What to Do When Your Job is Making You Depressed & You Can’t Quit

Read Time: 5 Minutes
Written by:Minkyung Chung, MS, LMHC

Published On: October 19, 2023

Medically reviewed by: Cynthia V. Catchings, LCSW-S

Reviewed On: October 19, 2022

Updated On: October 19, 2023


While most of us can’t avoid the need to work, today’s high-stress work environments can leave us feeling trapped and with little control over job-related depression.

Many things can cause unhappiness in a job, and the trend is only worsening over time. The National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation (NIHCM) reports that more than half of workers in the United States feel their mental health has worsened since the beginning of the pandemic.

There is a bit of good news, though. If your job is making you feel depressed, but you can’t quit, here are some techniques to help you find some equilibrium at work.

Identify What Makes You Feel Depressed

If you’re experiencing depression at work, it’s essential to recognize what triggers your feelings. Identifying the exact cause of depression is a crucial first step so you can find solutions or tools to ease depressive symptoms.

iconExpert Insight

““It’s hard to figure out if you are discontent with a working environment or your actual work. It’s important to identify that cause. Ask yourself, ‘What about this job depresses me?’ If it’s the people around you or the office dynamic, you can work to build better boundaries to have a firmer balance between work and personal life.”
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), MS Minkyung Chung

Try to Find Solutions for the Root Causes

Your journey to combat work-related depression starts with understanding the root causes. Whether it’s a toxic boss or workplace bullying, it’s essential that you surface the source of your work depression to understand which effective solutions to implement. To accomplish this, consider some of the following ideas aimed at helping solve workplace depression.

Scrutinize your environment

The environment you work in can be a critical factor contributing to feelings of persistent sadness or unhappiness. Excessive workloads, unreasonable demands from your boss, poor management practices, lack of recognition in your work environment, or even workplace bullying can cause work depression.

Talk with your human resources department about how to implement company-wide mental health support systems that can lead to positive change. Chances are, if you’re feeling symptoms of depression at work due to a specific condition, person, or environment, other people might be too.

Evaluate job satisfaction levels

Feeling like there’s little room for advancement in a job can contribute to depression. Job satisfaction levels are directly related to overall well-being. In fact, some research suggests that increasing job satisfaction can improve depressive symptoms.

If your job satisfaction level is causing you to feel depressed, it might be time to talk to your manager and discuss areas to improve satisfaction.

Address personal factors

Sometimes, our personal life spills into our professional world, adding more stress to the workday. Financial worries, relationship troubles, or family responsibilities can accumulate over time, eventually trickling into the work environment.If your personal life affects your ability to perform well at work, learning stress management techniques and coping skills can help all areas of your life.

Determine What’s Holding You Back from Quitting

Occasionally, psychological factors prevent you from leaving your job. Often, these barriers can be overcome with proper guidance and support.

If you’re unable to solve the root causes of why you’re depressed at work, you might want to look at the reasons why you feel unable to quit. Everyday things that keep people from quitting a job that doesn’t fulfill them include the following:

Fear of uncertainty

Fear of uncertainty is a common deterrent for people thinking about making a significant change in life. This can include those who feel depressed about their job.

Not knowing what lies ahead can bring discomfort — but you can try to reframe your fears by looking at change as an opportunity for growth and a way to find happiness.

Economic dependence

Economic dependence is a significant factor that prevents many people from quitting jobs, whether depression is a factor or not. Financial stability drives many of our professional decisions, but mental health needs to be a priority at some point.

Evaluating your financial situation realistically and investigating alternative career choices before you take any drastic action can help you feel more prepared for a change.

Social pressure

We live in a society where success is equated with job stability. Sometimes, this is irrespective of personal satisfaction or fulfillment, making social pressure an influential role, even if mental health is at stake.

Confiding in trusted mentors or loved ones or seeking professional mental health advice, can help you come to terms with leaving a job if needed, regardless of the pressure you feel.

Guilt or obligation

Experiencing guilt about abandoning work, colleagues, or your company can be an emotional barrier that stops you from pursuing other paths, even if they could improve your mental health.

Like dealing with social pressure, online therapy can help you let go of guilt so you can do what’s best for you.

People pleasing over self-care

People who constantly seek approval from others might find that quitting a job that causes depression is complicated. The imbalance between personal desires and external expectations can make leaving a toxic work environment painful.

However, part of self-care involves making decisions that are in your best interest; sometimes, that means leaving a job.

Low self-esteem

Self-esteem often plays a critical role in deciding whether or not to leave a job. Believing they don’t deserve better can be easy for people with low self-worth. Sticking with something that brings persistent sadness rather than pursuing your dream job — or at least a job that fulfills you — can have a negative ripple effect across all areas of your life.

Focusing on building your sense of self can give you the confidence to leave a job that’s not emotionally satisfying or fulfilling.

Remember That Your Mental Health is a Priority

Nothing is more important than your mental health. It should take precedence over anything else, especially if you are working in a toxic work environment.

Though it might feel easier to stay in your current job or career path, it’s important to recognize that unhappiness at work is not just “part of the grind.” Everyone deserves to find joy and satisfaction in a career. If your job is making you feel disconnected, hopeless, or depressed, it might signal something more serious is going on. Taking steps to address your mental health can positively impact every area of your life, from your work life to your interpersonal relationships.

iconExpert Insight

“Creating a separation between work and personal life will allow for greater control of your mental health stability. Be sure you try not to take work home with you. If you work from home, create a distinct space that ensures that space is for work alone. You can have relationships with your coworkers but don’t have to force it. Make sure your boundaries are strong and firm. Importantly, talk to a professional to help you create the balance and boundaries if you aren’t sure where to start.”
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), MS Minkyung Chung

Coping with Job-Related Depression

Learning to cope with symptoms of depression at work can be daunting, but it is possible. You can navigate this challenging phase with the right support and tools. The following tips are simple ways to deal with and manage job-related depression.

Implement self-care strategies in your life

One of the easiest and most effective ways to tackle work-related depression is by prioritizing self-care. This means allowing yourself to focus on personal needs to balance work demands and reduce the depression you’re experiencing. Pay attention to your physical well-being and your mental health needs by implementing things like mindfulness meditation, healthy eating habits, or yoga into your days.

Establish boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries can be an effective way to deal with depression at work. If work-related depression stems from a heavy workload or unrealistic expectations, setting boundaries and sticking to them can help. Defining clear lines between separate personal and professional lives is always a great idea, but it can be vital if your job is causing depression.

Seek professional help

Dealing with any form of depression can be challenging on your own. Seeking help from a professional specializing in workplace depression can be a game-changer.

Talkspace is an online therapy platform that makes getting therapy for depression simple, affordable, and convenient. Flexible scheduling options make fitting Talkspace therapy into your hectic schedule easy without interfering with work. Reach out to Talksapce today to learn more.

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Minkyung Chung

Minkyung Chung has over 10 years of experience and specializes in multicultural issues, specifically issues unique to the Asian American population. She enjoys working within the Asian American community to help reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health services and normalize the process of it. Her passion for this topic has led her to focus her research efforts in examining how to help the Asian American community.

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