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

Putting antidepressant skills to work: an example

Judith’s career success didn’t make up for the emptiness of her personal life.


SituationJudith went into the practice of family law with an optimistic and upbeat attitude – she really wanted to help couples negotiate fair agreements and protect children from the negative impact of divorce. She was great at her work and soon she had more cases than she could comfortably handle. However, she wasn’t very good at saying “no” – so after 10 years in practice, she carried a huge caseload, working up to 70 hours each week.

She didn’t have much time or energy for making friends or dating. She brought files home and checked e-mails at night. Over the years, Judith became almost totally focused on her work, without much personal life. She had several acquaintances from her workplace whom she would meet for drinks every few weeks, but otherwise her life was her work. She had no hobb ies, no time to see films or hear music, and she hadn’t been able to maintain a regular fitness program for years.

By her 12th year of practice, Judith began feeling that the satisfaction of her career success did not make up for the emptiness in her personal life. She found that she was no longer enjoying her work – she was dragging herself through the day and had trouble concentrating on her cases. She felt sad and tired much of the time, although she didn’t know what she was sad about.

Over the next six months, things got steadily worse – she was exhausted much of the time, feeling empty. She really didn’t much care whether her clients won or lost their disputes. She mostly just wanted to put her head down on her desk and go to sleep. She gave up seeing acquaintances and began to fall behind with her files, unable to motivate herself to keep working on them at home. She found herself waking up in a sweat on many nights, with her heart pounding and difficulty falling asleep again. The quality of her work really began to suffer, and several colleagues commented on the changes they saw.

ActionFinally, Judith went to her family physician for a checkup – she described her recent problems and her physician diagnosed major depression. Judith began antidepressant medication and her physician also gave her a copy of Antidepressant Skills at Work, and encouraged her to learn and apply these skills.

It took about four weeks to find the dosage of antidepressant medication that was helpful for her – she didn’t like the side effects but it was worth it to be feeling better. Her sleep improved, she felt more energy and it was easier to focus on her work. She felt better, but she was not back to her usual self.

Reading the Antidepressant Skills book helped her to see that she had not been keeping a proper balance between her work and personal life. She realized that this total work lifestyle was not working for her – so, she decided to make some changes.

Judith began to see a counselor through her Employee and Family Assistance Program, who supported her in using the Antidepressant Skills at Work book. Having the counselor encouraging and advising her made it easier to apply the antidepressant skills.

She used the Reactivating Your Life skill to set certain goals for herself. One goal was to limit her work time to 50 hours per week. In order to make that happen, she had to turn down some cases – that wasn’t easy for her, but she managed to talk herself through it. Another goal was to make contact with an old friend she hadn’t seen in six months – she assigned herself to phone this friend and set up a time to meet. Although she found it a bit awkward at first to talk about anything but legal cases, she soon got used to it. She and her friend decided to have dinner once every month, and Judith found that she was learning to enjoy this non-work conversation a great deal. Through this friend, she also met a few other people whom she liked.

Judith's Goal Sheet

  Activity How Often? When Exactly?
1 Limit work to 50 hours per week. Every week. Get home by 7 , take Sundays off.
2 Phone my friend Sukhi and arrange to meet for coffee. Once, to start with. Next Wednesday evening.

ResultJudith continued to set activation goals over the next eight months – for example, she joined a running club. By building up these activities and connections outside of work, she began to feel a sense of real satisfaction and enjoyment in her life.

You may download the worksheets or the entire book for use on your computer or for printing out.