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What to know about job loss depression

What to know about job loss depression

Losing a job can lead to job loss depression, a type of situational depression that develops during unemployment.

Reviewed by:
Brenda Camacho, MD
|
View bio
June 17, 2024
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Key takeaways

  • Losing your job can lead to a loss of income or anxiety over finding reemployment.
  • These stressors can affect your well-being during a difficult time and lead to depression.
  • It’s okay to ask for professional help if job loss depression starts impacting daily life.
In this article

Losing a job can impact your finances, relationships, and self-esteem. Whether you were laid off from your dream job or your contracts have all dried up, the loss of a job can certainly cause sadness, feelings of worthlessness, and even job loss depression.

Job loss depression is a type of situational depression that can develop during a period of unemployment, whether you’re laid off or fired. But with the right treatment and this helpful guide, you can get the help you need to start feeling like yourself again.


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Can losing your job make you depressed?

Yes, losing your job can lead to depression. According to a 2021 Pew Research survey, around 56% of unemployed people report experiencing an increase in mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

You may feel sad upon receiving a lay-off notice or termination letter, but days of reflection or searching for a new job can lead to even deeper feelings, like a a loss of sense of purpose, which can lead to depression. Unlike sadness, which lies at the center of our emotions, depression hits deeper, going beyond loneliness and despair. Someone experiencing job loss depression may also feel inferior and empty. More on what depression feels like here.

Finding a new job won’t always guarantee an escape from depression. There are still other life events, family members, and responsibilities that can affect your emotional state. Depression is a spectrum, so it’s important to identify the effects of your unemployment, particularly as it pertains to your mental health.

How does losing a job affect your mental health?

There are a few ways that mental health may affect your well-being when you lose your job.

  • Financial stress: The first thing to probably take a hit from a job loss is your finances. Missing bill payments can pile up and collect interest, making them even more expensive and difficult to pay. You may be feeling unsafe and insecure due to a loss of income, which could lead to depression over time.
  • Lowered self-esteem: Feelings of inferiority are a sign of low self-esteem. If you were laid off but some of your coworkers weren’t, you may be feeling like you’re not good enough—but you are. Many factors go into layoffs, including salaries, and oftentimes, layoffs are a result of budget cuts, not personal factors.
  • Loss of identity: When your self-worth is tied to your job, you may feel like a part of yourself has been ripped away after a job loss—but every loss is a redirection. Now you can focus your free time on projects that feel even more like you. These days, you can create websites for free, sell merchandise, hold virtual classes, and more from behind the screen!
  • Grief: The dictionary term for grief is sharp sorrow or suffering after a loss. You may grieve the stability of your last job or work environment, and it can feel impossible to replace. The stages of the grieving process (shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance) can help you identify your emotions. Since there’s no timeline for healing, you may be experiencing any one of these emotions.
  • Substance misuse: Those experiencing job loss depression may resort to smoking, drinking, or other drugs. The relief may be soothing for a minute, but depression will eventually creep back up and worsen with more substance use. If you find yourself leaning on substances to “medicate” your depression, try replacing them with other pleasurable activities that don’t risk making the depression worse (like exercise, yoga, going to a concert).  
  • Increased anxiety: Finding a new job can induce fear or worry, especially when the job search is taking a while. With bills piling up, an unfamiliar routine, and people to take care of, you can become overwhelmed by the responsibility and lack of resources. When you feel trapped within your means, your body might enter fight-or-flight mode more often, in response to what feels like a life-threatening situation. You can take the right steps by identifying the problem, showing up for yourself, and seeking help.

Symptoms of depression from job loss

It may be hard to decipher between sadness and depression, but a depressive disorder includes having several of the following symptoms that build up to impact your daily life :  

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Reduced energy levels or motivation
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Forgetfulness or indecisiveness
  • Slower or agitated movements noticed by others
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate

When to get help for job loss depression

If your job loss depression is affecting your daily life, it might be time to get help. A mental health professional, like a psychiatrist, can help you get treatment and a therapist can provide talk therapy.

If you need medication, you may be treated for a period of time, or you may not need it for longer than 6 months to a year. Every case is different.  You and your doctor can develop a treatment plan that is best for you. The most important thing is to get help if you need it.  

Talkiatry is a national psychiatry practice that provides virtual care for in-network patients. You can complete a short online assessment online to get matched with a psychiatrist within days. Your psychiatrist will develop a treatment plan that’s personalized for your needs, including any necessary medications, like antidepressants, and therapy. Fill out this short assessment to schedule your first visit.

How to keep mental health when unemployed

It’s important to take care of your mind, body, and spirit while you heal from a job loss before you find new employment. If you don’t know where to start, you can try a combination of the following strategies (we recommend all of them):

  1. Allow yourself to grieve: It takes time to process the initial shock and overwhelm of a job loss. Give yourself time to grieve so you can work through your feelings. The grieving process isn’t always linear. Give yourself grace and remember that you will grow around your pain.
  1. Practice self-care: The effects of unemployment can also show up in the body. Perhaps your stress is concentrated in a knot on the back of your head. Or the lack of structure from a job has you showering less often. It takes a little bit of discipline, but step outside of yourself for a while, and take care of yourself the way you would want someone else to.  
  1. Reframe your thinking: If you’re someone who enjoys your $5 coffee and print newspaper, you may need to downgrade your daily routine to a homemade cup or digital copy—but try to find the silver lining in these changes. In this example, you get way more coffee from a homemade cup and you save the planet with a digital copy.
  1. Organize your finances: If finances have you fearful of the future, try budgeting. You can opt for a simple app, if you’re a tech person, or you can purchase a budget binder and organize your cash by category. Try to explore what other resources are available resources in your area, too.
  1. Do more of what you love: Is there something that you miss about your job? If it’s a group of friends, try setting up a lunch date. If it’s a certain responsibility, try to find other ways to complete that task. For example, if you miss creating spreadsheet calendars, create one for your personal life and follow it as you would a work schedule.  
  1. Adopt healthy coping strategies: When you’re experiencing job loss depression, you may be tempted to pick up some unhealthy habits. Try replacing some of those habits with better coping mechanisms and new skills. You can replace a smoke break with a snack break and treat yourself to a fancy cup of coffee, a cup of nuts or seeds, or fresh fruit. Or, instead of doom-scrolling online, you can set a screen time limit and find a new comfort show.
  1. Lean on your community: Job loss depression can feel lonely, but time with friends and family can help you find joy and relief in your new chapter. We recommend seeking social support from your friends and loved ones following a job loss. Try inviting them to do things you like to do, and have a conversation with them about the things you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.

The information in this article is for education and informational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

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How does Talkiatry compare to face-to-face treatment?

For most patients, Talkiatry treatment is just as effective as in-person psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association, 2021), and much more convenient. That said, we don’t currently provide treatment for schizophrenia, primary eating disorder treatment, or Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.

What kind of treatment does Talkiatry provide?

At Talkiatry, we specialize in psychiatry, meaning the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Your psychiatrist will meet with you virtually on a schedule you set together, devise a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and preferences, and work with you to adjust your plan as you meet your goals.

If your treatment plan includes medication, your psychiatrist will prescribe and manage it. If needed, your psychiatrist can also refer you to a Talkiatry therapist.

What's the difference between a therapist and psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are doctors who have specialized training in diagnosing and treating complex mental health conditions through medication management. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or similar, a psychiatrist may be a good place to start.  

Other signs that you should see a psychiatrist include:  

  • Your primary care doctor or another doctor thinks you may benefit from the services of a psychiatrist and provides a referral    
  • You are interested in taking medication to treat a mental health condition  
  • Your symptoms are severe enough to regularly interfere with your everyday life

The term “therapist” can apply to a range of professionals including social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychoanalysts. Working with a therapist generally involves regular talk therapy sessions where you discuss your feelings, problem-solving strategies, and coping mechanisms to help with your condition.

Who can prescribe medication?

All our psychiatrists (and all psychiatrists in general) are medical doctors with additional training in mental health. They can prescribe any medication they think can help their patients. In order to find out which medications might be appropriate, they need to conduct a full evaluation. At Talkiatry, first visits are generally scheduled for 60 minutes or more to give your psychiatrist time to learn about you, work on a treatment plan, and discuss any medications that might be included.

About
Brenda Camacho, MD

Dr. Brenda Y. Camacho holds the position of Staff Psychiatrist at Talkiatry. She is board-certified in Adult Psychiatry. She has been practicing for over 25 years.

While having treated a wide range of adult patients, Dr. Camacho’s primary focus is treating adult outpatients with mood or psychotic disorders. Her practice focuses on medication management. Typically, she offers this in conjunction with supportive or insight-oriented therapy in 30-minute follow-up visits. On occasion, Dr. Camacho will believe additional therapy is also needed and asks that you bring a therapist into your care team to provide the best outcome.

Dr. Camacho completed her undergraduate studies at Tufts University. She received her medical degree from Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA and then continued with Temple for her residency in adult psychiatry. After completing training, Dr. Camacho worked at Cooper Hospital in Camden NJ as Associate Director of Consultation/Liaison Service and Psychiatry Residency Training and Co-Director of the Neuropsychiatry Clinic. She then began working exclusively in outpatient settings, joined NewPoint Behavioral Health Care, and served as Medical Director before and after their merge with Acenda Integrated Health.

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