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Anxiety and Depression

Over 18 million adults in this country experience depression, and over 19 million endure mild to severe anxiety. Frequently, individuals suffer from both. When anxiety and depression coexist, people have difficulty functioning from day to day. When depression and anxiety become overwhelming, medication may be helpful during the counseling process. Professionals at HeartLife work closely with medical professionals and can effectively assess when referral
is needed.

Some Christians have difficulty accepting that anxiety or depression may have a medical basis. When either of these issues is severe, they are best addressed with counseling and medical intervention. There is often a stigma associated with admitting one has either one of these common problems. Many of our brothers and sisters bear this burden in silence which only makes it worse.

Some of the common problems Christians who suffer from depression or anxiety report are:

  • I feel that God is distant.
  • I read my Bible but I can’t focus and don’t feel
    God’s presence.
  • There must be some sin in my life or I’m being punished for past mistakes.
  • I do not feel God’s peace or joy in my life.
  • As a Christian, I should be able to cope better.

Symptoms of Depression include:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, and overwhelmed
  • Not wanting to live, or thoughts of suicide
  • Feeling restless or moody
  • Crying a lot
  • Having no energy or motivation
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Having trouble focusing or making decisions
  • Having memory problems
  • Feeling worthless and guilty
  • Losing interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Having headaches, aches and pains, or stomach problems that don’t go away
  • If you respond to 8 or more of the symptoms above, you may be experiencing depression

Symptoms of Anxiety include:

  • Feeling restless, edgy, keyed up
  • Tiring easily
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Trouble sleeping (initial insomnia or restless, unsatisfying sleep)

Post Partum

  • Tired after delivery
  • Tired from a lack of sleep or broken sleep
  • Overwhelmed with a new baby
  • Doubts about your ability to be a good mother
  • Stress from changes in work and home routines
  • An unrealistic need to be a perfect mom
  • Loss of who you were before having the baby
  • Less attractive
  • A lack of free time
Are some women more at risk for depression during and after pregnancy?

Certain factors may increase your risk of depression during and after pregnancy:

  • A personal history of depression or another
    mental illness
  • A family history of depression or another mental illness
  • A lack of support from family and friends
  • Anxiety or negative feelings about the pregnancy
  • Problems with a previous pregnancy or birth
  • Marriage or money problems
  • Stressful life events
  • Young age
  • Substance abuse
  • Women who are depressed during pregnancy have
    a greater risk of depression after giving birth.


Alcohol and Drug Addiction

Not all individuals are at the same level of motivation when addressing alcohol and drug addiction. HeartLife counselors operate from a biblical perspective. God desires that we overcome and live in freedom. His desire is that we reconcile the relationships impacted by addiction. Our focus is to challenge individuals for a better understanding of the personal and relational consequences of their choices. Addiction affects the emotional, spiritual, and relational
areas of life. Regardless of the substance or activity, addiction becomes a controlling force in the life of the individual and
the family.

Those impacted by addiction, realize that it is often a “generational?issue. Our approach is a holistic one with God’s redeeming power at the core. We offer individual, group, and family support for those impacted by this devastating problem.

While God is the key element of change, each person must assume responsibility for their healing. Someone once said “we make an idol, and then the idol makes us.? We will walk with you to find freedom from the bondage of addiction.

Sex / Pornography Addiction

HeartLife’s Goal and the Church’s Role in Healing

By Steve Riser, LPC
Director of Men’s Ministry
HeartLife Professional Soul-Care

Pornography and sexual addiction are prevalent problems in the church and society as a whole. It seems as though everywhere you turn, someone is losing their job, marriage and even their family due to pornography and sexual addiction. Sexual sin is defined as any violation or omission of God’s prescribed pattern of sexuality as outlined in scripture. In its most basic form, sexual addiction involves compulsive sexual thoughts and/or demonstrating compulsive sexual behavior that deviates from God’s intended model of biblical sexuality. Sexual addiction and pornography are artificial ways to find true intimacy and connection apart from authentic intimate relationships. Addiction to pornography and sex is an inherently relational disorder.

One of the causes of sexual addiction is isolation. This struggle can look different in each individual, but essentially this means most people who struggle with this are disconnected relationally. Typically, they have few or no friends and are often described and known as “keeping to themselves.?At HeartLife, we emphasize the value of building healthy friendships as an indispensable component of healing for those who struggle with sexual addiction. Individuals struggling with sexual addiction need to know that they are not alone and there is a band of brothers willing to collectively pursue the wisdom given to us. In 2 Timothy 2:22, the apostle Paul tells us, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith and those who call on God out of a pure heart.?

Not only is isolation a key cause of sexual sin, but guilt and shame are two other key components that drive our brothers and sisters into this destructive cycle. Guilt is represented by the idea “I have done something bad,?whereas shame is the idea “I am bad.?Guilt is an issue of “doing?and shame is an issue of “being.?Guilt is a much easier issue to deal with than shame. With shame, people feel defective at the core of their being.

All people who struggle with sexual sin place shame as the essential issue that must be addressed, and we are here to help those who struggle understand their identity as a child of God. It is important for those who struggle to understand the dynamic of how they use “distorted sex?to attempt to cover shame, when in fact they’re deepening it. Sexual sin must be addressed in context of relationships in which we can be loved at the very core of our being.

The final issue that drives sexual sin is a failure to deal with relational pain in a healthy way. Many people, but men in particular, struggle with this issue and have difficulty appropriately expressing emotions like fear, anger, sadness or disappointment in healthy ways. People who keep emotions to themselves, feel unworthy or isolated are at risk. They use pornographic images to anesthetize the pain they are experiencing inside. The body of Christ needs to be a safe place for those who struggle with sexual sin. The church must balance grace and confrontation in such a manner that it leads to repentance and restoration.

It has been said “the young man who rings the door at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.?The same can be said of those in our culture who pursue sex and pornography outside of God’s design. Our hope and prayer is that the church begins dealing with these issues as Jesus did. He dealt with what was transpiring in the “heart,?not merely behavior. Sexual sin is an attempt to connect in a distorted way. May the church be a safe place where those who are broken and hurting can come and kneel and the feet of Jesus and receive healing and restoration.

Eating Disorders

According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), nearly 10 million women and 1 million men struggle with eating disorders. Many struggle silently. The cause of eating disorders is complex, and the effects are dangerous. Within your family or circle of friends, someone is probably struggling with an eating disorder right now.

The Eating Disorder Coalition of Tennessee reports that eating disorders are the leading cause of mental illness-related death. Eating disorders lead to suicide, heart attack, esophageal erosion and heart attacks. The life-threatening and physical consequences are great and can be long-lasting.

We know how difficult it can be to admit the struggle with an eating disorder and the conflict in wanting to seek help. We also know the effects eating disorders have on an individual’s health, relationships, families and fellowship with God. Shame is one of the feelings most often experienced by those with eating disorders. They experience shame related to their bodies, their past, their behavior and their secrets. Shame is something each individual on a path to healing must overcome in order to experience God’s grace and love. The journey to healing is a comprehensive process that must incorporate the entire person ?spirit, mind, and body.

Those struggling with eating disorders often feel like prisoners, wanting desperately to be free. Common eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating; but, there are other eating disorders, as well. Common associations with eating disorders include an obsession with food, dieting and negative body image.

It is hard to say why a person develops an eating disorder. Some of the common factors include dieting at an early age, perfectionism and the desire for control, negative body image, poor self-esteem, and a history of being teased, trauma and abuse. Eating disorders often exist with other mental health issues. Professionals at HeartLife work as a team, and we are here to help.

Anorexia is characterized by extreme weight loss, body image disturbance and an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. Those with anorexia are at great risk for health problems due to malnutrition, which affects the heart, bones, skin, menstrual cycles and mental alertness.

Bulimia is characterized by secretive binge eating episodes followed by self-induced vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, or the use of laxatives or diuretics. Bulimia is indicated by bingeing and purging ?eating a large amount of food in a short time and then trying to rid one’s self of extra calories by vomiting. This behavior can damage teeth and gums, lead to dehydration, cause irregular heartbeat, swollen salivary glands and other issues.

Emotional Overeating

Many people deal with stress, emotional upset, loneliness, and relational problems by compulsively overeating. This can lead to obesity and subsequent medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.


Eating disorders typically start with some form of dieting. Our culture promotes extreme, often unhealthy, forms of thinness through the media. According to the Eating Disorder Coalition of Tennessee, in the last two decades the incidence of anorexia has doubled, and the dieting industry has tripled to become a multi-billion dollar industry. Extreme forms of dieting have proven to be ineffective and dangerous. HeartLife works with patients to help them attain a balanced life through healthy eating, daily exercise, weight management and spiritual growth.

Self Harm

Although deliberately hurting or harming oneself seems unthinkable for most, there are some individuals who do make that choice. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that deliberate self-harming behaviors are a serious problem. There has been a 70% increase over a ten year period in young adults who were identified as engaging in self-harming behaviors. This is alarming and these issues need to be addressed. Our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit and those who engage in self harm are experiencing great emotional and spiritual pain.

This pain creates personal and relational tension. Acts of deliberate self harm bring an immediate reduction of tension according to the current research. Self harm may be a way to cope with intense and intolerable emotions. If these emotions are identified and addressed, the need to harm one’s self is reduced.

Healthy, secure relationships help us learn and practice healthy, Godly ways to solve problems. This is our focus at HeartLife Professional Soul-Care. Some of our clinicians have specialized training in treating this complex problem. If you or someone you know is practicing self harm, our specialists will gladly talk to you further.

Grief and Loss

Eventually all of us will experience loss. Unexpected sorrow comes in many forms and nothing prepares individuals for the loss of a child, a spouse, a friend, or a family member. We go through different stages during the process of grieving. It is important to understand what is “normal?under “abnormal circumstances.?

Because pain can be so great during loss, we sometimes want to “move on?in order to alleviate our suffering. Yet when we ignore our grief, it will continue to negatively affect us, and those around us. Ignoring grief is unhealthy and can destroy families, end marriages, and strain relationships with others and God.

There are always unanswered questions when we experience loss which can lead to a crisis of faith. There are often feelings of anger toward God. Some may have deep regrets and experience guilt.

HeartLife professionals are prepared to help you understand and process your grief. While we look forward to the day that God promises he will wipe away all tears from our eyes, a day when there will be no death, sorrow, crying or pain, (Rev. 21:4) we know that day has not yet come. Sometimes just getting out of bed is difficult. We will suffer, but we don’t have to suffer alone. Grief and loss must take its course so healing can begin. We have specialists whose professionalism and personal experiences with grief and loss can support you, and join with you in the healing process.

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.?
Matthew 5:4

Trauma and Abuse

Christ encourages us, “in this world you will have trouble, fear not I have overcome the world.?Individuals who have experienced trauma and abuse really need this encouragement. We recognize how much abuse interferes with all aspects of our relationships, in addition to negatively affecting us emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Abuse distorts our self-perception and our relationship with God and others. God promises to redeem the broken hearted, give freedom to the enslaved and punish evil, but this promise is difficult for individuals whose lives have been used for the selfish personal gain of others.

In Matthew 18 of the Amplified Bible, Jesus describes children as trusting, lowly, loving and forgiving. He stated that it would be better for the person who harmed a child to have a great millstone hung around their neck and be cast into the sea. Jesus held those responsible for the abuse in great contempt, yet many who have been abused live with guilt and shame.

Professionals at HeartLife will provide a place of safety and support for those whose trust has been shattered and whose ability to give or receive love has been damaged because of abuse. We will help the once abused “find their voice?and their identity. In Christ there is hope and healing.

Types of abuse
  • Emotional Abuse

    Emotional abuse includes any verbal form of control through the use of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion or manipulation. Verbal abuse comes in the form of criticism and demand. Most emotional abusers convince their victims that they must submit to their demands in order to be loved or accepted. Recipients of abuse lose a sense of “who?they are and develop distorted beliefs about themselves and others.

  • Physical Abuse

    According to statistics, four to six million relationships in the United States become violent and every 15 seconds a woman is abused by a current or former partner. Most people who assault a partner once, will assault a partner repeatedly. Many women and children become homeless to flee violent abusers. Reports indicate that every second a child is being physically abused. Physical abuse does much more than wound the body, it often breaks the spirit of those abused, distorts their sense of value and worth.

  • Sexual Abuse

    The effects of sexual assault are devastating and the prevalence is staggering. According to statistics, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. It is also reported that victims of sexual assault are 3 times more likely to experience depression, 6 times more likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs and 4 times more likely to commit suicide. The high incidence of sexual abuse means that each of us knows someone who has been abused. HeartLife’s clinicians have been trained to deal with a variety of abuse and trauma. If you or someone you know has been the victim of abuse of any kind we are prepared to help.

NOTE: If a child seen by a HeartLife professional is suspected of being a victim of child abuse of any kind, it is HeartLife’s ethical and legal obligation to report the abuse and refer to a childhood advocacy center for that child’s benefit and safety. We will work collaboratively with the appropriate agencies to achieve healing and wholeness for victims and families impacted by abuse.

Adolescent and Teen Issues

HeartLife provides clinical services for a wide range of issues that arise during the adolescent years.

HeartLife Professional Soul-Care clinicians specialize in
the following:

  • Mood disorders ?including depression and
    bipolar disorder
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Anxiety disorders ?including obsessive compulsive disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder
  • Dealing with the impact of divorce
  • Sexuality
  • Pornography
  • Asperser’s Syndrome
  • Defiant behavior
  • Addiction
  • Acute symptoms of distress related to family or personal crisis, abusive experiences, and/or experiencing or witnessing of traumatic events
  • Eating disorders—including bulimia & anorexia

We provide family therapy, individual therapy and referrals
as needed for medical intervention. A number of our staff previously worked with adolescents in intensive care settings. We will be glad to review potential referral options should
a higher level of care be needed; including acute
hospitalization, day treatment, long term residential
or intensive outpatient services.

Our perspective is to work with BOTH the teenager AND the family to make changes in the home and family system to address core issues on a clinical and spiritual level.

Our experts are available to local churches, schools and community agencies. We provide speakers on a variety of subjects that affect the adolescent and the family during this critical developmental stage. Contact our office manager
or any of our counselors for more information.

Crisis of Faith

Many Christians serve God for years and suddenly circumstances, past choices, or heartbreak produce doubts and we question God’s love and goodness. We may enter a season in our lives where we are frustrated, spiritually bankrupt, and even angry with God. We know the Bible tells us that “God will never leave us or forsake us?but we cannot seem to find Him.

Many heroes of the Christian faith have experienced these feelings. Some of our Christian fathers referred to these feelings as “the dark night of the soul.? If we are honest, all of us struggle in our walk with the Lord. These are times when we need another Christ-follower to join us in this difficult part of our journey.

HeartLife clinicians understand, because we too have experienced dark times. We are here to enter your journey with you and our mission is to help you find God’s grace and love ?His light in the darkness.

Anxiety and Depression Addictions Eating Disorders Self Harm Grief and Loss Trauma and Abuse Adolescent and
Teen Issues
Crisis of Faith

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