Have you ever heard about job depression?

What is workplace depression, why does it appear and what symptoms does it cause? Is it the same as depression? How can it be treated on a psychological and pharmacological level? 

Does the concept of job depression sound familiar to you? It is likely that, intuitively, if you hear this concept, you think of sick leave due to depression or problems at work. And you're not on the wrong track: workplace depression is the term we use to refer to mood disorder, depression, caused by difficulties or problems at work.

And, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), work is beneficial for mental health , but when it causes us unhappiness and suffering, work depression can appear. According to the WHO itself, some of the risks to mental health at work are the following:

  • Inadequate safety and health protection policies.
  • Low level of support for employees.
  • Rigid work hours.
  • Lack of clarity in organizational areas or objectives.
  • Inefficient management and communication practices.
  • Little power of decision of the worker or lack of control of his work area.

However, they are not the only causes. Do you want to know more about them? As well as symptoms of this disorder, and possible treatments to combat it? Well, keep reading!

Job depression: what does it consist of?

Job depression is one of the main causes of getting sick from work . It is actually depressive disorder, but in this case caused by work.

The reality is that we spend a large part of our life at work, and that is why, when it does not satisfy us, generates excessive pressure and stress, or causes us discomfort, we can develop a workplace depression.


Occupational depression is one that appears as a result of work. Specifically, it appears when it negatively interferes in our life. An effect that can originate from a large number of causes: excessive pressure, moobing situations , demotivation, feeling badly treated, etc.

The symptoms that may appear in the person suffering from occupational depression would be the same (or similar) to those that appear in depression. Some of the most prominent, according to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ), are the following:

  • Mood symptoms: sadness, dejection, unhappiness, irritability ...
  • Motivational and behavioral : inhibition, apathy , anhedonia, lack of motivation, agitation ...
  • Cognitive: altered performance and formal deficits in attention, memory, mental speed ...
  • Physical : sleep problems, fatigue, increased or decreased appetite, decreased sexual desire ...
  • Interpersonal: deterioration of social relationships, decreased interest in people, feeling of rejection, etc.

All these symptoms would negatively affect the person's life and many of them would be directly related to work. That is, the patient could have nightmares related to work, for example, or have difficulties sleeping thinking about the worries that it generates, etc.

Causes of workplace depression

As for the causes of this disorder, as we said, these are based on work. The most common are the following:

  • Communication problems and conflicts with colleagues and / or superiors.
  • Excessive responsibilities and not commensurate with the salary.
  • General dissatisfaction, not feeling valued (as a professional) or financially compensated.
  • Having experienced a traumatic or especially stressful situation, either on a specific basis or continuously over time (for example, suffering from moobing ).
  • Suffering excessive stress at work.
  • Present a significant demotivation with work.
  • Being immersed in a highly toxic work environment, or having the feeling that you are not in control of anything.
  • Continued frustration when not achieving the desired objectives or results.
  • Living in a situation of abuse (for example, a teacher by his students).

When one or more of these situations is suffered and, in addition, work depression can appear continuously over time. Although it is true that each person is affected in one way or another by the situations they live in, either inside or outside of work, there are people who may be more prone to developing this disorder and, as a consequence, requesting sick leave (although it is not always requested, nor is it granted).


Intervention against occupational depression should follow the line of treatments for depressive disorder. In addition, it is essential to take into account the contextual, causal and maintenance factors of the disorder in the person, knowing that these have a lot to do with the work of the same. To articulate this pillar, a good differential diagnosis must be made and not to confuse burnout syndrome with depression , among others.

In this sense, it will be of special relevance to treat the symptoms derived from one's own experience in the workplace, taking into account the physical and psychological symptoms that occupational depression causes.

According to the Guide to effective psychological treatments by Pérez et al. (2010), the treatments considered well established (effective) for depressive disorder are four: behavior therapy (including various modalities), cognitive therapy, interpersonal therapy and pharmacotherapy. Regarding less proven therapies, but with encouraging results, we find: psychodynamic psychotherapy and systemic therapy.

Techniques and procedures used

As for behavioral therapy, this usually includes the programming of pleasant activities for the patient, training in social skills , problem solving and time management, among other techniques. In relation to cognitive therapy, a lot is worked with the patient's cognitive distortions, as well as with his negative thoughts, especially through cognitive restructuring .

On the other hand, interpersonal therapy seeks to promote the quality of the patient's social relationships , as well as the social support received, among other objectives. Finally, regarding pharmacotherapy, antidepressant drugs and anxiolytic drugs are especially used .

Final reflection

Job anxiety and depression are two of the most frequent causes that lead a person to request sick leave . This is suggested by the WHO, which places them as the main causes of sick leave in Spain in 2020. As we have seen, workplace depression is a serious but treatable disorder; Thus, it can (and should) be treated with the appropriate professionals and with a treatment adapted to the needs and characteristics of the patient.

In addition, it is important to avoid feelings of guilt for requesting sick leave for this reason and to fight against stigmatization and all prejudices associated with mental health. Isn't it true that no one tells us anything for requesting discharge if we have broken a leg? Why should they question us for asking for depression?

Finally, maintaining a vital balance, as well as listening to how we feel at all times and correctly identifying our needs, will help us to seek help, to feel better and to prevent this type of disorder.

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