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Anxiously Awaiting…or Awaiting with Anxiety?

Psychologist Dr. Donald Lichi provides insight for believers battling anxiety and depression around the holidays.
Are you anxiously awaiting the holidays or awaiting the holidays with anxiety? Or depression? First, let’s state the obvious. For many, the end-of-year holidays are the most stressful, anxiety/depression prone time of the year. You really don’t need a Spirit- filled psychologist to tell you that!

It is highly likely that you or someone you love experiences the pain of anxiety and (at times) sheer panic. This short article describes causes and symptoms of anxiety (and depression) and some basics for hope and healing.

Anxiety (and Depression)
Anxiety and depression are unhealthy states of conscious emotional suffering and guilt, accompanied by excessive worry, a marked decrease in the sense of personal value, and a reduction of mental and physical activity. In many instances anxiety and depression can have “spiritual-like symptoms” without a spiritual origin. It is characterized by the following:

• Hopelessness, despair, sadness, apathy
• Loss of perspective
• Changes in physical activities and energy level
• Loss of self-esteem (feelings of worthlessness and little value)
• Withdrawal and desire to escape
• Oversensitivity and internalized anger
• Strong feelings of guilt (usually false guilt)
• Loss of interest in usual activities
• Poor concentration
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Weight loss or weight gain
• Excessive and abnormal worry and dread
• Thoughts of death or suicide

Anxiety and depression can be caused by several factors including:

• Insufficient sleep
• Poor eating habits
• Biochemical heredity-constitutional factors
• Reactions to drugs
• Losses (e.g., death of a loved one)
• Health (particularly in anxiety a person needs to have a thyroid examination)
• Financial
• A broken emotional relationship

In most instances, a person's view of himself or herself is distorted. One feels unlovable, valueless, unforgivable, unchangeable, and alone.

In short there are four “R's” that most professionals agree will help a person suffering from anxiety or depression:

• Rapport (develop and cultivate a friendship)
• Reassurance (give encouragement and hope)
• Revelation (help the person gain insight and understanding)
• Reorganization (modifying routine or circumstances)

The person suffering anxiety/depression needs a supportive environment where he or she is accepted unconditionally. The Christian is encouraged to “get moving.” That might entail talking to someone else, taking a walk, clearing your desk, engaging in moderate exercise, or reading passages from the Bible. Here are a few examples of verses from Scripture that might help:

• Book of Job (trials and testings)
• Psalms 18, 23, 34, 100, 103, 139 (David's rejoicing)
• Romans 5:4-5 (perseverance produces hope)
• Romans 12:1-3 (transformed by the renewing of the mind)
• Galatians 6:2 (bear one another's burdens)
• Philippians 4:6-8 (replace anxious thoughts with healthy alternatives)

Am I Anxious? Depressed?
Remember, anxiety and depression are some of the most common sources of human suffering. Depression can range from mild discouragement to feelings of utter hopelessness and despair. Anxiety ranges from mild concern/worry to utter panic.

Among Christians, there often is the mistaken view that those who experience depression must be guilty of some sin. There are numerous examples in Scripture where leaders experienced depression and/or anxiety, including such notables as Moses, Job, Elijah, Jonah, and Paul.

If you find yourself with loss of appetite, lowered sex drive, insomnia, and a life void of joy — and this mood doesn't lift by itself after just a few days — you may be at risk of experiencing anxiety/depression. Perhaps you have lost someone close to you, a job, or prestige. The normal grief reaction will be from six months to two years, during which time you may experience guilt, worry, sadness, a distorted self-image, and sometimes even a desire to die.

Suicide Risk Assessment
Suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States and firearms are the most common method. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people. If you or someone you love appears to be at greater risk to commit suicide, seek immediate help from a friend, pastor, or competent Christian counselor. You also may need to seek medical care for evaluation to assist with the therapeutic process. Here is a suicide risk assessment to follow:

• How long have you been feeling suicidal? (Longer presents more risk)
• What is the nature of the plan and means to take your life? (More specific is greater risk)
• What is motivating you to consider taking your life? (More specific reason is greater risk)
• Have you made final arrangements or written a note? (Greater risk)
• Have there been previous attempts? (If yes, risk is greater)
• Have you experienced recent losses? (If yes, risk is greater)
• Are you engaging in daily activities? (If no, risk is greater)
• Are you depressed? (If yes, risk is greater)

Do not travel the journey alone. According to God's Word, you are lovable, valuable, forgivable, changeable, and never alone! We anxiously await for His Presence among us!

Donald A Lichi

Donald A. Lichi, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and serves as vice president of EMERGE Counseling Services in Akron, Ohio. He does marriage, family, and individual counseling. He has served as an adjunct professor with Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri, Asia Theological Center in Singapore, and Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois.