Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Symptoms of Depression & How it Causes Them

One of the worst aspects of depression is the mind numbing confusion and bewilderment that accompanies it. Like many suffering from depression, I had no idea what was causing the multitude of troubling physical, mental, emotional and spiritual symptoms. My diary is filled with entries where I tried to work out what was causing them.

2nd Jan ’90 – I often wished Jesus had given me a book, a manual, all on me. It’s so hard - we go through these things that we’ve never gone through before, and we don’t know what’s happening and don’t know what to do.

28th Feb ’90 –
Every day is a nightmare…I just want to hide.
It relents for a day, then it’s back in full force.
Feeling disturbed, pain, anger, distress
and grief soon follow.
It feels like there are little knives
inside my chest and jaw,
and they cut, cut, cut…
I can’t believe this is happening to me
I wake disturbed, I go to work disturbed,
all day, everyday, disturbed.
What has happened to me?
Where has it come from?

Although I was eventually diagnosed with depression, I was only told about some of its symptoms and was given little information as to how it was causing those symptoms. Confusion continued to reign, and when I examined my life and all that was wrong with me, I concluded that I was an aberration - a freak - and I despised myself.

The first time I saw a comprehensive list of symptoms caused by anxiety and depression was in late July 1990, when I started reading ‘Self Help for Your Nerves’ by Dr Claire Weekes. This is the diary entry I made that night –relief is shining through every word:

28th July 1990 –
This book, ‘Self Help for Your Nerves,’ goes on to…describe EVERY single thing I have been suffering from for the past eight months, and even back for the five or so months prior to that. I had no idea all of the strange things in my mind, body, and emotions, were ALL interlinked and caused by the same thing! And it even says how I've been sitting and wondering what happened to me, and wondering if I’ll ever be the same again? The book explains everything, right down to obsessive thoughts, and that people who've developed this thing have probably been stuck with it for weeks, months, and one guy even had it for ten years.

Understanding Depression Brings Relief

When someone who is suffering from depression realizes that their symptoms are a normal and common reaction to a malfunctioning nervous system, it brings a great sense of relief. Understanding how their malfunctioning nervous system causes those symptoms brings further relief. Suddenly, we no longer view ourselves as a freak. Doctor Claire Weekes writes in ‘Self Help for Your Nerves’, ‘These symptoms are not peculiar to you, but are well known to many like you.’ (1)

Learning this is one of the first steps towards recovery.

We can understand depression when we learn:
- what symptoms depression can cause, and
- how depression causes those symptoms.

Symptoms Depression Can Cause

This is a list of some of depression’s symptoms. I suffered from most of these while depressed.

Aching jaw
Aching shoulders
Difficulty in breathing
Loss of appetite
Missed heart beats
Palpitating heart
Prickling sensation in the limbs (feels like something crawling or biting beneath the skin)
Racing heart
Sharp chest pains
Stomach tension

Fearful thoughts
Mental churning
Obsessive fearful thoughts
Sluggish thinking

Crying fits
Fear of the symptoms outstrips the fear of depression’s original cause/s
Feel depressed
Feeling alone
Loss of interest in life
Low self esteem
Panic attacks
Suicidal Thoughts
Transitory elation
Withdrawal from relationships

Anger towards God
Anger towards Satan
Compulsive repentance
Feeling abandoned by God
Unable to feel God’s presence

How Depression Causes those Symptoms

When someone is depressed, their nervous system malfunctions and becomes over sensitive. A fearful thought that would have dismissed out of hand by a healthy mind, can become an obsessive fearful thought. Fears become larger than life – I remember being unable to differentiate between what I feared and what was real. Dr Weekes wrote, ‘A sudden or prolonged state of stress may sensitize adrenalin-releasing nerves to produce the symptoms of stress in an exaggerated, alarming way.’ (2)

As the first symptoms of anxiety or depression start plaguing us, we unwittingly become our own worst enemy by reacting in one of the following ways:

1) we fear the symptom. And even after a symptom fades away, we are so afraid that it will return that any minor trigger is all that is necessary to bring it back.
2) we try to flee the symptom. We become afraid of the symptom and try to get away from it. However, the harder we run from it, the more we fear it, and the more powerful it becomes.
3) we fight the symptom. Although this reaction feels more positive that fear or flight, it also makes the symptoms worse.

Why does fearing, fleeing, or fighting the symptoms make them worse?

Doctor Weekes calls it a ‘fear-adrenalin-fear cycle.’ Quite simply, all three reactions cause too much adrenalin to flow, and it is the adrenalin that causes the symptoms. It is a vicious cycle. The more we fear, flee or fight, the more adrenalin is released, and the worse we become, as the additional adrenalin prolongs symptoms and produces new, even more alarming ones. Soon we become terrified, thinking, “What else is going to happen to me?”

The good news is that the cycle can be stopped.

The first step is to recognize that the disturbing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual sensations we are experiencing are caused by the cycle. Understanding this brings a huge sense of relief, a significant step in the journey of recovering from depression, as we can see from my diary entry below:

28th July 1990 –
...for the last 8 months, as always, I've reacted to what was wrong with me in the same way. I have been scared of it, and feared all the many side effects and things that were going wrong with my mind, body, and emotions. And my other reaction has been to fight it. (I've even literally said that I wished this "thing" had a physical body, so I could beat the daylights out of it.) And now I learn from this book that these two reactions are the wrong reactions, because they both only make it worse. Basically, my nerves have fallen apart, and have been manufacturing too much adrenalin. When the symptoms come, I have feared and fought, and these have produced more adrenalin, which made me fear or fight more, and it just got worse and worse and worse. It’s a Catch-22 situation, a merry go round…Thank you Jesus for being faithful, for hearing and answering my prayers, and for showing me what's wrong with me.

‘Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.’ Psalm 119:34

(1) ‘Self Help for Your Nerves,’ Doctor Claire Weekes, Angus & Robertston Publishers, 1989, p18.
(2) ‘Self Help for Your Nerves,’ Doctor Claire Weekes, Angus & Robertston Publishers, 1989, p6.

Download a free ebook on depression, ie, this blog's articles


  1. Wonderful blog! :) It seems what you're describing here is primarily anxiety symptoms with depression as a secondary condition. if you liked Claire Weekes book you will find Lucinda Bassett's book "From Panic to Power" as well as her CD set "Attacking Anxiety and Depression" are even better!!! Reading From Panic to Power gave me hope that I was not a freak- as you have stated- but then i also ordered her program and listened (and still sometimes listen when i need to) and God literally used it to save my life. I am pretty much 100% recovered. I still have times of stress and anxiety but now I have the skills and tools to know how to handle it and manage it.

    I am sooo thankful that God brought me hope and brought me out of a pit i never thought i'd get out of. I'd like to email you my testimony sometime :)

    I don't want to advertise on your site but if you look up stresscenter.com you can find the products i was speaking of. I gain nothing form that other than maybe someone else may benefit from it and it may save someone elses sanity :)

    many blessings to you and may the Lord continue to bring you peace and joy, Chanin

  2. Peter, thank you for the information and what you have gone through. Your insights are so right on. The list of symptoms you share is so right on as well. Blessings dear one.

  3. Thanks Andrea, blessings to you too :)

    Thanks for the feedback, Chanin, and for sharing the things that have helped you to overcome anxiety as well. I am glad to see other books, CDs and sites that help people to be set free from such captivity.

    Anxiety and depression can go hand in hand. Anxiety can lead to depression, while depression in turn creates anxiety. Before I became depressed, I struggled to a degree with anxiety, with occassional panic attacks and some fearful thoughts. Almost all of the other symptoms I mentioned only arose after I became depressed.

    And I would love to read your testimony, so feel free to email it to me anytime. (My email is listed in my profile.) I also feared I would never be free of that miry pit, but God is so good, isn't He?

    Hey JBR, I've been praying for you, you've been through quite a journey of late. Thanks for dropping by again, God bless you heaps :)

  4. I just love that I am subscribed to your articles Peter. And yes, for me as well, having a better understanding does seem to offer some relief doesn't it? I love how you have your free book on depression to download. Do you think it could download to my iPhone so I can read it while sitting in waiting rooms at my Christian Therapy appts? I'll try to see how it works. Way to GO!!! I'm so proud of you and am so happy I have gotten to know you and your family by 'Godincidently' coming across your blog over a year ago!! Love it. Love your family!! Thanks for all your wonderfull blessings of help you are sharing with so many. May the Lord bless you abundantly!!

  5. I remember how releived I was to find out everything I was feeling was normal/typical for depression. I felt like such a failure. "How could someone with such a blessed life be so miserable all the time?"

    The funny thing was, even though I had read many depression check lists, I never thought I was clinically depressed because I never wanted to harm myself and I never felt "hopeless." But my definition of "hopeless" was that I didn't have hope in God...which I did.

    I also thought all depressed people were unhealthy, overweight and unspiritual...which I wasn't.

    So thankful I sought help. Not only did it bring a sense of relief and hope, but it also shattered my deeply held stereotypes about depression.

    Hope you are doing well, Peter!

  6. Oh wow...I just saw you still have my button on your sidebar! Thank you!!!!!

  7. I am so happy to have discovered this blog.

    I was healed of depression supernaturally, but suffer from trauma.

    Greetings from India.

  8. Wow! What a power packed blog! What a great resource and encouragement from others who suffer. Thank you for sharing.

  9. I appreciate your information on the fear-adrenaline-fear cycle. I wrote about this, too, recently. More specifically the relationship between the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands (aka HPA axis). It is all very fascinating to me. I am now following your blog and look forward to reading more. BTW, I found you via Friday 55s - God does work in mysterious ways, doesn't he?! (smiles) Many blessings,

  10. i broke down in tears when i read this. I've been carrying this heavy burden for years and years. I too thought I was a freak, a blot on God's creation - a silent, lonesome shadow wandering through this life in lonely torment. Seems I am not alone.

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      You certainly are not alone, many have trodden this same path. I would like to encourage you to read all the articles on this blog, for I believe you will find a lot of practical methods in coping with and overcoming depression, as well as a lot of encouragement. Alternatively, you can download the booklet on this blog, which has all the articles in sequential order. Booklet
      God bless

    2. me too......i need someone to talk to

  11. Hi, I am so grateful to have found your site.

    Clear answers from someone who's been there. I can relate to all your sayings, I could have written it myself. It appeases me a great deal to read your articles, please continue, you are of great(small word) help.

    I just started antidepressant 3 weeks ago, I now know so many things I did not know, and I've always wanted to mix God with everything I'm living. Sorry, I'm french, expressions must sound funny a bit, but the main thing, is to say thank you, Charlie

    So many things I did not know about depression,

    1. Dear Charlie

      Thank you for your comments, and I'm glad that this blog has been of encouragement to you.
      (Your English is very good too.)

      God bless

  12. Im happy to have found this web site.......just listening to every ones story has really helped me..... Im not in a good place right now and no one seems to realize it that i need someone to talk to.....thanks everyone for sharing because i thought i was alone

  13. I haven't been sleeping for nights now, and I have been praying for God to show me what my wrongs were and are.. This is my second attack already... I live in Japan, and it really is very hard to find Christian counselors around... Thanks for writing this blog. It is a big help to those who are in need of spiritual counseling, like me. I may have to look at some of the books that have helped you enormously. I have gotten so much encouragement from this post. Thank you again!

    1. Dear Nana,

      Thanks for letting me know the blog has been encouraging and helpful.

      You may find the booklet on depression on the blog's top right hand corner may be helpful as well. It has assembled the blogs articles in a logical order.

      God bless

  14. It is exciting to know that my dark and desperate feelings are not just part of this lonely,worthless,God forsaken person that I identify with. I have had this cursed depression for at least 18 years and have NEVER known other people could possibly understand the hurt in my heart. Thank you for putting yourself out there. I have a strong believe in Jesus and have unfortunately had some angry words with God and Jesus about all my suffering and how it affects my family and loved ones.And the guilt over causing the hurt and confusion and then more blame and more desperation. Thank you for posting your life struggles as a window outside of my own world where no one could possibly understand.I am not an alien placed here by mistake. Thank you for reminding me that I must look to the joy at the end of these struggles. God and Jesus have not abandoned me. I don't know why I continue to suffer from this joyless life when I find so much joy in all He created for us. I feel like this big wonderful party is for all but me to enjoy. I will read Philippians 4:12-13 and pray louder than the evil depression of Gods love for me.

    1. Dear AguaAzul,

      You are not alone in getting angry with God in response to depression. It is a natural response. The unnatural response is to thank Him for allowing this to happen to us, to ask Him to use it for good in our life, and to praise Him for it and throughout it. Praise is so powerful.

      Sorry to hear you have struggled with this for so long. Have you tried medications, seen a doctor, and got professional Christian counselling or seen a psychologist? All of these things can help. Can I please also encourage you to download and read the free book on depression, that is offering on this blog. The link is near the top right corner.

      Keep pressing into Jesus. In Him you are more than an over comer,

      God bless

  15. I too suffer from anxiety and depression. My troubles started a long time ago. I am currently using the power of acceptance which I couldn’t grasp around 30 years ago. I am 55 now and I now understand what acceptance of the feelings and symptoms are. This practice helps a great deal. However I am now in a awful personal predicament that I cannot escape from or see a suitable outcome. It’s a very long story and I can think clearly about the issues I have and what is facing my family and myself in the future. I am not imagining the future problems as they are almost right in my face and it brings a feeling of sheer terror which I allow to wash over myself without any resistance at all. I calmly think about ending my life and this saddens me as I have learned the true meaning of acceptance of the thoughts/feelings and symptoms but it’s all
    come too late.

    1. Dear James, acceptance instead of fighting or fearing life's troubles (can also be described as learning to be content whatever our circumstances) is very important, but I would also like to draw your thoughts in another direction. Firstly, have you repented of your sins and have you asked Jesus to be your Lord and Saviour? The reason I ask is that when we believe in Jesus, he gives us hope. Hope that He will be with us and will walk beside us throughout life's storms, comforting and strengthening us, and more, the blessed hope and assurance that this world is not our home, but a place we are travelling through on our way to live in heaven with Jesus for eternity. The suffering we go through in this world falls into perspective in the light of eternity in heaven.
      I would like to encourage you to read PSALM 23 and let God's Word fill you with hope as you read about Jesus, our wonderful Shepherd. I cannot stress strongly enough that suicide is never the answer. I strongly urge you to seek advice/help from family members and your local church. Don't struggle through this alone. Suicide destroys the lives of the family members we leave behind as well. If you continue to have more thoughts of ending it, please contact a suicide help line, and let your family know you're having the thoughts too. For suicide is never an option, please believe me.
      Praying that Jesus will give you His hope and strength,
      God bless