Depression is an incredibly common mental health condition. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2019, 7.8% of adults in the U.S. had at least one episode of major depression. Among young adults aged 18 to 25, the prevalence of depression within a given year jumps to 15.2%.
There is not a single factor that causes depression, but rather, experts believe it is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors. For example, family history, physical illness, trauma, and stress can contribute to depression.
One source of stress that may be linked to depression is workplace challenges, such as toxic work environments and job-related stressors. In fact, recent research suggests that the workplace is a significant source of psychological distress, especially in the face of a national pandemic.
Stressful Work Environments & Mental Health
If you’re struggling with depression, there is a chance your job may be to blame. That’s not to say that every case of depression is due to work-related stress, but in today’s workaholic culture, the job that pays your bills and feeds your family can also begin to eat away at your mental health.
In fact, one recent study directly links workplace stress to depression. The study, which was published in BMJ Open, found that working long hours was linked to symptoms of depression. This means that if you are racking up overtime or staying at the office late into the evening to catch up on tasks, your mental health may begin to suffer.
Beyond long work hours, the same study found that toxic workplace climates increased the risk of depression. Toxic workplaces were defined as those that scored low on a scale that measures management commitment to promoting psychological health, and the extent to which organizations view psychological health as being just as important as productivity. What can be concluded from this study is that when higher-ups do not view mental health as important and pressure employees to be productive, even if they must sacrifice their psychological wellbeing, employees are more likely to fall victim to depression.
If members of upper management in your workplace do not promote a culture that recognizes the importance of mental health, you could be surrounded by a toxic job environment that worsens your mental health, and ultimately leads to symptoms of depression.
Work-Related Depression in the Face of COVID-19
While a toxic work environment can cause distress at any point in time, such an environment can be especially damaging in the midst of a pandemic. It is no surprise that COVID-19 has changed the way that business is conducted. Some workers have been forced to complete their jobs from home, leading to feelings of isolation.
Others have been able to return to the office but may find that the environment has changed. Coming to work may require daily temperature checks as well as safety practices like mask-wearing and distancing from others. All of these changes can lead to added stress, disconnection from others, and ultimately, increased feelings of burnout. All of this can further increase the likelihood of depression.
Diving Deeper into Burnout
Whether it’s COVID-related or simply just because of the regular demands of your job, burnout can lead to depression. In fact, psychology experts have described burnout as being a form of emotional exhaustion, in which a person lacks confidence in their own abilities. This level of burnout is typically linked to job-related stress. Over time, as workplace stress depletes a person’s energy, they may become detached from their work and begin to feel as if they are not succeeding. This can understandably lead to depression, and the body of the research on burnout shows that it is linked to depression symptoms and antidepressant use.
If demands at work are leaving you stressed and you don’t feel that you’re getting the support you need from your boss, it is likely that you will feel burned out before long. When burnout causes you to feel unproductive and detached from work, your self-esteem may suffer, which can ultimately lead to feelings of depression. The emotional exhaustion that comes along with burnout can also look a lot like the fatigue and lack of interest in activities that characterize a depression diagnosis.
What to do About Job-Related Depression
If stress from the demands of your job or the attitudes of management have led you to feel depressed, it’s important to take care of yourself. Maybe your job isn’t the sole cause of your depression, but at the very least, it could be a contributing factor, especially if you are overworked, underappreciated, and burned out.
You probably won’t be able to change the culture of your workplace, especially not overnight, but the following strategies can be helpful:
- Seek social support at work. If you’re feeling the stress of the job, chances are that your coworkers are, too. Find a trusted colleague you can go to when you need to discuss job-related concerns or simply blow off some steam. Having someone to turn to can make it easier to cope.
- Practice self-care. You may not be able to eliminate stress at work, but taking care of yourself outside of work can make it easier to manage the demands you face during the workday. When you’re off the clock, take time to do things you enjoy. This may be as simple as meeting a friend for coffee on the weekends, enjoying a show with your spouse or significant other, or taking a hot bath before bed. Try also to get some physical activity and incorporate nutritious foods into your diet so you feel your best.
- Get professional treatment. Depression is a mental health disorder, meaning that it is a legitimate medical condition that requires treatment. It’s important to take care of your mental health, and there is no shame in reaching out for help. The typical course of treatment for depression is counseling and/or medication. In counseling, you can learn strategies to help you cope with stress, and develop new ways of thinking that don’t lead to feelings of depression.
If you do not respond to the usual course of treatment for depression, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) may be beneficial. This is a non-invasive treatment approach that can be added onto your usual routine of counseling and medication. For those in the Los Angeles area, Pulse TMS provides TMS services during conveniently scheduled 18-minute sessions. Your treatment will typically last 6-8 weeks, and you can continue taking your medications. Contact us today to determine if TMS is a good fit for you.