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Understanding Depression and Work, Is it Situational or You?

Understanding Depression and Work, Is it Situational or You?

At some point in our lives, everyone experiences a level of depression. When your depression seems focused on work, it can be hard to determine if your job is responsible, or if something bigger is happening. If you work full-time, you likely spend around half of your waking hours (or more) at work. You may also spend additional time thinking about it even when you aren’t there.

Symptoms of depression can be highly apparent at work. You may find it difficult to complete your job duties or do everything in your power to avoid having to come in at all. But, before you quit your job as a possible solution, it is important to figure out what is actually going on.

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Situational Depression

Situational depression is technically classified as an adjustment disorder; it results from a particular set of circumstances and does not meet all of the characteristics of a true mental disorder. While the symptoms can be life-altering and should be treated seriously, they tend to resolve themselves once the situation changes.

Clinical Depression

Major depressive disorder can be affected by circumstance, but the true cause goes deeper. Often, a chemical imbalance is at least partially responsible, and symptoms may not ease even when the situation improves. The severity of symptoms may fluctuate, but they play a consistent role in a person’s life. However, with proper treatment, the symptoms can be effectively managed.

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Is it Work?

Unpleasant working conditions can cause situational depression and aggravate major depressive disorder. This makes it more challenging to determine if the work is fully responsible or just a catalyst to an episode of a chronic condition. To make it worse and difficult, tips for managing work depression are often vague and may not help you identify the true source of the issue.

The first step in determining whether your job is to blame for your depression, it is best to seek the care of a mental health professional. They will be able to help you work through the questions and thoughts that will help determine if a change of job would fix the issue or if you are dealing with something greater.

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For example, if you had been at your job (happily) for five years, but ended up with a new boss who treats you poorly, the situation surrounding your workplace may be to blame. However, if you have been at the same job for years, becoming progressively more depressed, and have felt similar shifts throughout the rest of your life, there may be something bigger.

Additionally, if the stress began outside of work, but the symptoms have made maintaining employment difficult, your job may be suffering due to issues in other areas of your life. If those issues resolve, you may find your workplace more enjoyable.

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Think Before You Quit

While quitting your job is an option, it may not be the right move at the beginning. For example, those suffering from major depression may have found any job unbearable during the height of their symptoms. That means you could quit your job only to find no reprieve once the act was done. And that would leave you depressed and newly jobless. If you relied on your income to survive, then your symptoms may get worse as you look for new opportunities.

However, if your depression is truly caused by your job, then you still might want to act more thoughtfully before jumping ship. You may want to begin looking for a new job before you quit your current one, allowing you to transition from one place of employment straight into the next.

In cases where your workplace is dangerous or abusive, then quitting might be your best move. By seeking help from a mental health professional, they can work with you to determine the true nature of your depression. That way you can make an intelligent and informed choice that will help you secure a better future for yourself, which is really the goal you should be pursuing.

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Last Updated on September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

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