Did you know that extreme stress, depression and suicide rates are higher among medical professionals when compared to other professions? Studies show that at least one in three doctors is diagnosed with clinical depression and nearly 400 of them commit suicide every year just in the U.S.
Why Are Doctors So Stressed?
While one in three physicians may be clinically depressed, a study conducted by the University of Michigan found that only 6 percent of them reported their diagnosis to their state’s medical board. This is possible because of the stigma attached to mental health issues and the lack of support that doctors get when it comes to dealing with their own mental health problems.
While it is unnerving to learn that the people whom we go to for our health problems are at a high risk for emotional disorders, we should understand that doctors are not above physical and mental ailments. It is, therefore, imperative to understand the cause of the epidemic and find a solution.
The main causes of stress in the medical world are:
The work environment:
The medical work environment is very different from other professions and is usually filled with high-stress situations like critically ill patients and complicated surgeries shrouded by an expectation of perfection. Many doctors, especially surgeons, are perfectionists and they tend to burden themselves by expecting perfect results every time. Any small mistake, is then, bound to cause major disappointment and stress.
Lack of personal time:
Another probable cause is the lack of personal time enjoyed by doctors owing to the long hours they keep and being on call even on weekends. A study by the American Medical Association and the Mayo Clinic found that doctors might be working up to 10 hours more than the rest of us and may be experiencing a higher rate of emotional exhaustion and physical burnout. The study also shows that only 36 percent of medical professionals are happy with their work-life balance, in comparison to 61 percent of the remaining population. The burnout rate felt among emergency room physicians has also increased from 50 percent in 2013 to 60 percent in 2017.
Unlike tech jobs that offer flexible hours and work from home options, doctors have to be on site to get their work done and when that becomes a pattern for a major chunk of their working life, stress and anxiety are likely to occur.
Facing tough situations:
While being in a medical environment every day can be physically draining, it also impacts emotional health. The thought of dealing with emotionally draining situations, palliative centers or pediatric wards, for instance, itself is exhausting; imagine the life of a doctor or a nurse who may have to spend 12 hours or even a longer shift in the event of injuries, falls and even death.
Lack of support:
The stigma attached to emotional and mental health disorders is common among medical professionals too and this forces many to not talk about their problems. While many of the doctors themselves might prescribe talk therapy to their patients, they tend not to explore that route for their own health.
With a lack of support, constant pressure to be perfect and a never-ending line of patients to care for, it is essential to have a support system for doctors; a system that can help them find the right treatment or guidance to deal with work-related stress and more serious issues like clinical depression.
When Medical Professionals Face Mental Health Issues. (2017, June 27). Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/2017/06/medical-professionals-face-mental-health-issues/
Scott, E., & Gans, S. (n.d.). How Doctors and High-Stress Professionals Can Manage Stress. Retrieved from https://www.verywellhealth.com/why-doctors-are-stressed-and-what-they-can-do-4147561