For many, deciding on a career can be an extremely daunting and uneasy experience. Career decision-making usually starts when young people leave school or complete university and can continue throughout the lifespan as an individual is faced with job upheavals and changes in goals. Research recently published in the Journal of Counselling Psychology suggests that difficulties with regard to this type of decision-making can contribute to the development of depressive symptoms.
More specifically Dr. Reuma Gadassi and her research team found that high levels of career decision-making difficulties such as an inability to decide on career goals and low levels of vocational crystallization or the degree to which an individual holds a clear and stable view of goals, interests and talents that align with their career choice, were associated with higher reports of clinical depression. In other words, individuals who did not identify with a decided career path were found to be more at risk for developing depression than their concretely decided counterparts. This increased likelihood for developing depression was found to be mostly associated with difficulties pertaining to the emotional and personality-related aspects of the decision-making process. Most commonly Gadassi and her colleagues found that problems with self-concept and identity were leading predictors of both problems with career decision-making and depression. This means that an individual who has a poorly developed image of themselves or who does not hold positive perceptions about themselves and their abilities, may struggle to decide on key life decisions such as what career path they should pursue or stay in which in turn may impact negatively on their mental health.
Significant life decisions therefore can affect more than just the money that we have in our pockets, or the type of work that we carry out each day. These findings make sense when you consider existing theories of depression including that of prominent psychologist Aaron T. Beck’s theory that posits that depression can develop as a result of two distinct vulnerabilities: a need for relationships and interpersonal connectivity or alternatively a need for independence and goal-setting. An individual with a vulnerability of the latter kind who is having issues with career decision-making, may therefore be at risk for developing depression, at least according to Beck’s theory.
So what can this information do to help individual’s experiencing depression as a result of a career uncertainty? Previous research suggests that decision-making skills are often compromised during depression, so surely if one develops depression as a result of career indecisiveness, this may lead to an incessant cycle of decision-making difficulties that may ultimately maintain the condition. Counsellors (particularly in school and work environments) act to advise individuals on how to make informed career choices and can also help to identify individuals who are experiencing symptoms of depression and point them in the direction of support services. This can also be done independently through meeting with a recommended counsellor or psychotherapist who can help you to make goals and develop plans to make them happen, while also providing you with skills that can help to treat your depression. It is important to remember that deciding on a career or making important career decisions can be extremely difficult and most people experience stress as a result. However supports are available and should be accessed if you are experiencing such difficulties.
The referenced article can be accessed here
Ms. Niamh Allen, M.A. B.Sc.