Spiritual Depression: Understanding the Dark Night of the Soul

Spiritual Depression, or more commonly known as The Dark Night of the Soul, is a concept that originated from poet and mystic St. John of the Cross. It is a period of spiritual transformation during which individuals experience despair and an apparent lack of God’s presence. During this time, they may feel disconnected and isolated from sources of joy or purpose in life. However, it is not a form of mental illness and should not be confused with depression – instead, it is an intense period of growth where individuals search for meaning and direction.

What is the Dark Night of the Soul?

Definition and Characteristics of the Spiritual Awakening Process

The Dark Night of the Soul is an intensely spiritual period characterized by extreme difficulty and great distress. It is often accompanied by feelings of anxiety, alienation, and desolation, as well as a lack of clarity and purpose in life. Those who experience this state feel disconnected from their usual sources of joy and struggle to find meaning. This process can be extremely uncomfortable and have long-term effects, but it is an important opportunity for personal transformation and development. People who undergo the dark night often emerge feeling more deeply connected to themselves, the Divine, and their life’s purpose.

People who have a connection to something beyond the physical world can often find themselves in a deeply challenging experience referred to as The Dark Night Of The Soul. Even though it may seem daunting and unpleasant, this journey is actually taking place for a reason. It provides those who seek truth and meaning with an opportunity to discover what exactly they are looking for on a deeper level. For the spiritually sensitive individual, this is the gateway to discovering their true purpose and destiny.

Understanding Symptoms of Spiritual Depression

One may experience a Spiritual Depression as intense, confusing, and overwhelming. It can involve feeling spiritually adrift, emotions that seem to have a life of their own, disconnection from one’s soul, joylessness, and despair about the future. Physical symptoms like exhaustion and loss of appetite may accompany the mental anguish. One may become more introverted, losing interest in social activities and falling into depression.

The Dark Night of the Soul can seem like a clinical depression at first, but it’s really a life-altering experience. It brings immense emotional and physical pain, yet this sorrow is actually a sign that something profound is happening inside us. While it’s hard to endure, we must remember that it’s part of an amazing journey to spiritual growth and transformation.

What is Clinical Depression?

Symptoms of Clinical Depression

Clinical depression is a mental health condition characterized by persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness which can interfere with a person’s ability to engage with life in a meaningful way. Common symptoms associated with clinical depression include changes in sleep and appetite, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, problems concentrating or making decisions, loneliness or isolation, irritability or restlessness.

Depression may possess similar attributes to those of going through a Dark Night of the Soul, however, its symptoms can often be managed using medicinal treatments, CBT, mindfulness approaches, and alterations to one’s lifestyle.

Diagnosing the Difference Between Dark Night of the Soul and Clinical Depression

When it comes to understanding the difference between Dark Night of the Soul and Clinical Depression, it’s essential to take a holistic approach. Clinical Depression is rooted in an inescapable physiological experience; while Dark Night of the Soul is an existential crisis that touches upon our spiritual, emotional and mental capabilities. Ultimately, it’s up to the individual to identify what they’re feeling and assess how best to address these issues.

Treatment Options for Dark Night of the Soul and Clinical Depression

The journey of healing from spiritual depression, also known as the Dark Night of the Soul, is not an easy one. However, there are treatments available to help sustain you through this tumultuous time. Treatment options typically include psychotherapy, medication, lifestyle changes such as exercise and a healthy diet, and spiritual practices.

  1. Psychotherapy: A professional therapist can provide support and guidance that helps in recognizing thought patterns that lead to despair and providing coping tools.
  2. Medication: Antidepressants or other medications may be prescribed to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  3. Lifestyle Changes: Practices such as regular physical activity, sufficient sleep, engaging in activities you enjoy, having a balanced diet and intentional breathing can help reduce feelings of depression.
  4. Spiritual Practices: Connecting with your faith through meditation or prayer can bring about feelings of inner peace and comfort during tough times.

Medication, Psychotherapy, and Lifestyle Changes

Spiritual depression, known as the dark night of the soul, is a form of emotional crisis. Treatment options for spiritual depression include medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle modifications. Medication may be used to stabilize mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression. Psychotherapy can help address underlying issues, like trauma or stressors, that contribute to your despair. Finally, adopting healthy habits such as exercise and nutrition can improve mental wellbeing. All these treatments can provide invaluable support in overcoming this difficult period.

Self-Care Strategies for Moving Through the Process

Self-care is a vital part of combating spiritual depression. To move through the process, here are some useful strategies:

  • Take time to recentre and centre your energy; mindfulness or meditation can help.
  • Speak to a professional who can generously offer advice and compassion.
  • Practice self-affirmation by writing down positive qualities that you possess.
  • Spend time in nature; basking in sun, taking long walks and building connections with the environment.
  • Remember to take care of your body; eat nutritious meals, get restful sleep and exercise regularly.

Tips for Dealing With Dark Night of the Soul or Spiritual Depression

Managing spiritual depression, or the “dark night of the soul,” can be daunting. Nevertheless, developing self-care strategies is key to navigating this period and coming out stronger. Here are some tips to help you cope:

  • Acknowledge emotion & process it: Recognize your feelings without judgement, accept their existence and work through them.
  • Reach out for support: Find a safe space to share your journey and connect with people who understand.
  • Practice mindfulness & self-compassion: Make time for yourself and invest in activities that bring joy, peace, or perspective.
  • Seek professional help: If the weight of depression feels too heavy, consider counseling and treatment by an expert.


Is The Dark Night of the Soul similar to symptoms of depression?

The Dark Night of the Soul is a spiritual crisis, while depression is a mental health disorder. Both can present feelings of emptiness, sadness, and hopelessness, but they are distinct experiences. The Dark Night of the Soul often involves a journey of self-reflection and transformation, while clinical depression is more persistent and may require professional treatment.

What is the connection between dark night of the soul and mental illness?

The Dark Night of the Soul is a spiritual experience that has been described as God’s absence. It is a period of difficulty and suffering that can lead to feelings of emptiness, isolation, and despair. Mental illness can be a result of such an experience; the symptoms may include confusion, fatigue, disorientation, and depression. People who suffer from mental illness may also feel disconnected from their faith, which can worsen their condition. Spiritual support can be beneficial in helping those who are experiencing the Dark Night of the Soul and struggling with mental illness.

Is the Dark Night of the Soul the same as depression?

The Dark Night of the Soul is a spiritual crisis experienced by individuals who seek a deeper understanding or meaning in life. It is seen as a period of suffering and emptiness that can be more intense than the symptoms of depression, such as feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, lack of meaning, and facing an existential void.

The Dark Night of the Soul can be comparable to depression in its emotional and psychological weight, yet stands alone as an experience that brings about self-evolution and transformation. It’s a journey of awakening, enlightenment, and growth – distinct from clinical depression, but just as intense and impactful.

What may lead to a feeling of spiritual despondency?

Spiritual depression is caused by a disconnection or lack of faith in one’s spiritual beliefs. This can manifest as feelings of emptiness, sadness, or alienation from God or a higher power. Other factors that are associated with the development of spiritual depression include trauma, grief, anxiety and guilt.


Although Spiritual Depression, or The Dark Night of the Soul, can be a difficult and seemingly endless period of despair, it is important to recognize that it is not a form of mental illness. Instead, it is an opportunity for individuals to explore deeper levels of themselves and their connection to their spirituality. With patience and courage one can come out stronger having experienced this time with newfound insight and appreciation for life.

It is not easy to journey through Spiritual Depression or The Dark Night of the Soul; however, those who have will tell you it was worth every moment. People who have gone through this experience are often able to find more clarity in their lives and gain a greater understanding of the spiritual life. So, if you’re feeling stuck in this phase don’t give up – consider this an invitation for growth and allow yourself to dive deeper into your own soul.