DEPRESSION: PROBLEM OR SYMPTOM?
What are some of the early warning signs of the onset of depression? A general dissatisfaction with one’s plight in life can be a precursor to depression. Being locked into a set of adverse circumstances which are defeating and to which one sees no possible means of escape is another. The loss of zest for living should be looked upon as one of the preconditions for the development of depression. Flattened affect, a reduction in normal emotional response, is typical of depressive states.
It is not infrequent that a traumatic experience in early childhood may be the predisposing factor which sets the stage for depression later in life. For example, a woman who was sexually molested by her father had been depressed periodically for more than a quarter of a century. It seemed mysterious to others but not to the counselor who found that she had never been able to tell anyone else about it. Another lady had an affair with her father-in-law and suffered from depression for years. It is rather easy to see why she had difficulty in sharing this with her husband!
Childhood rejection or unmet dependency needs can give rise to depression, from mild to severe, later in life. A significant rejection in adult life can reopen such old wounds and flood the person with waves of depression.
The suicide of a parent is the ultimate rejection. The parent is saying, in effect: “I don’t care what happens to you; I’m going to take care of me!” A lady, age 50, had been in depression for more than 20 years. She had found her father after he had committed suicide by a shotgun blast to the head when she was 16. She had her first breakdown at 18 for which she received little, if any, treatment. Subsequently, she married and had two children. At age 30, she had another breakdown and was treated as an outpatient for 10 years and had a series of hospitalizations for the next 10 years. Her condition, among other things, was diagnosed as depressive reactions. Her body was victimized by the depression along with the side effects of such treatment as drug therapy, insulin shock, and electro-convulsive therapy; the result was that she was down to skin and bones, and her husband said she literally could not write her own name. God met her over a weekend and set her free from the reign of the flesh and from a lifetime of slavery to depression and dependency upon the medical profession. Yes, her case was severe; and it began with a tragic experience. Even so, the spiritual resolution confirmed that the underlying problem was of a spiritual nature with psychological symptoms. Today, she would have been diagnosed PTSD.
But what about some of the less serious forms of depression? A person who is criticized and put down as a child will learn to feel unworthy and guilt-ridden and can easily develop depression as time and responsibilities take their toll. Such a person may have a pessimistic outlook on life which may run the gamut from discouragement to defeat to despair. He may be riddled with fear, guilt and anxiety and find it difficult to have a daily, vital experience with the Lord. Requests for forgiveness of sin may be continually repeated with no apparent relief, while the continued depression gnaws away at the heart of the home. Insecurity is a way of life and every mole hill becomes a mountain.