Fifth Step In Overcoming Depression

One of the major symptoms of depression is withdrawal from meaningful relationships. Isolating ourselves and being alone with our negative thoughts will only contribute to the downward spiral. You may feel like you want to be alone, but you need to stay connected to God and in contact with the right people. We absolutely need God, and we necessarily need each other. Wrong associations and relationships, however, will only pull you down. “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

            Depression is often precipitated by the loss of a relationship. Anybody who has suffered from a lifestyle depression for any length of time will likely have one or more people that they need to forgive, and some that they need to be reconciled with. Jesus said, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23,24). If you need to forgive someone else, go to God, but if you have offended or hurt someone else, then go to that person and seek their forgiveness and make restitution if appropriate. You will have little mental peace if you don’t.

            A frog was frolicking with his friends when another frog rubbed him the wrong way. Straying off from the pack he hopped into a rut in the road. Two day later he was still stuck in the rut. Some old friends came bouncing by and encouraged him to hop out of the rut, but he remained stuck in the rut. Two days later the friends saw him hopping around the pasture and they asked what brought about the change. The frog said, “A Mack Truck came along and I had to get out of there!” Sometimes we need someone or something to shake us out of our lethargy.

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

Fourth Step In Overcoming Depression

The fourth step in overcoming depression is to make responsible behavioral changes. We are not instantly delivered from lifestyle depression, we have to grow out of it. It takes time to renew our minds, but it doesn’t take time to change our behavior, which a facilitates the process of renewing our minds as well as positively affecting how we feel. When Cain and Abel brought their offerings, the Lord was not pleased with Cain’s. “So Cain became very angry, and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and it’s desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:5-7 NASB). In other words, you don’t feel your way into good behavior, you behave your way into a good feelings. If you wait until you feel like doing what is right, you will likely never do it. Jesus said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:17).

            That is why some interventions for depression focus on behavior. Depressed people are helped to schedule appointments and activities that pull them out of their negative mood. Go to work even though you may not feel like getting out of bed. Plan an activity and stick to it. Get more physical exercise and commit yourself to follow through on your plans. You may feel tired, but your body needs exercise. Start with a low impact aerobic program or take walks with friends and family members. Continue routine duties even though you feel like you don’t have the energy. These behavioral interventions or activities are only a start in developing a healthy lifestyle. If these are too difficult or physically impossible, then seek the kind of medical help that will physically get you back on your feet.

            Stop living to eat and start eating properly to live. Balance your diet with 60 percent good carbohydrates, 30 percent proteins, and 10 percent healthy fats. Try to avoid processed sugars, and high fructose corn syrup. Take a multivitamin and be sure that it includes D and B complex vitamins, especially B-12. B complex vitamins help the adrenal glands deal with stress.

            There are certain negative behaviors that will only contribute to depression. Drowning out your sorrows with drugs and alcohol is at the top of this destructive list. Although this may bring temporary relief, it will only further contribute to the depression.

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

Third Step In Overcoming Depression

Renewing your mind is the third step in overcoming depression. Depression can be divided into two categories. One is related to life-style and the other is precipitated by some crisis event. Lifestyle depression can be traced to early childhood development or living in an oppressive situation that created or communicated a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. Over time our minds have been programmed to think negatively about ourselves, our circumstances, and the future. These negative thoughts and lies are often deeply ingrained. There have been thousands of mental rehearsals that have added to the feelings you are experiencing right now. The natural tendency is to ruminate on these negative thoughts. Daniel Goleman said, “One of the main determinants of whether a depressed mood will persist or lift is the degree to which people ruminate. Worrying about what’s depressing us, it seems, makes the depression all the more intense and prolonged.”

            There is a major difference between winning the spiritual battle for your mind, and the long term growth process of renewing your mind. It doesn’t take long to establish your freedom in Christ, but it will take you the rest of your life to renew your mind and conform to the image of God. There is no such thing as instant maturity, but the ability to experience your freedom in Christ can happen in a relatively short period of time. Once a person has established their identity and freedom in Christ, the process of renewing the mind is quite easy. That is why we encouraged you to go through the “Steps To Freedom In Christ” first.

            Changing false beliefs and attitudes is necessary to overcome depression. The world will put you down, and the devil will accuse you, but you don’t have to believe either one. You have to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. In other words, you have to believe the truth as revealed in God’s word. You don’t overcome the father of lies by research or by reason, you overcome him by revelation. God is not going to remove us from the negativity of this fallen world. We are sanctified and protected by the truth of God’s word. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Renewing our minds with truth will not continue if you don’t actively work to sustain it. Every mental stronghold that is torn down in Christ makes the next one easier. Every thought you take captive makes the next one more likely to surrender. Lifestyle depression is the result of repeated blows that come from living in a fallen world. Rehearsing the truth again and again is the key to renewing your mind.

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

Second Step In Overcoming Depression

The second step is to commit your body to God as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1), which may mean “Go see your doctor.” Depression is a multifaceted problem that affects the body, soul, and spirit. Consequently, a comprehensive cure for depression will require a wholistic answer. There are many forms of biological depression which can be diagnosed and treated. A disorder of the endocrine system can produce depressive symptoms. The endocrine system includes the thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, pancreas, and adrenal glands. The endocrine system produces hormones that are released directly into the blood system. The thyroid gland controls metabolism. An under active thyroid (hypothyroidism) will cause changes in mood including depression. The metabolism of sugar is especially important for maintaining physical and emotional stability. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) will likely be accompanied with emotional instability.

            The fact that women suffer from depression more than men may be due to their biological nature. Archibald Hart said, “The reproductive organs of the female are extremely prone to creating mood swings. The depression at the onset of menstruation, the premenstrual syndrome (PMS), the use of contraceptive pills, pregnancy, postpartum reactions, and menopause all revolve around the female’s reproductive system. And as we currently understand it, the system is fraught with depression pitfalls.”

            Many of the symptoms of biological depression can also be eliminated when we assume our responsibility to live a balanced life of rest, exercise and diet. To live a healthy life, we must be health oriented, not illness oriented. It is the same dynamic of winning the battle for your mind. The answer is not to renounce all the lies. The answer is to choose the truth. But if you aren’t aware that there are lies, and if you ignore what your body is telling you, then you will likely fall victim to disease and the father of lies. Whenever you start to sense that you are physically and mentally slipping back into a depression, don’t just succumb to it, take charge of your life by praying as follows:

Dear Heavenly Father, I submit myself to You as your child, and I declare myself to be totally dependent upon You. I yield my body to you as a living sacrifice, and I ask You to fill me with Your Holy Spirit. I renounce the lies of the evil one and I choose to believe the truth as revealed in Your Word. I resist the devil and command all evil spirits to leave my presence. I now commit myself to You and my body to You as an instrument of righteousness. In Jesus precious name I pray. Amen.

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

First Step In Overcoming Depression

Recovery begins by saying, “I have a problem and I need help.” There are adequate answers for depression but you have to want to get well and be willing to do whatever it takes to be free. The key to any cure is commitment. Over the next few days I will share in sequential order the steps for overcoming depression.

First: Submit to God and resist the devil (Matthew 6:33; James 4:7)

God can do wonders with a broken heart of you give Him all the pieces. In our western world we have been conditioned to seek every possible natural explanation and cure first. When that is not successful, Then there is nothing more that we can do but pray. Scripture has a different order. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). The first thing a Christian should do about anything is pray. I suggest the following prayer to begin the recovery process:

Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You as your child. I declare my total dependence upon you and acknowledge that apart from Christ I can do nothing. Thank You for sending Jesus to die in my place in order that my sins could be forgiven. I praise you for Your resurrection power that raised Jesus from the grave in order that I too may have eternal life. I choose to believe the truth that the devil has been defeated and that I am now seated with Christ in the heavenlies. Therefore I choose to believe that I have the power and the authority to do your will and be the person You created me to be. I submit my body to you as a living sacrifice and ask You to fill me with Your Holy Spirit. I desire nothing more than to know and do your will, believing that it is good, perfect, and acceptable for me. I invite the Spirit of truth to lead me into all truth that I may experience my freedom in Christ. I choose from this day forward to walk in the light and speak the truth in love. I acknowledge my pain to You, and confess my sins, doubts and lack of trust. I now invite you to search my heart, try my ways, and see if there is any hurtful way within me, and then lead me into the everlasting way by the power and guidance of Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus precious name I pray. Amen.

The “Steps To Freedom In Christ” are intended to help you resolve any conflicts that may exist between you and your Heavenly Father through repentance and faith in Him. Essentially the process helps you submit to God and resist the devil (James 4:7). Doing so eliminates the influence of the evil one and connects you with God in a personal and powerful way. Now by the grace of God you will be able to process the remaining steps for overcoming depression.

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

Learned Helplessness

 

Scientific studies have shed light on the relationship between learned helplessness and neurochemical changes in the body. Researchers describe an experiment where rats were “taught” helplessness by the use of shock. They were able to measure neurological changes indicating depression at various beta receptor sites. They comment on their research as follows:

Dr. Henn and his colleagues induced depression in another group of rats, but treated them without medication.  They made a behavioral intervention and “taught” the rats how to escape the shock.  Actually, a medical student working in the lab knit the rats little sweaters with long sleeves over their front paws.  Strings were attached to the sleeves and the researchers could pull the rat’s paws up, marionette-like, and train them to push the lever that would stop the shock.  With the rats no longer helpless, their symptoms of depression abated, and the beta receptor sites returned to their previous state.  Dr. Henn and others have concluded from these studies that, just as neurochemistry affects behavior, changes in behavior affect neurochemistry.

            Complementary findings have been found in the treatment of human depression.  A brief psychotherapeutic treatment called cognitive therapy focuses on the thought processes of a depressed person, in particular the hopeless and helpless thinking, and by changing the negative thought patterns, has proved to be as effective as the antidepressant imipramine in treating the depression…

In other words there is a link between brain chemistry and hope. Your body is affected if you think you are helpless, hopeless and out of control. Symptoms of depression such as sadness, despair, lethargy, loss of appetite and sleep problems increase. Once hope is restored depression leaves. If the way we perceive reality and choose to believe has an effect on our physiology and biochemistry then treatment for depression should not be limited to medications. If that is the case, should a Christian ever take medications for emotional problems? Perhaps an analogy is the best way to answer that question. Suppose you are suffering regularly from acid indigestion because of your eating habits. Should you take medication to relieve the heart burn? I’m sure most people would and there is nothing wrong with getting temporary relief, but the long term answer is to change your eating habits. Your body is telling you something; Stop feeding me this junk! There is also the possibility that you have a serious stomach illness such as an ulcer or cancer, and such symptoms could also indicate a heart problem.

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

Demonic Depression

From a face book friend:

I am writing in regards to your seminar in Minnesota. The day it was to start, I was to be admitted to a hospital for the fifth time for manic depression. I have been dealing with this for almost two years. We had gone to several doctors and tried about every drug they could think of. I also had shock treatments. I attempted suicide twice. Unable to work any longer, I spent most of my days downstairs wishing I were dead or planning my next attempt. Also, it was a good place to protect myself from people and the world around me. I had a history of self-abuse. I have spent 30 odd years in jail or prisons. I was a drug addict and an alcoholic. I have been in drug and alcohol treatment 28 times.

            I became a Christian several years ago but always lived a defeated life. Now I was going back to the hospital to try new medications or more shock treatments. My wife and friends convinced me your seminar would be of more value. The hospital was concerned because they believed I needed medical help. As the four days of the conference progressed my head started to clear up! The word of God was ministering to me, even though I was confused and in pain. I told one of your staff that I was in my 11th hour. He set up an appointment for me.

            The session lasted seven hours. They didn’t leave one stone uncovered. The session was going great until I came to bitterness and unforgiveness. The three things that motivated my life were low self-esteem, anger, and bitterness which were the result of being molested by a priest and suffering from many years of physical and verbal abuse in my childhood. I can honestly say I forgave them and God moved right in lifting my depression. My eyes were now open to God’s truth. I felt lighter than ever before.

            I did go to the hospital, but after two days they said I didn’t need to be there. My doctors said I was a different person. They had never seen a person change so fast. They said, “Whatever you are doing, don’t stop.” I have been growing in the Lord daily. There is so much before Christ and after Christ that I could go on for forever.

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

Causes Of Depression

Martin Seligman, a noted secular researcher on depression, reflected on its causes:

I have spent the last twenty years trying to learn what causes depression. Here is what I think. Bipolar depression (manic-depression) is an illness of the body, biological in origin and containable by drugs. Some unipolar depressions, too, are partly biological, particularly the fiercest ones. Some unipolar depression is inherited. If one of two identical twins is depressed, the other is somewhat more likely to be depressed than if they’d been fraternal twins. This kind of unipolar depression can often be contained with drugs, although not nearly as successfully as bipolar depression can be, and its symptoms can often be relieved by electroconvulsive therapy.

            But inherited unipolar depressions are in the minority. This raises the question of where the great number of depressions making up the epidemic in this country come from.  I ask myself if human beings have undergone physical changes over the century that have made them more vulnerable to depression. Probably not. It is very doubtful that our brain chemistry or our genes have changed radically over the last two generations. So a tenfold increase in depression is not likely to be explained on biological grounds.

            I suspect that the epidemic depression so familiar to all of us is best viewed as psychological. My guess is that most depression starts with problems in living and with specific ways of thinking about these problems.

I generally agree with Seligman, but I disagree that all severe unipolar and bipolar depression is only a physical illness of the body. It certainly can be the problem, and physical and chemical imbalances should definitely be considered in severe cases. But I have found that many severe depressions have a definitive spiritual component which is overlooked in the secular world and often in our churches.

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

Unipolar Depression

The focus on medically curing unipolar depression has been on the production, preservation, and transmission of neurotransmitters. Some of the earlier antidepressant drugs were monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI’s). The purpose of these medications is to block the action of monoamine oxidase, which is an enzyme that destroys certain neurotransmitters. Tricyclic antidepressants were the next generation of antidepressants. Their purpose is to keep the neurotransmitters in productive service longer. Presently more focus has been given to stimulating the production of mood altering neurotransmitters such as serotonin. The most common are the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil. Additional meds include Effexor Remeron, Wellbutrin and Ritalin.

The overall purpose of antidepressant medication is to get the brain functioning normally again so the mind can think clearly. While I agree with that I have two concerns. Which came first, external negative circumstances, poor mental evaluation of life, lack of faith in God, or the chemical imbalance? A depressed mood will likely accompany biochemistry changes in the body, but to say that changed biochemistry caused depression is as incomplete as saying a dead battery caused the car not to start. We should ask, “What caused the battery to fail?” and “Is there another reason the car wouldn’t start?” “Is the car out of gas?” “Was there a faulty alternator or a broken belt?” “Were the lights left on?” “Is the battery old and worn out?” One could jump start the car by using booster cables, which would be enough if you just left the lights on, but a good mechanic would consider other causes to ensure that he car would continue to run.

Second, taking a pill to cure your body is commendable, but taking a pill to cure your soul is deplorable. The medical profession only addresses depression as a biochemical problem. I think it is primarily a mental and spiritual problem, which I will address next week. I received the following testimony by email:

I am 27 years old and on my second marriage. I have been dealing with depression for most of my life. I overdosed on meds several times and was hospitalized last year. I was in and out of the hospital for the next couple of months, but never felt better. My church was doing a studying Victory Over the Darkness, but I missed the first ones. I started the class when you were talking about the battle for our minds. I suddenly realized that I was not crazy. I have always heard “voices,” but was afraid to tell anyone. I met with my pastor to go through “The Steps to Freedom In Christ.” The voices are gone and I’m like a new person. I am happy, really happy for the first time.

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog.

Bipolar Depression

Depression is categorized as bipolar and unipolar. A bipolar or manic-depressive illness has two poles: highs (called manic moods) and lows (depressed moods). One of the foremost experts of this illness, Kay Jamison (she struggled with manic depression herself) wrote a fascinating book entitled Touched With Firerevealing the fine line between genius and madness (mania). Some of the most creative people in the world struggled with this illness. The following is a partial list that she compiled: Writers; Hans Christian Anderson, John Bunyan, Samuel Clemens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, *William Faulkner, *Ernest Hemingway, Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, *Tennessee Williams, *Virginia Wolf, and Composers; George Frederic Handel, *Robert Schumann, Peter Tchaikovsky, *Irving Berlin, Noel Coward, Stephen Foster, Cole Porter, and Artists; *Vincent van Gogh, and Michelangelo.

            Those with an asterisk spent time in an asylum or psychiatric hospital. Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Wolf, and Vincent van Gogh committed suicide. In her autobiography, An Unquiet Mind, Jamison describes her incredible accomplishments during her periods of mania. Treating her illness with lithium brought her great relief but also decreased her creativity and productivity. She also said that taking medicine was not enough and that she needed the objectivity of someone else to help her get through the depressive cycle.

The transmission of a message through the brain cell requires a certain balance of sodium (positive) and chloride (negative) ions. Sodium chloride (NaCl) is a salt. In a similar fashion, electricity flows through copper better than it does through iron due to the chemical makeup of each substance. In a bipolar illness, the balance and polarity of positive and negative ions is abnormal. In depression the sodium ions increase about 50% and with the mania they increase as much as 200%. The drug of choice for bipolar depression has been lithium carbonate, which is an inert salt. This reduces the number of sodium and chloride ions which allows the transmission to proceed through the cell and into other neurons. In such cases medicine is the primary answer, but I have seen God set many people free who were incorrectly labeled as bipolar.

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog