How Highly Successful People Deal With Depression

Neil Armstrong, Ellen DeGeneres, J.K. Rowling — all very successful people who've struggled with depression in their lives, successfully. Here's how.

If you solve your problems and speak of them truly, you are of help to others, that’s all. And it becomes a moral obligation. ~ Stanley Kunitz Click To Tweet

Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses, with as many as 350 million people worldwide dealing with some form of the disorder.

It might seem hard to believe that so many successful people are living every day with depression as a pivotal part of their lives, yet you may recognize names such as Neil Armstrong, Ellen DeGeneres or J.K. Rowling — all very successful people who have struggled with depression at some point in their lives.

So how do highly successful people deal with depression? Many of the more well-known ones, of course, practice transcendental meditation, but what are some other tools that are commonly utilized?

Actually Going to Therapy

No matter what field you’re working in, becoming highly successful also includes the realization that you can’t do everything on your own. In the case of a diagnosis of depression, these individuals realize that going it alone is not going to help.

You’ll often find that people in high-stress positions will have a session with their therapist scheduled alongside their business lunches and board meetings.

Making time for a therapy session or an appointment with a psychologist is one of the most important things you can do to deal with a diagnosis of depression.

Whether it’s to monitor your progress with or adjust any prescriptions you’re on (yes, contrary to the popular counter-culture belief that all medications are bad, certain ones, properly diagnosed, can be life savers) or to simply engage in conversation with someone you can be completely transparent with — and thus help you maintain a clear perspective — these small pockets of time with your therapist can be invaluable in forging the life you want for yourself in the long run.  

Depression Is Not Weakness

One of the hardest things for people with depression to overcome is the negative stigma surrounding the subject of mental illness. Being diagnosed with a mental illness is associated with the idea that this is somehow your fault, or that you’re weak for having to deal with depression, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is one key thing that highly successful people have figured out.

Depression is not weakness. Mental illness is not weakness. Someone who deals with depression or another mental illness in their lives will likely be among the strongest people you ever meet. Why?

Because they have to be.

Being diagnosed with depression is, for many, just an answer — an explanation that helps them understand why it’s so hard to get out of bed, why they don’t enjoy their hobbies as much as they used to — so on and so forth.

The symptoms vary for everyone, and the differences are prominent between genders. Women are also more prone to developing depression than men, with one in every eight women being diagnosed with depression. Being a successful woman is a challenge in its own right, and showing any sign of weakness (such as a mental illness diagnosis) is often seen as something that undermines a woman’s ability to lead.

Successful people know that a diagnosis of depression does not mean they are weak. It means they are strong, but simply need a little bit of help to carry all that weight.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Fake it ‘til you make it” in regards to business more than once. In essence, it simply means you have to have the confidence to back up anything that you say or do, even if it’s something you’re not necessarily qualified for.

Successful people don’t just know this term — they live it. How does this apply to depression, though?

Sometimes, when you’re dealing with depression, you have to “fake” being a functional human being. When it’s impossible to get out of bed because you just can’t figure out why it’s worth the effort, you fake it, plaster on a smile, and get on with your day.

Being able to fake your way through one day can eventually lead to days where you don’t have to fake it at all, because you’re starting to work your way through your depression.

Narcissism as a Therapy Tool

A lot of people hate going to therapy because they can’t stand talking about themselves and their own problems. While narcissism is often seen as a negative trait (and it certainly can be, if left unchecked, but that’s a topic for another time), it’s also a tool of highly successful people when dealing with depression.

It’s a lot easier for someone with depression and narcissistic traits to utilize therapy as a tool for dealing with their depression symptoms, simply because they have no problem making it all about them.

These same traits are useful in the business world. They’re not kidding when they say it’s a “dog-eat-dog” world out there, and if you can consciously harness some narcissistic traits  in a healthy way to keep everything moving as smoothly as possible, you’re more likely to succeed.

Goal-Setting Is Key

You can’t succeed in business without setting goals — wandering blindly into the business world is a quick route to failure. Being able to set and achieve business goals is one thing, and being able to set goals for what you would like to achieve with your therapy is another great tool to help you deal with depression.

Instead of walking into a therapist’s office with a “What am I doing here?” kind of mindset, try walking in and asking yourself, “What goal can I achieve today?”

Work with your therapists to set small, achievable goals that will allow you to work toward something you can accomplish in regards to your therapy. Just as important: make sure you reward yourself after you reach each goal!

Remember: depression is no joke, and if you find that you’re experiencing depression-like symptoms, take the time to make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

And don’t forget that there are many helpful things you can implement yourself as well. Millions of people are living amazing, successful lives while dealing with depression. There’s no reason at all why you can’t, too.

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