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High Functioning Depression

Do You Think About Work on the Weekend?  

Woman sitting at desk, holding head in hands, clearly stressed

The Reality of Work Stress 

As adults, a significant portion of our day is dedicated to work. In my role as a therapist, I encounter firsthand the pervasive issue of work-related stress. Whether it’s dealing with toxic colleagues, the pressures of a demanding job, or financial stress tied to work, these factors can contribute to depression and anxiety, or exacerbate existing mental health conditions. Additionally, in today’s digital age, disconnecting from work has become increasingly challenging. 

How Work Stress Ties To Your Personal Life 

The impact of our jobs and workplace conflicts often extends beyond the office walls and intersects with our personal dynamics and past traumas. When clients seek help for career stress, it’s rarely a matter confined to the present moment. Past experiences frequently play a significant role in current conflicts. Many individuals find themselves overworking as a means to distract themselves from feelings of unworthiness, imposter syndrome, trauma, or depression. 

The Consuming Nature of Work 

Because we have access to work everywhere, many of us have allowed work to consume us to the point where we have forgotten who we are outside of work. “What do you do for work?,” is an ice breaker many people use when they first meet someone.  Decades ago, before hustle culture, people prided themselves on their hobbies, such as their ability to play a sport or an instrument. However, work has since replaced play, and now people typically describe individuals based on their occupation. 

What the Research Tells Us 

In 2019, my all-women research lab at Manhattan Behavioral Medicine developed an assessment for Workplace PTSD. We noticed that people were experiencing signs of fight or flight in the workplace in response to toxic work environments. The DSM-5 (diagnostic manual of psychiatry) only allows a PTSD diagnosis to be applied to life threatening or sexual trauma.  However, we found that when people felt that their livelihood was threatened by a toxic workplace, they developed PTSD like symptoms. 

Tips For Turning Off Work Worries 

If find yourself having a hard time turning off your work stress, try these steps below: 

Step 1: Does Your Work Define You? 

Get a piece of paper and write down what you were like before your current job, and try answering these questions: 

  • How did you spend your evenings after work or on weekends?  
  • Who did you spend time with?  
  • What was your general disposition? 

If not much has changed, then the work is likely not defining your identity.  

Step 2: How Do You Feel Before You Go To Bed On A Weeknight? 

Take note of how you’re feeling throughout the day. 

The sense of dread that we feel before we go into an uncomfortable situation may be an adaptive defense mechanism that serves as a warning that we are in an unhealthy situation.  

In medical literature this is called “A Feeling Of Impending Doom”.   

After a while, this doom may dull into hopelessness and people may start to experience anhedonia. People with anhedonia experience a diminished sense of joy, pleasure and interest. Sound familiar? 

You can take the assessment to see if you have Anhedonia here. 

Step 3: How Do You Feel At Work? 

The list of symptoms of trauma responses that you may experience at work include: 

  • Avoidance 
  • Do you avoid certain people at work because they trigger you?  
  • Re-experiencing 
  • Do you have nightmares or re-occurring, intrusive thoughts related to painful work experiences? 
  • Hypervigilance 
  • Are you on edge at work but at ease at home?  

These may indicate trauma responses due to workplace trauma.  


The pervasive nature of work stress demands attention and proactive measures to safeguard mental well-being. By acknowledging the intricate interplay between work and personal life, we can begin to address the root causes of stress and prioritize holistic wellness. Remember, seeking support from a therapist or coach can provide invaluable guidance on navigating work-related challenges and promoting overall mental health. 

If you want more tips like this, make sure you sign up for my free weekly newsletter here.  

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational purposes only and does not replace professional medical advice. Always consult a qualified healthcare provider for personalized guidance. Dr. Judith Joseph does not endorse specific products or treatments mentioned in this content. Use this information at your own discretion.


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