Working and Socializing Through Acute Mental Health Episodes
Mental health problems can have a huge impact on lifestyle, affecting employment, socializing and family relationships.
Working and feeling productive provides financial and social benefits as well as a means of structuring and occupying time. But health conditions such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder can make it difficult for people to do their jobs or even go to work.
Certain elements of the workplace can also exacerbate depression or anxiety: excessive workload and too much pressure with deadlines and overtime; unsociable hours; an unsupportive working environment; bullying and harassment; lack of or excess responsibility, and lack of job security.
People may be worried about what their boss and colleagues would think if they talk about having conditions like depression, but it can be better to ask for time off to recover, rather than struggling on. If work-related issues are causing stress and making an illness worse, it’s a good idea to let someone in management know about them, or get help from other organizations that offer information and support.
A research study on work and depression found that employees with depression were more likely to become unemployed, find themselves limited in their ability to perform their jobs, and miss time at work. The researchers write, “By any measure, employees with depression did worse than those in the comparison groups.” The researchers believe the reasons for this may be poorer job performance, discrimination, low seniority, difficulty coping with job pressures, and poor quality medical treatment.
Better support from employers and co-workers has been found to be linked to lower depression scores. Researchers say, “supervisor support may have the effect of buffering depressive symptoms.”
Anxiety disorders can also be exacerbated by the work environment. If work starts to feel unfulfilling and negative, then considerable worry can arise. As a result, anxiety about going to work can become quite strong. Social anxiety, or social phobia, can be particularly debilitating at work. The condition is characterized by social withdrawal, caused by a fear of talking in groups, being watched by others, public speaking, and similar situations. People with social anxiety are at high risk of employment difficulties.