Depression is a mood disorder that also affects our body and thoughts. Depression is not a blue mood that passes after a few hours or days. It interferes with one’s ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. An episode may occur only once, but more commonly returns several times in a lifetime. Often, the symptoms occur in stages. For instance, feelings of sadness will precede the empty feeling which reflects an absence of feelings. This is followed by a feeling of helplessness or hopelessness, which is often followed by thoughts of death or suicide. Some describe it as walking through water with weights around your ankles.
In our profession, we are reluctant to seek help for depression because we don’t want to be seen as weak. Yet this is an illness as deserving of medical attention as diabetes or a tumor. While there are a number of symptoms (listed below) lawyers tend to ask for help when work is affected because of difficulty concentrating, remembering or deciding.
- Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” (absence of feelings) mood.
- Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities we once enjoyed, e.g. sex.
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness.
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down.”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions.
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping.
- Restlessness, irritability.
- Decreased appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain.
- Thoughts of death or suicide, having a plan, or suicide attempt(s). NOTE: IF THIS SYMPTOM IS PRESENT, CALL 911 OR SEEK MEDICAL HELP IMMEDIATELY!
Treatment for Depression
Most people diagnosed with depression will find the most relief from a combination of medications and therapy. Medications can help resolve symptoms but they won’t change the underlying causes. Appropriate therapy, available in both individual and group settings, is critical to returning to a better life. Support is also a key component for recovery. LCL’s counseling partner, Sand Creek, can provide an initial evaluation and appropriate referrals at no cost to you.
The Lawyers with Depression website was created by an attorney to help others with the same illness. It includes a frequently updated blog, recommended resources and many guest articles.
What is Depression? – National Institute of Mental Health
Dave Nee Foundation (Depression and Suicide, Law Students and Lawyers)
A recent William Mitchell Law Review Article (Vol. 41, Issue 3) discusses stigma and mental illness.
Depression Screening: Screening for Mental Health, Inc.
General Emotional Health: Help Yourself Help Others.org