Do social workers often get depressed? (+5 coping tips)


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Page last updated: 28/10/2022

Do social workers often get depressed? (+5 coping tips)

This article will explain why social workers can develop depression easily. For that, the article will show what being a social worker means, what is their job, and how it can impact their mental health. Aside from that, the article will show what are ways that social workers can care for their mental health.

Do social workers often get depressed?

Yes, it has become common to see social workers that are going through depression. And this should be a warning sign. Social workers have often been designated as the professional that will care for the well-being of others.

A social worker is someone that studies to promote social changes. They should be the ones that focus on the improvement and growth of a community. They are often contacted to help people handle matters related to their civil rights, as well as deal with unemployment and the government help that can come from it.

They can help deal with situations of abuse or child neglect. And also help people that are going through mental health issues. When someone is considered disabled, social workers are the ones that will guide them to get the insurance they need.

They should always be available and open to helping people that are in need. But they are often not considered for their needs. And this is not only by their clients, their bosses may believe they should always be ready to help others.

It is also a social construct that brings this idea that social workers should always be available, even when they don’t feel well. And the high demand of the job, which deals with such intense emotions, and the negative sides of the human condition can take a toll on their mental health.

As with some other careers, in which people are seen as the nice ones or the ones that were born to help, social workers are seen as people that don’t need help. They just help others. And to live by this rule can drain them, and take away their possibility of feeling any emotion if not a positive one.

But what this line of thought does is prohibit them from feeling things, which is impossible. Social workers may feel inclined to work in this way as soon as they graduate from college. But as they progress in their career, and the long hours begin to bring problems, they can even feel the urge to give up on everything.

And although some may decide to change their field of work, others will stay in it. They can stay because they still love the career, because of the money, or even the social recognition that being a social worker can bring. 

And as time progresses, they may try to keep this intense routine and become scared that they won’t be able to deal with it. They can feel guilty, ashamed, and like a failure. And it is during this moment, that depression can creep in.

Do social workers often get depressed? (+5 coping tips)

Another matter that can contribute to social workers becoming depressed is the environment in their workplace. Since they are always seen as people that should help, it is hard, even for the companies, to understand that there are boundaries, and limits to what these professionals can do. 

Social workers are supposed to get involved in other people’s problems but are not supposed to be affected by them. This is also something that can contribute to them getting depressed. The need to care for others, without taking any consideration how they feel, can be too much at times.

But if you are a social worker and you are dealing with depression, know that there are some things you can do to cope with it.

How can social workers cope with depression? 

When you are a social worker and feel like you are depressed, there are some things you can do to help you cope. The first one is accepting how you feel. It may be a change in how you see yourself, and even in how others see you. 

You may have thought that you would only deal with mental health issues from the clients that look for you, but realizing it can happen to you as well maybe a shock.

Aside from that, it is important to look for professional help. You can search for a therapist, and even a psychiatrist to help you get a better handle on your emotions, and the symptoms of depression. You may also want to engage in activities that can improve your mood.

You may want to do a hobby or something that brings you a positive emotion. Managing to find a balance between your personal life and your work life is also important. In some cases, you may even need to take some time off to focus on your mental health.

Allow yourself to step back, and care for yourself the same way you have cared for others before. And let people in. When people are from some career lines that are too connected with caring for others, they may find it hard to accept help. 

But let your loved ones help you with your needs. Share with them what you can, ask for help when it is needed, and let them be supportive of you. With time, you will be able to feel better, and take on with you this experience of having gone through a mental illness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Do social workers often get depressed? 

Do social workers often get burned out? 

Yes, it is quite common that social workers to get burned out. Because these professionals are offering support to their clients in the hardest times of their lives, it can drain them. That happens because they will devote every ounce of energy to helping the client, and since they tend to be overly empathetic, it can be overwhelming.

A social worker will most likely develop burnout if they start to focus deeply on the work they are doing, and leave their life and needs in the back seat. When a social worker constantly skips their lunchtime to stay with a client or is constantly staying late in their workplace, it can lead to them being burned out. 

That is why it is extremely important to try and keep a balanced work and personal life, and never lose track of caring for themselves and their needs. Social workers should always have in mind that the better they are, the better they will be able to help others.

What is compassion fatigue? 

Compassion fatigue is a condition that usually happens in professionals that care for other people in their line of work. It is a sort of burnout, in which the person gets overly attached to the work, their clients, and the stressful situation they are going through.

Compassion fatigue can lead the professional to develop emotional and mental exhaustion, the same way they develop physical exhaustion. It can make them more isolated because they will be so focused on their job they won’t have space to interact with their loved ones, and even with their colleagues.

It can impact how they see themselves, leading them to feel worthless, and lose pride in the work they have been doing. They can be less motivated, and their cognitive ability is lower. 

Those professionals don’t develop compassion fatigue from one moment to the other. It is usually a situation that is building up, to a point they start to show the signs. 

To handle compassion fatigue, or prevent it, the professionals must keep some time to themselves. Taking breaks at work, and even going on vacation can be great ways to handle it.

What are the signs of burnout in social workers? 

When social worker is burned out, they will feel it, but it will also impact their work. When it is going on, you may find it harder to stay focused, which can not only lead to problems in your personal life. 

But it can make it easier for you to make mistakes at work. Usually, when you are unable to keep focus, it is a sign of your brain showing you that it needs a break.

You may also feel like you are more irritable, or you have less patience. You may start to behave differently with your co-workers, and even with your clients, showing how short-tempered you are. 

Aside from that, they can lose their enthusiasm for their job. It is a career that is based on people making the effort, but when they are burned out, it can be that they won’t feel as ready to help as they did before.

Burnout can also make it easier for them to develop illness and experience physical pain. This happens because of the stress levels they are in. They can develop a lot of digestive problems, have headaches, high blood pressure, and even heart problems.

Can stress make me mentally ill? 

Yes, stress can make a person mentally ill. Although it is common for people to experience it, if someone goes through too much of it in a small window of time, it can harm their mental health. 

Stress can usually be related to anxiety disorders and even depression. That is why people need to learn how to manage their stress levels. Since it is impossible to avoid going through stressful situations, what you can do is deal with what happens to you more positively.

What is emotional exhaustion?

Emotional exhaustion is when you go through so much stress that you can feel emotionally drained. It is something that can build up over time, and lead to many symptoms such as anxiety, apathy, feeling hopelessness, and of control. 

People that are experiencing emotional exhaustion can become more irritable, and less motivated. They can feel their muscles tense up, along with frequent headaches, and loss of appetite. 

It can impact their relationships, but also their professional ones. They may start to lose deadlines, take longer in doing some activities, and even fail to go to work at times.


This article showed why social workers can easily become depressed. For that, the article explained what being a social worker entails, and how it can harm their mental health. Aside from that, the article showed what are ways that they can cope with depression.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write them in the section below.