Depression is a normal reaction we all experience in life when we go through difficult times and usually passes quickly. However, depression becomes a clinical problem when it interferes with daily life and normal functioning. When depression takes over your life, it becomes “Depressive Disorder,” or “Clinical Depression.” Depression is a real illness and it’s not a personal weakness or a character flaw. Depression can be developed by biological, physical, behavioral, cognitive (thinking), and environmental factors. Environmental factors can include trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship & marriage, sickness, early childhood experience, and any other stressful situations. Depression can also be caused by an imbalance of certain chemicals called “Neurotransmitters” in the nervous system. When your neurotransmitter levels are imbalanced, you can have widespread health problems. Research has shown that if you have been depressed once you are likely to have a second episode of depression or to become chronically depressed if you do not receive treatment. It is very important for people who are having symptoms of depression to seek treatment in order to get better. You cannot snap out of clinical depression.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Depression has many other symptoms, including physical ones. If you have been experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms for at least 2 weeks, you may be suffering from depression:
- Persistent sadness, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Problems staying or falling asleep or oversleeping
- Suicidal ideation
Treatments for Depression
Treatments for depression are depending on the type of depression you have and how severe it is. Some people need psychotherapy, medications, or other treatments. Psychotherapy is often the first form of treatment for depression. Therapy helps you understand the behaviors, emotions, and ideas that contribute to depression. It also helps to teach coping techniques, problem-solving skills, restructuring ways of thinking, negative attributes, attitudes about the individual’s self, and changing faulty thinking that may perpetuate depression.
Types of Therapy for Depression
- Individual Therapy
- Group Therapy
- Marital/Couples Therapy
- Family Therapy
Types of Medications Prescribed for Depression:
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
How to Overcome Depression?
Medications and psychotherapy are not the only options to treat depression. Lifestyle changes and alternative/complementary treatments can be powerful tools treating and overcoming depression. However, if you have severe or chronic depression, you may need to seek medications and therapy first. The following options can help you to overcome your depression, keep it at bay, or from reoccurring:
Prayer. Prayer is a powerful weapon to fight depression. Do not forget to call upon the Lord when you are falling apart. There is power in prayer for healing. Deuteronomy 31:8 says “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." Also, Deuteronomy 32:10 told us that God never loses sight of us “In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye."
- Be Aware of Negative Self Talk. If you are a negative self-talker, you may not even be aware of it. Depressed individuals tend to see the world in a negative way. Depression reinforces self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness. The more you focus on negative events or things in your life, the harder it is to put them behind you and the more you become depressed. Thinking and doing something positive to manage depression is a healthy way of coping with depression.
- Incorporate Healthy Eating. The standard American diet is killing our brain cells and lowering our Neurotransmitter levels. The typical diet of many people is high in sugar, processed junk foods, refined carbohydrates, GMO foods, unhealthy fats, dairy, and meats full of hormones and antibiotics. You need to make sure that your diet is higher in fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, and adopt a more plant-based diet. It is important to include Omega 3 Fatty Acids in your diet. Research has shown that depressed people often lack fatty acid. Get your Omega 3 Fatty Acids through walnuts, flaxseed and oily fish (salmon, mackerel, or tuna). You can also get it through a supplement. Vitamin D3 is another important supplement that can help to overcome depression. Vitamin D is a sunshine vitamin. It’s a good idea to use a supplement during the winter. Keep in mind that exposing yourself to a little sunlight every day improves depression symptoms and boost your mood. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen. Lastly, boost your B vitamins. Deficiencies in B vitamins such as folic acid and B-12 can trigger depression.
- Exercise. Exercise can help tremendously to overcome depression. The way exercise can accomplish that goal is that it releases endorphins and endocannabinoids (these are “feel-good brain chemicals” that may ease depression). Exercise can also improve the immune system and increase body temperature. Many researchers show that regular exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits.
- Get Enough Sleep. Mood and sleep are closely connected. Not getting enough sleep can cause irritability, depressive mood, and stress. Having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep can be a sign or symptom of depression. Sleep is very important for your overall health, don’t skip it.
- Stay Connected to Your Support System. Depression drains your energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to be active. Depressed individuals have the tendency to withdraw and isolate themselves from family members, friends, church, and the community. However, social support is absolutely essential to overcome depression. Look for support from people who make you feel safe and cared for and try to keep up with social activities even if you do not feel like it. Do not stop going to church because that’s a great support system. Talk to Pastors Feder and Dalzon, or a church leader for compassion support or to provide you with proper referrals for treatment.
- Reduce Stress in Your Life. Make changes in your life to help manage and reduce stress. Too much stress exacerbates depression and puts you at risk for future depression. Practicing relaxation techniques can reduce stress and boost feelings of joy and well-being. For example, relaxation techniques can be deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, devotion, and other relaxing activities. Acupuncture is another helpful technique. Acupuncture is a technique of using fine needles on specific points on the body for therapeutic purposes.
Where to Get Help?
This is a list of Christian therapists and counselors in NJ where you can seek help and find a professional to talk to:
Insight Christian Counseling and Coaching
Christ Centered Family Counseling and Coaching
King of Hearts Christian Counseling Center, LLC
Grace Abounds Counseling, LLC
Life Changing Christian Counseling
Multifaith and Multicultural Counseling Group
Sources: American Psychological Foundation Psychology Help Center; National Network of Depression Centers.