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A Lawyer's Tale: Recovering From Depression

  •     In this personal account, Keith Anderson describes his struggles with depression and he has, again, found meaning and happiness in life.

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Depression Casts a Shadow on the Law

  •     For years, Dave had a solo office in Morris County. It wasn't anything fancy, but it paid the bills and provided for his family. Then, he said, the dark times came.

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Articles on Attorneys and Addiction, Depression & Stress

  •     The General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Section of the ABA recently published Bumps in the Road, a theme issue of GP Solo Magazine. This edition has several articles specifically geared to attorneys on issues of alcohol and drug addiction, depression, stress, balancing work and personal life as well as other concerns. The pdf file will take a moment to load and then will open in a new window with a menu on the right, listing all available articles.
    Just click on the titles that interest you to read the full text.

    Read Bumps in the Road.

Depression and Lawyers

  • According to a Johns Hopkins study, attorneys suffer from depression at much higher rates than the general public. Depression is not a character flaw. It is neither a "mood" nor a personal weakness that you can change at will or by "pulling yourself together." Rather, it is a real medical illness with real causes, just as diabetes and high blood pressure are.  More than 19 million Americans suffer from some type of depression, and one in eight people will need treatment for depression during his or her lifetime.

Our list of signs and symptoms of depression, which you'll find below, was put together by lawyers who have experienced it firsthand. It is their hope that this list will help attorneys, judges and law students dealing with depression seek the help they need and realize that they are not alone.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Inability to meet professional or personal obligations – procrastination, file stagnation and neglect, lowered productivity, missing deadlines (statutes, filing responsive pleadings or motions,) excuse making and potential for misrepresentation to clients
  • Emotional paralysis – unable to open mail or answer phones
  • Persistent sadness or apathy, crying, anxiety, “empty” feeling
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Trouble concentrating or remembering things
  • Guilt, feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, low self-esteem
  • Changes in sexual energy or desire
  • Changes in eating, including loss of or significant increase in appetite
  • Changes in sleep, marked increases or decreases in time spent sleeping.
  • Feelings of bafflement, confusion, loneliness, isolation, desolation, being overwhelmed, unavailable to what is going on around you.
  • Thoughts of Suicide (Ideation), Planning Suicide or Suicide Attempts

Who is at Risk?

No one is completely immune ...

  • Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed and treated for major depression
  • Men are less willing to acknowledge depression – symptoms may be masked by alcohol or drug abuse


  • Depression is the leading cause of disability in the US--Affects about 10% of population (19 million per year)
  • 2/3rds never seek treatment and suffer needlessly
  • Biggest issue is not what treatment, but rather getting people into treatment
  • More than 80% of people with a depressive illness improve with appropriate treatment
  • Treatment can lessen the severity of depression, but it may also reduce the duration of the episode and may help prevent additional bouts of depression

Colleagues, family members and friends play important roles in recognition of depressive symptoms and helping those in need get treatment.

10 Tips for Surviving Depression

Download the PDF

Genetic Link Between Alcoholism & Depression

  • Research Finds Link Between Alcoholism, Depression
    September 8, 2004

Scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine have identified a gene that may be connected to both alcoholism and depression, the Associated Press reported Sept. 8.

"Clinicians have observed a connection between these two disorders for years, so we are excited to have found what could be a molecular underpinning for that association," said Alison Goate, a psychiatric geneticist who led the study.

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Judge Tells of Depression, Suicide Attempt

  • The Grand Rapids Press, Wednesday, August 11, 2004, By Tom Rademacher and Ken Kolker

For most of his professional life as a district court judge, Steven Servaas has been stalked by a demon. He worked 20 years to keep it a secret -- from lawyers, from family, from friends. But one night this summer, he lost control over the secret and tried to kill himself -- an act he blames on the interaction of pain drugs for a recent injury and those he took for depression.   Kent County's longest-serving jurist, known for being colorful, confident, even-handed, went out that late night and decided the most logical thing to do was to take his life.

He swallowed what was left of his prescription sleeping pills, closed the door on a garage where a vehicle was running, climbed inside the car and waited for death to come.

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Two Attorneys Speak Out on Depression

Download the PDF, "There Must be a Reason Life Seems so Rough"

Download the PDF. "Driving Past the Bar Center

Bipolar Disorder

  • The Basics

Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) is a treatable illness marked by extreme changes in mood, thought, energy and behavior. It is not a character flaw or a sign of personal weakness. Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression because a person’s mood can alternate between the "poles" mania (highs) and depression (lows). This change in mood or "mood swing" can last for hours, days weeks or months.

Bipolar disorder affects more than two million adult Americans. It usually begins in late adolescence (often appearing as depression during teen years) although it can start in early childhood or later in life. An equal number of men and women develop this illness (men tend to begin with a manic episode, women with a depressive episode) and it is found among all ages, races, ethnic groups and social classes. The illness tends to run in families and appears to have a genetic link. Like depression and other serious illnesses, bipolar disorder can also negatively affect spouses and partners, family members, friends and coworkers.

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Linking Stress, Depression & Substance Abuse

  • Linking Stress, Depression and Substance Abuse

Download the PDF





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