Spiritual Attacks and Depression: is there a link?

In this article we will discuss if there is a link between spiritual attacks and depression.

We will also discuss what spiritual depression is, what causes it, and what one can do to deal with spiritual depression. 

Spiritual Attacks and Depression: is there a link?

Counseling is Key to a Healthy Marr... x
Counseling is Key to a Healthy Marriage

According to Dr. Jim Langley for Denver Catholic, there is a link between spiritual attacks and mental health conditions such as depression.

Langley writes that “demons enter in through our psychological and spiritual wounds’ ‘ and that spiritual attacks can lead to mental health conditions or mental health conditions can lead to further spiritual attacks when we over-spiritualise our personal problems. 

Defence mechanisms such as repression and denial where we avoid our own painful memories and experiences by forgetting them and denying them is similar to what most spiritual people do by over- spiritualizing their experiences. 

He writes that in his practice as a minister and spiritual counsellor, 

“… I’ve found over-spiritualizing our problems to be a defence mechanism many devout and well-meaning Catholics use to avoid the reality that they are just as prone to mental health struggles as anyone else in the world.”

He notes that many christians make the mistake of avoiding their real life problems and struggles by over-spiritualizing their situations, by basically “praying the troubles away” but not taking active effort to bring any personal change. 

This pattern of deliberately and at times unknowing disregarding the fact that human beings are not just spiritual beings but also consist of a mind and body, can oftentimes lead one to become vulnerable to spiritual attacks because mental health impacts one’s spiritual beliefs as well. 

He pondered on the possibility whether depression- a mental health condition- can also be spiritual as well. He notes that,

“..depression affects your own beliefs about yourself and how you see yourself before God.”

According to Langley, this is what impact;s an individual’s spiritual life- the doubt that one is lovable, even by God- in the face of depression that alters your own perception of yourself and the world. 

Langley goes on to explain that spirituality means that one is in constant spiritual warfare and that true healing consists of both renouncing evil as well as working through various psychological wounds that would otherwise allow evil to fester.

This basically pushes the idea that depression and other psychological conditions makes it likely that an individual will experience spiritual attacks in the form of doubt, shame etc and it is also spiritual attacks that could also lead to depression, further pushing the cycle into a downward spiral. 

What is spiritual depression?

Spiritual depression refers to a loss of spiritual vitality and joy. While this can occur across different religions, in terms of Christianity, this can involve:

  • losing touch with your faith
  • Neglecting spiritual duty
  • Doubt
  • Fixated on past mistakes
  • a general sense of unhappiness

According to writers at healthline, it was Protestant minister D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones who first introduced the term in his sermons: “Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures believing it to date back to the bible in the book of Psalms 42.

While the most obvious answer to spiritual depression might be prayer or seeking Christ. Symptoms of spiritual depression can suggest depression or mood disorder which may not be relieved without appropriate medical treatment. 

While there’s no official criteria for spiritual depression, Raypole for healthline suggest the following signs:

  • struggling to find joy in worship
  • withdrawing from your church or religious community
  • avoiding other members of the church
  • losing interest in your regular church activities or performing them only from a sense of duty
  • feeling as if Bible study or other religious pursuits have lost their meaning
  • failing to find comfort in prayer
  • negative or pessimistic thinking about God or religion
  • questioning or doubting your faith
  • a sense of spiritual hopelessness or discouragement (Raypole, Healthline)

What causes Spiritual Depression?

The various causes that lead to spiritual depression include:

Neglecting your spirituality 

When you have less time for God for whatever reason such as your job, your hobbies, your relationships etc, this can lead you to develop spiritual depression.

When you forsake spiritual activities such as prayer, religious study, or worship and other religious participation and become overly involved in so-called worldly cares, such as work, hobbies and entertainment, or social activities- this can lead to spiritual attacks and ultimately depression. 

While it is normal to spend time on other things as well as religious activities it is important that one strike a healthy balance between time with God or time tending to your spiritual needs and work, rest, family and friends, and enjoyable relaxation.

Religious doubt

Another possible reason could be a sense of doubt that you might have about your spirituality, God, or religion when you see pain and suffering around you.

This often leads one to begin to question why God puts people through grief, misery, and distress and this can also lead to feelings of anger, confusion, and doubt. 

When one goes through a moment of disillusionment, this can lead to an individual’s entire belief system about their religion and their world view crumbling down and when this happens it can perpetuate a sense of hopelessness and despair. 

This inturn can lead to mental distress and depression as it can leave you feeling distanced from God as well as your spiritual support group. 

High levels of stress

Depression has many possible causes. One of them being chronic stressful life situations  that can increase the risk of developing depression.

Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to situations in your life. It is neither a bad thing or a good thing. However what is dangerous is continuous or chronic stress in your life that you are unable to handle. 

Being in a state of continuous stress with these symptoms can lead to deteriorating health, continued low moods, decrease in productivity which can impact your occupational life and also cause strain in your relationships. 

These negative impacts can lead to feelings of hopelessness, dread, doom, and also feelings of worthlessness and the sense that one is a failure in their ability to cope with life all of which can be internalised, leading to developing depression and anxiety. 

Unresolved Trauma

Unresolved trauma, be it experienced first hand or being a witness to it can cause individuals to develop depression as well. 

When an individual is unable to resolve their experiences through religion  or spirituality, it can lead to unhealthy patterns as well as question why God puts people through grief, misery, and distress and this can also lead to feelings of anger, confusion, and doubt. 

This inturn can lead to mental distress and depression as it can leave you feeling distanced from God as well as your spiritual support group. 

Life circumstances

Negative Life circumstances such as death of a loved one, or after a separation or divorce, or chronic illnesses is challenging irrespective of who has left and who has been left behind. 

It is a major life event that can cause mental anguish and lead to what is known as “adjustment disorder or situational depression”- referring to depression that arises after a change in life circumstances such as a loss of a relationship or loss of a person.

When they are faced with the challenge of overcoming such negative life circumstances, they might begin to question why God puts people through grief, misery, and distress and this can also lead to feelings of anger, confusion, and doubt. 

This inturn can lead to mental distress and depression as it can leave you feeling distanced from God as well as your spiritual support group. 

How to deal with spiritual depression?

Here are a few things that you can do to cope with and manage spiritual depression:

Seek out therapeutic care

Engaging with a therapist who is informed in terms of religious counselling, being diligent with treatment, and making the lifestyle changes you need to make to get better will determine your prognosis.

You have the possibility of seeking out therapists who are aligned with your spiritual and religious beliefs, who are informed and educated of the same, for example- a theological counsellor- who can understand your spiritual and mental health needs. 

Your therapist will help you understand what is happening to you, might prescribe you medication if needed, and can help you tap into your own strengths that can help you adapt to challenges, changes, and overcome them.

Join a support group

Another thing you can do for yourself is to join a support group of people struggling with spiritual depression so that you can experience emotional support first hand within these communities and over time learn how to manage your challenges by learning from each other. 

It is possible that people with depression can also struggle with a sense of worthlessness, a feeling that you have nothing of value to offer. 

By joining a group that is open, empathetic, and growing towards healing, you and your experiences can be an excellent sense of support to someone else who is also in their early part of their journey. 

In most cases, a group that targets discussions and support related to spiritual depression will most likely be connected to your local religious bodies. 

Actively seek positive experiences

According to positive psychology research, positive feelings are an important aspect of well-being. 

For a person to engage in activities and other experiences that help them feel positive feelings such as love, belongingness, achievement, and a sense of hope is important.

This could be as simple as watching a movie, petting your cat, taking your dog for a walk, eating ice cream. Do what makes you happy without judging yourself for these choices.

Spend time with supporters

Once you feel like you are up for it, take time to seek out support from your friends, family, and loved ones. Positive relationships are also important for wellbeing. 

You can connect with supportive spiritual guides or spiritual friends who can help you develop a sense of meaning and joy as well as help you develop a sense of self love and care for yourself. 

Talk to them about how you are feeling- let them know that you feel alone or lonely. Let them provide you company when you do not want to be alone- take effort to reach out to them. 

Allow yourself to feel loved by people who genuinely care for you and seek out new meaning from these positive and healthy relationships. 

Conclusion

In this article we discussed if there is a link between spiritual attacks and depression.

We also discussed what spiritual depression is, what causes it, and what one can do to deal with spiritual depression. 

References

Langley.J. Is my problem psychological or spiritual? (Hint: It’s probably both). Denver Catholic. Retrieved on 3rd April 2022. https://denvercatholic.org/is-my-problem-psychological-or-spiritual-hint-its-probably-both/

Raypole.C. Understanding Spiritual Depression. Healthline. Retrieved on 3rd April 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/spiritual-depression

Depression or Spiritual Warfare: What if It’s Both? Christianity Today. Retrieved on 3rd April 2022. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/podcasts/quick-to-listen/depression-or-spiritual-warfare-what-if-its-both.html

Was this post helpful?

[Sassy_Social_Share type="standard"]