Combating Depression in the Workplace


We all have experienced the dread of going back to work after holidays. After enjoying the time off, it may be hard to return to work. However, in the spirit of the new year, we should try to remain optimistic and face another year of work with hope and determination to accomplish more. Unfortunately, 14.8 million American adults are faced with the reality of depression.

After some time off of work, it is hard to go back into work mode with full force. In the upcoming weeks, we will all be out for the winter break and returning to our work mindsets may be tough. Perhaps the break may not even be relevant to the later inactivity and depression that we experience. It’s possible that we may just not like the place where we work, or we might be just experiencing symptoms of depression in all activities and environments.

What is Depression?

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists the following diagnostic criteria for Major Depressive Disorder:

Feeling in a depressed mood almost every day (such as feeling sad, empty, and without hope) or affected by comments by others (perhaps resulting in a tearful situation).

Little to no interest or pleasure in any activity or in daily events.

Significant unintentional weight loss or weight gain (for example, a 5 percent change of weight in a period of one month), or increment or reduction in appetite in a short period of time.

Experiencing insomnia or hypersomnia more than three times a week for a period of two weeks.

Psychomotor disturbance or slowness on a regular basis.

Low levels of energy almost every day for a period of two weeks.

Extortionate guilt and invaluable attitude towards life.

Decrease in the ability to concentrate or function on a day-to-day basis.

Repetitive thoughts of dying (including not only fear of death but also high levels of suicidal ideation).

To meet the criteria requirement, the individual must be experiencing at least five of the aforementioned criteria for a two-week period. In addition, the symptoms must be causing the significant impairment in occupational, social, or daily life. Symptom expression varies from person to person. The symptoms may be mild, or they may be severe. The person experiencing these symptoms may show no motivation, low productivity, high irritability, increased fatigue, and they may call in sick to work often.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is one of the most prevalent mental disorders in the United States, with 6.7 percent of the adult population reporting that they have experienced a major depressive episode in the year 2015. The Centers for Disease Control reports that adults with depression may be absent from work an average of 4.8 days a year and they may experience on average 11.5 days of reduced productivity.

What is the reason for such high rates of depression, specifically with working adults? A nine-to-five job can become a routine. Sometimes, individuals are required to be at their desk for hours, and they may begin to feel overworked and underappreciated. Although, most of these jobs provide stable financial security, they can also me mentally overwhelming and can affect overall psychological well-being.

Tips and treatments

There are different ways to combat depression in the workplace. The first and most important step is getting professional help if you need it. Although there is stigma attached to those that attend therapy, getting help is one of the best things that you can do for yourself. Sleeping enough, completing exercise routines, social interactions, or engaging in any other relaxing daily activity may also prove to be quite helpful. In addition, you may want to join a support group. Support groups facilitate new friendships and allow you to interact with people who may be experiencing the same symptoms that you are. These tips may nswot work for everyone, so it is important that you find what works best for you. Think of something that may relieve stress and that may bring joy into your day-to-day life.

References available upon request

(Co-authors include Dr. Mercado’s Mental Health Lab at UTRGV: Melissa Briones, Monica Garduno, Raquel Guerra, Samantha Hernandez, Abigail Nunez-Saenz, and Yvette Hinojosa)