July 26, 2012

Fighting Clergy Depression

With so many toxic and unhealthy churches, it's a wonder there isn't more clergy depression. But if you suspect that your clergy spouse is depressed, how can you know for sure?

Depression is a serious illness that requires professional help. It is more that just feeling bad or out of sorts for a day or two, Depression persists--sometimes for years. And often family members are the last--yes, the last--to notice.

But here are some clues to watch for in your adult loved ones. Please note that kids and youth are another matter.

1. Too much eating or loss of interest in eating
2. Too much sleeping but still feeling tired no matter how much sleep
3. Loss of interest in sex
4. Inordinate feelings of constant helplessness or anxiety
5. New, increased, highly ritualized compulsive behaviors
6. Unexplained sadness, feelings of guilt and/or despair
7. Talking or thinking about suicide
8. Unexplained physical illness and/or pain
9. Increased desire to be alone and/or disconnecting from significant relationships.
10. Spiritual ennui, listlessness, lack of focus or concentration

Often these clues are a matter of degree and they can appear together. Because we are physical, emotional, relational, rational, spiritual beings, a disturbance in one area will show up in the other areas as well.

In our churches, we're not good at talking about depression--much less clergy depression. But it is common. So take care. Even a healthy church drains clergy and families--an unhealthy church will suck the life out of you. So if you're in trouble, reach out to a trusted professional. If you need a counselor, you can go to the American Association of Pastoral Counselors website and find someone in your area.

Grace, Kathy


  1. Dear Kathy,
    Your comments often offer soft counseling. Can you please share with those of us who may not know you, your background?

  2. I have a Ph.D. in Religion and Personality from Vanderbilt University and I'm a Fellow in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, which means that I'm endorsed by my denomination. My credentials are up to date, but I'm currently not practicing.