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Intensity Of Depression

Depression is a continuum of feelings that ranges from mild sadness to severe dejection, from minor blues to the most severe form of mental illness. But this does not mean people readily go from one level to another.

There are big jumps between the various levels of depression. The difference between a minor reactive depression and a severe psychotic depression is enormous.

There are, however, identifiable stages in a reactive depression. Reactive depression begins with an early stage where one is busy thinking about and analyzing whatever he has experienced as a loss. As a person starts the grieving process, he moves much deeper into depression as the implications of the loss become more apparent. Finally, he bottoms out and begins to put things into perspective as he comes to terms with the loss. This is the recovery phase.

It is helpful to classify the intensity of a depression into the following categories:

Light Depression

Light depression is characterized by a low mood or a minor or temporary loss of interest in one’s environment, together with some feelings of discouragement. Usually those with light depression remain rational and their thinking does not become disturbed. Physically, they may experience a knot in the pit of their stomach. Their eating and sleeping habits remain fairly normal. Spiritually, they may engage in some temporary spiritual withdrawal, but it is not significant. Those affected seem able to ride it out spiritually.

Medium Depression

Medium depression occurs when the symptoms of light depression become intensified. The feeling of hopelessness becomes much more dominant. Symptoms include some crying, and thinking is now somewhat painful and slow. People in medium depression become more preoccupied with themselves, the depression seems to dominant their life, some self-blame emerges, and there may be some appetite loss. It may be difficult for them to get to sleep, but once asleep, they usually survive the night. Those suffering from medium depression are not incapacitated in any way. Spiritually, there is a tendency to pull away from God, to cease to pray, and to refuse to go to church or other fellowship meetings.

Severe Depression

Severe depression occurs when the symptoms of medium depression become intensified. Symptoms include extreme sadness, low mood, dejection with frequent crying, extreme discouragement, and much guilt, self-blame, and self-pity. Physically, there is a severe disruption of appetite and sleep, with extremes of excess or privation. People in severe depression fail to cope with their environment and begin to neglect themselves and their appearance. They do not want to wash or change clothes. Men do not shave, and women do not put on makeup.

Those suffering from severe depression find it extremely difficult to go about their regular duties. Spiritually, they totally withdraw from all activities or become intensely preoccupied with religious matters. A depressed person can move from one level of depression to another. The differences are more in degree than in kind.

Archibald Hart, Arcadia, California.

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