Most of us will feel depressed, sad, or down from time to time. But feeling depressed is very different than suffering from clinical depression. Clinical depression is an illness that impacts our quality of life, impairs our ability to accomplish even the simplest daily tasks and requires treatment. While the symptoms vary in severity and duration, they may include any or all of the following:
- Sleep disturbances, either insomnia or sleeping too much
- Feelings of sadness or unhappiness
- Feeling empty or incomplete
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities that were previously enjoyable
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Procrastination or inability to complete even the smallest tasks, regardless of known consequences
- Changes in appetite, either a reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on what you perceive as past failures or blaming yourself for things that are not your responsibility
- Inability to think clearly, poor concentration, struggling to make decisions and to remember things
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches, exacerbation or inability to stabilize existing physical problems
- Suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or committing suicide
Unfortunately lawyers have an increased rate of depression. According to the American Psychological Association, lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than the general population. In fact according to a recent Johns Hopkins study, lawyers have the highest rate of depression of any profession. It has also been estimated that 40% of law students suffer from depression by the time they graduate.
The high stress that comes with practicing law combined with basic personality traits common in lawyers such as self-reliance, perfectionism, and competitiveness are huge contributing factors to the high incidence of depression. These aspects also aren’t very consistent with healthy coping skills, and don’t always allow the “emotional elasticity” needed to endure the unrelenting pressures brought about by the profession. Over time, that may begin to feel like a loss of control. And for someone who has charged themselves with having all the answers, it may be the factor that throws them over the edge into suicide.
According to the Center for Disease Control, lawyers rank fourth in the rate of suicide in terms of professions, and have six times the suicide rate as the general population. In fact, it is the third leading cause of death among lawyers, after cancer and heart disease. The high rate of depression and substance abuse in the profession contribute greatly to these statistics. The lawyer becomes caught in a spiral of hopelessness and becomes incapable of seeing other viable options.
It may initially be difficult to identify that what we are experiencing is depression, because we may just feel miserable and unhappy for no specific reason or we may think we don’t like our job (or are having marriage difficulties, etc). It may be difficult to articulate something that we don’t understand ourselves. It may also be difficult to ask for help, but depression will likely only get worse if left untreated. There is hope and there is treatment available. The earlier we begin treatment, the better. Please call or email us today.