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Coping with Unemployment Depression

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Dear Dr. Levister: I’ve been out of work for more than a year. I am a college educated, high achieving; high energy personality. Lately, I feel defeated, sluggish and irritable. Could I be experiencing a form of depression? L.R.

Dear L.R.: Recent studies have shown that a high percentage of individuals develop depression within six months of becoming unemployed.

Unemployment depression is a serious problem that throws you into a cycle of defeat because its debilitating symptoms can make it even harder for you to find another job. It's like a vicious cycle.

If you’ve been looking for work for more than six months, there’s a kind of situational depression that sets in.

Situational Depression (SD) is different from chemical or hormonal depression. SD is caused by circumstances that are, well, depressing.

Without a job, the pressure of personal circumstances is relentless. Feelings of anxiety, panic, depression, bewilderment, fatigue, decreased energy; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness, feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism and fear are commonplace.

Creating a plan to follow is very helpful in alleviating unemployment depression.

Make a daily schedule for job hunting and have a goal of something to do each day. When you wake up each morning, take a shower and get dressed. Don’t mope around in your pajamas all day even if you are going to spend the day making phone calls or writing emails.

It is also a good idea to take an occasional break from your job hunting schedule. If you look for work from 9am to 3pm on weekdays, make sure to rest on the weekend and do things unrelated to job hunting to refresh and recharge.

Getting 30 minutes of exercise each day will dramatically improve your mood and outlook because it releases natural mood enhancers. Eating right will also help to improve the way you feel.

You can volunteer or take a college course to acquire a new job skill and boost your resume. Spending time with your friends and participating in activities you enjoy will help to keep your spirits elevated. If the symptoms of your unemployment depression are very serious, you should contact a doctor immediately.