Organisational Change Management Volume 2

21. Depression

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Introduction

. Depression is increasingly identified as an issue for Australian business. It is estimated that

- it costs around 6 million workdays lost each year; around half of all staff with clinical depression are not seeking treatment - they just battle on at work

- around 1 in 5 people experience depression in their lives

- most full-time workers who suffer from depression have at least a 40 percent reduction in work performance.

. Research shows that women are twice as likely to suffer from depression than men. The gender difference is thought to revolve around

"...women think and men act; when something bad happens, women ask the question 'why it did it happen?' and they talk about it and they think about it......The thing about thinking is that it feeds right into depression, so ruminating about your problems is part of the causal maintenance of depression..."

Martin Seligman as quoted by Catherine Fox, 2006b

. Robert Winston (2003) states that people who suffer from depression show lower levels of neuronal activity in the front lobe areas of the brain. This is the area of the brain that is active in planning and initiating actions plus linking perceptions and awareness of ourselves into a coherent experience, ie the meaning of life. This helps explain why depressed people often report that their lives seem devoid of a meaning or purpose, fragmented and pointless

. It is of interest to note

"...a whole movement of self-awareness, insight and introspection, I actually think feeds depression..."

Martin Seligman as quoted by Catherine Fox, 2006b

. Furthermore, it has been found

"...when we are in a positive mood, we are open to new experiences. When we are in a negative mood, we avoid them..."

Robert Winston, 2003

Some of the tactics used to create a positive mood are music and smell. Remember: mood is changeable. For example, by pretending to be happy, we actually become happier

Types of depression

. There are two principal types of depression, ie reactive and endogenous

"...reactive depression occurs in response to distressing circumstances such as job loss, infertility ordis agreement. Endogenous depression (means 'arising from within'), on the other hand, can occur without any triggers. But in both cases, the condition produces a recognisable change in the mood, thoughts and habits of the sufferer. These changes include disturbed sleeping patterns, loss of appetite and sex drive, poor concentration, persistent or recurrent negative thoughts, feeling of loss and hopelessness. Depression also has a beginning and an end. Except in rare instances of a conditional persistent anhedonia, an untreated case of depression will alleviate itself in time..."

Robert Winston, 2003

Neurobiology of depression

"....There are four areas of over- activity in the brains of depressed people. The prefrontal, outside edge of the frontal lobe, which enables long-term memories to remain within conscious access; the upper middle path of the thalamus - known to stimulate the amygdala; the amygdala itself - centre of emotions; and the anterior cingulate cortex - the area of the brain becomes active when we concentrate on things..."

Robert Winston, 2003

. A sequence of actions in the overactive amygdala sends 'sad' feelings up towards the prefrontal lobe; this consciously looks for a reason to attach the emotion; rummages into the long-term memory to find some possible cause, such as a bereavement. Despite other thoughts, the feeling of sadness will not go away nor does the troublesome urge to look for a reason. Then the anterior cortex kicks in and focuses on sad feelings and blocks out other thoughts

Some symptoms of depression

. Symptoms of depression can arise during the change process. Some of the classic signs of depression include problems around punctuality, reliability, absenteeism and an inability to meet deadlines. Similar symptoms can be found in disengaged workers. At times symptoms of disengagement (see Challenges of Ingredient 5) are confused with those signifying depression. But a depressed worker is typically doing these things unintentionally

. Some examples of depression symptoms are

"...- Stopped going out or socialising with work colleagues/friends

- Unable to sleep or has persistent fatigue

- Dramatic change in eating patterns

- Loss of enjoyment of pleasurable activities

- Feeling useless, inadequate, bad

- Self-hatred, constant questioning of thoughts and actions

- Being vulnerable and ' over-sensitive'

- Feeling guilty

- Agitated and restless

- Finds it is impossible to concentrate for any length of time, forgetfulness

- A sense of unreality

- Physical aches and pains, sometimes with fear of serious illness

- Not getting things done at work

- Withdrawing from family and friends

- Relying on alcohol and sedatives..."

Brad Hatch, 2004

(sources: Brad Hatch, 2004; Catherine Fox, 2006b; Robert Winston, 2003)

 

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