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The Spiritual Effects of Depression We Never Think About but Need to Address

In the latest Ensign, the Church featured an article about one woman's struggle with depression and how she overcame the unexpected spiritual side effects of her mental illness. With the article, the Church added this aside:

Depression, though a mental illness, often carries spiritual side effects that make it difficult to feel peace, love, or joy or any of the fruits of the Spirit. Here are 3 ways to gain spiritual strength.
  1. Understand that depressive feelings are not a sign of unworthiness but rather a chemical imbalance.
  2. Never lose faith in your Father in Heaven.
  3. Focus on priesthood blessings, the sacrament, prayer, scripture study, and church and temple attendance to bring the Spirit.

"I [am] not worthless; [I am not unworthy]: I [am] depressed," Rebecca Clayson shares in the article. After telling her incredible story of recovery, she provided these insights:

Understanding that there are spiritual side effects from depression is important for Latter-day Saints dealing with their own depression or that of loved ones. Depression, in all forms, alters perception, making it difficult to feel peace, love, joy, or any of the fruits of the Spirit. It becomes easy to misinterpret sorrow as condemnation by God, thus causing spiritual struggles and sometimes inactivity in the Church. This may cause further distress for individuals and families facing this challenge.

It is essential to understand that such a spiritual crisis is not a result of spiritual weakness or lack of faith. Rather, depressive feelings and the resulting depressed view of one’s spirituality are usually caused by a chemical imbalance. Because our physical bodies and our spirits are necessarily connected (see D&C 88:15), it can be common to feel the effects of a physical disorder in a spiritual way, especially in the case of depression, which alters our very perception of ourselves. Therefore, it is important to seek out the actual source of such feelings, especially when experiencing the often distorting effects of depression.

You'll also like: 15 Powerful LDS Resources for Battling Depression

Even with proper diagnosis and treatment, however, it can be difficult to reverse dark and discouraged feelings. Medications have side effects; environmental triggers can’t always be altered; therapy is not a perfect science. In the light of such challenges, the message given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the October 2013 general conference offers perspective and hope:

Lead image from LDS.org.

For additional reading on this topic, check out 

Written from a uniquely LDS point of view, this informative and inspirational book offers important clinical information for dealing with depression, including an overview of the symptoms of depression and suggestions for choosing a therapist, considering the use of medication, and finding hope to move forward—one step at a time. In addition, it explores the spiritual healing that is essential to overcoming depression, showing how we can use the Atonement of our Savior to help us forgive, heal, and move forward.

This inspiring guide portrays the experience of the Vandagriff family, which struggled under depression for more than 25 years before relief came through the grace of Jesus Christ. G.G. Vandagriff and her son, Gregory, suffered the physical and emotional effects of depression while David Vandagriff endured the deep difficulty of trying to support his wife and son during the turbulent years of their illness. Yet in the midst of great strife, the family saw the hand of God revealed in the form of inspired physicians, effective medications, and, most importantly, the direct influence of the Spirit. Written in turns by mother, son, and father, this poignant and uplifting account shows how to rely on the Spirit during times of adversity and draw on the Savior's blessings of peace, hope, and healing.

Read the rest of this story at lds.org
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