Overcoming Depression

Overcoming Depression

Depression has always been a part of the human condition. We see it in ancient biblical times. It was something that even people of faith dealt with; King Saul, King David, Elijah and the apostle Peter all experienced it, just to name a few. Some of these men became so depressed and hopeless they asked God to take their life. Just because you are a Christian doesn’t mean you are immune to depression. We are all human and can have a breaking point when enough pressure is applied to our life. This is a broken fallen world filled with many negative circumstances. There is pain, suffering, injustice, unfairness and people’s inhumanity and meanness to others. Things shouldn’t be this way in the world but they are. The challenge is how to deal with all this without getting depressed; and when I do get depressed, how to overcome it. 

Depression Defined

Depression is a brain disorder. The brain is the organ of the mind. Depression is a mood created by a state of the mind. That state of mind can be caused by organic issues that create chemical imbalances in the brain. The brain runs on chemicals and electricity. It uses about 25% of the body’s energy and is dependent upon a good supply of blood and oxygen. Organic issues are referring to things like genetics or problems with other organs or hormones. For example, if your thyroid isn’t functioning properly it can create hormone imbalances that will lead to depression or other possible mood disorders. 

However, the biggest cause of depression is negative life circumstances and how I choose to respond to them. These circumstances usually involve some kind of loss, change, disappointment or stressor. In these cases depression would be a normal response to them. For example, a loved one dies. This will produce grief because of the loss. Every loss has to be grieved and depression is a part of the grief process. This process takes time but I also must know how to grieve and work through these grief emotions. If I don’t know how or am unwilling to properly deal with these emotions I can delay or get stuck in my grief. So a big part of depression is how I choose to respond to that negative life event. 

Symptoms of Depression

Many people tend to deny they are depressed because they see admitting it as a sign of weakness or a badge of dishonor. The other sad problem is some people are in a profession that if they seek help for depression it can create a stigma and negatively affect their job. This isn’t usually the case when people have physical health issues and it shouldn’t be for mental health issues. This discourages people from getting help and they continue to suffer unnecessarily. 

Depression isn’t found by a blood test but is diagnosed by symptoms. Here are some symptoms to look for as given by Dr. Craig Sawchuk from the Mayo Clinic: 

  • Feelings of sadness that won’t go away. 
  • Being irritable, even angry (anger shows especially in men). 
  • Apathetic, loss of motivation, your body slows down, feelings of being tired or fatigued.
  • Hard to focus and concentrate, negative thoughts and your sleep is interrupted or you want to sleep all the time. 
  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, negative thoughts, hard on yourself and isolating from others.
  • Anhedonia, which is the inability to find pleasure in anything, even things we used to enjoy. 

As I mentioned before, the factors causing depression can be biological, social, health conditions (especially chronic ones), hormonal changes, psychological, traumatic events, and stress over primary needs. All of these things can eventually change the balance of our neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals our brain runs on. These affect our moods when they are out of balance. 

Facts About Depression 

These facts come from the Center for Disease Control and the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

  • 18 million adults will suffer from depression anywhere from 1-10 times a year.
  •  Depression is the leading cause of disability for ages 18-44. 
  • Depression is the reason someone dies from suicide every 12 minutes. It is the 10th leading cause of death in all ages, over 41,000 people a year. 
  • Depression causes 490 million disability days lost from work. 
  • $23 billion is the cost of lost work days due to depression. 
  • The economic toll to business from depression is $100 billion a year. 

From these figures we can see it is in the interest of our society and business to be proactive in providing mental health help for people. Doing all we can to remove any stigma from seeking help for depression. Depression affects the bottom line, besides the personal toll to people. 

Help for Overcoming Depression

I am going to break down the areas of help for depression into three components. Obviously the help will be contingent on the cause of your depression. These three areas are medication, healthy habits and mind tools. 


There are a number of antidepressant medications that can be helpful to people, especially if the cause of the depression is genetic. There can be other physical causes of depression as I mentioned before. This is why a good physical check up is important because there can be other medications that cure the physical problem and the depression at the same time. Medications are designed to balance the brain chemistry or in the case of mood stabilizers to even out the emotions. 

Everyone reacts differently to medications. So this process can be some trial and error; finding the right meds, the right dosage and the fewest side effects. Set your expectations with the reality of this process in mind and you won’t get as discouraged in this journey. I usually recommend a client to find a good psychiatrist to help them with the medication because this is their area of expertise. 

There should be no sense of shame in using medication or seeing a psychiatrist. The brain is an organ like any other organ in your body. A psychiatrist is a doctor who specializes in the area of the brain like any other doctor who has a certain specialty. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health and they are intertwined. Any medication can be misused or not be effective for you, so work closely in this area with your doctor.

Some people with circumstantial depression can have it for so long before seeking help that they have altered their brain chemistry. This usually shows when they come in for treatment and the therapy tools aren’t working because the person is so depressed they can’t focus, think straight or are so unmotivated they won’t try any of the tools I give them. They could even be suicidal. This is when I recommend some medication to use temporarily so the therapy can start to be effective. Then at a later time they can come off the meds. 

Healthy Habits 

Here we are talking about the basics of good health practices. Eat a healthy diet with real, living food rather than packaged and processed. Anything close to the Mediterranean diet is good. That doesn’t mean you can’t cheat occasionally (my weakness is sweets). Just have a smaller portion or use a healthy substitute, then back to healthy eating. 

Exercise, keep moving, that is what we were made to do. The old adage is true, “use it or lose it.” That doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym all the time. Use the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away from the store (it may also save on dents and scratches to your car), go for a walk. Some people have physical jobs, others are more sedentary. You have to find a way to keep moving and use your muscles. Strength, flexibility and endurance are the three components of a good exercise program. It will release endorphins; they are natural antidepressants. People tell me all the time, “I feel so much better when I exercise.” Their mood is much more positive. You won’t know until you try it. Start with small steps that are doable and built from there. 

Here is the third healthy habit, sleep. Get a solid 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep so you move through all the sleep cycles. It takes about an hour and a half for one rotation through. Sleep prolongs your life; as your body has a chance to repair itself. It helps you lose weight and will improve your mood. There are many sleep studies that have proven all that I am saying. You are thinking, “Hey I am up for sleep, this should be the easiest part of my health habits.” Develop a good sleep routine, go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Don’t pride yourself on a lack of sleep. If you want a better mood and to live longer – sleep. 

Healthy Mind 

There are many negative situations that can happen to us in life that will make us depressed. There are losses of loved ones, disappointments, divorce, job losses, children issues, a bad health report and on the list can go. Many of these things are out of our control or are the results of other’s actions that affect us. It is not so much about the event, especially ones out of my control, it is how I respond to the event. It is where I allow my mind to go and what I ruminate on. 

For example, it would be normal to be depressed over the loss of a loved one. Depression is a normal part of grief along with other negative emotions, as I have said before. I must learn how to process these emotions in a positive way. I acknowledge the emotion and why I am having it. Then I process it by talking or writing about it. If I am feeling something I am thinking something. I can control what I think about. It will take time but I keep processing the emotions until I reach resolution. Resolution is when I accept my old normal is gone and I am willing to

move into my new normal. I will accept this new normal and start to identify the positives in it for my life. 

I don’t want to over simplify this task of developing a healthy mind. Sometimes it is as simple as talking to someone to feel better. Other times there are deeper issues stuck in the unconscious brain that can drive depression. This is when you seek professional help, roll up your sleeves and do the tough work of facing and dealing with the past and your own self-image. If we can be of any help in this area just give us a call. Remember, you can overcome depression with counseling.

Boynton Beach Counseling Center
Gateway Counseling Center
1034 Gateway Blvd. #104
Boynton Beach, FL 33426
Phone: (561) 468-6464
Phone: (561) 678-0036

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