by Monte Kline, Ph.D.
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Depression ranks as one of the most frequent complaints among our clients. It is truly a problem affecting tens of millions of people today. I wish I could say this is a non-Christian’s problem, but I cannot. Christians are often particularly tortured by depression, thinking that there must be something wrong with their spiritual life to be thus afflicted. Yet many biblical characters were affected by depression — Saul, David, Jonah, Jeremiah, Elijah, and of course, Job — so I guess you’re in good company!
Like most health problems, depression can have many causes spanning the physical, emotional and spiritual realms of health. Therefore, any truly successful approach to depression must involve discerning and dealing with the root causes, wherever they lie. First, however, let’s define depression.
The American Psychiatric Association in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, lists eight criteria for the diagnosis of depression:
- Poor appetite with weight loss, or increased appetite with weight gain.
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (too much sleeping).
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, or decrease in sex drive.
- Loss of energy and feelings of fatigue.
- Feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach or inappropriate guilt.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate.
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
UNIPOLAR vs. BIPOLAR
Depressive disorders are broken down according to whether the victim suffers from depression only, or also from mania (i.e. mental illness characterized by great excitement, delusions and/or violence). “Unipolar Disorder” refers to suffering only from depression, while “Bipolar Disorder” refers to suffering from mania alone, or mania alternating with depression, in which case it is called “manic depressive.” With this background in mind, let’s look at possible causes.
1.Chemical Imbalance — I shudder to say “chemical imbalance,” since many depressed people are told they need to take this or that drug to correct their “chemical imbalance,” as if it’s just there without any reason and nothing can be done about it. To the contrary, there are reasons whypeople have chemical imbalances.
Brain chemicals called “neurotransmitters” greatly affect how we feel. Neurotransmitters affecting depression include serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Neurotransmitter imbalances are often a function of nutrient deficiencies — particularly Vitamins C, B-6, B-12, Folic Acid, and various amino acids.
- Nutrient Deficiencies — Virtually any nutrient deficiency can lead to depression. However, some of the more definite vitamin deficiencies with a depression connection include Vitamins C, B-1, B-3, B-5, B-6, B-12, Folic Acid, and Biotin. Mineral deficiencies may also be very significant, especially magnesium. Three of the amino acids are very important in synthesizing neurotransmitters—tryptophan, tyrosine, and phenylalanine.
- Toxic Minerals — Here we’re talking about heavy metals like aluminum, cadmium, lead and mercury. Mercury toxicity from mercury amalgam dental fillings has frequently been observed to produce depression symptoms.
- Drug-Induced Depression — Various categories of drugs often produce depression as a side-effect. These include oral contraceptives, caffeine, tobacco, corticosteroids, beta-blockers, and other anti-hypertensives. Often, even drugs that are used to treatdepression, will have depression as a possible side-effectlisted in the Physician’s Desk Reference. The late Dr. Robert Mendelsohn quipped:
I admit I don’t know how to use a drug like this; what am I supposed to do if I prescribe it and the symptoms continue? Stop the drug or double the dose?
- Aspartame Reaction — The artificial sweetener Aspartame (trade name — “NutraSweet”) contains aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. In animal experiments prior to its approval, aspartame decreased the amino acid tryptophan and the resulting serotonin. Methanol is very toxic, especially to children, who through soft drinks might easily consume ten times the EPA’s limit for methanol.
- Hypoglycemia — Along with producing fatigue and various other symptoms, low blood sugar often causes depression. Hypoglycemia is primarily caused by consumption of refined sugar and flour.
- Hormonal Imbalances — Female hormonal imbalances, whether from PMS, pregnancy, post partum, or menopause can all cause depression symptoms. But there are other hormonal imbalances that can also be the culprit—thyroid, adrenal, pineal, and pituitary imbalances, for example. A wide range of possible hormonal problems can thus produce depression.
- Allergic Sensitivities — This is one I very frequently observe in my practice. Reactions to common foods, believe it or not, can drastically affect your emotional mood. Environmental reactions can do likewise.
- Self-Produced Toxins — Also known as “endotoxins,” the toxins you make primarily in your digestive tract adversely affect the body in many ways, depression being one possibility.
- Systemic Candidiasis — Overgrowth of the common yeast organism, Candida albicans, generally makes people feel fatigued and at least somewhat depressed. Most clients I see who complain of depression, test positively for candidiasis. Candidiasis is primarily the result of using antibiotic drugs.
- Inadequate Sleep —Beware of ignoring the obvious. I’ll never forget a very fatigued and depressed woman that wasn’t responding to our program. By chance I happened to ask her how much sleep she was getting. She replied, “Two or three hours a night.” For most people, consistently getting less than seven or eight hours of sleep per night is a sure-fire formula for depression. And don’t forget God’s design of resting one day in seven — even if sleep is short during the week, you can at least catch up then.
- S.A.D. Disease — Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs when people react to shorter daylight hours in the winter. This is related to the pineal gland hormone melatonin and the balance of the body’s circadian rhythms.
Though there are many possible physical causes of depression, emotional issues, issues of the mind rather than the body, may be at stake. Some of the more common ones might be:
- Low Self-Esteem —If you have a low, negative view of yourself, you’re probably going to be depressed. We pretty much define our own reality at this point. You can either choose to believe you’re very important and special because God created you and Christ died for you, or you can choose instead to be down on yourself.
- Self-Pity —This is closely related to low self-esteem. I like the formula Dr. Tim LaHaye gave in his book, How to Win Over Depression:
INSULT or INJURY or REJECTION
- Lack of Goal-Orientation — A missile has a mechanism that guides it toward its target by constantly measuring its position and making mid-course corrections. Should this guidance system fail, the controllers push the Self-Destruct button to prevent unintended damage. People work the same way, but when they get off course, they push their own “self-destruct” buttons, leading to depression, various other health problems, or even suicide.
If you want to read a good description of depression, read Psalm 51 or 69 or 32 or others where we see the depression David experienced in a state of unconfessed sin. If there’s anything standing between you and God, you won’t solve your depression problem without dealing with it. Bitterness, immorality or other issues can also create a “spiritual stronghold,” a jurisdictional place in your soul from which Satan can afflict your body, mind and spirit. Refer to our Better Health Update on Spiritual Strongholds for more information on this cause of depression.
CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE APPROACHES
Because they don’t deal with the root causes of depression, conventional medicine’s approaches are pretty disappointing. They pretty much consist of (1) EST (electro-shock therapy), (2) Drugs, or (3) Psychotherapy. EST is thankfully fading from the popularity it had in the 1940’s and 1950’s. It’s anti-depressant effect comes from producing convulsions and temporary amnesia — I guess you forget what you were depressed about. In a word, it is barbaric!
Anti-depressant drugs usually work, but have side-effects and create dependencies. Because they treat symptoms, not causes, taking anti-depressants may actually prevent you from discovering the root causes of your depression.
Most psychotherapy is based on a false, unbiblical worldview. Psychotherapy and most counseling (even “Christian” counseling) approaches are non-directive. They assume the “answers” are in you, and the counselor should not interject their feelings, but rather be a sounding board. Biblical counseling assumes that God has revealed the design and principles by which we should live, and we solve our problems by lining up our ways with God’s ways. The counselor exhorts us to do that.
NATURAL MEDICINE APPROACHES
This article has hopefully shown that there are many possible causes to depression. Individual testing is therefore essential to determining the right approach. Having said that, the possible natural medicine approaches for the physical causes include vitamins, minerals, glandulars, homeopathics, herbs, full spectrum lighting, and exercise, to name a few. Individual Electro-Dermal Testing, as done at Pacific Health Center, can determine specifically which supplements are compatible with your body and show a correcting effect. Without a specific testing method, you can try this supplement and that till the cows come home trying to find an answer.
Keep in mind that there’s probably no one “magic bullet,” no one supplement that’s going to solve your depression problem. Because depression is typically caused by a combination of factors, there isn’t going to be one single vitamin or mineral or herb or whatever that’s going to solve your problem. A comprehensive approach is essential.
EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL APPROACHES
Biblical counseling, as discussed earlier, is essential. When we truly understand the Cross and God’s sovereignty over our lives, a lot of problems can be solved — including depression. Meditating on God’s Word, especially the Psalms, is essential. They are a “manual” on dealing with depression. Ultimately remember, there are causes and there are answers to your depression.
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Better Health Update is published by Pacific Health Center, PO Box 857, Sahuarita, AZ 85629, providing remote “virtual health screening” appointments anywhere in the world. Phone (800) 255-4246. E-Mail: email@example.com. Monte Kline, Ph.D., Author. Reproduction Prohibited.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this publication is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose illness nor prescribe treatment. Rather, this material is designed to be used in cooperation with your nutritionally-oriented health professional to deal with your personal health problems. Should you use this information on your own, you are prescribing for yourself, which is your constitutional right, but neither the author nor publisher assume responsibility.