Unemployment depression is a type of situational depression that can develop following job loss.

Depression is a serious mental health condition that can develop in response to certain stressors or situations.

Individuals experiencing depression related to unemployment may experience a range of symptoms, including low mood, a lack of motivation, and feelings of emptiness, irritability, or overwhelm. With the right support, individuals can make a full recovery.

This article explores unemployment depression, including its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment. It also outlines some other causes of depression and provides information on when to speak with a doctor.

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Unemployment depression is a type of situational depression that can develop following a job loss or during a period of unemployment.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR) recognizes situational depression as a type of adjustment disorder with depressed mood. “Adjustment disorder” refers to a collection of symptoms a person may experience during or after a stressful life event.

The symptoms of depression can vary from one person to another. Some of the most common include:

Unemployment depression

Depression specifically related to unemployment may involve additional symptoms, such as:

A 2018 study investigated mental health among individuals who were unemployed during the recession of 2007–2009. Participants reported that periods of unemployment were associated with the following:

  • increased feelings of worthlessness
  • a reduced sense of purpose
  • reduced enjoyment of daily activities
  • lower levels of happiness
  • increased levels of indecisiveness

According to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey, around 56% of people who are unemployed report experiencing an increase in emotional or mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

Increased stress levels and uncertainty surrounding job loss, combined with the loss of routine and a perceived lack of purpose, may lead to unemployment depression.

The financial instability that can follow job loss may cause or add to this. A 2022 systematic review outlines financial stress as a potential trigger for depression.

Numerous factors can contribute to depression, such as:

Situational factors

Besides unemployment, life events that can trigger depression include:

Underlying medical conditions

Certain injuries and underlying medical conditions can increase the risk of depression, mood swings, and fatigue. Examples include:

Other factors

Some additional factors that can increase the risk of depression include:

  • having a family history of depression
  • hormonal imbalances
  • difficulty getting adequate sleep
  • difficulty maintaining a healthy diet
  • excessive drug or alcohol use

It is best for people who experience depression symptoms daily for more than 2 weeks to see a medical professional, such as their doctor or a mental health specialist. A doctor can conduct a preliminary assessment and make a referral to a specialist where necessary.

Psychologists and psychiatrists specialize in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions, including depression. They can conduct a full mental health assessment to determine whether a person meets the current diagnostic criteria for depression and talk them through treatment options.

Unemployment depression

Unemployment depression is a form of situational depression. This means that the symptoms of depression have developed in response to a specific life trigger.

To diagnose unemployment depression, a medical professional may ask a person:

  • whether their symptoms developed around the time of a stressful life event
  • whether the person has a preexisting mental health condition or has experienced mental health challenges in the past
  • whether they have a history of substance misuse

Situational depression typically resolves within 6 months of the stressful life event. People who continue to experience symptoms beyond this period may qualify for a diagnosis of major depressive disorder.

Major depressive disorder

Unlike situational depression, major depressive disorder is a condition that can take years to resolve.

To receive this diagnosis, individuals must exhibit at least 5 depressive symptoms within a 2 week period, and at least one of these symptoms must include a depressed mood or a loss of interest in pleasurable activities.

The remaining symptoms that doctors may consider toward a major depression diagnosis include:

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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Around 7.1% of adults in the United States live with major depressive disorder. Unlike unemployment depression, it may develop without a specific stressor, and the symptoms may last longer.

Treatment for unemployment depression can vary between individuals.

Some people may benefit from talk therapy with a fully licensed and trained therapist. Two popular forms of therapy that may help with depression are cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy.

Antidepressant medications may also be an option. However, these typically take effect after 4–8 weeks. As such, they may not be effective for individuals seeking more immediate support.

Although it can be overwhelming to lose a job, taking steps to find new employment when a person feels ready may help promote self-confidence and mental well-being. People may wish to begin by working on updating their curriculum vitae or searching for a new job with the help of family and friends.

It is best for anyone experiencing new or worsening symptoms of depression to make an appointment with their doctor. Getting a diagnosis and starting treatment as soon as possible can speed up the recovery process.

Some people may not feel comfortable sharing personal details with a medical professional. Fortunately, there are many resources available for those seeking confidential mental health support, including:

With the right support, people experiencing depression related to unemployment can make a full recovery.

Unemployment depression is a type of situational depression that can occur immediately following a job loss or during a period of unemployment. Symptoms may include a depressed mood, low self-esteem, and feelings of emptiness, irritability, or frustration.

Although the symptoms of unemployment depression can feel overwhelming, treatment options are available. They include talking therapies, medication, or a combination approach.

Anyone experiencing unemployment depression can speak with a doctor to learn more. With the right support, it is possible to make a full recovery.