Since I was laid off two months ago, I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m much more irritable and haven’t been very motivated to do some of the things that I usually enjoy, like playing tennis. My girlfriend thinks I’m depressed, but I’m not suicidal or anything like that. What do you think?
I'm sorry to hear about your job. Times are tough. Job loss is considered one of the top 10 stressors a person can experience in the course of a lifetime. Obviously, unemployment can affect your mood, your self-esteem and your sleep. And a lack of sleep can affect your mood, your self-esteem and your energy level. Sometimes it's hard to tell what comes first.
So are you depressed? Possibly, but it's hard to determine without more information. On the surface, you seem to display at least two of the five symptoms needed to diagnose depression. Your insomnia and loss of interest in activities that you previously found pleasurable are two signature signs. But in order to make a definitive diagnosis, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, at least three additional symptoms would need to be present for most of the time during a two-week period:
Feeling sad and empty most of the time
Significant increase or decrease in appetite
Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
Feelings of worthlessness and hopeless about the future
Diminished ability to concentrate/indecisiveness
Recurrent suicidal thoughts
Feeling unusually sluggish or slowed down
Rather than take my word, my advice is to consult a mental health professional who can do a full and proper assessment. Depression, considered the common cold of mental illness, is nothing to be ashamed of -- but it is something to take seriously, especially if it persists. Fortunately, treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy and anti-depressants can help alleviate symptoms.
In the meantime, I suggest creating a routine that involves a set schedule and work area for your job search. Consider consulting a career counselor and join professional networking groups. You might also try to improve your sleep by: 1. Winding down early the same time every night; 2. Refraining from caffeine after 1 p.m.; and 3. Limiting stimulation like television and the Internet before bedtime.
— Kim Schneiderman, MSW, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and former journalist with a private
practice in New York City. She is currently working on her first book, “How to Be the Star of Your Own Story: Writing the Path to Personal Transformation,” based on her therapeutic writing
workshops at the 92nd Street Y and JCC in Manhattan. E-mail her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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