It is time to refuse to accept stress, anxiety, and depression just because you are a lawyer.
A study by Johns Hopkins University revealed that out of 100 professional fields, attorneys lead the nation with the highest incidence of depression.
Depression doesn’t just go away; it gets worse over time.
Depression doesn’t just go away; it gets worse over time. Having worked with hundreds of lawyers over the past twenty years, I have found that many attorneys suffer from depression. Some try to ignore their mental anguish for years by adapting workaholic tendencies. Others try to drink and drug it away.
For many lawyers, the first hurdle of admitting they have a problem is the most difficult. It is hard to admit that depression won’t go away. If someone is truly depressed, no matter where they go or what they do, a dark cloak of hopelessness and defeat will follow.
Can someone overcome the first hurdle and admit that they may be depressed? Over the years, I have heard many reasons that lawyers use to deny their condition.
One attorney told me, “Pamela, I have never experienced peace or contentment. I may feel bleak, but I’m not depressed.”
“I have a reputation to protect. I can’t admit to any weaknesses. I am a Type A perfectionist. I am a high-profile lawyer and extremely successful. How can I be depressed?”
“My drinking doesn’t affect my work. Nobody knows about it. It’s how I relax.”
Depression Does Not Just Go Away
The American Psychological Association found that lawyers are almost four times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers.
It is a big mistake to ignore depression. It is like trying to ignore a toothache. At first, the toothache is annoying. Soon the excruciating pain makes everything in your life miserable day and night. The pain of depression is like that impacted tooth.
Linda, an associate at a mid-sized firm, suffered from chronic depression. She was a marathon runner and ran three miles each day. She also drank a bottle of wine and ate an entire box of chocolate chip cookies every night.
“Running manages my depression,” she said.
Unfortunately, her mental state and hangovers affected her productivity at work. She was always in a bad mood. Despite her attempts to quit, she found she was unable to stop herself.
Linda confided in me, “I am glad I finally went for professional help. I had to find peace within myself to fight my depression.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself
If you want to achieve satisfaction in your career, you’ll need to beat depression first.
But how do you know if you are depressed? Here are five questions to ask yourself.
1. Do you feel constant stress or anxiety?
2. When you think about work or going into the office, do you have a sense of unease, nervousness or foreboding?
3. Do you feel hopeless in your professional career or family life?
4. Do you suffer from continued headaches, migraines, or insomnia?
5. Are you always distrustful or skeptical of others?
If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions,
then you could be depressed.
Remember, You Are Not Alone
I personally suffered depression for almost two years. I dreaded waking up each day. I dragged myself into my office. I felt hopeless with nowhere to turn. With commitment and hard work, I overcame depression and you can too.
Ned, a Los Angeles-based corporate attorney, lived in a beachfront luxury condo among celebrities and other legal titans of the entertainment industry. Ned looked great on the outside, and business was good.
Ned was depressed. He could hardly work, and he suffered from insomnia.
This went on for years before Ned finally looked for help.
I recommended that Ned try meditation. It was not easy for Ned to sit in one place. He said, “I feel like a hyperactive child, squirming all of the time in my seat!”
I assured Ned that we all have the same difficulty in the beginning but to just stick with it. Over time he became more peaceful and less agitated. His sleep habits improved. After just 90 days, Ned had his life back.
Unfortunately, many lawyers find it hard to believe that something as simple as daily meditation can make a real difference.
7 Steps on the Road to Recovery from Depression
You too can BEAT depression and get on the road to recovery. If the symptoms or experiences we have shared here sound familiar, it may be time to take the steps listed below.
1. Acknowledge that your mental health is as important as your physical health. It must not be neglected.
2. Seek out professional help for an assessment
3. Pursue spiritual practices such Yoga or meditation.
4. Move your body. Regular exercise is imperative.
5. Change your diet. Avoid sugary and processed foods.
6. Limit alcohol intake; remember alcohol is a depressant.
7. Seek out a mentor, coach or consultant to keep you moving forward in your law practice.
Remember depression will eventually disrupt every area of your life. Only you can take the first steps. Through hard work, you too can recover from depression. Being proactive and seeking support within your community is the key to recovery.
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Links about depression:
The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys, Krill, Patrick R. JD, LLM; Johnson, Ryan MA; Albert, Linda MSSW, Journal of Addiction Medicine: February 2016 — Volume 10 — Issue 1 — p 46–52, http://journals.lww.com/journaladdictionmedicine/Fulltext/2016/02000/The_Prevalence_of_Substance_Use_and_Other_Mental.8.aspx
World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/
Lawyers with Depression: http://www.lawyerswithdepression.com