ACKNOWLEDGE the breadth and impact of my sin.
Depression-anxiety affects the world outside our mind (e.g., our physical body, relationships, and lifestyle) as it does the world inside our mind (e.g., thinking content and patterns). As you review the seven areas of life described below, understand these are merely offered as areas of examination. All of them may not be present, but they are often over-looked ways that depression-anxiety impact our lives.
1. Lack of Authenticity in Relationships
“How are you today?” can be a loaded question. Honesty requires a longer answer than the friend anticipated. Dishonesty reinforces the idea that “no one understands” and, thereby, leads to a deterioration in the quality of friendship. Honesty can make your emotions the center of the friendship more than is healthy. Dishonesty reinforces the belief that you’re a burden to others. One of the main topics of Overcoming Depression-Anxiety will be how to have healthy relationships when your emotions are unhealthy.
Where have you seen deterioration in your relationships?
2. Toll on Your Body
Depression-anxiety is hard on you. Emotions are not just emotional experiences. They are also physical experiences. Your entire body, not just your brain, is influenced by the experience of prolonged depression-anxiety.
“[Effects of anxiety and stress include] physical and emotional exhaustion, depression, heart disease, stroke, depletion of calcium from the bones, immune system vulnerability, immune disorders, cancer, gastrointestinal problems, eating problems, weight gain (especially around the abdomen), diabetes, pain, sleep disturbances, sexual and reproductive dysfunction, self-medication and unhealthy lifestyles, damage to the brain causing hippocampal atrophy, killing of brain cells, memory loss and diminished concentration… acceleration of the aging process (p. 166-167).” Archibald Hart in “Stress & Anxiety” Caring for People God’s Way
What physical symptoms of depression-anxiety have you experienced?
3. Decreased Attention Span
Emotions are hard to ignore. They tend to be front-and-center in our mind. This means that whatever else we may need to give our attention to has a competitor. Like the throbbing of an injured toe which distracts us even when we’re not walking on it, emotional pain makes everything harder to do even when the task has no direct-emotional-relevance.
When have you found it increasingly difficult to concentrate?
4. Interpretation of Events
Our emotional dispositions influence our cognitive interpretations. On a “good day” we hear things more optimistically than we do on a bad day. When our mood is stuck in a depressive-anxious state cynicism, suspicion, or pessimism begin to be the filter of all in-coming information. The result is our mood begins to spiral in on itself because it is so difficult for anything good to penetrate our interpretive shield.
What dispositions tend to most frequently distort your interpretation of events?
5. Lifestyle of Avoidance
Everything begins to feel like it requires “too much” of us, so we begin to avoid particular responsibilities or relationships as a misguided form of self-preservation. The isolation and lethargy that ensues allows depression-anxiety to barricade our life from any outside influences which would threaten its existence. Activities that would be satisfying and relationships that would be stimulating are construed as burdens (see point #4 above) and we are alone with our pain.
“By its very nature fear tells you to run rather than face whatever is causing it (p. 1).” Ed Welch in When I Am Afraid
Where have you noticed yourself avoiding people or responsibilities?
6. Lifestyle of Escape
This is avoidance-on-steroids. With escape an individual begins to try to check out of life in general. Alcohol, drugs, prescription medication abuse, a fantasy world like pornography or video games, and ultimately suicide becomes ways to escape life. The longer we spend unplugged from life the easier it is to believe that we could never engage “the real world” (which becomes a purely negative phrase).
What habits have you begun or contemplated as a form of escape?
7. Less Enjoyment of Normal Pleasures
Depression-anxiety can make it feel like all the crayons in the box are grey. All the things that each brought unique pleasures, now feel “blah.” In many ways it is this loss of pleasure that is directly related to the loss of hope – the most painful aspect of depression-anxiety. It is one thing to be thirsty (i.e., sad), but it is another thing to be thirsty and discover that every beverage has lost its ability to quench thirst (i.e., bring joy).
What things that you once enjoyed have lost their ability to satisfy?
First in the Series: