Doctors with Depression: Are you at risk?

by Dr. Michael Rahman ND | Follow on Twitter

If you are a doctor (or medical student) you are at risk of developing depression.

DOCTORS ARE AT A HIGH RISK FOR DEPRESSION because the practice of medicine is very stressful. Constantly reacting to stress wears on the human psyche, even if it is what is called “happy stress”.

Happy stress is often experienced by people with Type A personalities. These personalities use stress as a form of rocket fuel to help them shoot to the top of the profession. They also thrive on being the center of attention.

Many doctors use stress as rocket fuel to help them shoot to the top of the profession.

Many doctors use stress as rocket fuel to help them shoot to the top of the profession.

Most doctors have Type A personalities. They can be demanding, impulsive, and easily distracted. But they are also proactive, sociable, excellent multi-taskers, and over-achievers who schedule very little time to take care of their own health or personal needs.

If there is ever an award to win or an underdog to fight, Type A personalities will go for it. They work hard, they play hard and unfortunately they also fall hard when their bodies and brains can’t keep up with their indomitable will and high spirits. The result is often a crash that ends in fatigue, burnout or depression.

Naturopathic doctors are no exception. They have many Type A personality traits however, they are also very nurturing and empathetic people.

NDs are trained to put others first. Everyone else’s needs take priority as items are check off of their To-Do Lists. Inevitably, their own needs are at the very bottom and carries over as undone chores from day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month.

A Naturopathic doctor’s stress comes from many areas:

    • Supporting sick and unhealthy patients
    • “Unbillable” time and energy for research, marketing and paper work
    • Self-education to be a better physician
    • Student loans
    • Making a fair income
    • Being a business owner and entrepreneur
    • Balancing family and social time
    • Representing the industry as a legitimate profession

If you are a doctor, stress is quite simply the nature of the beast, but fortunately, NDs are loaded with skills, resources and a strong community to lean on. Just as we teach our patients, we must heed our own advice,

“Prevention is key to a successful long and happy life.” <– Tweet this

Meeting High Expectations

The public has high expectations of a doctor in terms of results and performance. Very few happy and healthy individuals schedule an appointment to see a doctor. Patients often feel lonely and misunderstood.

A doctor cannot guarantee a good prognosis after a patient is taken on. All that a good doctor can do is manage the crisis and support any emotional, physical or behavioral problems that clients might be experiencing.

Solution: Set out a realistic plan and timeline for your patients. Make them understand that healing is a process that has its ups and downs. The path to wellness requires consistency, determination, creativity and flexibility.

The Mask of Indifference

It is not always easy to exhibit a calm and confident exterior while feeling sadness, fear, disgust, and even shock about what is happening in the patient’s lives. Doctors are trained to be impervious and objective, but not robots. Listening to sometimes traumatic events from a patient can be a lot to handle and with the responsibility of keeping each visit confidential, it could lead to repressed feelings and depression.

Solution: Every Naturopathic doctor should have her own therapist, counselor or ND who she can confide in and get proper support without breaking confidentiality about a patient’s case.

Long Days

Doctors are famous for working long hours. As a Naturopathic doctor and entrepreneur (aka Naturopreneur) the hours you spend seeing patients equates to an increased income.

Early on in their careers, Naturopathic doctors who want to make it work anywhere from 60 hours to 100 hours a week with only a fraction of that time as billable hours. Most of those hours are spent researching, marketing and keeping up with paper work. This type of exhausting schedule can be overwhelming.

Solution: Create a priority list and make your self-care part of it. Identify urgent and important tasks that need to be completed in a timely fashion. After those are done do something for yourself.

Solution: Block your schedule to create efficiency in your patient visits and time set aside for research. NDs sometimes suffer from guilt of not doing something at every waking moment to either benefit their business or health. Taking time to do nothing supports well-being and productivity. Plus, it will have you loving your career and not feeling burnt out.


It is also common for doctors to watch their professional, social and family relationships degrade simply because their demanding schedules take precedence. This can lead to alienation and not feeling supported.

Solution: Find a mentor. It could be an ND, a business coach or practitioner outside of your field.

Solution: Build a community- online or in person; Schedule times to meet with local practitioners and colleagues to discuss challenging cases and marketing ideas; Or try joining communities outside of the medical world (ie. Mastermind, Toastmasters). To think big you need to expand your social network and ways of approaching your business.

Solution: Make time for your loved ones. They are the ones who have supported your journey thus far and you want to foster those relationships. Build time into your busy schedule to skype, phone or have a meal with the people who care for you most.

Take Care of Your Tires

There is a good metaphor to describe how stress causes depression.

Think of your body as a car and stress as the things that causes the air to leak out of your tires. When you are vital and not under stress, your fat pumped-up tires glide evenly over every little bump in the road.

However the flatter your tires are, due to accumulated stress, the more you will feel every little miserable pebble, bump and pothole in the road. The result is a more irritable individual who is prone to depression and burn out.

Taking the time to manage and recover from stressful events will keep those tires full and running for a long time.

“Take care of your body and mind, it is your greatest tool to ensure a long and healthy life.” <– Click to Tweet

My favorite resources:

  • I love using an NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) techniques and hypnotherapy both for clients and for my own meditation.
  • I practice minding my thoughts, visioning and often times I am also using holosync technology and mind frequencies (
  • I also love the book The Untethered Soul (by Michael Singer).
About the Author
Dr. Michael Rahman ND

Dr. Michael Rahman's practice focuses on biological medicine and its treatment of chronic diseases, from fibromyalgia to cancer, and healthy age management. His practice interests also include naturopathic cosmetic care, blending naturopathic medicine with cosmetic approaches and technology that enhance health and beauty. Dr. Rahman founded Pinewood Natural Health Centre in Toronto in 1997 and expanded his practice into the Durham Region in 2003. Dr. Rahman also founded the Pinewood Institute for the Advancement of Natural Therapies in 2005. He is the principal instructor teaching mesotherapy for pain management, cosmetic mesotherapy, and advanced homotoxicological approaches to disease to naturopathic doctors across Canada and the United States