Does Job Stress Contribute to Mental Illness?


Whether working a manual labor type of job or working indoors at a desk all day, many people in the workforce experience job-related stress. If not managed well, that stress can escalate into burnout, high blood pressure, or even depression. Though it is not commonly discussed, stress in the workplace can have a huge impact on overall health and wellness both mentally and physically.

Some of the most common triggers of stress within the workplace, as defined by the World Health Organization, are workload (both too much and not enough), lack of participation and control at work, monotonous or unpleasant tasks, lack of recognition, poor leadership and communication, and conflicting home and work demands. All of these things can cause workers to feel overwhelmed and buried beneath their stress. That feeling, when not addressed, spills over into life outside of work as well and becomes a more serious issue.

Our bodies and minds react to stress in different ways. When the stress at work becomes too much, eating habits might change, or time at the gym may become nonexistent. Either of these and especially the combination of both can cause pounds to increase along with sluggishness. Our minds reach a point of exhaustion known as burnout, which entails emotional exhaustion and negative or cynical attitudes toward others and yourself, according to the American Psychological Association.

The APA also defines mental illness as a health condition involving changes in emotion, thinking, or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illness is also related to distress and/or issues functioning in social, work, or family activities. Many of the repercussions of job-related stress can cause symptoms associated with mental illness. It seems as though anything that is different from the norm in your personal way of thinking and reacting to situations qualifies as an illness in your mental health and should be remedied.

Some small tricks to try in an effort to better handle work stress include making the most out of workday breaks. Take even the smallest increments of time for yourself. Sit alone without thinking and close your eyes, talk with a co-worker about things not related to work, listen to some music, or whatever helps you to zone out and think about nothing. Another trick is to step back when angry. Count to ten, breath slowly in and out, close your eyes, then reassess the situation that made you angry with new eyes. Another tip is to make sure you are getting enough sleep. Make sure you go to bed early enough to get an appropriate amount of sleep and wake up early enough to not have to rush out of the house and speed to work.

If the small tips and tricks don’t make a difference in your stress levels or mental attitude, then talking to a psychologist is a recommended next step. With their background and knowledge, a psychologist can help to pinpoint the direct cause of the stress and offer different tricks that you can try. Their expertise will help conquer the issue and get you back to your normal.

Job stress impacts people in a variety of ways. Some use that stress as fuel to push them forward while others do not favor the impact of stress on their daily lives. Whichever way stress impacts you, you are still susceptible to repercussions that can negatively impact your personal normal, and it is important to know which steps will help you in navigating back to your normal happy space where you thrive.