Workplace depression

I subscribe to the online Gallup Management Journal which this month has James K. Harter, Ph.D., Gallup’s chief scientist of workplace management and wellbeing discussing depression in the workplace.

“There’s a significant relationship between work, stress, and health,” Harter says. “In other words, if people are in an ongoing work situation that is negative or stressful, they have a higher potential for negative health consequences.”

The quality of the workplace can be linked to serious physical and mental illnesses such as clinical depression and chronic anxiety that can have a significant negative impact on workers’ job performance and on their personal lives.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), anxiety, typically a normal reaction to stress, becomes debilitating when it becomes “an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations.” In a given year, approximately 40 million U.S. adults (18 and older) — about 18% of the U.S. population — are affected by an anxiety disorder.

Depression, according to NIMH, interferes with daily life and normal functioning. While the symptoms of depression vary depending on the individual and his or her illness, they include “persistent sad, anxious or ’empty’ feelings; feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism; . . . loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable; . . . fatigue and decreased energy; [and] difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions.” About 14.8 million American adults, or about 7% of the U.S. population aged 18 and older, are affected by depression in a given year.

My experience was that I couldn’t switch off. There were definitely negative elements, but these were periodical rather than persistent, although when they happened I would lie awake at night and then dream about the problems trying to grapple with the solutions. I remember waking up totally drenched in sweat. I’d have to flip the covers back, go for a walk to the kitchen and get a drink and wait for the bed to dry.

Everyday, I would feel the dread; the irrational chicken-little syndrome of feeling like the sky was going to fall.

I think complexity and the global thinking necessary for a leader at the top of the food chain was sometimes overwhelming. But overall, I think the worst thing was being spread way too thinly. Everyone wanted a piece of me and there simply wasn’t enough of me to go around.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, best to put a sock in your ego and see a health professional and get some unbiased help. Let’s face it. If you got hit by a bus tomorrow, the reality is the people at your workplace would be sad, but basically someone else would be found to take on your responsibilities and life would go on as before.

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