AS@W Antidepressant Skills at Work: Dealing with Mood Problems in the Workplace

Putting antidepressant skills to work: an example

Thomas felt like his job was a sign of failure.


SituationThomas was a waiter in a successful restaurant, where he had worked for ten years. Thomas was treated well b y management, paid at a competitive rate and the tips were good. However, at the age of 35 , he had serious doubts about his occupational choice. In fact, he started to think that working as a waiter at 35 was a sign of failure. He always somehow thought that he would find a new career path, go to university and b ecome a lawyer or something. But here he was, still a waiter, with no real plan to do anything different.

As he brooded on his situation, he became very self-critical, judging himself negatively. In his own mind, he called himself “loser” and “failure”, accusing himself of laziness for not going to university or seeking a high status job. Constantly putting himself down, he became increasingly discouraged about his life situation. There seemed no way to change his career course. His mood began to slide and he got less satisfaction from his work or personal life. Even though he had always enjoyed going to music performances and art shows with his friends, he began to avoid these activities and became more isolated.

ActionDuring a regular check-up with his family physician, Thomas mentioned how he’d been feeling over the past few months. The doctor asked a few questions and soon figured out that he had been suffering from mild depression. The doctor discussed options for treating this problem, including antidepressant medication and working with strategies like those in the Antidepressant Skills at Work book. Thomas chose to work with the strategies before considering medication. The website for Antidepressant Skills at Work was given to Thomas and he printed a copy at home.

He realized that he’d been engaging in depressive thinking, talking to himself in a way that was harsh and unfair. He used the Reality Questions and the Challenging Depressive Thinking form to figure out what was so depressing and unfair about the messages he’d been giving himself. His answers to the Reality Questions looked like this:

Reality Questions

Depressive Thought:
I'm a total failure to still be a waiter at age 35 .

Can I get more evidence, like asking someone about the situation?

There are only a couple of people I trust enough to ask if they see me as a failure: my older brother and one of my friends. They gave me a lot of reassurance and my brother said that he envied the amount of freedom in my life, my close group of friends, and all the different interests I have.

Would most people agree with this thought? If not, what would be a more realistic thought?

I think most people would see me being too hard on myself. Most people would say that success in your job has more to do with how well you do it and how much you enjoy it, rather than it being so-called high status. I’m not sure if I fully agree with that, but I could be open to thinking this way.


What would I say to a friend in a similar situation?

I would remind him that this job allows him free time to attend music concerts and art shows, something he really values. I would also remind him that he’s talked about enjoying his waiter job, that he meets a lot of creative and fun people, and that the money isn’t bad.

What will happen if I continue to think this way?

I’ll just get more and more down and depressed, until I stop getting enjoyment from anything I do. Who knows how far my mood could drop?

What is another way of thinking that is more encouraging or useful?

This job allows me lots of free time to attend music concerts and art shows, something I really value. I enjoy this job – I meet a lot of creative and fun people and the money isn’t bad. Success in my job has more to do with how well I do it and how much I enjoy it than with whether it’s so-called high status.

Challenging Depressive Thinking

I’m a waiter at age 35 .
Depressive Thought   Realistic Thought
It’s pathetic that I’m still doing this job. (All or Nothing; Filtering)  

This job allows me lots of free time to attend music concerts and art shows, something I really value.

I enjoy this job – I meet a lot of creative and fun people and the money isn’t bad.

My two brothers are both high status professionals; by comparison I’m a total failure. (Labeling; All or Nothing)  

Success in a job is about how well I do it and how much I enjoy it, not whether it’s so-called high status. I can only judge myself by my own values, and I have always valued freedom and creativity over social status.


Result As Thomas practiced these more realistic thoughts about himself and his work, his mood b egan to lift – it actually felt pretty good to think in a fair and realistic way. At first, he felt like he was just doing something fake, but as he continued to practice realistic thinking, he was increasingly able to accept these realistic thoughts as accurate. He practiced realistic thinking in trigger situations like family dinners where his brothers talked about their professional careers. Over time, it became easier to deal with these situations. He became more socially active and he returned to his previous level of involvement in arts activities. He learned to judge himself by his own standards – this felt much better and his mood stayed pretty good.

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