Depressed, Seeking Help

How can I know if I need to seek professional help with my depression? What exactly is the definition of a "clinically" depressed person? I feel sad and fatigued much of the time, and nagging anxiety is a chronic problem, but I have no idea if these are serious issues or not. Can you help me?

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Clinical or major depression is a very serious problem and should be treated as such. Clinical depression is more than a temporary emotional slump. It involves a persistent – lasting two weeks or longer – and usually disruptive disturbance of mood and often affects other bodily functions as well. Here’s a list of the most prominent characteristics of the condition:

  • Persistent sadness and/or irritability. This may include depressive emotional reactions that seem out of proportion to the circumstances; episodes of moping and crying; withdrawal and isolation; fatigue and loss of enthusiasm or interest in favorite activities; poor school performance; and outbursts of anger and overt acting out.
  • Painful thoughts that manifest themselves in relentless introspection, a negative self-concept, persistent anxiety and a sense of hopelessness.
  • Physical symptoms such as insomnia, changes in appetite, headaches, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations, abdominal cramps and episodes of shortness of breath.
  • In rare cases, a severe case of depression may also involve delusional thinking, including visual and auditory hallucinations. This is not merely depression but a form of psychosis, a serious disorder of neurochemical functions in the brain.

As you might expect, the causes of depression can be extremely complex, including a blend of genetic, biochemical, personal, family and spiritual factors.

If you suspect that you may be dealing with a case of clinical depression, we recommend that you take immediate action. Get a physician’s evaluation of your condition and be willing to consider appropriate medication (antidepressants can normalize disturbances in neurotransmitter function in the brain and are neither addictive nor an “escape from reality”). In addition, some of the physical symptoms of depression, such as heart palpitations and abdominal cramps, are also seen in people dealing with anxiety disorder, so it is especially important to get an accurate diagnosis from a qualified physician. Seek out professional counseling without delay. Call us. Focus on the Family’s Counseling department can provide you with a list of qualified Christian therapists in your area who specialize in dealing with problems of this nature.

Resources
If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Blue Genes: Breaking Free From the Chemical Imbalances That Affect Your Moods, Your Mind, Your Life, and Your Loved Ones

Putting Your Past Behind You: Finding Hope for Life’s Deepest Hurts

Get Out of that Pit: Straight Talk About God’s Deliverance

Unmasking Male Depression

Mental Health (resource list)

Referrals
Hart Institute

Celebrate Recovery

Articles
Depression

Marriage: Dealing With Depression

Excerpted from The Complete Guide to Baby and Child Care published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 1997, 2007, Focus on the Family.

This information has been approved by the Physicians Resource Council of Focus on the Family. The information provided here is for general informational purposes and should not be construed as medical advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional for specific questions regarding your particular situation.

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