spiritual attack vs. depression & anxiety

I would like to know if there is a difference between spiritual attack and depression + anxiety.
Is depression caused by something physical? I only learned about spiritual attack several years ago when I experienced depression but I was very skeptial about this spiritual attack when someone from a church told me that’s what I was under. When I took anti-depressants I got somewhat better, combined with therapy. I had to stop going to church because it only seemed to make it worsen. From articiles I have read they both seem very similar. Are they one in the same?

First off, i wanted to clarify the difference between depression and despair. Depression is a medical condition that needs to be treated with therapy, medicine, lots of love :), etc. Despair (which someone who has depression could fall into) is a sin because it is completely losing faith in God and the hope of salvation. With the knowledge that sin is a result of temptation by Satan and his demons, every sin is the result of spiritual attack. So despair is the result of spiritual attack, but depression could just be a medical condition. Does that make sense?

They could be the same, but they can also be different. There are different ways to address them, but I do believe God calls us to live healthy lives, healthy in all ways. How do we lead healthy lives? How do we address a spiritual attack? depression? A spiritual life, a prayerful life is likely the way to ward off and prevail over a spiritual attack. Finding ways to get oneself out of the blues, from restful sleep, to joining the company of good friends, to actual psychotherapy, such things promote cheerfulness and help overcome depression. The Eucharist is overall embraced as an uplifting event, and the spiritual encounter highly cherished, perhaps you share the same opinion? My point is that do address both aspects, one clearly feeds the other. A last thought, the stories of many saints are replete with accounts of moments of a certain emptiness, a dry desert like experience, periods of desolation, moments tantamount to depression and even despair. (Saints Ignatius, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux, Mother Theresa) But they hung in there, they cried out to God… God answered. Some days before, someone asked about demonic possession. That is something else, right? I’ll end with… Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen. Mother Mary, pray for us! St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us. … Take care.

There’s a good book on discernment of spirits that helps to distinguish when you are experiencing moments of desolation or consolation (which can come from a variety of sources-God, yourself, the devil as temptations etc). Its based on St Ignatious’ rules of discernemnt and is called Discernment of Spirits by Fr Gallagher. I’ve found it very helpful.


I can only relate my own experience. I never have had a problem with depression nor anxiety until a few years ago. I approached it from every angle possible starting with physical exam, confession, spiritual direction and talking with a psychologist. I even changed my diet. Nothing seemd to make a difference.

The feeling itself was like walking into a heavy negative cloud. Because the phsyical and mental assessments checked out I have come to believe that it was spiritual. We come in contact with many people and objects in our daily lives. Who really knows what spiritual realities may be attached. Best we can do is pray, stay faithful and know that even Jesus had his Gethsemani moments.


Depression is overdiagnosed. It is manifest by decrease apetite, distubed sleep, difficulty doing tasks, preoccupation with life circumstances and often, not always, may be sadness that progresses into depression and is often short lived. The circumstances determine that. Someone dies in your family may cause short lived sadness and or depression.

Anxiety is something everyone experiences. It can be a prblem that becomes unwanted when it occurs for unknown reasons. Public speaking, performing, crowds, etc…can cause this and often times understanding it and just letting it happen is all that is needed. I get anxious about some things but know that it will pass once things are accomplished…it becomes a problem when living becomes a problem.

The only way to know what the problem is, is to know what the problem is…in other words what you are asking is viewed and understood based on a process of elimination…

tried this, tried that, now what…could be this…etc…

Depression can have a physical cause, namely chemical imbalances in the brain. If this is the cause of the depression, medications that correct the imbalances will help. Sometimes depression is linked to other brain disorders, such as epilepsy, and in that case it is not unusual that the medication for the underlying disorder will also help with the depression.

It can also be exploited for the purpose of spiritual attacks, but the two are not one and the same.

Major Depressive Disorder is caused by several episodes of severe depression usually caused by a lowered amount of serotonin in the brain among other chemicals. Other medical conditions can mimic depression such as hypothyroidism which is an imbalance of horomones.

These are usually treated by medications and the symptoms are relieved. If not then there can be underlying issues caused by stress, inability to cope, grief etc which need to be dealt with by therapy.

If therapy and/or medication are not helpful in treatment of symptoms and no biological reason can be discovered then a third possibility would be spiritual attack. I’ve read several books by exorcists who work for the vatican that state that spiritual attacks are a lot more common than possession/obsession. Demons can cause mental disorders that already exist to worsen and a person to tend to despair. They can also mimic mental disorders to tempt us into falling which is their favorite thing to do.

Depression and anxiety are very real mental disorders and should be taken seriously with medical professionals, however talking to a priest, even if the medication is working, is always a good idea. When dealing with mental disorders priests can bring different insight and comfort that medical professionals may not think to discuss. My priest always has! They also say that confession makes the devil more scared than anything and if more people went to confession then there would be less need for therapists!!


The OP asked about depression and anxiety. You mention Major Depression, chemical disorder and hypothyroidism. What is the basis of your knowledge in these matters?


What is the basis of information you provide concerning depression and epilepsy?


I am a psychologist although I think there are rules on the forum that state that you cannot say “you better believe me because of my credentials” which is why I didn’t mention my background. I offered the information but if anyone doesn’t want to believe me then so be it. Look it up and one will easily find research that supports the info I provided. I teach this stuff on a daily basis so it all just came to mind and I thought I would offer it to the OP to help answer the question.

The OP mentioned depression and anxiety but they are more complicated than just “Depression” or “anxiety”. There are a lot of biological disorders that mimic mental ones and vice versa. There are also different types of depression or mood disorders and countless anxiety type disorders.

All of this needs to be considered when making an informed decision as to whether you are dealing with a physical, mental or spiritual disorder, or if you are experiencing all three. This is what I thought the OP was getting at.

Experience and discussion with multiple epileptologists.

The link is also documented in the scientific literature, including:

Kanner AM, Balabanov A. “Depression and Epilepsy: How Closely Related are They?” Neurology. 2002 Apr 23;58(8 Suppl 5):S27-39.

K. Todorova1, M. Arnaoudova2. “Depressive Disorders in Epilepsy.” JofIMAB; Issue: vol. 16, book 3, 2010

S. Hamed, et al. “Depression in adults with epilepsy: Relationship to psychobiological variables.” World J Neurol 2012 February 28; 2(1): 1-10

I think dreams are also an important source of data that is neglected by our modern Western medical perspective.

Thank you to everyone who posted a reply. I have experienced a little depression before but never anything like I went through a few years ago. I don’t have any personality disorders, my therapist confirmed that. It was like the perfect storm in my life and even though it caused me to make some major changes and improved me in the end, I never want to go through it again. Before it happened a little chinese lady said that I would be attacked by the devil and I thought she was a little off for saying such a thing. I sought help on every platform, medical, religion, friends, family. Everyone had a different opinion and I was so low I couldn’t see the forest for the trees, but I do know this, I became very close to God.
Religous people called it spiritual attack, medical professionals called it depression, and my family thought I had lost it.

A little part of me still fears a return to those days even though I know it probably won’t happen. I have a whole new set of coping skills and I am no longer fiercely independant like I was then. I no longer take anti-depressants but became addicted to anxiety medication which I am not ready to give up even though I know I should. I guess you could say I’m a work still in progress.


I am an MD and with all due respect in consideration that people do not have the knowledge, training and experience that you or I have I believe that it is best to keep these discussions simple…

In the context of anxiety/depression…here is someone posting on CAF…so you can conclude

They are functional, they formulate thoughts, they are inquisitive, they have resolved some problems, problems related or other problems that may contribute were not mentioned etc and in that vain…Psychotic Depression, Manic Depression, Situtational Depression and the list of Depressions can be summed up in…


Concerning Anxiety who knows what this may mean to the OP and complicating the discussion with a differential diagnosis and possible outcomes, in my opinion may not be an aid to understanding…

I believe that at times it is best not to launch into details like this because it does not necessarily address the OP. Your welcome to view it as you choose.


I appreciate your interest and concern and I ask you to look at comments to Faustina. As a Physician I see this as complicating and not clarifying the discussion. The OP says nothing about epilepsy, and to introduce this creates questions. Can you discuss this in detail based on knowledge training and experience? If not then it would be prudent to reconsider posting material that is not necesarrily in context or clarify it like…

I am not a physician but I read this…or I am a nurse and I read this…do as you wish…

I don’t have epilepsy

It is possible that what you felt was not even personal, but part of the collective suffering of the Body. Sometimes we experience something that is happening elsewhere and we don’t know what it is, or why we are feeling it.

1 Cor 12:25-26
26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

All we can do is offer that suffering so that it can be joined with the sufferings of Christ, and trust that He will use the consecration of our pain to His greater glory.

You might also consider reading Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross.

You may be on to something. I am a very empathtic person.


This is better than epilepsy and I would second reading the dark night of the soul. I have Netflix and if you have or can get access to it, you can find a movie on John of the Cross, a man in love with God. It is something to think of, living your life, seeking the love of God…

Isn’t that what we are all supposed to do???

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