Being sad when you lose your job isn’t the same as experiencing depression. Both are possible and can be managed.

You may be fairly used to expecting the unexpected. But when the unexpected impacts core components of your life like work, it has the potential to affect your mood.

When you suddenly lose your job, it’s natural to feel the loss in a major way. You may feel frustrated, sad, or anxious about the situation. And in some cases, you could experience symptoms of depression, too.

Yes, experiencing symptoms of depression is possible after losing your job.

This isn’t the same as being sad, though. Sadness is an emotion that typically resolves on its own and doesn’t significantly affect your daily life for more than a few days.

Depression, on the other hand, is a formal mental health condition that involves more symptoms than only sadness. It lasts more than 2 weeks and usually requires professional support of some kind to improve.

It’s possible that you experience either sadness or depression after losing a job. You could also go through stages of grief if you feel the loss is significant.

Whether you experience one or the others may depend on many factors, including:

  • how important the job was for you
  • your current support network
  • emotional resources
  • the status of other aspects of your life like finances and relationships
  • mental health conditions you live with

Experts haven’t yet established an absolute cause of depression, in general.

In this particular case, a job can be a source of empowerment, security, and self-esteem.

Your job can also be a place for socializing and building relationships. Maybe it’s in an area you really enjoy or an opportunity to go where you want to get professionally.

Maybe it isn’t your ideal job, but you still rely on your income to survive or do other things you enjoy.

Losing any of this can affect your mood.

Working, in general, can provide you with a sense of purpose.

Loss of purpose is just one factor linked to symptoms of depression in general, according to one study.

Researchers investigating clinical depression from the viewpoint of participants found that a declining sense of purpose was associated with a number of symptoms of depression, such as lack of energy and motivation.

What you feel is a natural reaction

You aren’t alone if you experience depression after losing your job.

Around the world, research shows unemployment has major mental health implications.

  • Depression rates in unemployed adults in the United States are approximately 3 times higher than among employed adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • In Ethiopia, 30.9 percent of unemployed young adults involved in a study reported symptoms of depression.
  • A study of the Balkan region found job loss was predictive of poor mental health outcomes.
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Everyone is different and may react to job loss in their own way.

In general, you may go through phases.

The first phase can be labeled as “shock.” You may feel disbelief, but may remain optimistic, despite the current situation.

As time goes on, optimism may turn to pessimism if you don’t find a new job. You might start to experience distress about what the future holds.

Eventually, if enough time passes, you might develop a defeatist outlook, which can then be accompanied by signs of anxiety or depression.

Some research suggests chronic or extreme stress — such as job loss — can cause a cascade of changes in the brain. These, in turn, could contribute to symptoms of depression.

These changes can affect everything from your neural network and brain structure to inflammatory processes and stress vulnerability.

Depression is a diagnosable mental health disorder. If it’s present, symptoms have started to impair important areas of your daily functioning.

Sometimes, sadness can take on forms other than clinical depression.

After losing your job, you may also be experiencing:

  • Grief. Grief is intense feelings of mourning over a loss. It gradually improves over time.
  • Languishing. Languishing is a sense of morose or low-mood that doesn’t impair daily life but makes you feel blah.
  • Adjustment disorder. An adjustment disorder is defined as an intense emotional response to a stressful event, with fewer symptoms and less severity than clinical depression.
  • Anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder causes persistent and intrusive thoughts of worry and apprehension, and in some cases despair.

Is it depression?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, outlines the criteria for a diagnosis of depression.

One of the major differences between depression and sadness is that depression negatively impacts your everyday functioning. This is what classifies it as a mental health disorder.

Depression is also persistent, sometimes worsening over time, and can cause physical effects including:

  • sleep disturbance
  • appetite changes
  • body aches and pains
  • digestive issues
  • restlessness
  • fatigue
  • cognitive decline

Depression is hallmarked by other symptoms like:

  • a loss of interest in things that you used to enjoy
  • difficulty focusing on a task
  • irritability
  • low mood, including sadness
  • possible self-harm or suicidal thoughts
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Losing your job is often out of your control.

You might need to take some time to let everything sink in, and that’s OK.

Once you’ve gotten past the initial shock, you may want to explore these tips.

Seeking support

When a job loss is particularly jarring, you may not want to go through it alone.

If you’re not ready to open up to your family and friends about your experience, a mental health or counseling professional can be a source of support and guidance.

You may also want to search for local support groups where you can share your concerns with people going through similar experiences.

Having people to relate to can make a difference.

Focusing on a daily routine

Routines can be a great way to provide a sense of comfort and security. They can also help you meet small, attainable goals that can grow a sense of accomplishment.

If you’re searching for a new job, try to structure a plan and a routine for every day, using a calendar for specific tasks. This may help you diminish the shock that comes with a drastic change of routine.

Re-aligning with your passions

Job loss can sometimes be a blessing in disguise.

Unemployment can be a time to reassess where you want to be and what work will be the most rewarding for you moving forward.

Focusing on what you can control

Losing your job can strip away your sense of control, but there are plenty of things you can take charge of.

Incoming money may be a challenge, for example, but you can control the places where you spend money.

Being proactive

Improving your resume, searching job ads, and keeping up with continuing education can all help keep you motivated to find the next opportunity.

Finding positives

When job loss feels overwhelming, looking for the positives in the situation can help. Maybe money will be tight for a while, for example, but you might be free of a business filled with biased policies or poor management.

You may also find that the pause can help you reset physically and mentally.

How you approach the situation can help. If you try to change your perspective, and take it like a vacation, for example, that may improve your mood.

Remember, this is one point on your path to your next opportunity.

You may want to seek professional help if:

  • sadness has started to become intrusive and interfere with relationships and other life aspects
  • your efforts to improve your mood haven’t worked
  • you’ve been experiencing symptoms for more than 2 weeks
  • your mood stops you from doing things you enjoy or seeing people you care about
  • you’re having thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • you feel hopeless and unmotivated
  • you’re experiencing constant physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, or body aches

You are never alone, in sadness or in depression.

Help is available right now:

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It’s possible to experience depression after losing your job. Job loss can affect every aspect of your life, even if work was just a way to pay the bills.

While it’s natural to feel a sense of sadness and loss when employment ends, if feelings of hopelessness start to impact your daily life, you may be living with a mental health condition like depression.

Help is always available, no matter what level of sadness you may be experiencing. Speaking with a mental health professional can help you explore these symptoms and reach a positive outcome.