Depression in the Workplace

UnknownAlthough we’ve come a long way with brain science and we can now see the difference in a brain scan between a depressed person and a not depressed person, we have a long way to go. How does depression really manifest in different people? What does the depressed person act like? Why do we so often miss the signs in others and lose so many to suicide? I ponder these questions each time I realize that although I know myself, I know I suffer from seasonal depression, I know it’s winter and the light is low in my part of the world, I miss the fact that I’m depressed. If I miss it in myself, how likely is it that you’ll be looking for it in others? Until I find myself repeating the phrase “I hate my life” with my head in my hands, I often am clueless.  Why doesn’t it occur to me sooner? Why am I so surprised? But this is classic depression. The brain is still functioning but my heart has sunk a little deeper into my chest and the shades are drawn. It’s little wonder that the image above shows so much darkness in the depressed brain.

Apparently, emotions and logic are located on opposite sides of the brain which explains irrational behavior – emotions have taken over. As the human brain developed, survival depended on switching off one side of the brain (think emergency) in order for the other half of the brain to lead.

“So when we become caught up in our emotions, we actually become very stupid. We have lost the ability to step back and look at all the options and every thing is seen in black or white terms. Either everything is alright or everything is all wrong! This is a clear explanation for depression, which is a huge emotion. It also explains anxiety and panic attacks where the fight or flight system becomes permanently switched on. It also explains obsessions and compulsions like self harm, where the arousal and expectation produce adrenaline and other emotion-related hormones and chemicals, which feel as though they can only be dissipated by performing the ritual.” Frances Masters, BACP accredited psychotherapist 

So often, we humans have 20/20 vision when it comes to those around us yet we can’t ‘see the forest for the trees’ in our own life. You probably recognize when those around you are out of sorts, difficult to be around, but does it occur to you that they may be generally depressed? Instead of writing this off as a difficult co-worker, an over-stressed parent, or an impossible boss, a quiet lunch where compassionate concern is expressed may be all that’s needed to help them recognize that they need help.

So what are symptoms of depression?

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. …
  • Loss of interest in daily activities. …
  • Appetite or weight changes. …
  • Sleep changes. …
  • Anger or irritability. …
  • Loss of energy. …
  • Self-loathing. …
  • Reckless behavior

More importantly, for the purpose of this article, what does depression look like at work?

  • Uncooperative…
  • Unmotivated…
  • Bad attitude…
  • Low productivity..

…just to name a few. I want to suggest that everything you read about toxic co-workers is probably also what depression looks like at work. Untreated depression in an empowered person is hell – many of us know that scenario SOO well! But I want to suggest here that you can be some help. Just a concerned acknowledgement may be all that’s necessary to help an adult recognize the demon and take steps to get back to a better place. And since I am not an advocate of pharmaceuticals myself and have relied for years on safer alternatives, there are tools for everyone in this scenario. But recognition is the first step and all of us can be active participants!

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