What is depression?

The obvious beginning of a series on depression is to ask – what is depression? While many of the symptoms are common, it’s identified by the overall mental state of a person. We’ll get into some clinical stuff. But also my own experience with it. I’m not a counselor, or anything like that. Just a person who’s working on getting better.

If you need help with your depression …

As mentioned, I am not a counselor, psychologist, or anything along those lines.
If you need immediate help, please call 911, 999, or whatever the emergency call # is in your area.
What I’ll present here, aside from some general information, the crosswalk.com article, and some Christian resources I have, is my own life-long experience. My intention isn’t to tell you how to deal with your depression on your own. Rather, it’s to show how Christianity, when explained correctly by a Christian-based counselor, can be a way to help get to a better place.

What is depression? is article #1 in the series: Depression. Click this button to view all titles for the series

what is depression

If you look at the adjacent image and read the words, how many of them apply to you? How many have you felt? And how many of them have been said to/about you, especially to your face?

If not those exact words, then the concept behind them?

I remember being told by my own parents that I was worthless and would never amount to anything. That was while I was in school, and according to my grades, doing well.

Hearing that led to many things, including these two:

  1. A question of why bother in school.
  2. A hope that maybe I was adopted, and these weren’t my real parents.

The thing is, it also led me to be quite angry at God. Like – “God, why are you doing this to me?” Even as a kid.

We’ll go into this, and more, during the series.

But first, let’s get some info on depression.

Crosswalk article

Here’s what crosswalk.com wrote about depression and what it is. It’s from their article, How to Deal with Depression as a Christian.

Depression is a battle that anyone – including Christians – can face. If you’re dealing with depression, you may feel overwhelmed, hopeless, and isolated. While seeking professional help is essential, as a Christian, you can also turn to the Bible for guidance and find encouragement in God’s promises. Here’s what depression is, how the Bible addresses depression, and how to deal with depression.

What Is Depression?

Depression is more than just feeling sad or experiencing temporary moments of despair. It is a mental health condition that affects a person’s thoughts, emotions, and physical well-being. Symptoms of depression may include persistent sadness, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, low energy, difficulty concentrating, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, and thoughts of self-harm.

Depression can have various causes, including biological factors, life circumstances, trauma, or a combination of those factors. It’s important to recognize that depression is not a sign of weakness or a lack of faith. It is a real and complex condition that requires understanding, compassion, and appropriate treatment.

As you can see, it’s a very general definition.

In my case, I was told by a doctor that he thought I was depressed and should see someone. I immediately went into denial. And did nothing. Many years later, I finally did. However, I was so mad at God, that seeing a counselor, let alone a Christian-based counselor, wasn’t something I was willing to do.

So, I went the prescription drug route. I did have the awareness and sense to recognize that the first drug was just turning me into a zombie. Something happened at work that would have made me very upset and then lead to major depression. But I didn’t care. I had no response at all. At least I knew that was wrong.

I switched drugs, changed doses until I had a “reasonable” spectrum of ups and downs. I survived, is the best way to put it.

It wasn’t until many years later that I realized I needed to do something else.

I am still on a prescription drug, since I apparently have a chemical imbalance in the brain.

However, looking to God, especially when things are very, very bad, has been like a mind-blowing change for me.

We’ll get into it more as the series progresses, but if you want to check out one particular incident, take a look at “God – is it time for me to go home” in the inset box.

I must say, it wasn’t an overnight change. It took years.

In my case, I don’t know that I could’ve done this without the prescription drugs to at least get me to a point where I knew I needed to do something else.

I need to add something else here. During some of that time, when I was refusing to get help, it seemed like there was a lot of press/talk about how only weak people couldn’t deal with their own depression. I’m not a weak person. I knew that, somewhere. Even with the feelings I had, like from the image above, I knew I was better than that. But I couldn’t get myself to live like it. To do anything about the words, even though life was telling me something different.

Even at a high level in management, responsible for a multi-million dollar data center, campus-wide network, and its staff, it was still, oftentimes, hard to accept/believe that I was “worthwhile”. It’s not weakness. It is a combination of physical and environmental factors that make it, I believe, impossible to overcome on our own.

So, that’s the beginning. How this started. Why I’m writing about it. I’m grateful to Crosswalk for bringing this up. And I thank God that He’s gotten me where I am, able to write this. And, whether you’re a Christian or not, I pray this helps you or someone you know.

Definitions and Key Thoughts on Depression

I have a number of resources that include looking at depression from a combination of clinical and Christian points of view. It seems that it also gets broken into smaller groups. The three I have are for (1) marriage and family, (2) women, and (3) teenagers. It’s not that others don’t exist. These just happen to be the ones I have.

So, to give you some ideas of what to look for, to consider, and to work on, here are the definitions and key thoughts from those three resources.

marriage and family

  • Marital depression is the presence of a clinically significant depression in one or both spouses that adversely affects the marriage. Depression differs from sadness or grief, which is a God-given reaction to loss that serves to slow people down so that they may process their sorrow. When one is sad, self-respect remains intact, intrinsic hope is maintained, and relief comes after crying and receiving support. Not so with depression, which is usually characterized by the famed “cognitive triad” that rules the thought life—helpless, hopeless, and worthless ruminations. The negative impact of depression on behavior and emotions can be overwhelming—appetite and sleep disturbances are common, as are social withdrawal and irritability, as well as the inability to enjoy life and things that once gave pleasure. The lack of energy that an individual with depression feels makes it difficult to accomplish anything but the most menial tasks. In depression’s worst form, suicidal ideation and actions can become dominant.
  • Depression is significantly on the rise. People born after 1950 are ten times more likely to experience depression than their predecessors. Those between ages twenty-five and forty-five have the greatest percentage of depression, though adolescent groups have the fastest rate of depression growth.
  • Women are twice as likely to experience depression as men.
  • Depression causes inestimable pain for both those enduring the disorder and the persons closest to them. It is said that depression destroys the lives of the victims and of their family members unnecessarily. Most sufferers do not seek treatment or believe their depression to be a treatable disorder.
  • Depression in marriage is very much a cyclical disorder—depression can influence a troubled marriage, which can influence and deepen one’s depression. As a classic, but different kind of “dual disorder,” depression in marriage may need to be treated concurrently in two distinct ways—both for the individual depression and for the marital troubles that arise or flow from it. 1Clinton, T., & Trent, J. (2009). The Quick-Reference Guide to Marriage & Family Counseling (pp. 107–108). Baker Books.

As a married person, I can attest to that.


  • Depression is “a mental state characterized by a pessimistic sense of inadequacy and a despondent lack of activity.” Depression can evidence itself in different ways. The most common symptoms are decreased energy, fluctuating body weight, depleted concentration, irritability, bouts of crying, hopelessness or despair, a disinterest in pleasurable activities, social withdrawal, and thoughts of suicide.
  • Clinical depression as a disorder is not the same as brief mood fluctuations or the feelings of sadness, disappointment, and frustration that everyone experiences from time to time and that last from minutes to a few days at most. Clinical depression is a more serious condition that lasts weeks to months, and sometimes even years.
  • Misdiagnosis of depression is common. It is often labeled as anxiety, which is a common affect in many types of depression or other mood disorders. Accurate assessment is the first step to proper treatment.
  • Depression is on the rise. People born after 1950 are ten times more likely to experience depression than their elders. Those between ages twenty-five and forty-five have the greatest percentage of depression, though teens have the fastest rate of depression growth.
  • Statistics show that fifteen million adults suffer from clinical depression. It is predicted that by 2020 depression will be the second leading common health problem in the world.
  • Women are twice as likely to experience clinical depression as men. It is estimated that 12 percent of women will suffer clinical depression in their lifetime.
  • According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, depression causes inestimable pain for both those enduring the disorder and the persons closest to them. Depression destroys the lives of the victims and of their family members unnecessarily. Most sufferers do not seek treatment or believe their depression is treatable.
  • Recent research shows that around 80 percent of Americans who suffer from depression are not receiving any treatment. Many women do not even believe depression is a real psychological illness or refuse to acknowledge the reality of their consistently low moods.
  • depression differs from sadness, which is a God-given reaction to loss that serves to slow people down so they can process grief. When one is sad, self-respect remains intact, intrinsic hope is maintained, and relief comes after crying and receiving support. Depression, however, results in feelings of despondency and lack of hope and purpose for life. 2Clinton, T., & Langberg, D. (2011). The Quick-Reference Guide to Counseling Women (pp. 82–83). Baker Books.

As a man, I can’t really comment on this part.


  • Depression is defined as feelings of dejection and hopelessness that last for more than two weeks. While everyone has a bad day from time to time, individuals struggling with depression often experience changes in eating and sleeping habits, as well as agitation, irritability, and restlessness. Depressed people generally lack energy and find little pleasure in activities they once enjoyed, such as playing sports or hanging out with friends.
  • Most teens with depression will suffer from more than one episode. Between 20 and 40 percent will have more than one episode within two years, and 70 percent will have more than one episode before adulthood. Episodes of teen depression generally last about eight months.
  • Dysthymia, a type of mild, long-lasting depression, affects about 2 percent of teens, and about the same percentage of teens develop bipolar disorder in their late teenage years. Fifteen percent of teens with depression eventually develop bipolar disorder.
  • A small percent of teens also suffer from seasonal depression, usually during the winter months in northern latitudes.
  • Teen depression can affect a teen regardless of gender, social background, income level, race, or school or other achievements, though teenage girls report suffering from depression more often than teenage boys. Teenage boys are less likely to seek help or recognize that they suffer from depression, probably due to different social expectations—girls are encouraged to express their feelings while boys are not. Teenage girls’ somewhat stronger dependence on social ties, however, can increase the chances of teen depression being triggered by social factors, such as loss of friends.
  • Risk factors that increase the chances of an episode of teen depression include:
    • — previous episodes of depression
    • — experiencing trauma, abuse, or a long-term illness or disability
    • — family history of depression (between 20 and 50 percent of teens who suffer from depression have a family member with depression or other mental disorder)
    • — untreated problems (about two-thirds of teens with major depression also suffer from another mental disorder, such as dysthymia, addiction to drugs or alcohol, anxiety, or antisocial behaviors)
  • A teen suffering from depression is also at higher risk for other problems:
    • — Thirty percent of teens with depression also develop a substance abuse problem.
    • — Teenagers with depression are likely to struggle with relationships and have a smaller social circle.
    • — Depressed teens are more likely to have trouble at school and in jobs and take advantage of fewer opportunities for education or careers.
    • — Teens with untreated depression are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, leading to higher rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
    • — Teens with depression seem to catch physical illnesses more often than other teens.
  • Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide, the third-leading cause of death among teenagers. Ninety percent of suicide victims suffer from a mental illness, and suffering from depression can make a teenager as much as twelve times more likely to attempt suicide.
  • Less than 33 percent of teens with depression get help, yet most teens with depression can be successfully treated if they seek help from a doctor or therapist. Many local health clinics offer free or discounted treatment for teens with depression.
  • Bipolar disorder is a specific form of depression. It is sometimes called “manic depression” because it has two cycles: the highs of mania and the lows of depression. Manic symptoms include:
    • — severe changes in mood—either unusually happy or silly or very irritable, angry, agitated, or aggressive
    • — unrealistic highs in self-esteem, feeling all-powerful or like a superhero with special powers
    • — great increase in energy and the ability to go with little or no sleep for days without feeling tired
    • — increase in talking and talking too much, too fast, changing topics too quickly, and not allowing interruption
    • — distractibility—the teen’s attention moves constantly from one thing to the next
    • — repeated high risk-taking behavior, such as abusing alcohol and drugs, reckless driving, or sexual promiscuity
  • Depressive symptoms include:
    • — irritability, depressed mood, persistent sadness, frequent crying
    • — thoughts of death or suicide
    • — loss of enjoyment in favorite activities
    • — frequent complaints of physical illnesses, such as headaches or stomachaches
    • — low energy level, fatigue, poor concentration, complaints of boredom
    • — major change in eating or sleeping patterns, such as oversleeping or overeating
  • Note: Some of these signs are similar to those that occur in teens who experience drug abuse, delinquency, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or even schizophrenia. A physician or psychotherapist can conduct a thorough examination to determine an accurate diagnosis. Treatment includes educating the patient and his family, mood-stabilizing medications, and therapy. 3Clinton, T., Clark, C., & Straub, J. (2010). The Quick-Reference Guide to Counseling Teenagers (pp. 92–94). Baker Books.

As a former teen, with a list like that, I certainly can’t speak to everything in it. However, I did experience many of those things, but not bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, as a teen, it can be very hard to find someone to talk to. It’s hard enough as an adult. It seemed impossible as a teen.

What does the Bible have to do with depression?

There’s a series of events in the Old Testament that might surprise you. They’re about Elijah – one of the great Old Testament prophets. It’s one of my favorites from the OT. That may very well be because of the scene below, with comments added by the author of the marriage and family therapy book I referenced above.

But [Elijah] went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”
1 Kings 19:4

Life has highs and lows, and as in a mountain range, the lows often come right after the highs. Like Elijah, we may scale the heights of spiritual victory only to soon find ourselves in the dark valley of depression.

While certain forms of clinical depression should be professionally treated, many depressed feelings are part of life’s ups and downs.

Like Elijah, we should listen for God’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) to comfort us. The Lord loves it when we spend time with Him and look expectantly to Him.

Then as [Elijah] lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again.
1 Kings 19:5–6

Depression can drain energy, twist values, and assault one’s faith.

Depression can affect anyone.

God provided care to Elijah on many levels. He provided food so that Elijah regained his physical and emotional strength. An angel touched Elijah, confirming to Elijah that he was not alone. Also, twice, God encouraged Elijah to rest. 4Clinton, T., & Trent, J. (2009). The Quick-Reference Guide to Marriage & Family Counseling (pp. 112–113). Baker Books.

That’s after Elijah pulled off an amazing show of God’s power. And it’s not even like Elijah did it on his own. God did it. God totally had control and Elijah had the experience of a lifetime. And then this happens.

I can so relate to that.

Conclusion – What is depression?

This is, by no means, a definitive answer to “what is depression?” It’s a start. Something to give an idea of what might be something to look into further with a professional.

The difference here is that I add my own experiences. For one thing, to let you know you’re not alone. For another, to let you know what I did and/or didn’t do. What worked and what didn’t work – for me.

And most importantly, to let you know about the option of going to what’s known as a Christian-based counselor to help with depression. As mentioned, I am not a counselor.

By the way, there’s a reason for my constant inclusion of the word “based”. It’s what got me to go to one for help.

There are what’s known as Christian Counselors. However, some of them do little more than quote Bible verses, and then tell you to live by them. That’s not what I would want.

Obviously, there are also counselors who are totally secular. They don’t use Christianity at all.

Between them, in a mix of the two, are the Christian-based counselors. I went to one of them. Yes, they do talk about the Bible. But they also explain how the circumstances in the Bible relate to what we’re going through with our depression, and use their knowledge of psychology as well.

To me, that’s better. If we believe, as I do, that knowledge is from God, then why not use it? Of course, knowledge, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. It’s the combination of the Bible, appropriate knowledge, and helping clients apply the Biblical principles to our lives that can help with depression.

Ultimately, it’s also a trust in God. But, that’s something that we need to work on. Even for me, a Christian, it was very difficult to trust God. For someone who’s not a Christian, there’s also the critical matter of learning about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and following God. If we aren’t willing to do that, as I wasn’t for a long time, then the effectiveness is greatly reduced, or maybe even non-existent.

Having said that, there’s still hope. There always is, with God. At the lowest point of my life, I was apparently copying Psalms from the Bible. I don’t remember ever doing it. And yet, one day while cleaning up some stuff in the basement, I found notepads, with my writing, that were nothing but random Psalms that I hand copied from the Bible.

I bring that up now. You’ll see in a later segment, the importance of even that simple act. An act done while I was extremely angry with God. The same God who helped me get to where I am now. Not free from depression, but much less weighted down and affected by it.

This series is based on a crosswalk.com article

I’m writing this series because of an article n crosswalk.com. They have lots of good stuff. Because of the format, it’s a brief introduction. I used their article as a starting point, then added my own experiences and various resources from my resource library to expand on it. Christianity, the way Jesus actually gave it to us, can be very helpful when dealing with depression. So, my goal isn’t to “solve” a problem. Rather, my goal is to encourage someone to get help from Christianity and/or a Christian-based counselor. A Christian -based counselor can be incredibly helpful when it comes to taking what’s in the Bible, from thousands of years ago, and showing us how to use it to help us, even in today’s world.
The crosswalk.com article is: How to Deal with Depression as a Christian
You don’t have to be a Christian to read it. It may help encourage you to look into Christianity though, because with a good Christian-based counselor, you can learn many things that help with things beyond your depression as well.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

  • 1
    Clinton, T., & Trent, J. (2009). The Quick-Reference Guide to Marriage & Family Counseling (pp. 107–108). Baker Books.
  • 2
    Clinton, T., & Langberg, D. (2011). The Quick-Reference Guide to Counseling Women (pp. 82–83). Baker Books.
  • 3
    Clinton, T., Clark, C., & Straub, J. (2010). The Quick-Reference Guide to Counseling Teenagers (pp. 92–94). Baker Books.
  • 4
    Clinton, T., & Trent, J. (2009). The Quick-Reference Guide to Marriage & Family Counseling (pp. 112–113). Baker Books.

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