Situational and Clinical Depression
By Patrick Day
There are two quite different types of depression one should understand to receive proper help for depression. The two are situational and clinical depression. A simple explanation of the differences can be found in two parables. A person loses her job, goes into a deep depression for two months, and is fearful she will never come out of it. Then she finds another job and the depression goes away. That’s situational depression.
A second person loses his job and goes into a deep depression. “I need help with my depression, ” he cries out, along with being desperate to find another job. Month follows month, and his finances are nearly depleted, his relationship with his wife is moving toward divorce, his confidence is gone, and the future looks hopeless and purposeless. Finally he obtains another job, but the depression doesn’t go away. The turmoil of all that has happened to him puts so much stress on his body that his brain chemistry has been altered. He has clinical depression, and he needs ongoing treatment for depression.
In my book Too Late in the Afternoon: One Man’s Triumph Over Depression, Mitch Jasper explains his understanding of situational and clinical depression:
The spirit of depression could overwhelm me at any time, like a
riptide grabs a swimmer and drags him out to sea. I didn’t know it then,
but a new stage of depression was living within me and could take
over at any time, whatever the circumstances, whatever the situation.
My situational depression put such stress on my whole body that a
chemical imbalance developed in my brain, which dropped me into
a pit at unlikely times and places, like sitting on that bench watching
lacrosse players. It was a cycle of up and down, mostly down, that
defined how I saw the world. For moments I could escape it, but it was always there by my side, waiting to take over.
Clinical depression, the biochemical imbalance in your
brain, can grab you at any time for no reason, such as in the elevator.
If your only defense is taking medication, then more medication seems
the only answer to relieve on-going mental anguish.
I see now in living color that a three-pronged approach is the best
way to escape living in depression the rest of your life. The first prong
is the medication so you can think and function again. But you can’t
stop there. You need to engage the soul to discover the causes behind
the symptoms and treat them with inner healing. Many people will find
some success with these two approaches. The third prong, healing of
the spirit, will bring you to a higher level of recovery than the first two
To complete the picture, I must color in two more images.
There are some people for whom a biochemical imbalance in the brain
is a chronic condition, without being precipitated by hidden causes. The
two approaches beyond medication will help alleviate the depression,
but total healing may never happen. However, you’ll never know if you
are that person unless you at least try the other two approaches.
The second image is people with mild or moderate depression who
can be healed without medication, sometimes by just seeing a doctor
to discuss symptoms and learn about depression. Seeing a psychologist
or counselor will accelerate inner healing, as will having a spiritual
director. Dave was my spiritual director. I have talked to people for
whom the Holy Spirit was directly their spiritual director.
Do I sound like an expert on depression? I am, in a way. Those of
you who have had a critical illness, like diabetes, have become experts
by living through it, as well as by talking to doctors, talking to other
people with diabetes, searching the Internet, and reading everything
about diabetes you can get your hands on. That’s what I did. I’m not
an expert on depression through credentialing. I am the depository
of information gathered from my own experience; from Dave, Zeke,
Wally, and Daniel; from depressed people I talk to (we seem to find
each other by instinct); and from much research.
This happened to Mitch Jasper, but it was drawn from my own experiences. I needed treatment for clinical depression that started with the body – medication to move me to stability. My next help for depression was a series of counselors and a psychotherapist. Finally, as I fell into mild to moderate depression, I was able to the capstone treatment for depression – spiritual guidance and soaking myself in God’s world, where His care brought healing that lasted. I am now on the other side of depression and help those who are depressed with my book, my blog site (www.triumphoverdepression.org ), and my peer-coaching of those who are depressed. I am effective in peer-coaching because I understand the dynamics of depression and have experienced first-hand the ravages and finally the overcoming of depression through tools of body, soul, and spirit. You can find out more of my story my clicking on my blog site link.