Psychological Effects of Unemployment

Psychological Effects of Unemployment

Last update: 10 August, 2016

Unemployment has a much uglier face than the one that’s usually shown: the invisibility and stigma experienced by those who suffer from it. This is exacerbated by the complicit silence of numerous mental health professionals. The effects of unemployment are clearly visible in the ever-increasing number of requests for psychiatric care.

While it’s still a difficult path, many people are rushing to shed light on this situation, since it can’t be fixed quickly or adequately if there’s no real awareness of the magnitude of the problem. This is more than just pessimistic victimization. Prolonged unemployment and poor working conditions can be very damaging to one’s health.

A study from the BMC Public Health Journal demonstrated that a long period of unemployment can result in mental disorders, and that dangerous working conditions can result in physical ailments and high stress levels (one of the principle causes of depression). French doctor Michel Debout recently published “Traumatisme du chomage” (The Trauma of Unemployment), a book that explains how to counter the undesirable effects of unemployment.

If you’re unemployed, understand that your feelings of frustration are more common than they might seem, and that seeking professional help is not just “for crazy people.”

With all this in mind, you’ll be more aware and tolerant of your feelings and you’ll gain perspective on your current unemployment situation.

Unemployment can undermine your reality, but not your dreams

Working a job that you’re overqualified for is a reality shared by most of today’s young adults. For example. People have to find a position they’re overqualified for just to survive, which prevents them from perfecting their skills related to their profession. When this happens, it’s good to take perspective: let yourself work a job that guarantees your survival, but that doesn’t destroy your dreams.

woman stressed at work

Even though it takes more effort, you can’t lose sight of your values and goals if you want to achieve personal fulfillment, even though you have to combine those goals with a job you’re overqualified for. It seems obvious, but losing that perspective will blur your vision and distract you from knowing whether your ship is headed towards a port, or just wandering aimlessly.

Stop feeling guilty

Playing the blame game is one of the most powerful strategies of control that people with little morals use to impose their will on others and play with their feelings. This kind of manipulation happens both privately and publicly.

Honorable, dutiful, and responsible people tend to carry a lot of guilt over the situation they’re going through. They feel like victims, but they also feel guilty, and the ambiguity of it all is sometimes unbearable. Assuming responsibility for your situation is useful, but taking all the responsibility when it’s not yours is disastrous.

Become part of a group

You can fight by yourself, but when there are so many other people in the same situation, and it can be helpful to connect with them. You can find support from people with whom you share similar schedules and interests. 

Connecting with other unemployed people who are continuously working on themselves can increase your chances of success, as well as your self-esteem and your motivation to change. You won’t be wasting their time and they won’t be wasting yours.

waiting room

Have you been conditioned by age?

We’re our own worst enemies when it comes to prejudices and labels that limit us. If you look back at everything you’ve learned so far, you’ll have the energy to keep going. If you think about how far you have to go and how impossible your goals seem, you’ll be paralyzed.

Sometimes fear makes us find excuses to not commit ourselves, because we’re afraid of failure, because of all the social pressure and judgment. If you keep worrying about the future and what other people will think of you, you’ll remain motionless. You won’t advance or regress, so you’ll have to decide whether you want to remain at a standstill until you fall down the cliff.

The golden rule: don’t preoccupy yourself, occupy yourself

Occupy yourself by trying to change your urgent situation without taking too many breaks. Space out your breaks and times for reflection and make them as short as possible.

Don’t leave yourself too much wiggle room, because it tends to come back to bite you during periods of waiting and emotional tension. Even if you can’t work, keep training yourself so that you’re not only qualified, you’re also conscious of and prepared for a daily and competitive routine.


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