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Is Depression Hiding Your Career Path?

“I’m not really passionate about anything.”

I hear this from my career counseling clients regularly, which doesn’t surprise me since most people I see are at least mildly depressed.

Depression doesn’t “do” passion. You could even say that depression and passion are mortal enemies. They can’t stand to be in the same room together.

Depression — even the common, mild “blahs” — chases passion away.

If you don’t feel passionate about anything, it’s not because you have no talents or interests! We all have a unique bundle of genes and experiences that

  • make us good at certain things
  • encourage us to enjoy some activities and not others, and
  • propel us on a particular career path

Left to their own devices, nature and nurture will plot the perfect course for us … provided we have access to excitement, interest and motivation — the collective bundle known as passion.

If you’ve lost your joie de vivre, feel like you don’t have any interests, or can’t connect with your life’s purpose, you might be depressed.

If you’re not depressed, there’s another possible culprit I’ll discuss next week.

But first let’s find out…

Are You Depressed?

Here’s a list of symptoms from the Mayo Clinic website:

  • Feelings of sadness or unhappiness
  • Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Changes in appetite — depression often causes decreased appetite and weight loss, but in some people it causes increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Agitation or restlessness — for example, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
  • Irritability or angry outbursts
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Indecisiveness, distractibility and decreased concentration
  • Fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy — even small tasks may seem to require a lot of effort
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself when things aren’t going right
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
  • Crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

Interest, energy and motivation don’t stand a chance against distractibility, worthlessness and thoughts of dying.

Go figure.

When pushing yourself harder doesn’t work, treat the depression.

Once you’ve addressed what’s getting in the way, you’ll return to your factory default setting, which is passionate about life.

(Isn’t that how you were born? Surely you didn’t pop out and immediately think, “I’m bored!”)

Your natural state is interest, enthusiasm and motivation to move toward your heart’s desires. The only time you don’t feel that way is when something gets in your way. Like depression.

So focus on treating the cause rather than battling with the symptoms, and you’ll get back on your right career path sooner rather than never.

Please let me know how it goes.

If depression isn’t the problem, it’s probably The Other Thing. It’ll take a few hundred words to flesh it out, but to use a fancy word for it, it’s self-alienation.

See next week’s post for details.

Photo courtesy of FreedigitalPhotos.net

About Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist, speaker and author based in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in supporting parents of estranged adult children through therapy, consulting and other resources, and offers assertiveness training and executive coaching for organizations. The author of "Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them" and the "Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children," Tina is often featured in the media as an expert on communication and relationships. Her blog on PsychologyToday.com is called "Constructive Wallowing."
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