We Help Lawyers
If you are a lawyer, you have to work extremely long hours to hit your billable hours. The pressures of dealing with client problems, handling high-stake issues, perfectionism, competition in the firm, and the fatigue that comes from working long days all can cause a tremendous amount of stress.
It is because of these pressures that lawyers are more than twice as likely to develop depression, and therefore alcoholism, compared to the general population.
Mental health is our emotional, psychological and social well-being that affects how we think, feel and act. Mental health determines how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices.
As a lawyer, you may develop mental health problems due to the demanding nature of the profession and the long hours you work. You do not have to navigate these issues alone. Help is available and readily accessible.
Some common mental health problems include:
Anger management is the inability to express anger in a healthy way. Chronic, explosive anger has serious consequences for your relationships, your health and your state of mind. Anger oftentimes masks other feelings, such as insecurity and vulnerability.
People with anxiety disorders experience constant, intrusive and unrelenting worry that dominates their thoughts and perceptions. This level of anxiety can interfere with daily responsibilities, job performance and relationships.
According to a recent lawyer impairment study completed by the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs in collaboration with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, 19% of respondents reported experiencing mild or higher levels of anxiety. 61% reported concerns with anxiety at some point in their career.
As a lawyer, you may have anxiety hitting deadlines, winning cases, dealing with high-stake issues and standing out at your firm.
Depression & Suicide
We all feel sad from time to time, but clinical depression is an illness that greatly impacts one’s quality of life.
According to the above mentioned lawyer impairment study, 28% of respondents reported experiencing mild or higher levels of depression. 46% reported concerns with depression at some point in their career.
Lawyers may feel alone at their place of employment because of the competitive nature of being a lawyer. You feel like you can’t make mistakes. Constantly feeling like you have to be perfect sets you up to fail. When you do finally make a mistake, you are going to feel like you let yourself down. If these feelings of defeat go on, it can progress to depression. If the depression progresses far enough, you may have suicidal thoughts or event attempt to take your own life to escape the failure you feel.
11.5% of respondents from the above mentioned survey reported suicidal thoughts at some point during their career. 2.9% reported self-injurious behaviors, and 0.7% reported at least one prior suicide attempt.
Stress & Burnout
Burnout is a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress and anxiety. Burnout occurs when one feels overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands.
As stress heightens for you as a lawyer from trying to look perfect and making your boss and clients happy, you may lose focus of your hobbies and interests outside the profession, eventually losing all motivation that led you to become a lawyer in the first place.
Addiction is a complex disease affecting the functioning of the brain and body. Studies suggest people diagnosed with mood or anxiety disorders are about twice as likely as the general population to also suffer from a substance use disorder.
When we think of addiction, we usually think of drugs and alcohol. However, it also refers to compulsive behaviors like gambling, sex, eating and spending money. A process addiction follows a destructive path. When left untreated, it will impact a judge’s ability to practice law. Process addictions are often coupled with mental health issues such as anxiety.
Drug or alcohol abuse is defined by having two or three symptoms of addiction. Many people experience alcohol or drug abuse problems but are able to stop using or change their patterns without progressing to addiction. The most severe form of substance abuse is addiction: a physical, chronic disease that typically requires long-term treatment. Types of addiction include: Nicotine, alcohol, illegal drugs and prescription drugs.
According to the above mentioned lawyer impairment study, 20.6% of respondents scored at a level consistent with problematic drinking. In comparison, 11.8% of a broad, highly educated workforce screened positive on the same measure.
To mask the feelings of stress, anxiety and depression you feel as a lawyer, you may turn to drugs and alcohol. If left untreated, drug and alcohol addiction can have catastrophic effects not only for us but our loved ones as well.
Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. It is more than being free from illness; it is a dynamic process of change and growth.
Compassion fatigue is the cumulative physical, emotional and psychological effects of continual exposure to traumatic or distressing events when working in a helping capacity. Exposure to client distress and trauma is one of the largest factors of compassion fatigue.
Grief & Loss
Grief is a natural response to loss. Grief can also be a normal response to change because change in life brings loss in some form, whether big or small. Grief usually throws us off balance and into chaos. Unfortunately, the world does not stop to allow us adequate time to grieve. We have to continue on life’s path while simultaneously grieving. The good news is that you are not alone. Everyone suffers loss. Grief counseling can help.
You probably went into law and wanted to be a lawyer because you wanted to help people who needed it and wanted to give citizens a voice. You wanted to make your community a better place. What can happen over time is that you may over identify with the “rescuer” role. This role then bleeds into other areas of your life. You begin to place such a low emphasis on your needs and wants and only focus on the needs of others around you. You may even feel guilty when you want to do something for yourself.
“Aging of the Bar”
Today, we see a lot of older lawyers working late into their life. Unfortunately, at a certain age, cognitive issues may start to develop, and decision making may start to decline. Confusion, personality changes, withdrawal and memory changes can all have a negative impact on practicing law at a later age. Our program can help you transition out of the profession and even help you sell your firm if applicable.
The early signs of dementia are very subtle and may not be immediately obvious. Early symptoms also vary. Usually, people first seem to notice that there is a problem with memory, particularly in remembering recent events.
Other common symptoms include:
- Apathy and withdrawal
- Loss of ability to do everyday tasks
- Personality change
Sometimes, people fail to recognize these symptoms indicate that something is wrong. They may mistakenly assume that such behavior is a normal part of the aging process. Symptoms may develop gradually and go unnoticed for a long time.
Click here for a checklist of common dementia symptoms. If there are several that you answer “yes” to, a doctor should be consulted for a complete examination.
As a lawyer, you must “look good at all costs,” which often causes lawyers to silently struggle with alcohol and drugs to mask the feelings of anxiety and depression and to alleviate the constant need to over-function. If you answer yes to any of these symptoms below, we can help you regain your sense of hope.
Stress & Anxiety
Have you suffered with two or more continuous weeks of:
- Feeling anxious, frustrated, and/or irritable
- Feeling on edge
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Difficulty sleeping
- Fatigue, headaches, and/or muscle aches
- Lowered productivity and/or performance
- Catastrophic thinking
Have you suffered with two or more continuous weeks of:
- Feeling sad, lonely, despair, and/or hopeless
- Experiencing over/under reaction to events
- Having problems concentrating/remembering
- Experiencing difficulty in making decisions
- Changes in appetite and/or weight
- Experiencing insomnia and/or wanting to sleep all the time
- Experiencing the loss of enjoyment from activities you once enjoyed
- Feeling unmotivated, apathetic, and/or bored
Alcohol & Drugs
- Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking and/or drug use?
- Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking and/or drug use?
- Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking and/or drug use?
- Have you ever had a drink or other drug to steady your nerves and/or to get rid of a hangover?
- Have you ever broken a promise to reduce your drinking and/or drug use or to quit altogether?
- Has drinking and/or the use of other drugs interfered with your work, relationships, and/or other commitments?
- Have you ever lied to cover up your drinking and/or drug use?
- Are you drinking and/or using drugs during the work day?
- Are you coming to work after a long night of drinking and/or using drugs and counting the hours until the end of the work day to have a drink and/or use drugs again?
- Have you ever had trouble sleeping because of gambling?
- Are you reluctant to use “gambling” money to pay bills?
- Do you ever gamble longer and/or spend more money than planned?
- Have you had to sell things to finance your gambling?
- After a win, do you have a strong urge to return and win some more?
- Has gambling adversely affected your relationships, reputation, and/or career?
- Do you ever gamble to get money to pay debts?
- Do arguments, frustrations, and/or disappointments create an urge to gamble?
- Have you ever borrowed client’s monies to cover your gambling debt or to finance your gambling?
Please remember you are not alone. Many lawyers experience burnout, depression, compassion fatigue and substance abuse.
How We Can Help
We understand the demands that come with being a lawyer. Practicing law is one of the most emotionally strenuous and challenging jobs you can have. However, you are not alone, and you don’t have to face these issues alone.