Spiritual Depression or Clinical Depression?


Q: Can a spiritual depression turn into a clinical depression in the spiritual journey? According to Fr. Keating there is a period during the spiritual journey that all is obscure, confused and one might experience feelings of depression. For more than a year, I have been experiencing all this emotions accompanied by sadness, grief and anxiety. However, a couple of months ago this experience became intense and deeper, almost unbearable. A sense that all human and spiritual support have been taken away from me. Friends and family members don’t want to talk to me.

At this time it’s difficult for me to discern if these feelings are the result of a  depression or not. Despite that everything is emptiness and misery I have a great compassion for those who suffer specially the sick and homeless. I share my food, time and love with them.

A: I’m a longtime Centering Prayer practitioner and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker so I relate to your question on many levels. Fr. Thomas does describe the darkness as you wrote. And he often stated that both a Dark Night and clinical depression can go on at the same time. While in the Dark Night our senses may be depressed, there is often still a sense that life is moving forward on some level. Maybe not all the time, but movement is there. In clinical depression there is usually no sense of movement.  What you describe does seem to include clinical depression and I would encourage you to reach out to your health care provider. Therapy and medication can really alleviate the intense suffering.  Trust that the Spirit’s work in you is for your healing and wholeness, not utter destruction.   It takes great courage to share your experience, and I truly hope you take advantage of a good medical assessment.  These past two years have challenged all of us in unprecedented ways.

I hope this answers some of your question. Please let me know if I can be of further support.


Mary Dwyer
Contemplative Outreach