Monday, January 18, 2010

Excessive Sorrow


I feel that working in the mental health field for several years has given me a pretty clear picture of the idea of depression. It is not too hard to gain a head knowledge of the symptoms, the causes, and the course of the disorder. It takes quite a bit more knowledge to learn how to differentiate a Major Depressive Disorder from similar diagnoses of dysthymia, bipolar disorders, or adjustment disorders. A mental health professional has to have such knowledge and do a fair amount of detailed diagnostic interviewing and testing in order to come to an accurate diagnosis. In my opinion, such a process is absolutely essential in guiding decisions concerning efficient treatment.

Therefore, obtaining antidepressants from your doctor after filling out a 10-question symptom questionnaire should not be sufficient. Identifying with some of the symptoms on “depressionhurts.com” does not suffice either. So many voices you hear on television make depression sound like a cold virus that you might catch if you do not wash your hands after you use the restroom.

In my experience, depression is usually excessive sadness that occurs in response to normal difficulties of life. For example, most guys tend to get pretty sad when they get dumped, that is normal. Yet a guy whose response includes several weeks of not being able to leave the house, sleeping too much or too little, appetite disruptions, and thoughts of suicide might be experiencing a depressive episode. Of course the intensity of the inciting incident has an impact on how some behaviors could be considered normal. Nonetheless, such an experience is very real to the sufferer and should be treated delicately.

In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul addressed the Church concerning a particular individual to whom the Church had withdrawn fellowship (mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5). Paul said that the believers should restore this individual so that he would not be “overwhelmed with excessive sorrow.” It seems that Paul considers the emotional health of Church members to be of particular importance, not something to be taken lightly. After a century of research, it seems that most churches are only now beginning to recognize the legitimacy of such difficulties. Paul also seems to believe in the healing power of community.

In light of this, I would advise you to look out for people around you and yourself. When you see “excessive sorrow,” consider suggesting help from a qualified professional. If you have questions about who is considered a “professional,” write me a comment and I can help you.  In addition, it is important that you should not be afraid and withdraw your friendship. Instead, these are the situations in which the closeness of a community can literally save someone’s life. Depression does hurt, but YOU can help.

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