Depression is a treatable, yet serious illness that negatively affects the way you feel, think, and act. A combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors may cause depression. Depression can occur at any age. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, risk factors include
- Personal or family history of depression
- Major life changes, trauma, or stress
- Certain physical illnesses and medication.
Note the second bullet point: “Major life changes, trauma, or stress.” This can describe time in religious life and the transition out of it. The reality is that depression will affect the way you live your life. You may experience a persistent, sad mood, feel hopeless or worthless, or lose interest in activities. Furthermore, you may have decreased energy and appetite and experience sleep changes. You may also have unexplained headaches, stomach pains or recurring infections.
Along with these symptoms can come thoughts of death or suicide. If you believe that you, or a loved one, are experiencing signs of depression, please reach out to someone. There are some resources available on our Therapy page. There are also some helpful links at the bottom of this page.
Anxiety can manifest itself in a variety of ways and some are unique to your having been in religious life. You may feel anxious when grocery shopping for the first time, or going back to Mass at your home parish. Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. But, persistent and excessive anxiety, panic or fear is not. Below are some types of Anxiety Disorders:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): This affects 6.8 million U.S. adults. It is a persistent and excessive worry over things that may feel out of one’s control. This chronic anxiety often affects everyday life functioning.
- Panic Disorder: People with this disorder will often experience panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack, or even dying. Attacks can be triggered by an event or occur without warning.
- Phobia-related Disorders: People who experience phobias have an intense fear of certain objects or situations. As a result they will often take steps to avoid them.
Significant life events can cause normal and healthy grief. Thus, one can expect periods of grieving after leaving religious life . We do go through the stages of grief when it comes to the loss of meaningful people, places, or things. The five main stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. But, we do not always experience them in a set order, or even in their totality. The grieving process is unique to each individual. Thus, we should not judge ourselves and believe that, “we should be over it.” Healing takes time, and you are worth it.
Note that the suggestions given on this page do not constitute professional mental health advice.