Mental Health Information

Stress in the workplace

Work-related stress results when the demands of work exceed resources for managing those demands.

Most jobs will involve some level of stress, and this level will fluctuate over time as a result of various factors. However, when occupational stress becomes excessive or chronic, it can cause significant problems for an individual’s physical health, and increase the risk of anxiety and mood related problems.

People experience stress in a variety of different ways.

Physical: New physical ailments or an exacerbation of existing issues, headaches, muscular aches and pains, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, fatigue, sleep difficulties, or stomach upsets.

Psychological: Irritability, mood swings, worrying, helplessness, a sense of disconnection from colleagues and others, concentration / memory difficulties, or issues with decision-making.


  • taking frequent sick leave from work (absenteeism),
  • attending for work but producing a low output (presenteeism)
  • procrastination
  • making avoidable errors at work, or performing below the usual standard
  • ruminating about the job outside the workplace
  • avoiding family/social engagements
  • having a short temper
  • eating too much or too little
  • drinking more alcohol than usual or smoking more than usual
  • using prescription or non-prescription drugs to ‘wind down’ after work.

Some issues that might contribute to stress at work include:

  • Factors specific to the job, such as poor physical conditions, safety issues, unrealistic deadlines, long hours, or an unmanageable workload
  • Factors specific to the individual’s role in the organisation, such as confusion about responsibilities, poor job-person fit, poor time management, difficulties in managing separate or conflicting roles within an organisation (for example, that of supervisor and colleague), or uncertainty about the future of the organisation
  • Career development issues, such as being passed up for a promotion, or lack of job security
  • Relationship issues, such as poor support from supervisors, conflict with co-workers, harassment, discrimination or bullying
  • Problems with organisational structure / climate, such as low levels of perceived control over work tasks, over-supervision, lack of consultation on important issues, office politics, or budget problems, pressure to complete work tasks or check emails outside of normal work hours
  • External stressors, such as a long commute to work, lack of sleep, grief/loss, separation / divorce, mental / physical illness or caring responsibilities.


Everyone can feel sad, particularly when faced with loss or grief. Depression, however, is more than low mood and sadness at a loss. It is a serious medical illness. It is the result of chemical imbalances in the brain. The sufferer feels extremely sad, dejected and unmotivated.

One in four women and one in six men suffer from depression at some time in their life. Only about 20 per cent of people are correctly diagnosed.

Depression can mask itself as a physical illness. Chronic pain, sleeplessness or fatigue can all be signs.

Some of the symptoms of depression can include:

  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • A loss of interest and pleasure in normal activities
  • Loss of appetite or weight
  • Inability to get to sleep or waking up early
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Feeling restless, agitated, worthless or guilty
  • Feeling that life isn’t worth living
  • A combination of factors

Depression results from a combination of physical and psychological factors. These cause chemical imbalances in the brain. Diagnosis in every case needs a careful analysis of causes.

Physical causes include:

  • Mental illness and treatment
  • Inherited traits
  • Chemical changes
  • Drug or alcohol abuse

Psychological causes include:

  • Life stress
  • Negative experiences and loss
  • High anxiety
  • Seek help if you experience symptoms of depression

If you experience some or most of the symptoms of depression, it is important to seek advice from a doctor or Brisbane depression counsellor.

Careful medical and psychological evaluation is needed to determine the best treatment.

This may include:

  • Drug therapy with antidepressants
  • Psychological therapies
  • Education and counselling
  • Avoiding situations which may contribute to the depression

There are many options for getting help.

  • Depression is a constant feeling of dejection and loss, which stops you doing your normal activities.
  • Depression can be mistaken for a physical illness, such as fatigue.
  • Antidepressants can help most depressed people, but they must be accompanied by psychological therapy and education.
  • Help is at hand. Talk to our Brisbane depression counsellors today. Get in touch now.

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