When is sadness only sadness—and when does it become depression? How do you tell the difference? After all, everyone has the "blues" now and then. Sadness is a normal reaction to any experienced loss, and it goes away with time. Your emotional makeup is such that you should feel sad when a loved one dies, your friend moves away or other issues involving loss occur.
But if you find yourself stuck in that sad feeling and unable to move on with life, you might be depressed. Depression is a persistent sadness that permeates most aspects of your life.
Depression is serious and debilitating—and it is not just "all in your head." However, it is treatable. There is hope.
As we move through life, we often get stuck in three primary areas—our relationships, our circumstances, and/or our expectations and dreams. When we face disappointments, unforeseen events and people who don't behave in ways that are loving, depression can set in.
We may think only "big" things such as death, divorce and disease bring on depressed feelings.But we face relationship difficulties, challenging circumstances and failed expectations almost daily. Some examples include dealing with a husband who puts work above family time, a company that passes you over for a promotion, not making the income you thought you would at this stage in life, comparing yourself to others or failing an exam. Losses such as these can trigger negative thinking, which brings on a depressed mood.
A depressed mood negatively affects your perception of the world, which then feeds your negative thinking. This cycle of thinking negatively, feeling depressed and viewing the world from a negative lens goes round and round and keeps depression alive.
Negative thinking is behind most depression. It is usually based on lies we believe, such as, "This situation is hopeless"; "I'll never be able to change"; "Nobody loves me." It almost always involves a negative view of self, the world and/or the future. When we break the lies associated with this negativity, we can be free.
The voice of depression is hopeless, anxious and negative—all counter to the Word of God. When you listen to the voice of depression, you give the enemy a stronghold, an area of your life in which to defeat you. You must replace negative thoughts with God's truth and think on the promises of God.
How do you do that? In order to change your thoughts, you must renew your mind. First, identify the lie that is telling you your situation is hopeless. You do this by first thinking about the despair and hopelessness you feel. Let yourself experience it for a moment. Then try to pinpoint the lie associated with the feeling.
What comes into your head? What thought is automatic? It may be something such as: I'll never be happy. No one cares about me.
While you're thinking that thought, ask Jesus to tell you His truth. He will speak to you if you ask Him to. When He does, His truth will renew your thinking.
Finally, praise Him. When we praise, we use a powerful weapon against the enemy. The Bible tells us to that Jesus will give us "a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Is. 61:3, NKJV). He clothes us with the praises of God.
When we do, the heaviness begins to lift. Praise is the antidote to feeling down and depressed. Don't wait until you feel like praising—just do it.
And don't praise God for the depression; it isn't from Him. Praise Him because He knows the depths of your despair and has provided an antidote for it. He nailed your depression to the cross. Because of Calvary you are already free.
Linda Mintle, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical social worker and nationally known speaker. She is also the author of several books, including Breaking Free From Depression (Charisma House), from which this column was adapted.