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Many of us may feel that we’re experiencing depression from work at some point during the course of our careers, but how can we be sure? According to the World Health Organization, depression is caused by “a complex interaction of social, psychological, and biological factors.” So, identifying a single cause may be too simplistic.
However, work-related stress is certainly at high levels, and that stress may increase the susceptibility to depression. It’s important to distinguish among stress, anxiety, sadness and depression, which is a longer-term experience of misery or hopelessness. With work being such a large part of our lives, it could be a significant trigger for depression for those with underlying susceptibility. Here are seven signs you’re suffering from depression from work.
You avoid all but necessary interactions. You may even develop feelings of hostility toward coworkers. In some instances, your coworkers themselves may be a trigger, with negative attitudes or comparisons contributing to you feeling worthless, unappreciated, left out, personally mocked or overly criticized. In other cases, you may simply feel the need to disengage with work and anyone associated with work as much as possible. Unfortunately, when this happens, it’s likely to produce a vicious circle, with increased social isolation leading to increased feelings of depression.
For those with full-time jobs, we already spend a large proportion of our waking lives at work. If we’re also still thinking and worrying about stresses from work while we’re off the clock, this can easily bring us to a point where our resilience is low. Replaying the disagreement you had with a colleague or the mistake you were chastised for over and over in your head makes you amplify these problems. Feelings of exhaustion contribute to low mood and energy, making you feel less competent. If you don’t allow yourself an escape from work, it’s easier for depression to set in.
A key sign of depression is no longer finding joy or fulfillment in activities that were previously enjoyable and engaging. If you’re just unhappy at work, not depressed, it might spill over somewhat into outside interests, but you would still expect to be able to take your mind off work troubles through your favorite activities. If you’re depressed from work, this might not be possible. Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness and pessimism suck the joy out of life, and that doesn’t just stop when you close the workplace door behind you.
You don’t try your best anymore. You’re not concerned about getting a bad review. Your job is making you miserable, and you’ve mentally begun to check out. If you’ve started to develop this kind of attitude, sooner or later, someone will notice. In a worst-case scenario, your lowered productivity could eventually get you fired. Somewhere in the back of your mind that might be what you’re looking for. Or it might be a cry for help. Depression leaves you in a very vulnerable position, where you may be robbed of the will to help yourself, and having to find a new job while in this situation isn’t likely to be good for your mental health. It’s difficult to perform at your best when suffering from depression, but there are ways to cope. As always, reach out and seek help if you can.
You’ve become overly focused on the negative aspects of your job. When things go well, you overlook or downplay them. You’re almost trying to convince yourself that everything about your work situation is bad. This state of mind indicates that work holds no sense of possibility or positivity for you, and this may result in depression, making it hard for you to pull yourself back to a more positive outlook. You may feel extremely reluctant to go into work and highly stressed at the thought of going into work the next day and even take time off.
Whether you feel stuck in the job or feel a lack of control over aspects of the job or your work-life balance, this can make you miserable. Depression lowers our ability to fight, so you may feel resigned to your situation and powerless to change it. Or you may feel the urge to escape, no matter what the consequences. Getting help and support is important if you find yourself with these feelings. If possible, try a sympathetic manager, HR or the occupational health department at your workplace or an outside organization (see below).
Depression sometimes manifests itself in physical symptoms, such as fatigue, headache, stomach upsets and feeling generally run down. It also can affect the immune system and therefore make you more susceptible to colds and other illnesses. If you have to take time off for these health issues, that can increase stress and anxiety at work. Although many of us feel tired during the workweek, feeling constantly exhausted is not normal. If you’re experiencing these problems, see a doctor and be sure to tell them if you think you're depressed.
Different surveys give different answers to this question. MentalHelp.net reports that workers in public and private transportation have the highest rates of depression, with real estate and social services workers coming second and third respectively. It’s thought that lack of physical activity, lack of social support and high stress are strong contributing factors to depression and suicide rates among different professions.
Although women have higher rates of depression, men have higher rates of suicide across all professions. Centers for Disease Control data rank industries by suicide rate. For women, the highest rates were in the arts, design, entertainment, sports and media fields, while for men it was construction and extraction. It’s thought that personal risk in the job could be a contributing factor here. It should be noted that doctors are known to have a high rate of suicide from data on specific professions, while dentists, farmers and veterinarians are also at risk.
The best time to quit, in an ideal circumstance, is when you’ve already secured alternative employment. However, this isn’t always possible and you have to weigh the consequences of leaving and being unemployed or of staying in a job that’s affecting your mental health. Before you seriously consider resigning, explore the possibilities of working with your employer to make things better. There’s still a stigma attached to depression in society, which can make it very difficult to report it at work. However, there are legal protections in place, and employers should be able to offer support.
If it truly is your job more than any other factors that's causing your depression, there comes a time when it may be wiser to quit for the sake of your health. Talk through your situation with a supportive friend or family member. It’s important to know that depression, although it can be long-lasting, is temporary.
Always consult a health professional if you suspect you may be depressed. Whether the condition was triggered by work issues or elsewhere, depression will affect every aspect of your life. Know that there are ways to cope and function both professionally and personally and that things will get better.
This article was written by a FGB Contributor.
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