If you feel depressed when working, you’re not alone. Sadness, anxiety, loss of motivation, difficulty concentrating, unexplained bouts of crying, and boredom are just a small sampling of the things you may be feeling if you’re experiencing depressive symptoms at work.
Depression impacts over
And data from the State of Mental Health in America 2021 survey shows that the number of people seeking help for depression increased significantly from 2019 to 2020.
There was a 62 percent increase in people who took the survey’s depression screen — and of those people, 8 in 10 tested positive for symptoms of moderate to severe depression.
When you consider that full-time employees spend an average of 8.5 hours per day working on weekdays and 5.5 hours working on weekends and holidays, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it comes as no surprise that many of them will experience symptoms of depression while on the job.
Read on to find out why work might be triggering depressive symptoms, how to identify the signs, where to get help, and what you can do to start feeling better.
While a job may not cause depression, the environment may worsen symptoms for people who already live with depression.
“Any workplace or job can be a potential cause or a contributing factor for depression depending on the level of stress and available support at the workplace,” said Rashmi Parmar, MD, a psychiatrist at Community Psychiatry.
According to the
- mental and physical health concerns
- lost productivity
- increased substance use
Mental Health America reports that depression ranks among the top three problems in the workplace for employee assistance professionals.
As with any other health condition, Parmar says, awareness and early detection are key.
“Depression is a complex condition with a varied manifestation of thoughts, feelings, and behavior that can affect anyone and everyone, and a variety of work and non-work-related factors might be at play when we consider someone struggling with workplace depression,” she explained.
The signs of depression at work are similar to general depressive symptoms. That said, some may look more specific to a workplace setting.
This depression will affect your level of functioning in your job as well as at home, Parmar said.
Some of the more common signs of work depression include:
- increased anxiety levels, especially when managing stressful situations or thinking about work when you’re away from your job
- overall feelings of boredom and complacency about your job
- low energy and lack of motivation to do things, which can sometimes manifest as boredom in tasks
- persistent or prolonged feelings of sadness or low mood.
- loss of interest in tasks at work, especially duties that you previously found interesting and fulfilling
- feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, or overwhelming guilt
- inability to concentrate or pay attention to work tasks and trouble retaining or remembering things, especially new information
- making excessive errors in daily work tasks
- an increase or decrease in weight or appetite
- physical complaints like headaches, fatigue, and upset stomach
- increased absences or coming late and leaving early
- impaired decision-making capacity
- irritability, increased anger, and poor frustration tolerance
- crying spells or tearfulness at work, with or without any apparent triggers
- trouble sleeping or sleeping too much (like taking naps during regular work hours)
- self-medication with alcohol or substances
If you’re good at masking or internalizing them, these signs of work depression might not be visible to your co-workers. But there are some symptoms they may be more likely to notice.
According to Parmar, here are some common signs of work depression to be aware of:
- withdrawal or isolation from other people
- poor self-hygiene or significant change in appearance
- late arrival at work, missed meetings, or absent days
- procrastination, missed deadlines, reduced productivity, subpar performance in tasks, increased errors, or difficulty making decisions
- seeming indifference, forgetfulness, detachment, and disinterest in things
- an appearance of tiredness for most or part of the day (may be taking afternoon naps at work)
- irritability, anger, feeling overwhelmed, or getting very emotional during conversations (may start crying suddenly or become tearful over trivial things)
- lack confidence while attempting tasks
There are various reasons why you may be dealing with an increase in depressive symptoms at work. And while no two people — or experiences — are the same, some common themes seem to emerge when pinpointing the causes or triggers of signs of depression at work.
While not an exhaustive list, the following situations may contribute to work depression:
- feeling like you have no control over work issues
- feeling like your job is in jeopardy
- working in a toxic work environment
- being overworked or underpaid
- experiencing workplace harassment or discrimination
- working irregular hours
- lacking balance between work and home
- working in a setting that doesn’t match your personal values
- doing work that doesn’t further your career goals
- experiencing poor or unsafe working conditions
Work stress vs. work depression
It’s not uncommon to experience stress at work, but don’t ignore feelings of depression. It’s important to know the difference.
- stress that decreases in intensity when the stressor passes
- occasional bouts of feeling anxious and irritable
- muscle tension or headaches
- increased feelings of sadness and crying
- persistent feelings of anxiety
- increased lack of focus and concentration
- feeling bored and not fulfilled in your job
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Leela R. Magavi, MD, a psychiatrist and regional medical director at Community Psychiatry, said she works with many clients who are adversely affected by engaging in work they aren’t passionate about.
“Individuals can mindlessly complete tasks throughout the day and begin to feel disconnected and demoralized, which can exacerbate anxiety and depressive symptoms,” she explained.
Others may have little time to consume meals or hydrate throughout the day, which Magavi suggested could worsen fatigue and inattentiveness.
Working remotely, while convenient, comes with its pitfalls. According to Parmar, the boundary between personal and professional life can easily disappear, causing major upheavals in your daily routine.
And creating and sticking to a structured routine at home is easier said than done.
“Without a routine, boredom can slowly creep in, giving way to depressive feelings and thoughts,” she said.
Without the social environment at work, Parmar said many people working from home experience feelings of loneliness and isolation.
“We’re forced to rely on chats or messages, phone calls, and video calls to connect with our friends and colleagues, which adds to our already increased screen time,” she said.
Remote work during COVID-19: Tips for improving your mental health
If working from home is your new “normal,” at least for now, you might be experiencing increased feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression.
Here are a few things you can do when those feelings surface:
- Get out of the house and take a walk.
- Keep your workspace separate from other parts of the house.
- Get rid of clutter around your desk.
- Practice 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation in the morning, afternoon, and before you call it a day.
- Call a non-work friend.
- Step away from the screen throughout the day.
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Adding to this, Parmar said many people might be working more hours than usual, since it can be hard to keep track of time while at home.
“It is very natural to get overwhelmed from all these factors and feel depressed or anxious,” she explained.
Magavi suggested prolonged remote work could create many emotional, physical, and financial hurdles for individuals.
“Low-income families are significantly disadvantaged due to limited resources or access to stable Wi-Fi, while other families, regardless of income, may be increasingly exposed to domestic violence due to displaced anger caused by the pandemic and associated stressors,” she said.
“Individuals may feel like there is nothing to look forward to, or they may struggle, as they no longer have an outlet to normalize their feelings of burnout with fellow employees,” she added.
No matter where you work, managing symptoms at work can be challenging. The good news is there are things you can do when you’re feeling depressed:
- Take a 10-minute break away from your desk or office.
- Take a lunch break and get outdoors.
- Go for a quick walk during a break — even if it’s indoors, exercise does wonders for mental health.
- Take a mental health day.
- Practice a few minutes of mindfulness meditation.
- Incorporate deep breathing exercises into your day.
- Say no to one small thing that allows you to experience less stress during the day.
- Watch a funny video.
Some of the risk factors for depression at work, according to Magavi, include:
- dismissive managers
- effort-reward imbalance
- workplace politics
- workplace gossip
- workplace bullying
- high job demands
- low decision latitude
- limited social support in the workplace
Parmar pointed to additional risk factors like:
- unfair expectations
- excessive workload
- unclear or mismanaged roles at work
She also suggested that a poor job fit can increase emotional and physical distress, leading to burnout, as can a poor emphasis on work-life balance.
Additionally, excessive long shifts of 10 to 12 hours or more or shifts during odd hours of the day that disrupt routines and sleep patterns are also risk factors.
If you’re noticing a link between depressive symptoms and your workplace, don’t wait to seek help. Talking with your immediate supervisor or boss is a good first step — as long as you feel supported by them.
Sometimes a change in assignment or location within an office or organization can help reduce symptoms.
You can also ask the human resources department if your company has an employee assistance program. This is a work-based program that offers mental health–related services for personal and work concerns.
Outside of work, a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle interventions are often recommended for treating depression. You can get help from professionals in person and online.
Finding help for depression
Help for depression is available online, in person, and through helplines. Here are some resources to contact:
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Online therapy options
Read our review of the best online therapy options to find the right fit for you.
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Additionally, Parmar said that employers and colleagues can play a significant role in identifying an individual at risk.
“It’s important to create a culture of spreading awareness and reducing the stigma associated with mental health disorders at the workplace, so affected individuals are encouraged to seek help freely without any prejudice when needed,” she explained.
In fact, a
With that in mind, managers, supervisors, and employees can be trained to initiate such conversations with people who need help and support them in their search for timely care.
Experiencing symptoms of depression while at work can feel overwhelming. Identifying signs like anxiety, crying, boredom, and lack of interest is the first step to getting help.
If you’re concerned about work depression, consider reaching out to your supervisor or human resources department. They can help you find a counselor through an employee assistance program.
You can also seek treatment through a therapist or psychologist.
Remember, you’re not alone. If you’re not ready to reach out at work, make an appointment with a doctor or mental health professional.
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- Go for a quick walk, even if it's just indoors.
- Take a mental health day.
- Practice a few minutes of mindfulness meditation.
- Incorporate deep breathing exercises into your day.
- Say no to one small thing that allows you to experience less stress during the day.
- Watch a funny video.
overall feelings of boredom and complacency about your job. low energy and lack of motivation to do things, which can sometimes manifest as boredom in tasks. persistent or prolonged feelings of sadness or low mood.What to do if my job is affecting my mental health? ›
- Know the ways that work can affect your mental health. ...
- Pinpoint exactly what is making your mental health worse. ...
- Change your perspective on your career. ...
- Consider consulting HR or your manager. ...
- Know the careers where mental health issues are common. ...
- A final note.
After realizing that you need help, reach out to a colleague that you trust. A loyal and reliable coworker can help you vent or think things through. If you need more help, a supervisor might be the best person to talk to, given they may be informed about resources that could help with mental health.How does depression affect you at work? ›
It contributes to presenteeism, or employees at work but not engaged, and absenteeism, or employees missing days of work. It may also adversely impact multiple areas of employee performance, including focus and decision making, time management, completing physical tasks, social interactions, and communication .Should I quit my job if it makes me depressed? ›
If you find yourself in a situation in which it is emotionally, physically, or mentally draining (or worse) for you even to show up to work, let alone get excited and perform at a high level—you need to leave.How do you survive a job that makes you miserable? ›
- Share the load. If I asked you what you hated about your work, I bet you'd be able to reel off a long list of things. ...
- Reduce your hours. ...
- Zoom out. ...
- Choose your superpower. ...
- Take on a secret side-project (at work) ...
- Take on a secret side-project (at home) ...
- Shift your focus. ...
- Take the lead.
- Persistent sad and empty mood.
- Communicating a sense of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, pessimism.
- Uncharacteristic drop in productivity or increase in absences.
- Signs of substance misuse.
- Fatigue; loss of interest in ordinary activities.
So how long can you be signed off with depression? For as long as you need to get better. Some employees may need to take time off for treatment while others could just require a couple of days away from work. It's possible to return to work before a fit note runs out.What is a mental health break from work called? ›
LEAVE FOR MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS UNDER THE FMLA
An eligible employee may take FMLA leave for their own serious health condition, or to care for a spouse, child, or parent because of a serious health condition. A serious health condition can include a mental health condition.
So while leaving without notice isn't common courtesy, it doesn't have to burn bridges or ruin your career if you're honest about why you need to leave. In other words, a toxic work environment that's impacting your mental health is a very valid reason for wanting to leave quickly.Should I quit my job due to stress? ›
Making the decision to step away from a job is not always easy or feasible. But when your physical or emotional well-being is suffering and your stress isn't eased by the occasional mental health day, experts say it's generally best to start looking elsewhere.Can I resign due to mental health? ›
“If you have communicated your needs clearly and taken responsibility for your part in what may be going on, and if you've asked for reasonable adjustments to be made and still, nothing changes, it may be time to leave.”Do you tell your boss you're depressed? ›
It's entirely up to you how much you want to disclose - you don't have to "name" your condition but be careful about words like “stress” which can mean many different things and is often misinterpreted. If you have seen your doctor, and have a diagnosis, then let your employer know you are ill.Should I tell my boss I'm struggling mentally? ›
Talking about our struggles is important because it helps to create an open and honest work environment. People feel more comfortable talking about their struggles when they know their work environment is supportive, too.How do you tell your boss you're struggling mentally? ›
Talking about your mental health doesn't need to be scary or over-complicated, you can start the conversation by simply saying, “I need to get something off my chest” or “I need to talk, do you have time to listen?” Just remember to tell your boss only what is necessary.Why is working with depression hard? ›
Depression and Work
Disruption of thought processes could mean that your attention span is limited. It can make it difficult for you to complete tasks or hit deadlines. If you've lost enthusiasm for your work or have a low mood, you may have difficulty collaborating with coworkers or communicating with your team.
Study after study shows that the effects of job unhappiness can impact your overall mental health, causing problems with sleep, anxiety, and depression.Can people with depression hold a job? ›
Many jobs can be suitable for people with depression. Jobs that offer autonomy and flexibility, like freelance writing or virtual assistant work, may be particularly beneficial for people with depression.How do you know it's time to leave a job? ›
You are no longer able to fulfill your job responsibilities. There are substantially better opportunities available at another organization. You need more work-life balance. You dread going to work.
Frantic emails off-hours, unnecessary follow-ups, micromanagement, unrealistic deadlines and expectations, complete disregard of work/life balance—and, in this case, utter disregard for unique personal needs—are major red flags that can compound over time and lead employees to quit.What is quiet quitting job? ›
“I recently learned about this term called quiet quitting, where you're not outright quitting your job but you're quitting the idea of going above and beyond,” Khan says. “You're still performing your duties, but you're no longer subscribing to the hustle-culture mentality that work has to be your life.What are the three traits of a miserable job? ›
Through the story of a CEO turned pizzeria manager, Lencioni reveals the three elements that make work miserable -- irrelevance, immeasurability, and anonymity -- and gives managers and their employees the keys to make any job more fulfilling.What are the three things of a miserable job? ›
Through the fable and the more direct final section, Lencioni identifies three forces that make a job miserable: anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement.How do you mentally survive a job you hate? ›
- Remember why you took the job. Remind yourself why you applied for your job and why you chose that field or industry. ...
- Identify your goals. ...
- Have a positive perspective. ...
- Improve your skills. ...
- Get some training. ...
- Embrace your small achievements. ...
- Reward yourself. ...
- Set boundaries.
- Voicing concerns. ...
- Exhaustion. ...
- Work quality change. ...
- Attitude change. ...
- Poor attendance. ...
- Inappropriate behavior. ...
- Major life event.
mood swings. being withdrawn. loss of motivation, commitment and confidence. increased emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive.What are the five employee signs of struggle? ›
They developed a signs of struggle (SOS) checklist under five categories: distress, withdrawal, reduced attendance, degradations in performance, and extreme behaviors. ...Can you get disability for depression? ›
Yes. People with depression are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA defines a person with a disability as anyone who: Has a physical or mental health problem that “substantially limits” at least one major life activity — this could be working or taking care of yourself.What do I do if I can't work due to anxiety and depression? ›
You should seek the help of medical professionals such as a psychotherapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist if you experience prolonged periods of a low mood, aversion or disinterest in activities or work, disruptions to your sleep, or thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
Lack of sleep and poor nutrition are two of the most obvious, yet neglected signs that it's time to take a mental health break. Not only is your physical energy diminished, your emotional energy and intelligence are also impacted.What to do if you hate your job but need the money? ›
- Decrease financial liabilities. You likely can categorize the need for a high salary in one of two ways: as a want or a need. ...
- Explore other sources of income. ...
- Raise issues with management. ...
- Reassess your career. ...
- Reflect on your values.
When a nervous breakdown is work-related, some professionals refer to it as burnout syndrome. It's most likely brought on by stress from work including upcoming deadlines, increased workloads, unreasonable targets, etc.Should I stay at a job that makes me unhappy? ›
It's not advisable to stay in a job that corrodes your mental health, even if it pays well. While quitting might be the easiest and fastest way out, some people might not have that luxury. They might end up in a worse situation. No amount of money can replace your happiness.Can I quit my job due to stress and anxiety? ›
If your stress is impacting your health, you may want to resign immediately so you can focus on getting help. Otherwise, giving notice can help preserve your professional reputation. Assess your current situation and decide which option is best for you, then clearly state your last day in your resignation letter.Can your boss fire you for mental health? ›
Here is the straightforward answer regarding this issue: it is illegal for an employer to fire an employee because of a mental health condition. It is unlawful for a company to discriminate against a physical disability or mental health condition.What are the signs of burnout? ›
- Sense of failure and self-doubt.
- Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated.
- Detachment, feeling alone in the world.
- Loss of motivation. Increasingly cynical and negative outlook.
- Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.
If you decide to fully disclose burnout as a cause, frame it as a strength. For example, if your burnout was due to a values mismatch, explain the steps you've taken to get clear about your values and how the new position is a better fit.Do I hate my job or am I just burned out? ›
Yes, doing something you hate every day can take a toll on your body, but a dislike of your job is less likely to manifest itself in your body the same way true burnout would. If symptoms like headaches, backaches, panic attacks, or stomach issues are weighing you down, it's likely burnout that you're dealing with.How much money do you need to quit work? ›
Having a full and realistic estimate of your monthly expenses is key before quitting a job. Saving enough to cover six month's worth of expenses should be a bare minimum. Make saving a priority, consider starting a side hustle, and stick to your budget for best results.
You're Burnt Out. Is burnout and stress on your list of good reasons to quit a job? If your job has lost its luster and you feel like the long hours, pressure and anxiety aren't worth it anymore; you're not alone. Every day, people quit their jobs due to the emotional exhaustion and chronic stress of demanding roles.Can you talk to HR about mental health? ›
As with all things, you only need to disclose what you feel comfortable talking about. Addressing mental health with your employer can have positive outcomes and can enable them to support you. In the long run, it can improve how you feel about work and empower you to seek help when needed.Should I tell work I'm on antidepressants? ›
There's no right or wrong answer when it comes to telling people at work about your mental health condition. Whether you choose to tell others can depend on how much your condition affects your role, the amount of support you have outside the workplace and your relationships with your colleagues.How do you tell your boss you Cannot cope? ›
- Align on priorities and expectations.
- Implement a new or different process.
- Determine where you need more support and identify teammates or external resources, like a temp or contractor.
- Develop or reorganize timelines.
Applying for family and medical leave act (FMLA): FMLA allows eligible employees to take an unpaid leave of absence from work for medical reasons. You are eligible for up to twelve weeks (in a 12-month period) if you are deemed unable to work due to your mental illness.How do you tell work you're mentally exhausted? ›
Explain in clear terms what you believe is leading to burnout. Examples include unreasonable deadlines, unfair treatment, and unclear expectations. Morand recommends reminding your boss that you value your job and are being honest in an effort to resolve the burnout.Can a toxic job cause depression? ›
Similar to an actual toxin in the air, a toxic work environment is detrimental to your mental and physical health. If you stay too long, it can lead to high stress levels, poor self-esteem, and depression.Can a job give you anxiety and depression? ›
This guidance talks generally about work-related stress but where such stress is prolonged it can lead to both physical and psychological damage, including anxiety and depression. Work can also aggravate pre-existing conditions, and problems at work can bring on symptoms or make their effects worse.What to do when you feel hopeless about your job? ›
When you feel yourself starting to grow hopeless, remember to stay positive, avoid “always” or “never” thinking, and fill your time with activities that are going to help your resume. If you do all of these things, you will never have to worry about the job search feeling hopeless ever again.When is it time to leave a job? ›
It may be time to quit your job when you're no longer motivated to complete your daily tasks, feel overworked or burnt out, or want to move beyond your current position into a more advanced one. These are a few signs that it may be time to quit your job and get a better one that more effectively meets your needs.
- Positive reminisce. Spending 10 minutes per day reflecting on thoughts and emotions related to an enjoyable moment.
- Three good things. Writing down three positive events each day and reflecting on why they happened.
- Sharing with others. ...
- Self-congratulation. ...
- Positive imagination.
A Toxic Workplace Likely Has Rapid Employee Turnover
Conversely, if employees are constantly being laid off or fired, this can be a sign of a few other toxic elements. A high turnover rate usually means there's disorganization, lack of direction, bad leadership, or little opportunity.
Many people cry when they feel frustrated, anxious, or deeply passionate about and invested in their work. Over the last year, many of my coaching clients have asked how to recover from crying at work. It's no surprise, because workers are under greater stress and facing record rates of burnout.What are 5 signs of work-related stress? ›
- Muscular tension.
- Heart palpitations.
- Sleeping difficulties, such as insomnia.
- Gastrointestinal upsets, such as diarrhoea or constipation.
- Dermatological disorders.
If your employer cannot accommodate your needs, or your needs are too great to continue working, then quitting your job might save your mental health. This is a tough decision so do not make it alone. Work with a physician, counselor, or psychotherapist to determine how you can proceed down this path.Should I tell boss about depression? ›
It's entirely up to you how much you want to disclose - you don't have to "name" your condition but be careful about words like “stress” which can mean many different things and is often misinterpreted. If you have seen your doctor, and have a diagnosis, then let your employer know you are ill.How do you tell your job you're struggling? ›
- Confront your flawed “help narrative.” Admitting the need for help is a struggle for many professionals. ...
- Clarify what you're experiencing. ...
- Take responsibility for your effect on others. ...
- Start with a colleague or friend. ...
- Appeal, don't complain.
- Be clear about what you can and can't control. ...
- Take time to look after yourself. ...
- Make a list of pros and cons. ...
- Make the most of your downtime. ...
- Change how you think about your work. ...
- Talk to someone. ...
- Make a plan to find different work.
- You're being micromanaged. ...
- Your workload has been reduced. ...
- You're excluded from important meetings. ...
- You're being ignored. ...
- Your efforts aren't recognized.
If you've been seeing signs you need to quit your job for the whole year but haven't taken action on it, you're probably now wondering if December is the best month to resign. Traditionally, experts would say that it is, simply because January, which is just weeks away, is the best month to apply for jobs.