Professor depression (+What is and how to cope)

This article will discuss professor depression. It will talk about how professors can be overwhelmed by academia, how its workload can impact their quality of life, and how, because of their social role of someone strong, it may be hard for them to see themselves as vulnerable, or even perceive they are depressed. 

Aside from that, the article will explain what depression is, and what are ways they can cope with depression. 

Why are professors developing depression?

There is a popular notion that being a professor is an honorable career. You are instructing the next generation of great minds. But no one considers how hard that job is. Being a professor takes a long time of study and dedication, and when you turn into a professor, you are supposed to worry about everything.

You will have to worry if you are making yourself understood by your students if you are being a supportive professor, planning classes, grading papers, and thinking about your student’s future when you talk to them about applying to other programs in the future. Along with that, becoming a teacher goes on without any training. 

The universities don’t show you what a good teacher should act like, or be like. In one moment you are applying for a job, the next you are in front of an entire classroom. 

You need to answer for everything on your own, and the university gives you very little support in how to be a mentor, how to manage conflicts, and not even how to be aware of mental health conditions, for you, or the students. 

Professors are often looking to get their tenure, but once they achieve it, it doesn’t mean that the pressure is gone. It might push away the fear of being fired, but it makes you more worried about deadlines and funding for new research.  

For professors, success is always a moving target, you get to one point in your career, there is another goal right ahead. And this can be overwhelming.

Academia is also an extremely competitive environment. To be in it you need to portray the image of a strong, successful person. You need to be respected by your peers, and this search for the perfect image can come at a high cost. 

You may feel like you are unable to show your vulnerabilities, and vent about the stress you are in, which can cause you to burn out and develop depression. 

And sometimes you can believe yourself in this image of perfection you have been showing people, and admitting that something is wrong can be hard. That is why professors can suffer from many mental health conditions and take a long time to look for help. 

Because of that, discussing such topics is extremely important. Maybe by bringing such topics to light, universities can start to think about support programs to help their faculty deal with the hardship that comes with the job. 

If you suspect you might be going through depression, let’s discuss what it is, and its symptoms so you can better understand it.

What is depression?

Depression is a mental illness that can cause people to experience intense sadness. It can also cause them to lose interest in things they love, lose their energy, and their ability to focus. It can lower their self-esteem, and cause their sense of self-worth to decrease.

For a person to be considered depressed, they have to experience its symptoms intensely for more than two weeks. And even though each person can experience it in different manners, the main symptoms of depression are:

  • Change in eating pattern
  • Change in sleeping pattern
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Self-harm
  • Thought of death and suicidal thoughts

How can professors cope with depression? 

Coping with depression is always difficult. But the first step in it is recognizing that you don’t feel well. Observe how you, and your mood, have changed, and even if you don’t know what is causing it, be open to taking care of yourself. Let’s discuss some ways you can take care of your mental health.

Look for professional help

Talking to people about what you feel can be hard. You can feel uncomfortable, and may even be afraid of being judged. So having a professional listening to you can be a relief. In that space you will have someone that won’t hold anything against you, that will listen in a caring and supportive way.

Through therapy, you may also understand what is going on with your emotions. Understand what may have caused your depression, and what are ways to externalize them, as well as ways to handle them more healthily.

Take some time for yourself 

Being a professor can take much of your time. You work not only during classes, but you also take time to prepare classes and correct papers. But taking time for yourself is essential. Set time for you to exercise, be with your family and do other things that remind you that you are not only a professor.

Do things you love 

When you take some time for yourself, fill it with doing things you can love. It can be reading a book, doing a hike, or even watching a show. Do things that give you a positive feeling, even though depression can make it hard. 

Doing those things can even help you distract yourself from all the negative thoughts that can go through your mind when you are depressed. 

Be close to people you can talk to  

It might be hard to talk to other professors, the work environment is extremely competitive, but try to have close to you people you can talk to. It can be friends from other places or family members. 

What is important is to have people you can talk to about this, but more than that, have people you can have a good laugh, feel connected, and even distract yourself from the negative thoughts.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Why are professors developing depression?

How do I tell my professor I have depression? 

If you are going through depression, you might want to talk to your professor as soon as the depression starts to have an impact on your study life. If you feel you might need extensions or change your workflow, you can email them, identify yourself, and let them know what is going on. 

Tell them how you have been trying to get better, and without making excuses, how you feel depression has been affecting your study. You both can discuss what are adjustments need to be done during the time you are in treatment. 

Is depression a disability? 

Depending on how your depression is, meaning the intensity of the symptoms and the impact it has in your life, then depression can be co-soldered as a disability. That is usually the case when a person is going through many depression. 

This form of depression has such intense symptoms that even simple activities such as getting dressed to go to work can seem impossible. When that is the case, it might be important to take some time to focus on your healing.

Having this time out to treat this disability can be what sets apart a person who tries suicide from someone that gets better. allow yourself to focus on the treatment, don’t feel guilty or weak about it. 

Can I be fired because I have depression? 

No, you can’t be fired from your job because you have depression. This is a form of prejudice. You don’t even need to tell your boss or company you are going through depression unless you do a job in which it can impact it.

But what can happen is that your boss notices a change in your behavior and mood, and might decide to talk to you. If you will disclose what is going on, it is your decision. It might be good to consider if your company, colleagues, and bosses will be supportive of you in this matter.

If you decide to tell them, they can try to consider with you what adjustments can be done in your workflow so it doesn’t negatively impact your mental health, and so you can keep doing it. 

But if at any time you notice your boss, HR, or colleagues are treating you differently, in a negative manner because you are depressed, you can even file a lawsuit against them. 

Is it good working with depression? 

It is a subjective matter if it is good for a person with depression to stay at their work. It can be beneficial in the way that it allows people to keep active, and be around people. This can be extremely beneficial since people with depression can isolate themselves.

What can also be good, when they stay at work, is that their work can make some adjustments to them. People with depression can have difficulty sleeping, or even focusing on things the same way they did before. 

So if their bosses can be understanding, and discuss with the HR what are ways for them to keep working, it can be extremely beneficial to them. They can feel supported by the company and colleagues, and feeling productive can give them a sense of well-being.

But some people that work in jobs that have a high-stress level, such as the finance market, may find it hard to keep in their line of work when they are depressed. It is most likely that their bosses won’t be able to adjust their work, and keeping in it can add to the pressure a person with depression already feels. 

Does depression have a cure?

No, depression doesn’t have a cure. Rather than that, mental health professionals say that people go into remission of their depression. In that time, they can go back to live their life the best way they can, and their symptoms will decrease to a level where they will be able to have a good quality of life.

They don’t say depression has a cure because it can have a genetic aspect, which is impossible to change, and because it is also impossible to affirm people will never go through another depressive episode again in their lives. 

This is also something that can motivate you to keep some of the changes you made to your life because of depression and take good care of it. 


This article discussed why professors are getting depressed. It will discuss the heavy load of academia, how it can affect the professor’s quality of life to a point of making them depressed. Aside from that, the article shows what depression is, and how professors can cope with depression.

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


Lashuel HA. What about faculty? eLife. 2020; 9: e54551. Published online 2020 Jan 8. doi: 10.7554/eLife.54551

Emotions in Academia: Sadness

Emotions in Academia: Sadness