Developer Depression (A complete guide)

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Today’s blog post focuses on ‘Developer Depression’. We begin with a brief understanding of depression, which is followed by an understanding of developer depression. We then look into details of the various reasons that may make a developer prone to depression. Lastly, we focus on different ways of coping with developer depression. 

Developer Depression:

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Software developers and programmers are most prone to falling prey to developer depression.

Developers and programmers spend a maximum amount of time in front of their laptops which prevents them from socialising. It is also believed that more time one spends behind the laptop screen, less fulfilling the person’s life is likely to be and it is one of the major causes of developer depression.

Let us look at some of the causes of developer depression:

  • Stress
  • Perfection
  • Isolation
  • Lack of well-being
  • Misconceptions about developers
  • Focusing on the negatives
  • Cognitive perceptions
  • Loneliness vs being alone
Developer Depression (A complete guide)

Depression:

Depression, as we know, is a serious mood disorder that negatively affects the way a person thinks, feels and acts. Depression causes a person to lose interest in daily activities along with the tasks that he or she may be interested in otherwise. It can also lead to a variety of emotional problems such as anger, irritability, rumination, worrying, crying spells along with physical symptoms such as  ulcers, body pain, joint pain, digestion issues, sleep and appetite disturbances. In severe cases, depression may also manifest itself in the form of self-harm behaviour.

Recent research also suggests that depression may cause changes in the neural function including an alteration in the neural activity in some areas of the brain.

What is Developer Depression?

Developer depression is a form of depression that coders and programmers are more prone to developing as compared to an average person. It primarily happens due to the amount of time that is spent with one’s thoughts and the hours of time that is spent in front of the computer without any human interaction. The pressure to develop a perfect code, competition with other developers and the lack of dialogue about mental health adds to their problems. 

The reasons for the occurrence of developer depression:

We now take a look at the various reasons that are a contributing factor to this form of depression:

  • Stress:

Developing computer programs is a stressful job. The developer needs to take into consideration the time constraints and get maximum work done in a minimum amount of time. In addition, the developer also needs to keep in mind the client requirements, to ensure the program is made as per the need of the organisation. Additionally,  unrealistic client expectations, working on tight budgets and restriction to innovation can be challenging, making them prone to depressive symptoms. 

Developer Depression (A complete guide)
  • Perfection:

A factor related to stress is perfection of the job. The websites we see, the apps we use, the databases we use are all based on codes and computer programs. For the  website or the app to show us what we demand, it is necessary that the codes are programmed accurately. The codes and the program should not have any room for error, lest the entire website or app will fail. This pressure of creating a perfect program also contributes to developer depression.

  • Isolation:

The job profile of a developer demands them to sit alone for hours together to get their programs ready. It is a kind of job where human communication is not a prerequisite. Despite the fact that the job does not require human communication and that some may find happiness in working alone, the brain does not really allow that. 

A part of the individual, which affects the personality, known as the inferior function, still works by maintaining contact with people. Therefore, developer depression can be caused when this part of the personality does not receive adequate stimulation.

  • Lack of well-being:

Because developers work in isolation, there is often a lack of workplace well-being found in them, which is indicated through their relationship with the managers. A dependency on the work community is also essential which contributes to the person’s happiness and promotes a degree of equality. 

For a developer, well-being at work may get hampered, because they may not be a part of the work community, have a regular communication with the manger and their work, they may not have autonomy in their work and they may not feel as though their work is a part of a larger goal due to lack of interaction and personal connection.

  • Misconceptions about developers:

Because developers do not quite interact with others in the workplace, there are a lot of misconceptions about them. They are often stereotyped as nerds and geeks and are not included in work gathering or after work meet-ups. 

What the others may not be able to take into account is that the developers’ nature of work in itself does not require much human communication and contact. Therefore it may not be wise to stereotype them as being aloof, nerds or geeks. Most of the developers find satisfaction in learning new technologies over talking to people, however, that does not mean that they do not like interaction. 

  • Focusing on the negatives:

As a program developer, the person develops a mind set of identifying the negatives in the code if it runs into error, identifying it and rectifying it to run it again. However, because it is a part of their job, focusing on the negatives becomes a second nature to them due to which this spills over to other areas of their life as well. 

They end up focusing only on the negatives and attempt to make it right, but may end up finding another error. This makes them get into a vicious cycle and it can be difficult to get out of it, making them susceptible to developer depression. 

  • Cognitive perceptions:

A developer’s job requires him or her to deal with an endless stream of problems and find problems in the existing program to run it well. This takes a toll on their personal lives too. They tend to have a negative perception about their lives and are more likely to filter out the positives. 

Their extreme logical approach at work, which is needed there, may not serve a purpose in their personal lives, making it difficult for them to have lasting bonds and intimate relationships.

It is often misconceptualized that being alone is equivalent to being lonely. A developer might work alone, but may not necessarily be lonely. There have been developers who, although working alone, like interacting and being a part of the work social circle. 

Therefore, it may be an irrational belief that may be present that all developers are depressed. Yet, it needs to be taken into account, that loneliness continues to be a precipitating factor of developer depression.

How can we cope with Developer Depression?

There are ways of coping with developer depression in similar ways one can cope with depression manifested in general population:

  • Step out:

The developers realise that their work requires them to be indoors for an extended period of time and a lot of time, being indoors and confined to one place can reduce productivity and increase isolation. This makes them want to take an extra effort to go out, not to socialise, but to just soak up the sun. 

Vitamin D is essential for our physical health;including bone and muscle health as well as our immunity. This is important as the mind and body are intricately linked and just in the way mental health issues precipitate physical health problems, the reverse also happens. Therefore a good physical health is needed to prevent cancer, diabetes and mental health issues like depression.

  • Sleep:

Sleep, although crucial, is the most ignored element and one of the contributors to developer depression along with the other above mentioned elements. Developers tend to pull all nighters for their work, but it may do more harm to them than good. 

Following proper sleep hygiene can be helpful. This includes staying away from gadgets an hour before bed, keeping the sleeping space only for sleeping and not for working, listening to soothing music can also help.

Developer Depression (A complete guide)
  • Exercise:

Physical exercise has shown its benefits in helping the person successfully cope with depression. Exercise affects brain chemistry and helps deal with the condition in a better way. 

It is important to choose exercises that suit one’s body type, personality and choice. Doing a rigorous activity with an already high level of stress can be detrimental. 

  • Confidence is important:

As discussed above, developers are often likely to selectively focus on the negatives and have a negative perception towards life. Lack of confidence may foster these feelings and may further push the person into developer depression. 

Lack of confidence can hamper job performance and ability to learn new things. Having confidence requires faith in one’s abilities.  Coping self-statements, positive self-talk and role models can help increase confidence.

  • Stop comparing:

Comparison and competition from other developers makes a person prone to developer depression. It may also cost them their careers. 

A change in perspective can be helpful. Instead of comparing oneself to others, the developer can try comparing themselves to their previous self to understand how far they have come and the improvements they have made as coders. This will help them track their own progress, find loopholes and work on them constructively. However, it is important to remember that they need not be critical of themselves after finding loopholes. 

  • Take breaks:

We all have hobbies and constant work may not leave us any time to nurture those. It may be the same case for developers as well. Taking up a new hobby, rejuvenating a previous one may help in coping with work stress and may help them get their minds off their schedules. 

  • Take conscious effort for face to face interactions:

Work communities present a scope for socialization and serve as a good stressbuster. The developers’ nature of job may not allow them to have natural face to face interactions, and therefore, they may have to make a conscious effort to step out and interact with colleagues. This can happen through workplace activities, on-field programs, after work meet-ups etc.

Frequently Asked Questions:Developer Depression

Are web developers happy?

Web developers are on an average in terms of happiness. They are likely to rate their career happiness 3.3 out of 5.

Is being a developer stressful?

The life of a software developer can be stressful at times but it all depends on how well you know the skills associated with the job itself. 

What is the number one cause of depression?

Abuse of any form, Past physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can cause depression later in life. Additionally,Certain medications can also cause depression. For example, some drugs used to treat high blood pressure, such as beta-blockers or reserpine, can increase your risk of depression

Can depression make your brain hurt?

Yes, depression can cause headaches, along with other pains in the body. Research has also shown there are strong links between tension headaches and mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Is being a front end developer stressful?

It may get stressful sometimes. There are a lot of topics to cover in Front-end web development and at times one will feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things that they have to learn. 

Conclusion:

Today’s blog post focused on ‘Developer Depression’. We began with a brief understanding of depression, which was followed by an understanding of developer depression. We then looked into details of the various reasons that may make a developer prone to depression. Lastly, we focused on different ways of coping with developer depression. 

I hope the blog post was successful in providing a deeper insight into developer depression. Please feel free to drop in your comments and queries below.

References:

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/programmers-depression-why-one-talks-8-powerful-ways-jason-humphrey/

https://thenextweb.com/insider/2012/10/20/are-developers-depressed/

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