Depression and the Finance Officer: Depression is a topic we hear a lot about lately, and finance officers have a job that makes them prime candidates.

Author:Austin, Kent
Position::Management & Careers
 
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Government finance officers have jobs that are characterized by high expectations, weighty responsibility, and ongoing public scrutiny We are called upon to be the bearers of bad news (even though it usually isn't our fault). As point persons for questions about an organization's financial condition, we are often required to explain complex or nuanced situations to less-than-patient questioners.

All these characteristics can make finance officers prime candidates for depression. It's a topic we seem to hear about more than ever, although it's impossible to tell whether that's because more people are experiencing depression or because more people are willing to talk about it. Either way, depression is a topic that finance officers should be familiar with and have some idea how to handle.

There are many nuances to depression and depressive experiences; this article uses the term to refer to a sustained feeling of low mood, often independent of direct external causes. Classic characteristics include:

* Feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing, or hypercriticism.

* Obsessive thoughts.

* Weight loss or weight gain.

* Fatigue and lack of energy.

* Loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities.

* Inability to experience pleasure.

* Disturbed sleep patterns.

* Withdrawal from or avoidance of interaction with others.

While everyone experiences some of these traits on occasion, what sets depression apart is the continuing, unrelenting presence of these conditions. The National Institute of Mental Health suggests the presence of symptoms for more than two weeks is likely evidence of depression.

A CUSTOM FIT

Acknowledging the problem early and resolving to seek a cure is important because depression is more than simply "feeling down." It is all-consuming, spreading like a stain through all elements of a person's life. Although categorized as a mental illness, depression can soon make its presence known throughout the body via symptoms including weight gain or loss, tremors, stooped posture, fatigue, and insomnia.

Your career may appear to be on a continuous upward trajectory; your marriage and family life may be untroubled; your body may be healthy; and you may have a comfortable home in a good neighborhood. Perhaps you've worked your way up the ladder to become a chief finance officer or a director, supported by bosses who valued and encouraged you. You embrace the chance to gain knowledge and undertake new challenges. None of this makes you immune to depression.

One of the most insidious features of depression is its ability to adapt itself to each sufferer's individual situation. If weaknesses are overdone strengths, depression is the master at turning one's assets into liabilities. People who value intelligence and learning believe themselves to be uninformed and inadequate. People who enjoy socializing and interacting become withdrawn and taciturn. And people who enjoy a vigorous physical life with sports and activity desire nothing more than to curl up in a fetal position and do as little as possible.

In Undoing Depression, (1) Dr. Richard O'Connor writes about this desire to "stay home, watch TV, and feel sorry for ourselves. It's easier than working our way out of depression. The problem is that stagnation isn't...

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