Can’t Hold On A Job Due To Depression (5 ways to cope)

Today’s blog post focuses on a common complaint, ‘can’t hold on a job due to depression’. We begin our discussion by understanding the relationship between depression and job spaces. After this, we move on to the various symptoms because of which a person can’t hold a job. Lastly, we move on to the various ways in which people can still hold on to a job while coping with depression.

Can’t Hold On A Job Due To Depression:

Depression often hampers an individual’s capacity to carry out regular activities and do the tasks that the person is normally interested in. In the same manner, depression also has an impact on the person’s capacity to function well at work and in many cases people can’t hold on to a job due to depression.

Today we discuss ways to deal with the situation, that can help people function well at their workplaces such as:

  • Take a break
  • Switch to a low stress job
  • Taking regular breaks
  • Informing the workplace
  • Seeking therapy

Depression and Job spaces:

Depression is a serious mood disorder marked by persistent feelings of sadness, irritability, anger, sleep and appetite disturbances, mood swings and rumination. Depression develops slowly and in the course of time has the capacity to impact all the major areas of a person’s life, including their job and ability to work. 

Depression is deeply stigmatised in the work context and it often affects the individual’s productivity at a job. Studies have shown that companies have to incur huge losses when employees suffer from depression. The reason behind this being, that it is considered that when the employee has physical ailments, he or she can be easily laid off from work or can be given a leave due to the obvious nature of the ailment. In case of depression, because it is not ‘visible’, employees show up at work, however their productivity significantly decreases.

However, because of the symptoms that are precipitated by depression, such as sleep disturbances, appetite loss, fatigue, rumination, anger, memory and concentration problems and social isolation, it becomes difficult for the person to hold on to a job. 

Why Can’t a person hold on a job due to depression?

There are a number of reasons because of which a person can’t hold on a job due to depression:

  • Memory and concentration problems:

Depressive symptoms can significantly impair the memory, learning and concentration of people. This is primarily because depression has an impact on the brain and it can significantly reduce the size of the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain associated with memory and learning. In the job setting, a person may be required to remember important information, client details, meeting details and the important targets that are to be achieved. Because depression impairs one’s memory, the person may have difficulty in remembering significant information.

Concentration is also affected as the person may be affected by overthinking in the form of rumination and worrying, which may affect their capacity to effectively concentrate on the task at hand.

  • Sleep disturbance:

Another reason why people can’t hold on a job due to depression is that depression affects the sleep cycle of a person. This can occur in the form of insomnia, where the person may find it difficult to go to sleep, or it can be in the form of not being able to maintain sleep. In both the cases, fatigue can be a result, which can affect their job performance. 

Additionally sleep disturbances are also manifested in the form of sleeping too much. This may lead to absenteeism on the job, and high levels of absenteeism can lead to termination from the job. 

  • Anger:

The symptoms of depression also get manifested in the form of anger, which can wither be in the form of lashing out at others or in the form of self-directed anger. Lashing out at co-workers, junior or supervisors can lead the person to face serious disciplinary actions, which can sometimes be in the form of suspension or termination. 

When anger is directed towards self, the person is likely to criticize oneself for making mistakes at work, for feeling that he or she is not as good enough at the job or due to the assumption that the co-workers are only likely to criticise him or her. This makes the person constantly switch their jobs in the hope that the next job will be better.

Workplaces are usually the areas where a person has an opportunity to connect with others and social contact is also necessary as most of the work happens in teams. However, depression often forces the person to isolate himself or herself and push people away. 

The problem comes when the co-workers are not able to understand the reasons behind it and the person is considered aloof and is stereotyped. These stereotypes further foster feelings of isolation and rumination and this is the reason why people can’t hold on a job due to depression as they are mostly likely to quit as they feel discriminated against.

  • Lack of personal hygiene:

Depression often also takes a toll on the personal hygiene of a person where he or she may find it difficult to be motivated to take a bath, wear clean clothes, have a good meal and keep oneself prim and proper. The entire functioning of the person is hampered and it is also precipitated in the job setting because of which they can’t hold on a job due to depression.

  • Pressure on the job:

Some jobs can be put under the category of high pressure jobs such as being a doctor, police officer, mental health professional, pilot, defense personnel, civil engineering etc. the nature of these jobs involves quick decision making, long working hours, losses on the job, quick response mechanisms and emergencies. These jobs also require a person to come in contact with a lot of people at the same time. 

The nature of the job and pressure put by the jobs can amplify the symptoms of depression such as fatigue, rumination, worrying, concentration problems, anger, irritability, breakdown  sleep loss which due to which the person may not be able to hold on to a job.

When a person can’t hold on a job due to depression, it leads to a cycle of negative thoughts, wherein because the person has to quit the jobs constantly or is removed from the jobs, there is a high possibility they may perceive themselves as failures, may criticise themselves and get on to the trend of job hopping where in they may develop a tendency to constantly change jobs in a hope that the next job will be better. It also demoralises them, induces self-doubt, reduces self-efficacy and self-esteem. It also hampers their well-being and quality of life.

Dealing with the situation:

As we saw, there can be a lot of distress and negativity associated with the situation where a person can’t hold on a job due to depression. However, if the job hopping and series of terminations continue, it can have a debilitating impact on the person’s mental health.

So, here we discuss ways to deal with situation:

  • Take a break:

Too many responsibilities can be overwhelming, especially when a person is battling depression. One way of veering around this condition is to take a break from work to focus on one’s mental health. Mental health issues undoubtedly have a severe impact on one’s ability to work and produce desirable outcomes. 

Taking a break from work can help the person figure out ways to deal with the condition before getting back to the job.

  • Switching to a low stress job:

It is definitely not the case that people with depression cannot work at all, with an exception of the severe cases. So, one way in which a person can avoid depression symptoms from interfering into the work scenario is to switch to a job that does not induce pressure on a person. It may include jobs which allow for flexible work timings, provision to work from home, self-paced targets and a provision for taking mental health breaks. This would help the person keep their job and take care of their symptoms. 

  • Take regular breaks:

If it is not possible for a person to take a break from working or switching a job, the person can take frequent breaks to avoid getting overwhelmed. In the course of a day’s work, several small breaks can be taken as per the convenience of the person so that they can calm themselves before returning to work. This can help them in increasing their productivity.

  • Informing the workplace:

Although there is still a stigma attached to depression, especially at work, there are several organisations that now show increased sensitivity and awareness towards depression and other mental health issues. Informing the authorities about one’s condition can be helpful as the organisation can keep that in mind while assigning tasks and projects, making working in the organisation easier.

This also includes informing the team members and acquaintances, if the person deems it fit to do so as it would increase their social support and help them increase their productivity at workplace because of which the turnover is likely to lessen.

Taking the help of a mental health professional is the best way to deal with the situation. Therapy not only helps the person learn ways to cope with depression, but would also help in putting things in perspective and viewing the different alternatives to current problems. 

Several organisations now hire mental health professionals so that the employees have easy access to help, whenever they require. This provision can increase sensitivity to mental health issues and also increase access.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can you be fired for depression?

Although it is lawfully possible to terminate the employment of a person who has mental illness, a number of factors need to be taken into consideration, the steps to the decision should be taken into account, before the final decision is made.

What job has the highest rate of depression?

It is seen that there are five industries most affected by depression in which 16.2% of workers suffered depression, followed by real estate (15.7%), social services (14.6%), manufacturing (14.3%), and personal services (14.3%).

Is it hard to get disability for depression?

If a person  has depression that interferes with your ability to work, then they may be eligible for Social Security disability. 

What if one needs a Mental Health Day?

There is no legal difference between taking a day off for mental health problems and calling in sick with a physical illness or injury. Although, a leave can be taken whenever needed.

Can a job affect your mental health?

Yes. 83 percent of men and 72 percent of women report that workplace stress affects their personal lives. 


Today’s blog post focused on a common complaint, ‘can’t hold on a job due to depression’. We began our discussion by understanding the relationship between depression and job spaces. After this, we moved on to the various symptoms because of which a person can’t hold a job. Lastly, we moved on to the various ways in which people can still hold on to a job while coping with depression.

I hope this blog post was able to give the readers a clear understanding of the various reasons people can’t hold on a job due to depression,with special reference to the symptom manifestation along with the ways to deal with it. Please feel free to drop in your comments and queries below.