with depression to withdraw emotionally from their families, especially their spouses. Men who are depressed tend to be irritable and get angry quickly. They may deal with the depression through overworking or other escapes such as alcohol or pornography.
Seniors & Elderly. Depression in older adults can have a significant impact on their mental and physical health. Some individuals have a difficult time adjusting to retirement and the changes it brings. Others experience depression after developing health problems like cancer or a stroke. Depression often affects the older person’s memory and at times can be misdiagnosed as dementia. In addition, it is common for individuals to have dementia and depression at the same time. Social withdrawal, morbid over-focusing on dying and death, lack of energy and loss of the will to live all may be indicators of depression.
PROFESSIONAL HELP FOR DEPRESSION
Counseling. Professional help has shown to be effective in treating depression and offers the long-term benefit of reduced risk of relapse. The purpose of counseling is to help the person understand depression and develop skills necessary for overcoming it. Mental health professionals that could be consulted for depression include counselors, social workers and/or psychologists. These professionals cannot prescribe medications.
Antidepressant medication. These medications have shown to be effective in the treatment of depression.
Medical doctors (M.D., D.O.) and at times Physicians Assistants and Nurse Practitioners (working with a physician) can prescribe antidepressant medications. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in treating mental health issues. Antidepressants are not addictive, have no effect on normal mood and will not produce a high. Newer medications have fewer unpleasant side effects than older medications. However, if unpleasant side effects do occur, it may be necessary to adjust dosages or switch medications. Talking with your primary care physician is often a good place to start. This is especially true because it is important that people struggling with depression get a complete physical. It is usually best to consult a psychiatrist if you are experiencing severe depressive symptoms, have a chronic mental illness or your primary care physician is not highly skilled in this area.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). ECT was formerly known as “shock” treatment. ECT is used in cases in which a person’s depression hasn’t responded to other forms of treatment. The procedure is done in a hospital setting and usually requires several sessions in order to obtain benefits. There have been many advances in ECT in recent years, and it is a much more humane procedure than it was in the past.
Phototherapy (Light Therapy). Seasonal Affective Disorder (wintertime depression) is treated with Light Therapy. This treatment involves the affected person spending time sitting in front of a lightbox which produces light with an output between 2,500 and 10,000 lux (measure used to determine the amount and quality of light produced).
DEPRESSION AND SIN
Ultimately all disease, both physical and mental, is a result of the fall starting with Adam and Eve (see Genesis 3). Sin (i.e. hatred, pride, greed, bitterness, sexual immorality) that is not dealt with leads to spiritual unrest (Psalm 32:3-4). That unrest can, at times, be intense enough that it can lead to depression.
Counseling and/or medication will not remove the distress of sin that is not dealt with. For example, an unrepentant person who is having an affair may take an antidepressant to deal with this. However, the conviction of the Holy Spirit can continue to work in the heart of the person regardless of whether the person takes the anti-depressant or not. Depression caused by lack of repentance can only truly be taken care of by receiving cleansing from God through Christ (Romans 3:23-25; Proverbs 28:13). Some biblical examples of individuals whose disrupted relationship with God brought about depression are Jonah (Jonah 4), David (2 Samuel 12:7-17) and King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-23).
Some important notes about depression and sin: When someone becomes depressed or goes through difficult times, it doesn’t automatically mean that the person is harboring sin in his life (Luke 13:1-5; John 9:1-3; see the book of Job). Depression is a symptom of a problem; however, we cannot know what caused the depression simply by observing the symptoms. The cause may or may not be related to sin. Often people who are depressed confuse feelings of “true guilt” (guilt that results from sin) with “false guilt” (a guilty feeling, related to depression, that is not a result of a sinful action). These individuals may feel like they are not forgiven by God, repeatedly confess, or worry that they didn’t repent correctly.
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For Further Information:
Helping a Depressed Person This site discusses how to reach out and help a family member or friend who is depressed. [Helpguide.org]