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Life + Career DO Well Toolkit Physician Depression

Physician Depression

Healers in crisis

Recognizing the signs and getting help when you need it

Depression among physicians is growing more common, with 15% reporting feelings of hopelessness and thoughts of suicide.

It’s natural to feel down sometimes. You might struggle to get out of bed or lose interest in things that make you happy. But when these feelings become pervasive, it could be a sign you’re suffering from depression.

As common in the medical profession as in the general population, depression affects an estimated 12% of males and up to 19.5% of females, according to a 2018 Medscape study. It is even more common among medical students and residents, with 15-30% screening positive for depressive symptoms.

Physician depression can lead to increased medical errors, lower patient satisfaction scores and higher rates of turnover. Outside of work, depression can result in broken relationships and substance abuse problems.

The issue becomes further compounded by the fact that physicians are often reluctant to seek treatment for mental health issues, leading to feelings of isolation and hopelessness.


8 symptoms to watch for

Sadness is only a small part of depression. In fact, you may not feel sadness at all. Depression has many other symptoms, both mental and physical. If you experience any of the following for longer than two weeks, you could be suffering from depression:

  • Hopeless outlook

    One of the most common symptoms, often described as a feeling of "emptiness"

  • Persistent irritability

    Feeling misplaced anger or aggression toward coworkers and loved ones

  • Feelings of worthlessness

    Interpreting minor setbacks as personal failures

  • Overwhelming fatigue

    Overwhelming feelings of exhaustion, coupled with insomnia or the need to sleep all the time

  • Appetite & weight changes

    May result in significant weight gain or loss (when not dieting)

  • Loss of interest

    No longer looking forward to hobbies or activities that used to bring you joy

  • Difficulty concentrating

    Problems focusing on the task at hand and difficulty making decisions

  • Thoughts of death or suicide

    Recurrent thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation


Physician suicide

One physician per day commits suicide in the U.S., resulting in the highest suicide rate of any profession. According to Medscape, the physician rate is more than double that of the general population (28-40 per 100,000 compared with 12.3 per 100,000).

Often, physicians who commit suicide suffer from untreated or under-treated mental health issues, such as depression or burnout. Just 13% of physicians report seeing a professional to deal with mental health issues, with more than 60% saying they have not sought help or counseling.

Suicide can start with ideation, or the contemplation of ending one’s own life. These thoughts may arise in people who feel completely hopeless or believe they can no longer cope with their life situation. Warning signs include:

Suicide Warning Signs
Thoughts Behavior Mood
Feeling like a burden Increased use of alcohol, drugs Depression
Believing there’s no reason to live Acting recklessly Loss of interest
Feeling trapped Isolation from friends, family Humiliation
Experiencing unbearable pain Sleeping to much or too little Irritability
Feeling empty or hopeless Aggression Anxiety
Thinking about death often Telling loved ones goodbye Rage

 

Need help?

It’s time to find help. Talk to your physician or use a wellness lifeline.

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