1. Depression is caused by unacknowledged guilt. Guilt takes a heavy toll on our emotional energy. Resolving my guilt frees emotional resources for other uses. This is a good place to begin to identify your “down” feelings. Is there someone whom I have wronged? Is there a relationship about which I feel guilty? Have I taken something that does belong to me? These question can help identify rational guilt. One of the major ways to deal with such guilt is to make restitution or explore ways to restore the relationship.
2. A second cause is unexpressed anger. Like a sponge unexpressed feelings absorb my energy and create a sense of frustration. The longer I hold such feelings inside the greater the depths of my hostility and rage. Risking expressing my anger frees me of keeping it buried deep within and creating other symptoms.
3. A fear of failure can also create depression. Passivity is often a characteristic of this kind of depression. When life feels like it is going nowhere, the drive to achieve is muted. Men often face this kind of depression when they recognize the opportunities for advancement in their career are limited. A 52-year-old male recently confided that although he made a good salary and was vice president of his firm, the owner-president was only two years older than he was. His retirement did not seem imminent and therefore my client felt trapped. He could see no other options for work life.
4. A final contributor is a sense of isolation. “I feel cut off from the world, “a 62-year-old woman confided. “I’m lonely even when I’m in a crowd of people,” she said. She was not facing any serious mental illness, but she was isolated from personal contacts that create a sense of intimacy in our lives. I encouraged her to find some contacts she could explore – the church, a club, a social group and even a political activity where she could meet people of common interests. Man’s terminal illness is his loneliness. We all face death alone, but we need not live in isolation before that time comes.
Too many people who suffered from these four circumstances are being treated with medication. While that may be helpful, the four major causes listed will not be changed by chemical input alone. Those causes of depression require a plan of action and behavior change.
If you feel depressed – for whatever reason – see your doctor for a physical. If there are no physical causes, you may find help seeking the help of a counselor, pastor or therapist. Depression can be overcome!