depression in physicians


I never knew how bad it was until I was on the "other side", until I was feeling better. 

During my first ward and clinical month as a third year student doctor, I was unprepared for my emotional reaction of taking care of patients. Being a type A person with a lot of OCD traits, I wanted perfection... peace... all t's crossed, all i's dotted. I did not want conflict. Sick people who don't listen to their doctors stressed me out. People leaving AMA (against medical advice) stressed me out. 

Residents appeared so over-worked. 

It was also a few months before my wedding day. 

So add third year clinicals + wedding day prep = ........ insert whatever you want to call this disease .....


I self diagnosed myself with a major depressive episode. A few months later, I did talk about it to my doctor. At that point, I was "feeling better."

Here's the criteria (DMS IV -- we are now using DSM V, fyi)

Major Depressive Disorder requires two or more major depressive episodes.

Diagnostic criteria:
Depressed mood and/or loss of interest or pleasure in life activities for at least 2 weeks and at least five of the following symptoms that cause clinically significant impairment in social, work, or other important areas of functioning almost every day
Depressed mood most of the day.
Diminished interest or pleasure in all or most activities.
Significant unintentional weight loss or gain.
Insomnia or sleeping too much.
Agitation or psychomotor retardation noticed by others.
Fatigue or loss of energy.
Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt.
Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness.
Recurrent thoughts of death

I highlighted my symptoms when I was a third year medical student. 

That was when I was a student doctor..... interestingly, an old study interviewed 1st and 2nd year med students. Before entering medical school, depression rates are the same as the general population. Rates increased as those students progressed to 3rd and 4th years. 

How about resident physicians and depression?  Depression in resident doctors can be as high as 43%. 

How about attendings (life after residency) and depression?  With physician burnout on the rise, physicians are at high risk for depression.


We all need that life-work balance. Whether you're a physician, military personnel, store manager, business owner, stay-at-home dad, we all need BALANCE.

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1 comment:

  1. With such a stressful job, it's no wonder that healthcare professionals are at high risk for depression. Hopefully the stigma around mental illness goes away and they seek the help they need.


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