Depression is one of the most common mental health struggles facing the world today. Most people know someone, or have struggled with depression at some point in their lives, themselves. There are several different mood disorders where “dressed mood” is a large component. The most prevalent is Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).
Statistics of Major Depression Disorder in the U.S.
The National Institute of Mental Health reported that the percentage range of people over the age of 18 who struggled with MDD in 2020 was 8%. This may not sound like a large number, but that roughly translates to about fifteen million people (NIMH, 2022). I am guessing that this reported number is way lower than the number of people in lockdown who were suffering in silence.
Amongst adolescents, this number was even higher – with 17% of kids ages twelve to seventeen having reported depressive symptoms. In both categories, the prevalence was higher in females (around 25%) as well as those who identified as being multi-racial (about 30%) (NIMH, 2022). These statistics do not include other depressive disorders such as dysthymia or seasonal affective disorder.
To take a look at more local statistics, The Seattle Times reported that Seattle (and the surrounding counties) is, “the nation’s saddest metro city,” according to a 2023 survey. The survey reveals that in February 2023, 45% of adults reported having symptoms of depression such as feeling, “down, depressed, or hopeless at least a few days during the previous two weeks.”
Signs and symptoms of depression.
There are a variety of signs and symptoms present in those who are experiencing depression. This is certainly not an exhaustive list but some of the most common signs and symptoms are as follows:
- Feeling low, hopeless, or “down in the dumps” most of the day.
- Loss of interest in doing things you used to enjoy.
- Sleep disruption: sleeping too much and still feeling tired, not sleeping enough, or waking up at odd times of the night and not being able to go back to sleep.
- Weight loss or weight gain.
- Moving/functioning noticeably slower than normal.
- Difficulty concentrating, focusing, or “brain fog.”
- Some people will also experience more somatic symptoms such as headaches or digestive issues.
Everyone has ups and downs but those with depression have a persistent experience of these symptoms to the point that it is affecting work, school, and/or activities of daily living. People will manifest these symptoms in varying severity – from mild symptoms (maybe a few of the above, or other symptoms are present) to severe (many symptoms are present).
Strategies to find freedom.
I find counseling for depression highly effective and helpful. Often times this is because it can help the depressed individual feel validated and seen, in addition to understanding what they are feeling happens to others – they are not the only one who feels this way.
Depression is extremely isolating by nature so the universality aspect can be comforting and relieving in many ways. It can also be helpful to do work surrounding the depressive thoughts the person has and to see how those thoughts affect and cause depressive feelings, which then lead to some or all of the symptoms mentioned above.
Another way that counseling can be helpful is that it can give people something to look forward to, create some continuity in their schedule, and help them gain some traction or momentum in their lives.
Counselors can support clients identify more helpful coping strategies, understanding what some of the underlying causes of depression are, and some practical baby steps toward regaining productivity and success in their lives.
I know “self-care” is a “buzz” word these days, but having compassion and caring for yourself is a skill many of us need to learn. It can also create some sense of control and success in our lives when we do even the smallest things to care for ourselves.
Sometimes I even call this, “micro self-care.” That could mean getting out of bed one time that day to make yourself a cup of tea, take a hot shower or walk around the neighborhood with a pet or to take out the trash.
Every moment we choose to care for ourselves matters and can help us experience success, remember that we are capable of doing things we used to do, and learn way to cope that are healthy. Change often happens in the mundane, tiny choices we make every day, which can then lead to change in the larger areas of life.
Hoping in Christ.
If you are reading this section and nervous that I am going to say, “just pray harder” or some other pithy spiritual statement, don’t worry and keep reading! I have heard from many depressed people that they have felt really misunderstood and looked down on by other Christians as if they need to “just” do this or that spiritual discipline and they will get better.
This is not in any way putting down the power of God (nothing is impossible for him!) or the importance of practicing spiritual disciplines, as these are true, necessary, and powerful! God truly is our ultimate source of hope! At the very same time, depression is complex and people experiencing depression usually need additional support getting out of the pit.
That being said, we also have a God that is always with us and sees us in our pit. He is there with us; we are not alone! Even if we feel isolated from everyone else, whether we feel like it or not, we are not isolated from God.
In fact, the Bible shows many, many instances where his people were clearly struggling with depression. What did they do? They voiced this to God and found comfort in his promises. Let’s look at a few examples in the Bible where people called out to God for help.
The authors of the various songs or poems that comprise the book of Psalms is probably the most vivid, continuous representation of God’s people crying out to Him in depressive states. Psalm 6 shows this raw pouring out of David’s feelings to his God:
O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
2 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
3 My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O Lord – how long?
4 Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
5 For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise?
6 I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
7 My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.
8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
9 The Lord has heard my plea;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment. – Psalm 6
In the book of Job, Job cries out to God consistently amidst his many devastating trials and suffering:
I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. – Job 10:1
Why did you bring me out from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me and were as though I had not been, carried from the womb to the grave. Are not my days few? Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer before I go – and I shall not return – to the land of darkness and deep shadow, the land of gloom like thick darkness, like deep shadow without any order, where light is as thick darkness. – Job 10:18-22
The author of Lamentations laments over the sin and destruction of a people and a city. He is clearly also experiencing somatic symptoms related to his despair:
Look, O Lord, for I am in distress; my stomach churns; my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious. In the street the sword bereaves; in the house it is like death. – Lamentations 1:20
There are so many examples of God’s people crying out in distress and hopelessness to our God who cares, sees, and can hold the weight of these things for us so that we don’t have to. He isn’t distant, even when we are. He isn’t apathetic to the cries of his children. He also doesn’t ask us to hold this grief in. He beckons us to cry out to Him who hears us!
One of my deepest joys as a Christian counselor is when my clients tell me about a moment in their past week where they were crying out and in despair but then felt the loving presence of the Lord with them in it. They finally cried with the realization that they were not alone. In their pain, they clung with all their might to the promises of Christ and brought their tears to the foot of the cross.
National Institute of Mental Health. Major Depression. January 2022. www.Nimh.nih.gov
The Seattle Times (2023). Seattle Still the Nation’s Saddest Metro City, Survey Says. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/seattle-still-the-nations-saddest-large-metro-area-survey-shows/
“Seattle”, Courtesy of Luca Micheli, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Overwhelmed”, Courtesy of Nik Shuliahin, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bath Necessities”, Courtesy of Maddi Bazzocco, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bible and Flowers”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License