I reach out for you. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens; don’t turn away from me or I shall die. Let me see your kindness to me in the morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for my prayer is sincere. Psalm 143:6-8
I often ask my clients to describe if they are feeling more depressed or more anxious. Frequently, they have trouble distinguishing between the two. That, I think, is because the two conditions are so closely related. We know that we are feeling bad, but it may be hard to describe the difference in these two common emotional disorders. I think that anxiety over time, chronic anxiety, leads to depression.
There was a study many years ago where experimenters electrified a grid and placed rats on the grid. The electrical stimulation was not harmful to them, but it was irritating, and, of course, the rats scrambled to get away from the mild shocks given. Over time, the grid was electrified in different areas, and the rats scrambled away, as was expected. Gradually, more area of the grid became electrified, and there was finally no space where the rats could get away. They had no escape from the irritation of the mild shocks.
Finally, the rats simply gave up, laid down where they were, and slept. Upon dissection of the brains of the rats, experimenters found that their brains were highly depleted of serotonin. The chronic exposure to the stress of the shocks had caused the rats to shut down production of this vital brain chemical- the one associated with mood elevation.
The analogy is pretty obvious. When we are subjected to chronic stress, such as anxiety, the long-term effect is depression. We shut down, and sometimes then just give up.
Fortunately, we are not rats, and we can find some remedies when we are anxious and stressed. But the lesson is clear. If we are in a prolonged stress situation, depression can well be the result. Our bodies become depleted of serotonin, and we get to a place of anhedonia- a condition where we cannot find respite or pleasure in anything.
Tomorrow, more about depression and ways to deal with it. In the meantime, recognize that there is always a spiritual solution to problems, no matter how hopeless it feels. There is help, but ask for it. Please, ask for it.
Prayer: Father, you have given us the support of one another when we are hurting. Thank you for the plans you have for us, Amen.