Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Is Your Work Making You Depressed?

posted by Beyond Blue

Is Your Job Making You Depressed? This post was published on Psych Central last week, but I thought many of my Beyond Blue readers would benefit from it, since it probably seems like I never go through a period of time when I can’t be productive.

How do you stay productive when you are clinically depressed? At my rock bottom I had to take a break altogether from writing, as every time I sat down in front of my computer, all I could do was cry. Moreover, because my concentration was totally so shot, composing a sentence — much less an article — wasn’t going to happen.

I took a year off.

To heal.

Because Eric was gainfully employed at that time, I was able to swing it.

Eventually I tip-toed back to the working world. Very slowly. Very carefully. Very deliberately. Because a sudden plunge might have rendered me disabled for another year or so.

And I didn’t start with writing, ironically.

My therapist advised me to do something in which I interacted with people, as the process of writing is not all that conducive to recovery from depression. The time alone and the cerebral exercise can often aggravate depression and anxiety, inviting more invitations to obsess and ruminate. When your job requires that you be among people, some of whom you have to listen to, you have a better shot of concentration.

So I became a tutor at a local college. For two hours a week. I read the words of my students since I couldn’t compose my own.

One of the more complex quandaries of depression is knowing when your job is making you depressed, or if you are just clinically depressed, and you job has nothing to do with it.

While most mental health professionals assert that gainful employment improves mood and promotes resiliency, a new study by the Australian National University (ANU) maintains that the wrong job can do more harm than good. Psych Central’s Selena Chavis covered the study last October.

According to lead researcher Dr. Liana Leach, “the research showed that people who moved from being unemployed into poor-quality jobs were significantly more likely to be depressed at follow-up than those people who remained unemployed… This research suggests getting people into any job may not necessarily lead to mental health improvements. Instead, people need good quality work to gain and maintain better well-being.”

I can think of two jobs that definitely made me more depressed: my first year out of college when my personality was a horrible match to my co-workers’, and the six months of this past year when I became a government contractor with a conservative consulting firm and was doing PowerPoint presentations on change management and other things that I knew absolutely nothing about.

Both times, the last day of these jobs felt like I had transcended into the air… you know, like the transfiguration of Jesus; the lightness I experienced seemed metaphysical. In fact, this last time, I was so glad to be done with that job that I got manic. I couldn’t contain my excitement that I would no longer have to type into my computer my employment ID number forty times a day and wear a dark gray, navy, or black suit, with my badge faced out.

Not to say that my days are perfect now. I do hit rough patches … and during those times, I put down the writing for awhile and focus on tasks that get me out of my head because, while writing is enormously rewarding, the isolation and cerebral exercise is hard, I think, for a person prone to depression and anxiety. The challenge is staying resilient enough that you can stay productive, which, in turn, promotes more resiliency.

Unless you’re working a job that only fostering more insecurity.

For six tips on how to stay productive when you are depressed, click here.



  • http://www.mansitherapy.com mansi

    Sigh…. reading this article reminded me how depressed I am and how working at the wrong job can make it worse. I have to go for work in an hour and I am dreading it as usual… thinking of excuses to avoid just one more day… but the paycheck addiction keeps me going. i have 3 jobs, i love my other two, but this one…. its monotonous, boring with a boss who has the worst management skills. i agree that the wrong job can really make things worse. I am tempted to quit after reading this article.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Maire

    Good article, this is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately, since I am unemployed and hesitant to take just “any” job, fearing that it may make me more depressed, not less. Just one thing though: why did you specify the consulting firm as “conservative”? Does it really make a difference? From the job description you gave, it seems like it would be boring no matter what affiliation it had.

  • http://www.soulsastray.com Raine West

    This is the core problem between me and my family. They think I should be able to just go out and work some mindless job that doesn’t require thinking and that will solve all my money problems. I’ve tried it and it makes things worse. I personally feel the work should be inspiring, but when you’re depressed, nothing is inspiring.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jean

    This article really hit home for me. My last job, at a law enforcement agency (in customer service) was the most depressing job I’ve ever had, or anyone has ever had. Nothing good EVER happened. I quit to look after parents with dementia and (foolishly) spent every nickel of savings on their needs. Now, 10 years later, when I desperately need a job with benefits, no one will hire me. And, I can’t leave my current city, due to another ill relative. So…I get more depressed. It’s a catch-22, for sure. I am currently taking a grant-funded course at a workforce development center, but I frankly can’t see a job materializing from it, as I’m the dumbest student there.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cawcat

    I can relate to your excitement at leaving a job that you hated. I retired from a job in the mental health field last year. I could hardly contain my laughter every morning when I got up and did not have to go into that depressing building. Because of money restraints the carpet was torn and taped together. The offices were small, dark and stifling, and the building was a concrete prison. The work was getting to be so rote that management was handing us manuals we had to follow for groups. There was no more room for creative therapy or use of the skills I had honed for 30 years. Those did not matter any more. The supervisors were inexperienced and driven by administration rather than their love for the art of therapy. So blessed to be out of that racket.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Meg

    Hmmmm…I’ve been thinking about quitting my job too. I think it’s partly b/c I’ve been with the same company so long (17yrs!) I just feel stagnant, but my personality/depression tend to keep me from any change. The other part is more psychological in that I come in contact with customers who remind me that I don’t have what I want in life right now, which sets me up to ruminate during my entire shift and pray for change that just never seems to happen. Working, even though I do get to interact with people, just makes me feel more depressed. But then I reason that my family needs my part time paycheck and that I would never get the same great wage elsewhere, since I’ve earned that wage over 17yrs. I’m thinking that some change would do me good though and contemplating taking a leap of faith to quit and discover the next work frontier for me…a scary undertaking. Then there’s the timing…is it a good time now, or should I wait till I “feel better?” Things that need to be discussed with my spouse and therapist…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Cheryl

    I was just given the news on Friday that I was not chosen for my “dream job”. Or to be perfectly clear, I had to call and find out that I was not chosen because nobody bothered to let the ones they didn’t want to hire know they weren’t chosen, but it was a “very tough decision” for them. I am in pain, I had hope that is now gone. It is very dark and dreary outside which only matches how it feels inside of me.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment S

    I am quitting my job in 2 months…The thought of it is makin me so happy..something I havent felt in more than a decade!! I have no back up job offers yet..I am not ready to jump in to another job just yet…for a bigger package..no its not about the money…I plan to be regular to the gym…go for long walks…learn cookin & drivin the ol car…listen to music..play with my cats…read good books or just gaze at the stars!! All of this at 30 :)
    I am at a point where I need to stop…come to a complete stand still and clear my mind…n decide which path I should take…its easier said than done…livin wid parents may hot food on the table but its full of “Push my buttons” moments..Like Y I am not married though I have umpteen friends…bla bla..I wanna complete heal and flush out all the toxic thoughts & food I have accumulated in my system & refresh….Praying to God that He keeps bringing the right people and direction to keep moving like He has…Love you Therese & God bless!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment christine

    The more you work outside the more depressed you get.Have to be bullied by your superior.Have to suck up to them so your life is more pleasantable just to earn a meagre pay.The world outside is sure harsh!

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