People may use the term “work depression” to refer to symptoms of depression they experience at or, in some cases, because of work.

Depression is a common mental health disorder. Researchers estimated that in 2020, 21 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who work full time work an average of 8.5 hours a day on weekdays. Therefore, a person living with depression is likely to experience depression symptoms while working. This may lead to decreased work performance and other work-related issues.

For some individuals, work may be a contributing factor to their depression. Others may find that their depression symptoms worsen because of long working hours, stress, or other factors related to their occupation.

Additionally, while symptoms of depression may overlap with burnout, both terms are distinct. Typically, burnout refers to emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion, while depression encompasses more symptoms, such as hopelessness, disinterest, and suicidal ideation. However, burnout may increase a person’s risk of developing depression.

This article explores what work depression is in more detail, including its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment. It also discusses when someone should speak with a doctor.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Work depression is not an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR). However, people may use the term to refer to major depressive disorder or other forms of depression that present at work. Although, a person with “work depression” may also experience symptoms at other times during the day.

Some common symptoms of depression include:

  • persistently feeling sad, anxious, or “empty”
  • losing interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • feeling irritable, frustrated, or restless
  • feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
  • having decreased energy or fatigue, or feeling slowed down
  • feeling hopeless or pessimistic
  • having difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • having difficulty sleeping, waking early in the morning, or oversleeping
  • noticing changes in appetite or unintentional weight changes
  • having physical aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not go away with treatment and do not have a clear physical cause
  • having thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

How depression affects a person at work may vary. When someone is at work, their symptoms may present as:

  • feeling unmotivated
  • not completing assignments on time
  • getting to work late or leaving early
  • feeling bored
  • lashing out at coworkers
  • feeling fatigued or a lack of energy throughout the day

A person may also dread going to work, feel stuck in their current position, or feel hopeless about possibly switching jobs.

A person should call 911 immediately if they are at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person.

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The causes of depression are likely multifaceted. Evidence suggests that several factors can contribute to its development, including:

  • genetics
  • biological factors
  • environmental factors
  • psychological factors

Stress can contribute to depression, according to a 2020 review of studies. Working at a high stress job or feeling stressed at work may increase the risk of a person developing depression.

According to a 2019 study, long working hours can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health. Researchers found that people who worked 60 or more hours per week had the highest prevalence of poor mental health compared with those who worked 40 hours per week or less.

There may also be a gender component to work hours and depression. According to a 2019 study, researchers identified that women who worked 55 or more hours per week had a higher number of depression symptoms. The same working hours had no or less effect on men.

However, the researchers noted that working part or fully over weekends affected men and women equally and also increased symptoms of depression in both.

Mental health resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and resources on mental health and well-being.

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A person who feels depressed should consider speaking with a doctor.

For a person to receive a diagnosis of depression, they must:

  • have at least five symptoms of depression
  • have either a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities as one of the five symptoms
  • experience the symptoms every day, for most of the day, for a minimum of 2 weeks

A doctor will also consider other possible causes of a person’s symptoms, such as bipolar disorder. Following diagnosis, they will recommend appropriate treatment based on a person’s individual needs.

Treatments for work depression may vary between people. What works for one person may not work well for another. A person may need to try several different approaches to treatment to find the one that works best for them.

Some common treatments that may help with depression include:

People should speak with a healthcare professional about the benefits and risks or side effects of each treatment. They should also report any side effects they experience to a doctor.

If a person notices depression symptoms at work or other times during the day, they should consider speaking with a healthcare professional.

Receiving support and treatment may help them start to feel better. It may also help improve their work performance, provide them with motivation to seek other means of employment, or otherwise feel better about their circumstances at work.

Healthcare professionals can prescribe medications, recommend additional therapies, and provide other services that may help a person experiencing work depression.

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 it’s safe to do so.

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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A person may use the term “work depression” to refer to depression that is worsened or caused by work. It may present with the same symptoms as major depressive disorder, but it is not an official diagnosis in the DSM-5-TR.

Working long hours, stress on the job, or working over the weekend may all contribute to depression. If depression symptoms appear or worsen at work, it may lead to reduced productivity, poor performance, or lashing out at coworkers.

Treatment may consist of medication and other therapies. A person should work with a healthcare professional to find the treatments that work best for them.