Depression is a common ailment among high achievers, yet this problem is widely misunderstood and commonly ignored. Throughout history, many leaders have struggled with this disease. In U.S. History, the most tortured soul that comes to mind is Abraham Lincoln. His writings reveal a man wrestling many ghosts: his relationship with his wife, children, many personal failures and finally, the Civil War. Many close aides felt that the President’s life was in danger many times during his term as President.
Leaders have to deal with stress, pain, and loss on a level that non-leaders are unaware. This article will be directed towards leaders, but is applicable to all team members.
What does depression look like?
Here is a list of common symptoms…
1) Persistent feelings of sadness or "emptiness"As you can tell, extreme swings in attitude, eating, sleeping, emotions, or activity can indicate depression. If after reading this list, you catch yourself nodding in agreement at two or three of these symptoms, you might be suffering from depression. Of course, the more symptoms you suffer from the more likely you are suffering from depression.
2) Sense of hopelessness, worthlessness, and guilt
3) Inability to enjoy normally pleasurable activities
4) Noticeable change of appetite, significant weight loss or weight gain
5) Shifts in sleeping patterns, such as insomnia or sleeping too much
6) Difficulty concentrating, persistent irritability, excessive crying
7) Preoccupation with thoughts of death or suicide
8) Decreased energy, fatigue
9) Persistent aches and pains
A word of caution at this point, when a traumatic event happens in your life sadness is normal (or any of these symptoms, for that matter). What we are talking about here is persistent problems, meaning two weeks or longer. These symptoms also cover many other issues. If you are not sure, as with any possible medical situation, be sure to seek professional help.
What causes depression?
As mentioned above, depression can occur after a traumatic event in your life. Traumatic events may range from the death of a loved one, divorce, serious illness or loss of a job. One thing to remember, the event may not be causing the problem, but what you think about the event may be the problem. See the illustration below.
Triggering Event + Our Beliefs = Behavior
Four areas to look at are Emotional, Relational, Spiritual, and Physical. When looking at each of these areas leave no stone unturned, you might find it helpful to write down things in each area that might be the problem. You might find a pattern that otherwise you would not see.
Emotionally, how are you? Do you cry regularly? Are you able to express you emotions in a healthy manner? Do you have outbursts that scare you? Do you get angry? What causes this?
Do an inventory on your relationships (parents, spouse, children, work, and friends). Rate your relationships on a 1-10 scale. Ask them to rate your relationship, take a hard look at any discrepancies.
Talk to a spiritual mentor/leader. What are your thoughts on God/Higher Power? This aspect is often overlooked in traditional psychology.
Lastly, what is your physical condition? Are you healthy? Overweight? Active? Depression can be a genetic problem. Recent studies indicate that a predisposition for depression exists. Is there a history of depression in your family? The biochemistry of the brain is definitely involved in treating severe cases of depression.
What to do?
If you suspect you are suffering from depression, please consult your doctor, a professional counselor, or a member of the clergy. Some of the non-pharmaceutical options that are available for self-care…
I hope this helps!
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