Finding the way out of the black pit of despair can sometimes be extremely difficult. It is an experience that leaves the individual exhausted, unmotivated, and in deep, hopeless despair.  There seems to be nowhere to turn and no way to escape these horrible feelings.  Depressed feelings and depressed experiences vary both in quantity and quality and therefore different for each individual.

Depression is a condition that affects 1 in 10 Americans at one point in their lives with the number of patients diagnosed increasing by 20% each year. Of those that display symptoms of clinical depression, 80% are not receiving any specific treatment for their depression. Currently it has been reported that an estimated 121 million people around the world currently suffer from some form of depression.

Depression can have a variety of meanings because there are different types of depression. Clinical depression as a disorder is not the same as brief mood fluctuations or the feelings of sadness, disappointment, and frustration that everyone experiences from time to time and that last from minutes to a few days at most. Clinical depression is a more serious condition that lasts weeks to months, and sometimes even years.

Causes of Depression

Depression can be caused by many life issues, including anger; failure or rejection; family issues, such as divorce or abuse; fear; feelings of futility, lacking control over one’s life; grief and loss; guilt or shame; loneliness or isolation; negative thinking; destructive misbeliefs; and stress. This is sometimes referred to as “reactive depression.” With this, the depression symptoms may be lowest in the morning and increase throughout the day. Note: Persistent reactive depression will change one’s chemical balances and may compound depression.

Medical and biological factors can also facilitate depression: inherited predisposition to depression, thyroid abnormalities, female hormone fluctuations, serotonin or norepinephrine irregularities, diabetes, B-12 or iron deficiencies, lack of sunlight or vitamin D, a recent stroke or heart attack, mitral valve prolapse, exposure to black mold, prescription drugs (anti-hypertensives, oral contraceptives), and recreational drugs (such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine). When rooted in the biological, it is sometimes referred to as “endogenous depression.” With this, sufferers often feel worse in the morning.

Misdiagnosis of depression is common. It can often be misdiagnosed as anxiety, which is a common affect in many types of depression or other mood disorders. Accurate assessment is the first step to proper treatment.

Assessment Questions a Counselor may ask you:

  1. How long have you felt depressed?
  2. What was happening in your life when you first became depressed? 
  3. Have you been depressed before?
  4. Do you have a family history of depression?
  5. Do you have difficulty concentrating?
  6. Have you lost interest in pleasurable activities?
  7. Have you noticed changes in your eating or sleeping patterns?
  8. Are you dealing with guilt or fear about anything?
  9. What do you see in your future?
  10. Have you had any thoughts about injuring yourself or suicide? (Sometimes the thoughts are vague, such as “It would be better if I were not here.”)

Besides the obvious impairments in mood and relationships, untreated depression affects multiple areas of a person’s life.  It is one of the top three causes of disability and diminished work productivity. 

If you have a struggling child, you may find parenting especially challenging because your son or daughter has put up so many barriers. Seeking professional therapeutic assistance may be the most beneficial course of action. WinGate Wilderness Therapy has been designed so that teens and young adults may connect with nature and better identify themselves at a distance from everyday distractions. Our program offers hope and healing for your family. For more information please contact our Admissions Director at 800-560-1599.

Originally Written By


Tim Clinton, Ed. D., LPC, LMFT


Ron Hawkins, Ed.D., D.Min.

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