Are You Dealing with Unemployment Depression?

Unemployment is devastating and leads to depression in people of any age. However, many of them aren't even aware of it. Continue reading to discover its symptoms.
Are You Dealing with Unemployment Depression?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 28 July, 2022

Unemployment depression is increasingly present in society. In spite of its slow yet progressive incidence, it continues to be under-diagnosed and, thus, unattended. Society isn’t yet aware of the impact the chronification of these states has at every level of a person’s physical and mental health.

Most people are familiar with this situation, as they know what getting up every day without having any perspective of what will happen entitles. There’s no certainty about the future for those who are unemployed. In addition, the search for employment itself is often exhausting. This is because it’s a mix of desperation and uncertainty. People must use their ingenuity and many contacts. They must constantly reassure themselves and believe that something will turn out.

Unfortunately, the days go by and you’re sick of hearing “We’ll call you” when you know this won’t happen. Except for the “Spam” folder, your email inbox continues to be empty and the only phone calls you receive are from telemarketers.

Many young people are seeking employment; an ever-increasing number of them yearning for new opportunities. The problem of unemployment is huge, diverse, and a breeding ground for mental health problems.

“Unemployment diminishes people. Leisure enlarges them.”

-Mason Cooley-

A worried man.

Symptoms and ways to cope with it

The work you do every day and are paid for doesn’t only allow you to eat, have a roof over your head, and pay the bills. In fact, it’s a way to boost your self-esteem and feel competent, useful, and satisfied. Thus, unemployment causes the opposite.

When someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, you probably never contemplated “being unemployed”. This state is a break from your dreams, from the efforts you made to attain a capitalist education. You wanted to be useful to others and feel good about your contributions.

Thus, you won’t be surprised about the warnings of certain studies, like the one conducted at the Leipzig University. Researchers determined that unemployment deteriorates mental health. In fact, the risk of depression is quite high.

Moreover, as Erik Erikson, a specialist in developmental psychology, explained, a person can only build a healthy personality and a balanced emotional state when they can make a dignified living. Researchers have been studying unemployment depression since the Great Depression (Eisenberg and Lazarsfield 1938).

Are you dealing with unemployment depression?

A person who begins to experience symptoms of unemployment depression doesn’t always seek professional help. You may go to the doctor due to sleep disorders, tiredness, or pain. You probably just assume these emotions are normal in this kind of situation. After all, why would anyone feel good about being unemployed? But you may be pushing your limits.

Here are the main characteristics:

  • Constant feelings of fear, frustration, and anguish.
  • The main difference between a depressed person and a person who doesn’t suffer from this condition is the sense of hope and purpose. The former is no longer confident their situation will improve. In fact, they’re convinced that things will only get worse.
  • It adds to a person’s sense of futility, of being useless. This has a great impact on a familial level.
  • There’s a feeling of anger and injustice. You shouldn’t believe a person dealing with unemployment depression will seem sad. It’s a lot more common for them to be in a bad mood, out of patience, and quite irritable.
  • There are sleeping and eating disturbances and the depressed person may either sleep a lot or barely rest. Similarly, they may not be hungry or eat compulsively.
  • It often leads to addictive behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and doing drugs.
  • In addition, there’s often suicidal ideation.
A person undergoing therapy.

How to deal with unemployment depression

One thing must be clear. It’ll be even harder for people to find a job if they have a mood disorder.

Untreated depression only intensifies and the health risks increase. For instance, there’s a high incidence of suicide in people who’ve lost their jobs. So what can you do?

  • The priority is to seek specialized help as well as social support. Talk to your family and friends.
  • Sometimes, being able to share experiences with someone in the same situation or who’s been through it can help. The essential thing is to get the feeling of uselessness and failure out of your mind.
  • Illusions and purpose are two dimensions that consistently fuel the mind. It’s vital to continue to have goals as they give you the strength to get up every day.
  • Following a routine and sticking to a schedule will give you more control over time.
  • At the same time, it’s essential to have and enjoy moments of leisure, rest, and physical activity.

Controlling your thoughts, managing your emotions, and, above all, having proper support is the best way to get through those situations in which anyone can find themselves more than once.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Eisenberg, P., & Lazarsfeld, P. F. (1938). The psychological effects of unemployment. Psychological Bulletin35, 358-390.
  • Feather, N. T. 1982. Unemployment and its psychological correlates: A study of depressive symptoms, self-esteem, Protestant ethic values, attributional style and apathy. Australian Journal of Psychology,34(3), 309-323.
  • Zuelke, A. E., Luck, T., Schroeter, M. L., Witte, A. V., Hinz, A., Engel, C., … Riedel-Heller, S. G. (2018). The association between unemployment and depression–Results from the population-based LIFE-adult-study. Journal of Affective Disorders235, 399–406.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.