For most people, work has its ups and downs, stresses, and challenges. However, work can be especially challenging for people living with depression or bipolar disorder and can even increase symptoms of mental health challenges. So, how can one tell the difference between general work stress or a deeper issue?

Work stress is characterized as stress that decreases in intensity after a stressor passes. For example, maybe you have a big presentation to give. Once the presentation has passed, you feel a sense of relief. With work stressors, the stress seems continuous. Other hallmarks you may notice with your depression are an inability to concentrate, feeling increased sadness and crying, and not feeling fulfilled or satisfied by your job.

There are a lot of reasons why you might be feeling depressed at work. Know that this is not all your fault. Sometimes, work environments can be challenging or even toxic. Some situations that can contribute to work depression are:

  • Feeling like your job is in jeopardy
  • Being overworked or underpaid (or both)
  • Experiencing harassment or discrimination
  • Working irregular hours or third-shift
  • Lacking balance between your work-life and home-life
  • Working in a setting that doesn’t share your values
  • A work environment that doesn’t care about your advancement or career goals
  • Dismissive and challenging managers
  • Limited support is given by the organization

Experiencing symptoms of depression or bipolar at work can be extremely overwhelming. If you suspect you’re experiencing work-related depression, try to determine whether or not the cause of your symptoms is the company itself.

Take a hard look at the policies, support, and benefits you are receiving from your work. Then take some stock of when your feelings of depression are at their worst. Certain things are within our control, but others might be better addressed by the company.

If you determine you need adjustments to your workload, schedule, or any other area of your work, you can consult and advocate for yourself with the human resource department. If you’ve been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder, you may be entitled to accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces the ADA, depression is the impairment claimed in 6 percent to 7 percent of charges of disability discrimination that employees file each year.

If you live with depression and you believe you need reasonable accommodation, speak to your employer. Legally, you are entitled to a reasonable accommodation—a change to the job or the workplace—that will allow you to do your job, unless providing it would cause your employer undue hardship. Reasonable accommodations for depression might include scheduling changes, time off work to attend therapy appointments or for hospitalization, or changes in the way work is assigned, among other things. For more information, see the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidance on depression, PTSD, and other mental health conditions.

Some things you can do on your own to help with workplace stressors that trigger depression symptoms include:

  • Encouraging your employer to offer mental health and stress management education and programs that meet their needs and interests, if they are not already in place.
  • Participating in employer-sponsored programs and activities to learn skills and get the support you need to improve your mental health.
  • Adopting behaviors that promote stress management and mental health, like eating healthy and exercise
  • Taking short, frequent breaks throughout the day
  • Utilizing your time off to take a mental health day

Explore the seven areas of wellness