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Depression high among computer professionals: survey

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R. Sujatha

Lifestyle Work pressure, changing role dynamics at home take toll

Beating depression

  • Adequate stress combating activities
  • A good working environment and leisure activities
  • Early intervention, treatment for insomnia and regulation of working hours

    CHENNAI: Depression is a common problem, cutting across age groups and occupations. But doctors these days are treating more and more computer professionals for a range of problems related to depression. Work pressure, stress and changing role dynamics at home, they say, are the main reasons for depression among computer professionals.

    The signs of depression are many: sadness, pessimism/discouragement, sense of failure, dissatisfaction, guilt, expectation of punishment, self-dislike, self-accusation, suicidal ideation, crying, irritability, social withdrawal, indecisiveness, body-image distortion, work retardation, insomnia, fatigue, anorexia, weight loss, somatic preoccupation and loss of libido.

    People may exhibit these signs and yet may continue to function with family support. Insomnia, untimely food habits, junk food consumption and gastrointestinal problems are risk factors, say doctors.

    Researchers K. Mohamed Ali, assistant professor, Thanjavur Medical College and B.W.C. Sathiyasekaran, head, Department of Community Medicine, at Sri Ramachandra Medical College (SRMC) in Porur, say the symptoms set in early. The two studied 648 computer professionals over a period of two and a half years in 2004.

    "They exhibited the symptoms early, but most were not aware that they suffered from depression," says Dr. Sathiyasekaran.

    Participants were provided a questionnaire and required to mark the appropriate choices for emotions he/she felt at the moment of answering the questionnaire.

    Symptoms of depression were found to be higher among system administrators than among any other job category in the industry.

    "When job satisfaction is low the symptoms become pronounced," says Dr. Ali. They found that 28 per cent of them suffered from depression.

    Being highly paid also appears to induce aggressive behaviour. Stories of physical abuse of parents are not uncommon, say computer professionals.

    At Sneha, a non-government organisation working in the field of suicide prevention, 50 per cent of callers and e-mail writers talk of depression. The organisation receives at least one or two e-mails every day from software professionals, says director P.V. Sankaranarayanan. Psychiatrist Lakshmi Vijayakumar says depression depends on sex and age.

    Depressed women, usually in the 20-30 age group, generally pick up fights with close friends, have insomnia, irregular menstrual cycle, are irritable and experience crying spells. Behaviour among depressed men aged 20-30 differs from those in the over 30 years age group.

    Men in the first group become aggressive, impulsive, drink and smoke more, and are prone to violent reactions. Men above 30 are dull, withdrawn and tend to worry about small things.

    Individual merit counts

    Though companies rely on building teams, when it comes to promotion it is individual merit that counts. The pressure to perform in competitive conditions results in somatic symptoms such as tired and burning eyes, neck pain and headache for computer professionals, doctors say.

    Dr. Lakshmi says: "When a middle class girl from a small college gets a job in an IT company because she is proficient in English, and begins earning three times more than her father, even the mother begins to give her importance. The girl becomes assertive. There is only a thin line between assertiveness and aggressiveness."

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