As Christians we may wonder, what does the Bible say about depression? The answer is – a LOT and there are things we can do to naturally help support good mental health from nutrition to essential oils.
Though before we begin, please note that God created humans to function with each other in community. If you or someone you know struggles with suicidal thoughts or tendencies, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) any time day or night 24/7, or go online at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org (1).
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What Does the Bible Say About Depression?
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
~ Jeremiah 29:11
While the Bible was written to feed our souls and not specifically as a medical text, you can learn a lot about the nature of depression and related disorders in its pages. Obviously, words such as depression, anxiety, and other psychological terms didn’t exist when scripture was penned, but a close look at biblical figures seems to reveal that depression is not a strictly modern phenomenon. So we study the Scriptures and ask ourselves what does the Bible say about depression, what does depression look like, and most importantly, how can we help those in our lives suffering from depression.
If you have wondered whether scripture offers guidance on this topic, you are not alone. One of the most succinct messages in God’s word for the downtrodden assures us that our Maker has plans to give us hope and a future! This is comforting news for the one in six American adults who will experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime.
There are hundreds more verses of comfort and healing for depressed individuals in scripture, when you search what does the bible say about depression, and many of God’s most well-known and faithful servants seemed to exhibit signs of depression. Consider the life of Job—full of trials, illness, financial loss, and death coupled with a spouse who advised him to betray his faith and the most unsupportive, victim-blaming, “support network” of friends imaginable! Read the whole story in the book of Job.
King David is a vivid example of a man who suffered symptoms of profound depression. David’s life and writings read like a symptom checker for depression:
- He frequently cried (Psalms and 2 Samuel 12:22)
- Lost interest in his usual activities (2 Samuel 11:1)
- Attempted to maintain relationships with people who harmed him (his predecessor, King Saul in 1 Samuel ch. 18-19, 24, 26 and his son, Absalom in 2 Samuel ch. 13-19)
- Tried to console and enable his abuser (King Saul in 1 Samuel ch. 18 & 24)
- Sought the thrill of the forbidden (in this case, another man’s wife, Bathsheba) only to soon repent in wretched mourning—not unlike people who exhibit manic symptoms between bouts of depression (2 Samuel ch 11)
- Tried hedonism (pleasure-seeking) to self-medicate via numerous sexual partners (2 Samuel 5:13 and 1 Chronicles 3)
- Expressed hopelessness (Psalms)
- Experienced lack of appetite and marked weight loss and attributed it to his depressive feelings (Psalm 102:5)
- Had frequent insomnia (Psalm 22:2)
- Remonstrated with God in writing and in song, often vacillating between lamenting his feelings of forsakenness and offering praise (Psalms).
What the Bible Does NOT Say About Depression
Despite these and many other examples of Bible characters who seemed to exhibit symptoms of depression, scripture does not refer to depression by name (except one very modern version). When you ask what does the bible say about depression, you will not find a Bible list of depression symptoms and natural depression remedies. You will find encouragement that:
- Depression is not your fault (like Job, who was proclaimed faultless) although
- Your response is your responsibility (Romans 8), and part of this is…
- Seeking medical help when needed, which is appropriate for believers (1 Corinthians 6:19 and James 5:14)
- Leaning on your faith can help bring relief (Psalms and Matthew 11:28)
- Surrounding yourself with supportive people helps (Proverbs 12:25)
- God wants the best for you (Isaiah 58:8)
Isaiah 58:8bYour healing shall spring forth speedily
Conventional Treatments (and Potential Risks)
Conventional medicine offers more treatment options than ever for people who suffer from depression, and many people find these medications necessary. As discussed above, seeking conventional medical or psychological treatment does not make anyone spiritually inferior.
Unfortunately, there is a long list of devastating physical and psychological side effects associated with conventional psychiatric drug therapy for depression and related disorders—some are worse than the presenting symptoms.
Side Effects of Prescription Medications for Depression
Although many people find the help they need through antidepressant drugs such as SSRIs, NDRIs, SNRIs, TCAs, MAOIs and others, it is important to understand the significant risk of harmful side effects. (2) Studies and package warning labels include all of the following as known side effects of taking prescription antidepressants:
- Liver Problems
- Weight Gain
- Skin Conditions
- Sleep Problems
- Allergic Reactions
- Agitation, Anxiety, and Panic Feelings
- Heart Attacks & Other Problems
- Reproductive System Disorders, Birth Complications & Defects
- Mood Disorders like Depression, Serotonin Syndrome, Mania & Psychosis
- Self-Harm, Suicide Attempts or Suicidal Behavior, & Doubled Suicide Risk
- Circulation Issues, Bleeding & Blood Disorders, and Blood Pressure Changes
- Muscle Problems, Risk of Falls & Fractures and Nervous System Disorders
- Behavioral Changes like Hostility, Aggression, Irritability, Homicide or Homicidal Ideation, & Violence
- Coma, Stroke, Death or Increased risk of Mortality
As upsetting as these risks are, perhaps the most injurious is that these drugs may make the presenting symptoms worse in addition to causing new and more dangerous physical and psychological symptoms.
Conventional treatments also include various forms of talk therapy and lifestyle changes. This is especially important when someone desires to minimize the risks of side effects associated with long-term use of prescription antidepressant drugs.
Differences Between Situational & Profound Depression
Yes, there is a marked difference in the types of depression one might see. (3)
Situational depression, also known as stress response syndrome, usually occurs due to traumatic or upsetting events in your life. Everyone experiences difficult life changes; however, if you are simply not able to respond in a functional way or move forward, it may be time to talk to someone about situational depression. People with situational depression may report feeling overwhelmed, mentally paralyzed, anxious, or fatigued.
Profound depression is also called clinical depression, and it may be the result of changes in your brain—often physical changes. The symptoms of clinical depression include:
- Feeling depressed all or most of the time
- Loss of interest or pleasure in your activities
- Weight loss or gain
- Trouble getting to sleep or feeling sleepy during the day
- Feeling restless and agitated, or else very sluggish and slowed down physically or mentally
- Being fatigued, tired, and without energy
- Feeling worthless or excessively guilty
- Trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of suicide
A diagnosis is usually based on a person experiencing at least five of these symptoms almost daily for at least two weeks.
Other Types of Depression People May Experience
Other types of depression have also been identified, including seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in which a person is influenced by the lack of light associated with changing seasons, post-partum depression (PPD) which is not uncommon after giving birth and is linked to the treatment of the mother during labor and delivery, and manic depression or bipolar disorder which involves periods of depression alternating with periods of mania or extremely high energy.
Each type of depression also gives clues to its ideal potential treatment protocols. For example, SAD is often treated with light therapy and Vitamin D supplements in addition to conventional psychiatric treatments.
Many people who experience depression feel the treatment options present a no-win situation. They are rightly concerned about taking potentially harmful drugs, but fear that talk therapy or counseling is not enough to address their symptoms. They may have heard of natural depression remedies; however, they may lack the information on efficacy, dosage, and safety needed to make an informed decision.
Natural Remedies to Improve Mental Health
There are numerous natural remedies available that have safely demonstrated effectiveness for treating depression symptoms without risking the harmful side effects of psychiatric drugs.
Note: starting or stopping psychiatric drug therapy (or increasing or decreasing the dosage) is a crucial transition time during which many side effects may appear or become worse. Consult a health care provider before changing medications or dosages.
Using Essential Oils for Depression
Essential oils are finally reaching the mainstream, and with good reason. They are often immediately effective, highly concentrated, shelf stable, easy to administer, pleasant to use, generally have less side effects, and they are generally safe if used with common sense according to safe practice guidelines. There are many essential oils and blends may be helpful for relieving depression symptoms.
Here are a few of the most important essential oils to help with feelings of depression:
1. Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary has been shown to help both stress response and clinical depression when inhaled or diffused. It not only demonstrates anti-depressive effects within two weeks when inhaled for as little as 30 minutes daily, it also shows promising neuro-protective activity—meaning it helps to protect your brain neurons from harm. (4)
Many people use smaller amounts of rosemary for daily use homemade lotions, or in diffuser blends as an aid to help bring mental clarity and focus.
2. Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender is renowned for its anti-anxiety properties and ability to calm and relax you. If your depression has been impacting your sleep habits, this might be a beneficial essential oil for you to use in the evening. It’s another essential oil with studies showing its ability to lessen symptoms of depression. (5)
3. Rose Essential Oil
Rose is a precious, floral oil that has been proven to be effective in lowering the rate of depression in postpartum mothers. It’s perfect for supporting good mental health, especially when hormonal imbalances caused by temporary situations may be the cause of your depression. It’s also been shown to assist men suffering with Major Depressive Disorder and the associated symptoms. (6)
4. Wild Ginger Essential Oil
This unique plant is not related to culinary ginger, but is related to snake root and, when inhaled at appropriate doses, can alleviate situational stress effectively, up to and including the fight or flight response triggered under extreme trauma or threat. (7) It can also address symptoms of depression by acting directly on the brain. Some safety concerns have been raised, so use this one only under the advice of a qualified and trustworthy medical health professional.
5. Nutmeg Essential Oil
Wonderful for mental health support, nutmeg is nice especially when combined with an extract of Thai black ginger (which is in the same family as common ginger root) actually mimics the intended effects of antidepressant drugs, but without the harmful side effects. (8)
6. Bergamot Essential Oil
One of my favorites, bergamot acts much like an anti-anxiety drug. It’s been used for stress relief, acting to help stabilize cortisol levels to enhance mood and energy. It not only reduces anxiety behaviors when inhaled, it also changes brain chemistry in the direction of normal function. (9) It should be one of your go-to oils when you’re dealing with depression of any kind.
Nutrition for Mental Health
The effects of poor nutrition on physical health are well established, but did you know what you eat can also affect your brain? Missing key nutrients can even contribute to such degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s! (10) If you are trying to improve your health without drugs, good nutritional advice may begin to sound very familiar—a plant-based diet, more raw veggies, only very clean grass-fed meat when you indulge, eliminate PUFAs.
There is a good reason for this—it’s great for your health inside and out! Remember when we answer the question what does the Bible say about depression that God gave us His creation to help us live healthy and abundant lives.
Sun and Earth – Getting into God’s Creation to Ease Depression
Some depression, like seasonal affective disorder, is caused or exacerbated by lack of access to the sun. Some healers believe daily time spent in the sun may prevent or help treat many types of depression—that lack of sunshine and the associated vitamin D deficiency contributes to depression beyond SAD.
While not specifically found when asking what does the Bible say about depression, getting out in God’s creation can have profound effects on your health.
It may seem like a simple answer but benefits are seen just by making time to get more sun.
Other scientists have found that exposure to beneficial soil bacteria in the garden for as little as 2 ½ minutes had similar benefits to Prozac with no harmful side effects at all. (11) So make some time to walk barefoot in your garden!
Activity—Both Mental and Physical
Scripture frequently associates reaching out to others with inviting healing into your own life, and professionals agree that reasonable measures to reach out can start retraining your brain to focus on life’s blessings. This is good mental exercise, and like physical exercise is best practiced in small doses at first. Most people are also aware that physical exercise helps brain chemistry by releasing endorphins—brain chemicals that make everyone feel happier and more motivated.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Support Networks Strength for Mood
What does the Bible say about depression? The tangible construction of the cross itself is a powerful comment on how to relate rightly to God, to people, and to self—depression is tied up in all three of these aspects, chiefly through the concept of a support network. And remember, when in doubt you can always turn to the cross.
The cross has one vertical member — pointing us above for our comfort and healing.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
~ Matthew 11:28
The cross has one horizontal member, reminding us of our relationship to each other. Healthy, supportive interaction with other people is important—God created us to dwell in community. Christ placed loving interactions with our neighbor as second only to loving God. (Matt 22:36-40)
The cross has one man who did what was necessary to save you because he holds your value higher than his own life. The cross should always remind us to see ourselves as Christ sees us — worth saving at any cost.
Remember that Christ also practiced self-care — he had a support network, he withdrew from the crowd to regroup when overwhelmed, he rested, and he fed himself physically and spiritually.
If we get nothing else from our studies when asking what does the bible say about depression, we should remember how Jesus treated himself and those around him. He is our example.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.