Depression Counseling: Combatting Common Myths

A quick search of the Internet finds definitions of depression such as “feelings of severe despondency and dejection.” It seems straightforward at first blush. Digging into the definition, however, we find that depression is more than feelings and we discover that no two individuals’ experiences of depression are the same.

What is depression?

In general terms, depression is a state of being. “Being,” in this case, is an active experience of the three dimensions of depression, which are feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Any definition of depression that excludes one or more of these elements is inaccurate and misleading. Depression, then, is an active depressing of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. When something is depressed, it is pressed down.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Let’s look at some of the signs and symptoms of depression as identified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (or DSM-5 for short).

Sadness or Negative Emotions (Feelings)

  • This refers to a depressing mood.
  • In other words, one might feel down, blue, apathetic, disinterested, etc. There are a variety of experiences of sadness.

Worthlessness or Guilt (Thoughts)

  • These are actually thought patterns that breed a depressed mood.
  • For example, a person might think, “I’m just no good to anybody,” or “I’m such a screw-up.”
  • These thoughts may lead to a depressed mood state, but they are not feelings, themselves.

Changes in Sleep and Appetite (Behaviors)

  • One might sleep to excess or have trouble sleeping. Time spent awake is depressed by sleeping more than is typical or sleep is depressed by spending more time awake.
  • A person may eat more or less than usual. Again, appetite or satiety is depressed.

To understand what depression might look like for you, or someone you love, we need to understand how this state of being plays out in every-day life and how there is an intricate interplay between the three dimensions of depression. The symptoms listed above are not exhaustive and represent only a handful of experiences you or a loved one may be experiencing.

What does “depression” look like and how do I identify it?

Experiences of depression vary widely across individuals and even cultures. There is no one-size-fits-all identification process. That’s why it’s so important, in considering depression counseling, to understand that your experience may not reflect what you see on commercials, or of your friends, relatives, or coworkers.

The question you must ask yourself is, “Is what I am experiencing interfering with my ability to live and enjoy life?” If the answer is yes, depression counseling may be the solution for you. To help you answer this question (for yourself or a loved one), consider the following real-life manifestations of a depressed state of being.

As you review them, do they resonate with you? Can you relate to them? Do you see these things happening in the life of a loved one? (Please note these experiences are not listed in order of importance, nor is this list comprehensive.)

  • It seems every morning is a struggle. You love to hit the snooze button. You don’t want to get out of bed.
  • Your body isn’t cooperating with you. You’re tired all the time. You feel fatigued. You may even have unexplained aches and pains.
  • You have trouble concentrating. Your attention is easily interrupted. Trying to do something simple requires so much effort. You may even do mindless things like putting the milk in the cabinet or your keys in the freezer.
  • You feel sad. You cry a lot. You are constantly aware that you’re putting on a mask of happiness.
  • Food has lost its flavor to you. You used to find comfort in a gooey pizza or greasy hamburger, but now you even feel too tired to chew much of the time.
  • You remember how you used to love to see the next box office hit at the theatre. It seems overwhelming, now, to even think about getting ready, leaving the house, and being around people to do this thing you once regularly enjoyed.
  • You don’t know how you feel, so when people ask you if you’re “okay,” you just don’t know how to respond. You usually say, “I’m fine,” because you can’t seem to put your finger on a specific feeling.
  • You question yourself about why you’re feeling down. You think about all the things you have in life, and by all outward appearances, you should be feeling happy, but you don’t, and thoughts of guilt invite even more feelings of sadness.
  • You’ve wondered what it would be like to run away from it all. To just disappear. You haven’t thought about killing yourself necessarily, but you think about how nice it would be to just escape or sleep forever.
  • Things at work and at home are getting overlooked. Even though you know there are tasks you must complete, you just can’t seem to get them done. And, now, people are noticing.

If even a few of these scenarios resonate with you, you should seek depression counseling. Despite campaigns of mental health awareness, there continue to be stigmas associated with seeking help. What we know is that avoiding seeking help yields more intense experiences of depression that can quickly spiral out of control. It is never too early to engage in depression counseling, and there is no experience too small to benefit from it.

Combatting the Myths of Depression Counseling

Severe experiences of depression are avoidable. We are beings crafted for connection. When we begin to feel sad, we sometimes isolate ourselves particularly from those who love us the most. We fear judgment from others, and most of us consider therapy or counseling a last resort because of the following myths and false beliefs. Have any of these thoughts prevented you from seeking depression counseling?

If I go to talk to a counselor and I use the word depression, they’re going to diagnose me.

Your experience of depression may or may not necessitate a diagnosis. What is of primary importance to you and your counselor is to understand the experiences you’re having, and how you can work together to minimize or eliminate the depressing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in your daily life.

Be candid and express your concern about being diagnosed. Above all, be 100% honest about your experiences. Counseling is a nonjudgmental space for you to capitalize on transparency for recovery and restoration.

My therapist will recommend I take medication for depression.

You are your number one advocate. If you do not want to consider medication, you must express that clearly and immediately. Also, most counselors and therapists are trained in talk therapy.

Helping you work through your challenges by talking about them and setting goals is their expertise. Conversely, if your goal is to obtain medication a counselor can help you determine the advantages and drawbacks of doing so before you seek psychiatric consultation.

Others will think I’m crazy.

Your counseling experience is yours to share with whomever you choose, or with no one. Your counselor will help you explore the false belief that everyone who seeks counseling must be “crazy.”

Rather than focusing on what others will think of you, consider how badly you want things in your life to improve. What are you willing to do (e.g. – seek counseling for depression) to alleviate your sadness and reincorporate joy into your daily life?

It’s really not that big of a deal. I should be able to deal with this on my own.

You were not designed to live life, do life, and cope with life on your own. Look back to the beginning. God created Eve to give Adam a companion. God knew it was not good for a person to be alone, or to walk through life’s mountains and valleys alone.

You are not intended to be alone. God provided therapists, pastoral teams, and Christian counselors with the wisdom needed to walk alongside people just like you. If it’s a big deal to you, it’s a big deal. Do not delay seeking wise counsel.

Getting Started with Depression Counseling

If you are experiencing even the slightest changes in mood, thought, and behavior, counseling is a good place to unpack those experiences and gain the wisdom of a trained professional. Your experiences of depression do not have to define you.

You have the power to overcome depression. Your experiences aren’t too small or too big to start with counseling. Understanding how various the signs and symptoms of depression are across all people, you free yourself from stigma and help others do the same.

“Alone”, Courtesy of Anthony Tran,, CC0 License; “Inside Looking Out”, Courtesy of Sasha Freemind,, CC0 License; “Hope”, Courtesy of Ron Smith,, CC0 License; “Lonely Road”, Courtesy of John Towner,, CC0 License

Causes of Depression: Relational and Spiritual Perspectives

Depression is one of the most commonly occurring mental health issues. In fact, the World Health Organization reports that about 5% of men and 9% of women experience symptoms of depression in any given year. In this article, we will explore depression from a traditional medical point of view. We will also examine the relational, spiritual, and faith-related aspects and causes of depression consistent with biblical Scripture.

Presently, we are experiencing an unprecedented time of challenging circumstances. This pesky virus along with mandated social isolation and limitations placed upon individuals is upsetting to many. When we add into this situation an increase in responsibility with fewer resources available in terms of income and services, we have a hotbed for an increase in symptoms of depression and other serious mental health issues.

Sometimes depression occurs for the first time due to a hardship or situation. I would not be surprised to discover a much higher number of both males and females suffering with symptoms of depression and/or an increase in the level of negative symptoms in pre-existing cases.

Causes of Depression

There are a variety of causes of depression and reasons why people become depressed. A mixture of genetics, brain chemistry, and family history each play a role in developing depression. Certain individuals may have a biological predisposition for developing mood issues when faced with overwhelming stressors.

When ample distress has been added to a pre-existing vulnerability, a person is likely to become troubled in areas of mood regulation with symptoms ranging from anxiety to depression or a combination of both.

Underlying medical conditions (such as hormonal or thyroid issues), use of medications or substance abuse (prescription medication, alcohol, marijuana), a lack of adequate nutrition or physical activity, and any pre-existing addictions may all lead to or exacerbate symptoms of depression.

Family history also plays a part in developing depression. For example, research studies indicate that having a grandparent as well as a parent with depression doubles the likelihood of an onset of depression at some point in one’s lifetime.

Experiences of childhood neglect and abuse may also predispose a person to the development of depression at some point during the life span. Secrets and lies are contributors to depression even if you are the only one who knows what you are doing.

Symptoms of Depression

There is a wide range of assorted symptoms involved in each individual experience of depression. Each person will have a different combination of symptoms which fit one or more types or patterns of depressions.

A person may experience feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness, fearfulness, irritable mood, or loss of pleasure in all or most daily tasks. Others may experience a loss of interest in sexual intimacy, significant changes in weight, sleep disturbance, significant changes in eating patterns (either loss of appetite or overeating), feelings of agitation or restlessness, or a loss of energy.

Some may experience feelings of worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, recurrent thoughts of death. However, in addition to having several of the above symptoms, an actual diagnosis of depression requires noticeable impairment in one or more areas of life, such as employment problems or problems at home.

Types of Depression

Depression can occur in shorter term episodes or be long lasting. Sometimes depression is accompanied with sadness, anxiety, or extreme changes in mood. Depression can also alternate with manic episodes. In extreme cases, a major depression can be accompanied by psychosis. Depression with psychosis can be caused by substance abuse or arise from a particularly challenging and overwhelming set of circumstances.

Once the root causes of depression are identified, the therapeutic remedy follows the root. Solutions offered are often tied to the mental health professional’s understanding of the nature of depression. One’s professional paradigm or viewpoint often tends to determine the type of treatment prescribed.

For example, a psychiatrist is likely to prescribe medications to address and enhance neurotransmitter functioning. A fitness-oriented mental health professional may focus upon your lifestyle and nutrition as a possible culprit in ongoing depression. In my practice, I take into consideration many possibilities of origin and then match the treatment to the individual’s needs and desires.

Relational and Spiritual Aspects of the Causes of Depression

Relational risks

There are both interpersonal risks as well as intrapersonal risks which contribute to the development of depression. While the word “interpersonal” denotes interactions between two or more individuals, the word “intrapersonal” refers to our relationship within ourselves. Intrapersonal relationship dynamics are often misunderstood or overlooked but are clinically significant contributors to mental health problems.

The most common intrapersonal cause of depression is a pattern of saying “yes” when you genuinely feel inclined to say “no.” Such behavior is an example of self-betrayal, which is not something God asks of us. In fact, when we are following Scriptural guidance our choices will be made from a place of love and not a place of fearful control.

Overriding your intuitive sense of what is occurring or neglecting to determine whether something asked of you is in your best interest undermines and destroys intimacy. This is because a foundation of trust is necessary to establish and maintain healthy intimate relationships. A pattern of ongoing self-betrayal is a recipe for relational disaster. This is one of the first things I pay attention to when getting to know a new client.

Another relational risk contributing to depression occurs when you have a pattern of spending time in the company of people you genuinely dislike or who are unkind or unsafe for you.

Do you tend to over give without receiving in a reciprocal fashion over time? Do you find it difficult to speak up when something matters to you? Is it difficult for you to make your preferences, opinions, and needs a priority?

Are you able to fairly, yet firmly, inform others when you have hit a personal limit or want to establish a boundary to protect your best interest? Difficulties in any of these areas may be fueling or feeding symptoms of depression.

Spiritual risks

Making fear and anxiety-based decisions from your head that do not take into consideration the wisdom and knowledge of your body can lead to anxiety and depression.

It is therefore of utmost importance to be involved in an ongoing process of being changed by the renewing of your mind through exposing yourself to truthful and accurate streams of information, such as reading your Bible on a regular basis and attending services wherein the Word of God is spoken. God tells us to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds,” which involves placing yourself in front of reliable sources of truth.

“Do not copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” – Romans 12:2, NLT

Spiritual causes of mental health concerns often involve a kind of misalignment with truth and honor. When we tune into the fearful channel of deception or repeatedly behave in ways that violate our own sense of right and wrong, we become unable to see, hear, or discern truth. Then we tend resort to ill-advised attempts at controlling others, becoming even more small-minded in the process of manipulation.

Maybe during times of disagreement, we tend to resort to sarcastic puts downs of self and others. Or perhaps we engage in name calling, use exaggeration, portray a sense of entitlement, or are generally unsafe people in relationship with others. The antidote to this kind of depression is to root out deception and tune into the faith channel made available to each of us by the grace and mercy of God.

Lifestyle Risks

Other often overlooked contributors to depression include what I refer to as lifestyle risks. As previously mentioned in this article, alcohol and substance abuse contribute to the likelihood of developing depression, as do addictions such as gambling, pornography, binge eating or substance abuse, and prescription medications. Behaving badly, dishonoring agreements, a lack of proper and adequate self-care, being involved in deception, and living a secret life are all ingredients in a recipe for mood disorders and especially symptoms of depression.

Christian Counseling for Depression

In summary, there can be many different causes of a depressed mood and sometimes it may not be preventable. Other causes of depression could be situational or related to loss.

In my clinical practice, we will first look for any biological basis for your pattern of symptoms. From there, we will also examine your lifestyle and nutritional habits. Then we will carefully examine your relationships with others, yourself, and God for areas of misalignment. Please come back next month to read a follow-up article addressing the treatment and resolution of depression from a faith-based perspective.

Feel free to contact me or one of the other practitioners listed in the counselor directory to schedule an appointment.

“Alone,” courtesy of Jude Beck,, CC0 License; “Solo beach walk,” courtesy of Saksham Gangwar,, CC0 License