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Depression is a common symptom of many types of life changes, including career transitions. Depending on the specific situation, career transitions can be stressful, anxiety-provoking and depressing times for many people. Job loss, impending unemployment and the stress of job-hunting are not only some of the most common career transitions, but also some of the most common causes of depression, says Linda Parent in an article for Everyday Health.
Career Transitions and Depression
Transitions involve change and adaptation --- two things that cause anxiety, fear and depression in most people, says counselor Melissa Wright in an article for GoodTherapy.org. While job loss and unemployment might be some of the more common career transitions related to depression, many other types of career transitions can also trigger depressive symptoms. Any type of loss involves adaptation to change and can result in depression, whether it's the loss of a coworker to illness, death or job change, retirement, or the loss of your own career dreams. For example, you might have hoped to earn a specific promotion by a certain age -- if this doesn't happen, the realization that it may never occur can spark depression. Changing jobs or making a completely new career change can be exciting, yet can also cause depression because they involve change and adaptation to new, unknown circumstances. Furthermore, for many people, retirement can be a mixed bag of emotions -- the loss of a sense of purpose and set schedule sometimes results in symptoms of depression.
Some of the possible depressive symptoms you might experience when dealing with a career transition include feeling a lack of motivation, feeling hopeless or down, feeling like you'd rather stay in bed all day, avoiding social contact, sadness, or changes in appetite or sleep habits. You might feel lethargic or low on energy, and you might stop participating in activities you once enjoyed. People who face job loss and unemployment might experience feelings of grief or feel hurt, vulnerable and angry, according to authors Melinda Smith, MA, and Robert Segal, MA, in an article for Help Guide.
What You Can Do
To a certain extent, it's normal to feel depressed during and after a career transition. But you can take proactive steps to help ease your symptoms, says psychologist Sara Denman in an article for PBS's This Emotional Life. It can be tempting to isolate yourself from others, but socializing can be a helpful way to distract yourself from your problems and provide you with a sense of support. Staying active is also important -- especially if your feelings of depression are triggered by job loss, job-hunting or retirement. Try to keep a regular schedule and include daily exercise. Physical activity stimulates the production of certain brain chemicals that can help depression, says the Mayo Clinic. Go outside and get some fresh air and sunshine. Staying indoors all day can make you feel cooped up and lackluster. Acceptance of the current situation and staying as positive as possible can also help, say Smith and Segal.
Despite your best efforts, symptoms of depression might linger, especially if your situation doesn't improve. Sometimes, speaking to a mental health professional, like a clinical social worker or psychologist, or even medication, such as antidepressants, are necessary, even if it's just for a short time to help you get back on your feet. Feelings of depression can become worse if left untreated -- if you feel depressed and unable to function, talk to your physician and obtain a referral to a qualified mental health provider.
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.