Depression is rapidly becoming the major health problem of our time. It is currently the second-most-diagnosed ailment in Canada, after high blood pressure, and The World Health Organization predicts that within 20 years, depression will be the leading cause of disability in the world. Studies indicate that lawyers are several times more likely than the general population to have a major clinical depression.
Depression is a serious but treatable medical condition that can strike anyone. However, depression often goes unrecognized. There is a stigma attached to admitting to depression and this is exacerbated in professions such as the law.
How can you recognize depression in yourself or someone else? It is important to note that depression comes in different forms. Not everyone with a depressive disorders will have the same symptoms.
Symptoms of depression includes:
- Inability to meet professional or personal obligations – procrastination, file stagnation
- lowered productivity,
- missing deadlines, excuse making and misrepresentation to clients
- Emotional paralysis – unable to open mail or answer phones
- Persistent sadness or apathy, crying, anxiety, “empty” feeling
- Loss of interest or pleasure
- Trouble concentrating or remembering things
- Difficulty making decision
- Guilt, feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, low self-esteem
- Irritability, anger, anxiety, worry
- Changes in sexual energy or desire
- Changes in eating, including loss of or significant increase in appetite and weight loss or gain
- Changes in sleep, marked increases or decreases in time spent sleeping.
- Feelings of bafflement, confusion, loneliness, isolation, desolation, being overwhelmed,
- unavailable to what is going on around you.
- Persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive disorders, chronic pain
- Thoughts of Suicide (Ideation), Planning Suicide or Suicide Attempts
Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed and treated for depression as men. Men are less willing to acknowledge their symptoms. Men are more likely to use alcohol and other drugs to mask depression. Although both men and women can have the standard symptoms of depression they often experience depression differently and have different ways of coping. Women seem to report more feelings of sadness and guilt and men seem to report fatigue and irritability. A common way to attempt to hide depression, particularly by lawyers, is to compulsively work and spend more and more hours at work.
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or know someone who is, seek help. The vast majority of people with a depressive illness improve with appropriate treatment. The biggest issue is not what treatment? The issue is getting people into treatment. Treatment can lessen the severity of depression, it may also reduce the duration of the episode and may help prevent additional bouts of depression. Early detection may even allow you to avoid developing a depressive disorder.
The Lawyers Assistance Program staff can provide a free and confidential consultation and screening and provide support and assistance in referral to appropriate resources. We also have a group that meets Wednesdays at 12:15 PM at the LAP office at 1080 Mainland Street in Vancouver. This is a book study group that provides education and support with cognitive approaches to improving your quality of life.