Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Is Your Job Making You Depressed?

Is Your Job Making You Depressed? The other day I wrote a post on how to stay productive when you are clinically depressed. I mentioned that, 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.

Click here to subscribe to Beyond Blue and click here to follow Therese on Twitter and click here to join Group Beyond Blue, a depression support group. Now stop clicking.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Sam Gyura

    As usual your article resonates strongly with me. Since my breakdown in November 2010 I have been unemployed but gainfully looking for work. I’ve been knocked back so many times after going throught he gruelling job interview process it’s not funny. People say that it must be so hard presenting and getting knocked back all the time, but in a strange way the process is a positive one for me. If I don’t keep trying (and going) I know I’ll die. My greatest fear is securing a job that is shithouse and sends me spiralling back down again. But it’s pointless to think or ruminate on that. I have another job interview tomorrow. Better drag the old navy suit out the wardrobe…nah, I’m going with a white shirt and pin-striped vest! I might wear pants too just for the thrill of it. Btw I read that ANU study too. Therese I think you may soon be an honourary Aussie if you keep this up x

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jean

    Similar to Sam, I have not worked for over 10 years, but mainly, it’s been due to looking after ill family members. Now that I desperately need a job, no one will hire me. Just this past two months, I’ve dragged myself to 4 interviews, with no success at all. What made me feel really bad was, at the last public service application I picked up, the so-called ‘executive’ was sitting in the room, but would not even look up and greet or acknowledge potential employees. Total LOSER! I’m also scared of getting ‘stuck’ in a horrid, horrid job with no escape. I think we’re all pretty much in the same boat.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Sam Gyura

    I hear ya Jean. It’s bloody tough when you’ve had a ‘gap’ on your resume. There would be NO WAY I’d say tell the truth of why I have been unemployed for nearly a year to a prospective employer. I’m lucky I don’t have to as I had pneumonia during my breakdown, so I just say I had pneumonia. I’ve even started to second-guess myself over that thinking I should lie and say I’ve been overseas for the past 10 months. But I’m a hopeless liar! Anyone can tell by my body language.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mary Anne Thompson


    Thanks for todays article/subject.I so understand it. When I was wking in my field as a Certified Legal Asst (before becoming disabled) while the $ was good I was miserable. I specialized in Family Law. Talk about depressing! Everyone was getting a Divorce, fighting over child custody, child support…I would find myself crying on my way hm from work everyday. I stepped away from that position. Now even though I cannot work outside of my home because of my bad back and perm disability I am much calmer. I do not have the income but my days are my own. I can pray, meditate, work in my garden, cross stitch, craft, write which like you I do. I have been published in the past and do enjoy writing, journaling along with photography. I have learned to use my time using my God given gifts/talents. By doing the things I was called to do I get much more satisfaction and I am alot less stressed! Still take my anti anxiety meds and anti depressants every day of my life but now instead of waking up saying GOOD GOD it’s morning I can say Good Morning God! Please keep me and my Mother in your prayers. I was blessed to be able to visit her this past Sunday at my sister’s farm. She has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and has given up. She talked about dying a few times over the course of our visit. I could feel the fear she is holding and see it in her eyes. Mental illness is so much scarier than any physical illness in my opinion! She lived her life Schizophrenic, was diagnosed with Dementia 2 yrs ago and now fullblown Alzheimer’s. She has had a rough 82 yrs on this planet and is ready to cross over. I can’t blame her, I too am so tired of whats going on in the World, we are in the last days and dying does not scare me. It is living that scares me the most! Blessed Be

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment JiLLB

    This really hit close to home for me, too. I was in a job I loved, making awful money, but got too burned out. The company felt highly about me and my work and I was able to be transferred to an entirely different position, about which I knew very little. Just over 6 months into the new position my depression hadn’t improved and I wound up on disability. This was over 10 yrs ago.

    Trying to figure out a niche for ourselves which balances overall enjoyment of our job, financial necessity (not asking to make $250K) and the ability to handle the position emotionally is a hard thing to do. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get back to work, but for those who do, I hope you can find that balance.

    That gap in employment on a resume is one of those touchy subjects. A potential employer has no legal right to know why you were out of work – to have and raise kids, being on disability, taking care of a family member. On the other hand, an interviewer has to wonder why there is such a big break in your employment history and if they can expect you’ll stop working for them after a certain time. I don’t know what the answer is. What have you all found to work well?

    I’ve had more than one person say to me that they wish they were in my shoes and didn’t have to work. They have NO idea how much I’d LOVE to change places. If I wasn’t experiencing all that I am and was mentally and physically able to work, I’d be there in a heartbeat! Switch places – have at it! Then they can understand the unbearable pain; the mental and physical alone are debilitating, but combine them and it’s a recipe for disaster. To be in debt so far beyond my eyeballs I can’t even see it – not fun! SSDI doesn’t send this huge check every month. My salary combined with my husband’s was meeting the bills, but cut my, albeit absurdly tiny salary, and we’re now in dire straights. Want to switch places? Be my guest!

    I think I got just a little bit off track here. My brain isn’t having a good time of it. I guess the whole concept of work makes my head spin.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Sam Gyura

    JiLLB, I can relate to your head-spin about the concept of work. I’m scared about getting back into the 9-5, suit & makeup on everyday. But I’m even more scared about never working again. My mum’s been covering my rent and I’ve effectively declared bankruptcy over previous debts. I’ve always been independent, so it kills me that my mum is doing this, but I also thank God for her. I’d like to think that I’m ready to get back into the workforce. My non-existant bank balance sure is!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment joie

    taking a break from work is wonderful thought, that’s all it is when you have a child support for two kids, the cost of extra activities for the kids, a mortgage, two jobs and a day to day bank account….it just does not work so all you are left with are meds and to gut it out for as long as it takes.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Cheryl

    I would love to get back to work as well – in the right job though. It has been three years for me – the economy where I live isn’t good and each time the stock market crashes any jobs that were listed, disappear. I wonder if I will ever work again too. The isolation of being at home is very difficult for those of us with depression. I am working on my Master’s while hoping for an economic shift that will enable me to land a good opportunity.
    I’m working hard on myself, trying to learn new tools to unlearn depression – I don’t want this suffocating me for the rest of my life.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Can’t Say

    I am currently working job that I know is making me depressed, affecting my chronic illness, and is literally killing me inch by inch every single day. The sad thing is, I’m the sole breadwinner in my family. And I’m scared to death to say anything – not about the ADA violations, the harassment, the bullying, yelled at…etc… because I can’t lose this job.

    What help is there for those of us who are severely depressed and have to stay at our crushing jobs? (Yes, all avenues of help have been explored. Doors shut. Not their problem. Etc. Etc. Etc.)

  • Yeoman

    This is a very interesting topic to me, as I don’t think I’m depressed at all, but I get a serious case of the blues almost every day at work. If I read the “depression” type check lists, I have it most days from 7 to noon, and then 1 until whenever I quit working (5:00, 6:00. . . or 10:00).

    In a lot of ways, I just feel I’m a really bad fit personality wise for my occupation (trial lawyer). I’m introverted, not extroverted. I like being outside in all kinds of weather, and I hate being indoors. I don’t like talking to people I don’t know well. But I do the opposite of all of these things.

    The bad thing is, that this job qualifies you do do only this job, and I have no other way to support my family. People will sometimes tell me “but you are so good at it”, which practically breaks my heart every time I hear it.

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