Depression in Young Adults Can Hinder Job Performance

Depression in young adults can affect job performance. Learn why depression in your 20s makes work difficult and get tips for dealing with it.

Depression in young adults can interfere in a newly independent life. When you’re experiencing independence and new responsibilities for the first time, life can be exciting, but if you are living with depression, excitement is often replaced by apathy and hopelessness. When it hinders job performance, depression in young adults can prevent people from doing what is needed to stay independent.

How Depression in Young Adults Can Cause Problems at Work

Depression is an illness (not a personal flaw) that causes extreme fatigue and lack of energy to do even simple tasks. It interferes with someone’s ability to concentrate and focus on a task long enough to complete it. Work pressures and stress become harder to manage when you have depression.

Depression and work problems become a vicious cycle that can have dire consequences:

  • For the above reasons, depression makes it difficult to do your job
  • Poor performance can lead to reprimands from your boss or conflicts with your coworkers
  • At its extreme, poor job performance from depression can cause you to lose your job
  • Job loss can deepen depression
  • Sinking deeper into depression makes it more difficult to find another job and can make career development and advancement stall

Depression can cause work problems for people of any age. Depression in your 20s, however, can bring unique difficulties simply because you are a new adult.

Why Depression in Your 20s Makes Work Problems Even Harder

When you’re emerging into adulthood, you’re new enough on the scene that you usually don’t have a long history with your workplace. Even if you held part-time jobs in high school or college and are used to the working world, when you first start in a new career field, you don’t immediately have established, trusting relationships with bosses and coworkers. If you have major depression, that lack of history works against you:

  • People at work don’t have a context of what you’re like without depression and may not understand why you’re struggling
  • Employers might be less likely to give leeway to new and/or young adult employees when they need time off or need extra time on a project
  • You haven’t had time to build up sick leave, so taking time off because of major depression isn’t always an option

When you’re a young adult and lack work experience and a history of relationships that would help people be more understanding of your illness, depression can feel like a career disaster. Catastrophizing, or believing things are more disastrous than they really are, is a common thinking style in depression. Here’s a bit of encouragement: There are ways to make work easier when you live with depression, and, perhaps surprisingly, working can help improve depression.

Tips for Improving Job Performance and Minimizing the Impact of Depression at Work

Specific strategies can help you continue working and do your job well.

Practice self-acceptance. Be kind to yourself. You are not your illness. You have many strengths, talents, and positive qualities that got you hired in the first place. Depression may be a huge obstacle, but it’s not a character trait. Consider journaling daily to record your successes of the day and things you accomplished despite great difficulty. This will help you remember and accept that you have much to offer.

Let go of negative thoughts. Depression makes most people highly self-critical. It also makes them extra sensitive to things that feel like criticism. Mind-reading is a common negative thought pattern that causes problems at work. It’s easy to catch a stray look from someone or have someone pass you in the hall without a word and think that they disapprove of you. In truth, it’s impossible to know what others are thinking. Catch yourself thinking this type of negative thought and remind yourself that you can’t know what others are thinking. Repeat this process because internalizing it takes time.

Break up tasks into smaller parts. When you live with depression, to-do lists feel overwhelming. Divide big tasks into smaller components that you work on in 15- or 20-minute segments before taking a short break to take a brief walk around the office, drink water, or eat something healthy and energizing. Working this way is depression-friendly and helps you feel accomplished—because you are accomplishing things.

Be inspired. Depression makes you markedly un-inspired. Counter that by personalizing your work area and making it a pleasant place for you to be. Decorate it with pictures, quotes, and images that remind you of your reason for being there and your vision for your future.

When you create small successes at work, you’ll begin to notice your depression symptoms improve. This provides a boost to continue your momentum, and in time, depression will no longer hinder your job performance. You will recover from depression and enjoy your career once again.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2021, December 30). Depression in Young Adults Can Hinder Job Performance, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Last Updated: January 9, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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