Depression is not a “spiritual problem”.


According to the World Health Organization:
1. Depression is a common mental disorder.
2. Globally, more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
3. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
4. More women are affected by depression than men.
5. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide.
6. There are effective treatments for depression.

According to the Centers of Disease control:
1. 1 in every 10 Americans suffer from depression.
2. The number of people who are diagnosed with depression increases 20% each year.
3. People who have major depressive disorder are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 – 44.
4. 60% – 80% of depression can be treated with medication and psychotherapy.
5. 80% of people are not being treated who have depression.

How depression feels as described by some:

“I’m tired of trying, sick of crying, I know I’ve been smiling, but inside I’m dying.”

“Maybe one day it will be okay again. That’s all I want. I don’t care what it takes. I just want to be okay again.”

“I guess there comes a point where you just have to stop trying because it hurts too much to hold on anymore.”

“How can you understand me when I can’t understand myself?”

“What do you do when you become too scared, too scared to live, to scared to die, too scared to love, too scared to even care.”

“I’m often silent when I am screaming inside.”

“No more joy. No more sadness. No emotion. Only madness. I can’t see. I don’t feel. I can’t touch. I don’t heal.”

“It’s an interesting feeling, really, to scroll through all the numbers in your phone, and realize that there is no one who will understand.”

“Someday I’ll fly away.”

“Do you ever lay in bed at night hoping you wake up in the emergency room and hear the words, “she’s not going to make it.”

“How can you hide from what never goes away?”

“I’m freezing, I’m starving, I’m bleeding to death, Everything’s Fine.”

Major depression is a common and treatable mental disorder. If you or someone you love struggles with depression, it’s important to seek out help. You can begin exploring how to get help at this site ->

Every human being is born out of the image, likeness and being of God. The image likeness and being of God is the underlying, unchanging and fundamental essence of who you are. That You cannot be improved upon or diminished, and is never threatened. You were also given a mind and body for the human journey. That mind and body is impacted and conditioned through a lifetime of experiences, circumstances, situations, conditions, relationships, and choices. We all are impacted and conditioned by many things that are outside our control.

If you cut your hand open, you would go to the hospital or doctor for stitches and not think twice about it. But too often people put mental disorders in a different category and choose not to seek professional help. I wish I could convince people that there is no difference between slicing your hand open, breaking your leg, high blood pressure, reflux, allergies, and depression. What I mean by saying there is no difference is that they all are a condition of the mind and body and to do what the situation requires in each case is to seek professional help and treatment.

Of course, our attitudes and ways of being in life have an overall impact on our lives as a whole. For example, we know that stress, lack of self-care, or any destructive habits in our lives, can be detrimental to our physical and mental health. But having said that, please realize that the notion that reading the Bible more, positive thinking, having correct beliefs, trying harder, lifestyle changes, or spiritual enlightenment is a solution to depression is erroneous thinking. Would they be the solution to a sliced hand, broken leg, high blood pressure or allergies? Of course not. Same with depression.

Let me be as clear as possible. Depression is not a “spiritual problem” or a sign that you are somehow failing God. Our life is our spiritual path, and we live it by responding to situation as they require. For some, that situation requires you seeking professional support for depression. That is spiritual enlightenment! It’s not being attached to false ideas about depression, and simply doing what the situation requires and seeking the help you need.

80% of people are not being treated who have depression. Don’t be part of that statistic! I wrote a chapter in Divine Nobodies about my struggle with depression, and it’s still the chapter in that book that people most write me about.

Latest Comments

  1. defythenarrative says:

    Great post. I have known several people over the years who suffered from depression, it’s very serious and needs to be discussed.

  2. Becky Johnson says:

    Jim, so appreciate this. I wrote a book with Dr. Earl Henslin called This is Your Brain on Joy, and he speaks to this very issue… How unfair it is for someone who is already suffering from depression (typically a brain imbalance that can be treated) to have more false guilt piled on top of them, making them feel as if they aren’t “spiritual enough” either. Crazy…

  3. dfrohlinger says:

    I hate to be a downer in this discussion, but I was diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia AND bi-polar disorder many years ago. I was on meds and told I would be that way the rest of my life. But, somewhere deep inside myself, all along, there was a part of myself that just simply rejected the idea. I MADE myself these ways to please the people who said they LOVED me. I loved them and wanted them to love me and because I needed love and acceptance SO DAMN MUCH, I was willing to give up my sense of self, my individuality and my core to believe that others knew me better than I did. Deep down, I knew that it was all bullshit, but outwardly, I wanted to show respect for the doctors’ knowledge and skill and training. And, when they’d ask me questions, like “who are you,
    and “what’s your name,” knowing that they were testing me, and that for some reason, I had the desire to give them what they believed about me, but in truth only feeling and treating them with mocking disrespect for thinking they knew more than God about His Creation, I lied to them and would tell them things like, “I’m a dog,” or “My name is Benny Hill.” I’d think to myself as they’d ask me such questions, “Who the Hell do YOU think I am?” and “What kind of an asinine question is, ‘What are you? Why are you bothering me? Can’t YOU see what I am? Why are you insulting my intelligence? Why can’t you leave me alone?” If my reality says that aliens exist, or if I’ve seen dead people, or if I’ve actually met
    Jesus Christ, why do you question that? Reality is so varied and individual. Society is only a microcosm of what we know of REALITY and the knowledge that exists in the Universe. What gives any HUMAN BEING the right to decide that he or she has the defining principle of the totality of the wisdom and the knowledge of reality that exists in the Universe? There is soooo much out there that we don’t know and to think the medical community or ANYONE have cornered the market on REALITY and the totality that only God in His wisdom has only revealed in bits and pieces to our finite minds is the epitome of STUPIDITY. I DO NOT respect doctors or ANY authority OR professional who DARES give any kind of defining and ULTIMATE analysis of or ULTIMATE evaluation of ANY kind of mental determination. THE mind is a complex, highly creative, functional, and extremely complicated group of tissues that can never and WILL NEVER BE TOTALLY UNDERSTOOD BY MAN. To totally understand the complete functioning of the mind would be tantamount to understanding the meaning of Life and Creation and God, Himself. So, you can’t bullshit me anymore into believing I’m crazy because I’m an independent thinker. Jesus was thought crazy, too. They crucified HIM, for God’s sake.

    • april says:

      I appreciate your comments and agree about the struggle to be neatly packaged by others. The brain is a wondrous thing. I’m a nurse who used to work with brain and spinal cord injured patients, a grad student in social work, and a fellow on the journey thru depression. I recently went to a lecture about the effect of trauma on the brain and the neuroscientist/psychiatrist was humbly acknowledging often that we know very little about the brain. We are spiritual people that have God’s incarnation expressed through a material body. I’ve decided we r so uniquely created that our journey in life includes a measure of loneliness because only our Creator fully knows and understands us–no human ever can. This leads me to be grateful for the loneliness that drives me to the only source of joy and peace, Father God who is the only one who can satisfy, albeit behind the enormously frustrating veil between us and heaven. It also occurs to me that everyone is on this lonely journey. I can be mad that they don’t get me(as I’ve struggled with for decades) or I can choose to be for them what I wish they could be for me. In that find some measure of rest. We can have His peace for the journey and His grace for our imperfect loved ones as well as ourselves thru Christ’s savagely beautiful sacrifice. These reflections come thru a broken porcelain heart aching for the mending that is promised in the end.”We will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

  4. Tim King says:

    Hi, Jim.

    The one approach that lifted me out of my depression was that described in Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell’s book, “How to lift depression … Fast.” (The title sounds like it oversells, but surprisingly, at least for me, it didn’t.)

    For most people, depression starts when their needs aren’t met. And then instead of finding a way to meet their needs, they enter a self-destructive emotional cycle that actually prevents them from meeting those needs. (I’ve written about some of my experiences and research on my blog:

    There are important differences between slicing your hand open and getting depressed that SHOULD change how you respond to these situations:

    * Slicing your hand open is the result of a foreign attack on your body. For most people, depression is the result of dysfunctional emotional patterns that prevent them from getting their needs met. Depression is not a disease; it is an emotional state. And because we also all have spiritual needs, depression could be caused by not getting our spiritual needs met. (So for some people, depression actually could be a spiritual problem.)

    * When you slice your hand open, you can go to any urgent-care center and get the correct treatment. But if you’re depressed, you can go to 3 different professionals and get 4 different opinions. (And all 4 could be wrong.) Some professionals push drugs; but for most people, depression is not a physical ailment, and drugs work no better than a placebo. (Yes, this has actually been established by scientific studies.) Other professionals have complex explanations; they want you to learn CBT; they want you to take a psychology course… when all you want is to feel HAPPY again. What if you sliced your hand open, and your doctor started bleeding you with leeches, despite the fact that you’re already bleeding all over the floor? All you want is to feel happy again. But you’ve forgotten what it means to feel happy. And rediscovering happy turns out to be a journey of self-discovery, and requires a change “in here, where it counts,” and that’s hard.

    In short, I haven’t found much good that can be said about the current orthodoxy surrounding depression. Unfortunately, it’s often as screwy and misguided as the current orthodoxy surrounding spirituality and religion… which is why I (usually) love your blog.


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