Depression: A Silent Killer

Depression is a problem people struggle with around the world. What should Christians understand about the scourge of depression?

According to the World Health Organization, roughly 280 million people around the world suffer from depression. It is the leading form of mental illness in the U.S. and around the world. It is often the primary cause of suicide. 

(Note: If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, in the U.S. contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling 988. For other countries, see for suicide hotlines around the world.)

What is depression?

Depression is a state of unhappiness or sadness. We all feel depressed at times—that’s normal. This is called situational depression. Many people in the Bible experienced this kind of depression based on circumstances in which they found themselves, including:

Situational depression is temporary, usually based on circumstances we face; and we can often control it by changing the choices we make, changing our environment or just letting time work bad circumstances out. The Bible gives guidance on actions we can take to pull out of situational depression:

For more guidance on working through situational depression, read “Overcoming Dangerous Emotions.”

Clinical depression

However, there is another type of depression that is far more serious, known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) used by health-care professionals, depression becomes a disorder when it impacts several aspects of daily living. Specifically, the presence of a depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, for no less than a two-week period, plus any four of the following symptoms will yield a diagnosis of major depressive disorder:

  1. A loss of interest in pleasurable activities.
  2. Significant weight loss or gain without intent, or marked increase or decrease in appetite.
  3. Insomnia or excessive sleeping.
  4. Increased agitation or retardation (as noticed by others).
  5. Extreme fatigue and/or loss of energy virtually every day.
  6. Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and excessive or inappropriate guilt (often not based on reality or caused by any specific circumstance).
  7. Diminished ability to think, concentrate or make decisions.
  8. Recurring thoughts of death, dying, committing suicide, with or without a plan to do so (DSM-IV, p. 327).

It’s important to understand that people dealing with depression don’t always display a gloomy and dark attitude on the outside. In fact, some people who struggle appear healthy and happy, even overly so. Depressed people can use an outer veneer of silliness and humor to cover their depressed state of mind. 

Depressed people can use an outer veneer of silliness and humor to cover their depressed state of mind. Author and freelance writer Christy Heitger-Ewing has written several articles on this subject after her mother’s suicide. She writes: “The truth of the matter is that people who battle clinical depression may very well be funny, kind, cheerful, and sweet; they are also woefully despondent” (“Why We Should Talk About Depression and Suicide When It’s Not Trending,” Dec. 6, 2017).

People who suffer from this terrible mental illness often liken it to falling into a dark hole, so deep that they feel there is no hope of ever climbing out. Whereas most of us who have blue days know that things will get better over time, people with a depressive disorder often do not have that same hope. The mental illness makes them almost incapable of realizing that life can get better and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

It is helpful to hear depression described by one who actually suffers from it. An individual who suffers from clinical depression wrote: “You have zero self-esteem. All day is the constant drip-drip-dripping of ‘I’m-no-good,’ like background noise to everyday life. Once those words had meaning but repetition has blunted them. You believe that nobody really wants you around so what’s the point in being alive? You think people would be better off without you. Life feels like a chore and [you’re] tired . . . and slow . . . and just want out.”

It is important for those dealing with someone with clinical depression to have understanding of these feelings.

Dealing with clinical depression

What should you do if you or someone you know seems to fit the diagnosis of major depressive disorder (or clinical depression)?

It can be dangerous to assume or hope the problem will just go away on its own. We also recommend regularly using the scriptural keys given earlier in this blog post. 

But clinical depression can also require professional therapy—which can be very helpful. Counseling is extremely important to anyone suffering from this problem. However, almost 80 percent of sufferers don’t seek help.

One reason for this is the stigma that surrounds mental illness. People who suffer from these problems don’t want to be judged and often feel guilt and shame.

But the worst-case scenarios, in which people  end up taking their own life, should motivate sufferers to get help immediately. There are treatments for these issues that can be combined with the powerful help that comes only through God and His Word.

When left untreated, depression can become deadly, a silent killer. Please seek professional help now, if you or someone you love struggles with this issue.

Topics Covered: Social Issues, Overcoming

About the Author

Debbie Caudle

Debbie Caudle

From Canada to California and then Wyoming to Texas, Debbie Caudle’s journey has taken a lot of twists and turns, but through it all she’s had a lifelong desire to help others improve their lives. She has worked over 25 rewarding years as a licensed counselor, working with individuals, couples, children and families. This experience has taught her a lot about the challenges people face in conquering their worst fears and hurdling their toughest obstacles. 

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