We all get sad; it’s a normal feeling and reaction to any number of things such as loss, stress or a big life event. For most of us, the sadness is brief, and we are easily able to pull ourselves out of it. For some, sadness can be overwhelming and persistent; it can stick around and interfere with our lives in all ways. For some, sadness isn’t sadness at all but is actually depression.
What is depression and how common is it?
Depression is more common than we think it is. One in six adults will experience depression in their lifetime and it’s estimated that 16 million American adults are affected each year. Depression and sadness are not the same thing. Depression has a specific definition and diagnosis. It is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, or the DSM-5 as a depressed mood or loss of interest for at least a two week period. According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is always accompanied by three of the following:
weight loss or gain
of thought or movement or a quickening of thought or movement
fatigue and low energy
feelings of worthlessness or guilt
decreased concentration or increased indecisiveness
thoughts of death or persistent suicidal thoughts
It’s so easy to see how these symptoms, alone or combined, could alter a person. Depression can disrupt an individual’s social, family, and professional life. But how do you know if the symptoms you are living with are affecting you at work?
Here are some signs of depression to look out for:
Are you having difficulty concentrating and staying focused on your daily tasks?
Do you find that you are having difficulty meeting deadlines and goals?
Do you find you’re having difficulty paying attention because you are missing sleep?
Do you find you’re arriving late to work because you’re sleeping too much?
Are you more irritable than usual? Do you feel that you are less cooperative than before?
Are you finding it is difficult to stay focused or do you find that your job doesn’t seem to matter to you anymore?
Are you having difficulty remembering details?
Are you having difficulty making decisions?
Are you feeling restless throughout the day?
Have you lost interest in your job, including the things you used to love about it?
It’s not your fault if you are living with depression and it is important to remember that there is nothing you did wrong. If you think you are suffering from depression, please reach out and seek assistance now. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. In fact, it’s brave. Therapy, and sometimes medication, have been found to work very well in helping people deal with depression and the disruption it causes in their lives. You can start by speaking to your doctor or therapist. If you are in crisis right now, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Line by calling 1-800-273-TALK.
If you are struggling and feel comfortable speaking to your benefits team at work, it may be helpful to inform them, and many are willing to help in any way they can. Some larger employers have Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) where employees and their dependents can access free counseling and referrals. You may have an employer who is willing to make alternative work arrangements and allow for flexibility with your schedule.
If you have been diagnosed with depression and think it may be worsening and interfering with your job, don’t hesitate to reach out to your therapist or doctor. There may be new treatments they can explore to decrease or manage your symptoms.
You may find that reaching out to a support network of others who have faced these challenges. Groups like the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) offer support groups through NAMI Connect. What is most important is you get the help you need, when you need it. You’ll get through this and be stronger on the other side because you survived it.
"Clinical depression has become one of America's most costly illnesses," according to Mental Health America. "Left untreated, depression is as costly as heart disease or AIDS to the US economy, costing over $51 billion in absenteeism from work and lost productivity and $26 billion in direct treatment costs. Depression tends to affect people in their prime working years and may last a lifetime if untreated. More than 80 percent of people with clinical depression can be successfully treated. With early recognition, intervention, and support, most employees can overcome clinical depression and pick up where they left off."
Depression in the workplace can severely hurt workers' mental health. Stress, anxiety and depression can affect your productivity, work-life balance and overall health and mental well-being. If you start to recognize the aforementioned symptoms of depression and how they are all affecting your mental health or if they are all causing physical health problems — or you recognize it in people or workers around you like another employee — consider seeking treatment or checking out employee assistance programs available to through your employers.
Lissa Kline is currently the Director of Member Services at Progyny, overseeing the Patient Care Advocates. She worked at Columbia University Medical Center for several years in the division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Involved in Patient Services and the Donor Egg Program she loved working patients while they underwent fertility treatment. Lissa graduated with a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University.