Career Choice and Depression: A Bipolar Double Jeopardy

Every Sunday evening I go to bed with a sinking feeling in my stomach because of high anxiety about what the new work week has in store for me. I toss and turn, feel nauseous, and usually get only a few hours sleep. When I do sleep, it is not deep, meaningful sleep but typically shallow and restless sleep. My mind ultimately turns towards work, and I cannot stop it from going there. Nor can I stop it from staying there.

Have you ever been in this situation? Do you find yourself there now?

Studies show that a main cause for depression (at work or in everyday life) is when a person feels they are not in control of their life or over their daily routine. For workers, that translates into not being in control over your work tasks and/or work results.

As it turns out, control over both one’s “outside of work life” and “inside my career life”, is a major focus in all of our lives’. A lack of control over some or all aspects of our lives becomes a major cause for depression among all people.

“Jobs with long hours or shift work, which comes with irregular sleep schedules, can be problematic for people with depression”, says Deborah Legge, Ph.D., a licensed mental health counselor from Buffalo. Hostile work environments, including those that are unpredictable or seemingly unsafe, can also "destabilize" people who are at risk for mental illnesses, she says.

Troubled relationships with coworkers and bosses can also cause undue stress, says Dr. Adam Kaplin, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore.

As someone who may be diagnosed as bipolar and/or ADHD, your condition is most likely triggered by stress. And stress is caused when we feel out of control over our lives. Stress is a leading trigger for depression for the bipolar and ADHD minds. If you are triggered by stress, then your career choice may actually be killing you, your happiness and your relationships.

A stressful career will eventually trigger your bipolar depression, which leads to workplace moodiness. This moodiness is a career killer in the workplace. Ultimately, you may loss your job. That causes even more stress in your life, and you fall into this downward spiral of depression.

Even when people who are not diagnosed with emotional disorders are asked to exist in environments that take control away from them, they tend to become depressed. Imagine being diagnosed as bipolar AND finding yourself in this situation. You have no control over your work and are put in a highly stressful environment. You have no ability choose when you are going to be depressed and when you are not.

Bipolar is a condition; it’s not a choice. And as such the best we can do is to mitigate the circumstances upon which we can function in as highly a way for as long as possible. Simply put, we need to pick and choose where we work, how we work, what we do for a living, and for whom we do it. As bipolar people, we have less choice in this matter then those who can manage their day-to-day activities and monitor their moods more clearly then us.

We face a double jeopardy – depression because maybe our job would cause anyone to be depressed, and depression because our disorder simply may make us depressed – even if we like the work we do. And understanding the cause of our stress can be difficult. Is it work related, or disorder related? Or both?

So ask your self these questions:

  1. If I had a free day today, what would I be doing with my time?

  2. Do I loose sleep over work stresses?

  3. Does my mind always think of my job, even during the evenings and weekends?

  4. How do I feel when I think about my work? Happy? Sad? Anxious? Fulfilled? Afraid?

  5. How do I respond to stress at work, and in my everyday life?

  6. Do I prefer to work alone or in a group?

  7. Do I have “friends” at work?

  8. Are there days I stayed home and called in sick because I didn’t want to get out of bed to go to work?

  9. Do I daydream about having a different job, or running away?

  10. Have I ever been argumentative at work?

  11. Have I ever lost a job because I couldn’t get along, not that I wasn’t performing?

  12. What are the specific things I like or don’t like about my job?

No one should have to live a life trapped in a world where they are predestined to be depressed simply because they have to earn money to survive. There is a better way.

And that way is to choose wisely where best to utilize your time, skills, and talents. You can consciously choose to work in an environment that lessens your personal number of bipolar triggers.

It does exist but it takes time and a conscience effort to find that career. And it takes a plan. A plan that takes into account the “wholeness” of you. We all have needs, wants, desires, dreams, and responsibilities. Understanding how to balance all these can be your answer to career bliss for your bipolar mind.

You deserve happiness. Are you happy at work?


Bipolar Career Advisors (BPCA) is a full-time telephone and/or virtual career coaching and counseling services firm. We focus solely on the career coaching needs of the bipolar community. We offer one-on-one career coaching programs, group programs, self-paced packages, resume and LinkedIn profile writing, and guidance. We help our clients define their own brand and guide them in networking and negotiating skills. We work with our clients in preparing a long-term career plan that takes into account their specific bipolar needs.

#bipolar #career #manic #depression #job #work

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