At WordCamp Europe 2014, Yana Petrova gave a talk on a topic that is often seen as taboo – depression. Clinical depression should seek medical treatment but many people may encounter milder forms of depression occasionally. Her talk is aimed at the milder forms of depression and why IT can be a breeding ground for depression.
You can watch Yana Petrova’s talk embedded below or on WordPress.TV: Why Sometimes Happiness Requires Effort: Depression in IT
I also enjoyed the follow-up article that WP Tavern wrote in response. I think it explains many ways of how IT breeds many sources of depression.
Tech workers can be intelligent and independent. This can lead to isolation and limited social exposure such as deep dives into code and systems to solve complex technical problems or working remotely where you lack significant interactions with co-workers and management. This isolation can then allow other factors to magnify. If an IT Pro is working with a client, the client may be one of their few social interactions. If the client responds negatively, maybe they do not like recent changes or do not understand why a project is behind schedule or over-budget, their negativity may have a lasting impression. After working diligently and for a long time on a single problem, it may impact self-confidence and even snowball into impacting other social connections due to feeling bad.
After watching the talk, I discussed it with a co-worker and they agreed and shared that one link they often see between IT and anxiety comes from the pressure to maintain a system that you might not have full control over. A sysadmin might receive a system from developers or an external company and be put in charge of supporting it. This new critical system may be lacking documentation or fail outside of known operating conditions. Meanwhile, the sysadmin may not have many choices of being able to support it. Can they rebuild the system? Can they reinstall the software? How are other systems interacting with it? When somebody’s job is on the line, it can pull in all of the other stressors such as financial security as well as self-confidence.
In Yana’s talk, she recommends five tips for dealing with depression:
- Take deep breaths.
- Make lists.
- Provide small wins.
- Think about thinking.
- Learn to listen, learn to share.
The talk stemmed from interactions with friends and co-workers going through depression so her tips are tried and true. I like the ‘lists’ step most of all. She explains that you should make a list of movies that you want to watch but have never had the time or things you like to do or places you want to go. If you fall into a bad time, you could refer to your list and establish a routine that allows you to escape the depression by being you.
Along with those tips, Yana recommended several books and has The Happiness Cookbook coming online soon. The recommended books include:
- The Healthy Programmer: Get Fit, Feel Better, and Keep Coding
- The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss
- If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him! The Pilgrimage of Psychotherapy Patients
If there is any take away, I hope it shows that depression and anxiety in IT is not uncommon. If you are experiencing mild or clinical depression, seek help. Learn about yourself and how to keep yourself mentally healthy.