Impact, Part 1: Effect on Spirituality

Diamond4 SpiritualityThe fourth element of the Diamond addresses the impact of the previous factors. First - As depressed individuals deal with their relationship triggers by engaging in depressive thinking and behavior, inevitably this will have a negative impact on their spirituality: their sense of positive meaning and connection to something bigger than themselves.

For religious individuals, this change often occurs in a religious context. They may find it difficult to attend church, read religious literature, pray, or keep faith in God. They may question core beliefs that had formerly sustained them. They may even withdrew entirely from a religious affiliation that had previously be important to them (which may be frightening to loved ones who have shared the religious affiliation with them.)

Both religious and non-religious individuals experience spiritual impact from depressive thinking and behavior. Life may feel purposeless, directionless, and hopeless. Depressed individuals frequently feel disconnected – from other people, from the world, from God, even from themselves. Depressed thinking leaves them questioning their own value, the dependability of other people, even the purpose of life itself. Depressed behavior often leads them in directions that are inconsistent with their chosen values – which leads to a painful disconnect within their inner self.

In short, they may experience a profound spiritual disruption – whether of a religious nature or not. This sometimes constitutes the most painful aspect of depression – compounding, again, the pain of the original trigger experience; and leading to the final dimension of the Diamond.

Impact, Part 2: Effect on Relationships

DiamondFullCycleAfter cycling around the four elements of the Diamond (relationship triggers, depressive thinking, depressive behavior, and impact on spirituality) the cycle ends where it began – in the realm of relationships and triggers. This has two dimensions – first, the impact on the depressed individual; second, the impact on those around him or her.

First, let's explore the impact on the individual. The cycle of depression almost inevitably adds relationship trigger upon relationship trigger. Important relationships may get disrupted – leading to more loss, disappointment, conflict, transition, etc.

Depressed persons tend to have one of three relationship styles: withdrawal, attack, or compulsive caretaking. Withdrawal is most common – individuals simply "fade away" into their own depressive thinking and behavior, not engaging with those around them. This can be deeply painful and confusing for loved ones, who may try for a time to re-engage the depressed individual, and then often finally withdraw themselves. Some depressed individuals, alternatively, resort to attacking others - thus externalizing the pain and confusion they may feel. This obviously brings conflict and pain into relationships. Finally, some depressed individuals become compulsive caretakers – taking care of the needs of others while neglecting their own. This creates an imbalanced relationship which is difficult to sustain long-term : and which may contribute to the ongoing erosion of the depressed person's self-esteem, feeding the depression further.

It is virtually impossible to sustain a healthy, nurturing relationship with another human being while also sustaining negative thoughts and behaviors. Any of the three styles interfere with the development and maintenance of healthy relationships. "Relationship triggers" can multiply over time, under the influence of depression, and its destructive impact on relationships – leading to even more pain for the depressed individual.

Second, let's explore the impact on others. Few experiences are more challenging than watching a loved one go through the cycles of depression. Loved ones are often caught in the crossfire of the thinking, behavior, and impact described. For this reason, depression is notoriously contagious – even among persons who are not genetically related. Within families, this impact is often interpreted as genetic predisposition. However, even among roommates, neighbors, and coworkers with no family connection, the "contagious" nature of depression has become evident. It is depressing to be around depression – the depressing thoughts, behaviors, worldviews, and dysfunctional relationship styles that it engenders. So frequently, the depression of one individual, as it revolves around the Diamond, provides not just triggers for their own subsequent cycle of depression – it may also kick off someone else's cycle of depression – beginning, again, with a depressive trigger (loss, conflict, disappointment, etc.)

Summary: Understanding the Causes of Depression

Depression, then, is not the result of a single random cause. It is a logical progression from factor to factor :

  • beginning with one or more relationship triggers (recent or in the past)
  • complicated by pessimistic, depressive thinking;
  • which is then acted out in depressive behavior (mild, moderate, or serious);
  • that thinking and behavior then negatively impacting spirituality and relationships,
  • triggering further cycles of depression – within the individual, and in those around him or her.

Help is availailable to resolve all of these contributors to depression. In addition to these 4 factors, certain lifestyle factors have been shown to predispose individuals to the development and maintenance of depression. These factors include: nutrient-poor diet; sedentary living; lack of sleep; and other conditions which have become increasingly mainstream in developed nations. More will be said of these lifestyle factors in the upcoming section.

Understanding the causes of depression, then, is never a streamlined or "cookie cutter" process. In this individual, within this particular depressive episode – what were the triggers? the thought processes? the depressive behaviors involved? What has been the impact in spirituality, in relationships, and in the cycling of depression in the individual and in those around him or her? What is the impact of various lifestyle factors?

Medication is frequently used in our culture to soften the impact of the symptoms of depression. But until the actual causes are identified and resolved, the condition will persist – often intensifying over time until it is corrected and healed in a comprehensive way. Such healing begins with clear understanding of the range of causal factors. Once these factors are identified, solutions can be identified to effectively resolve them.

Click below for a printable worksheet (PDF) to help streamline this process of understanding the causes of your depression. This worksheet will provide crucial information, in an organized way, to help you and those assisting you to formulate a comprehensive, effective plan for recovery.

icon-pdf-     PDF, "Understanding the Causes of YOUR Depression"

Circle or highlight those items that seem relevant to this depression. Use the empty space to fill in additional or explanatory information. Use additional paper if you need more room. Remember – identifying clear causes is the first step to resolving them - and then putting them behind you forever.

Once you've completed the worksheet, you have completed Step 2 (Understanding Causes) and are on to the fun part! Move ahead to...

Step 3 - Identify Solutions

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