Why Job Hunting Sucks When You Have Anxiety and Depression

We all get anxious when we’re looking for a new job or a change in career. Scanning through job boards, writing cover letters, filling out applications, tailoring your resume with all the right verbs and skills, practicing for an interview — it’s something we’re expected to go through at some point in our lives. However, if you’re unemployed, recently laid off or fresh out of college and with little work experience, the pressure is even more intense to secure a source of income as soon as possible. It seems most people succeed with little hassle. Unfortunately, as someone with moderate social anxiety and chronic depression, job hunting is 10 times more challenging and stressful for me.

When my own mind is primed for failure and negativity, job hunting is incredibly dissatisfying. Reading through job postings can be disheartening, and I often think, “I’m worthless because I don’t have the right skills for this job,” or, “This job sounds tough, I don’t think I can do it, even though I have the skills.” My anxiety is so bad I haven’t had the guts or courage to even go to any of the temp agencies in my city. It’s so hard to pretend I have it together when I’m talking on the phone to a potential employer or sitting down for an interview, if I even manage to get that far. The feeling of apprehension is amplified by thoughts like, “I’m not good enough for this job,” or, “What if they figure out how much of a mess I am and don’t hire me?” I’ve had interviews go spectacularly bad because my anxiety took over and ran the show — I stumbled over words, lost my train of thought more than once, misheard questions, fidgeted and so on.

The depression afterward is so draining, a never-ending repetition of failure, failure, failure usually accompanied by tears. My depression says what I really want to do is not feasible, won’t pay the bills, won’t buy food, won’t allow me to support my dreams. My anxiety says I shouldn’t pursue jobs with a lot of responsibilities and challenges because I’m not strong enough to handle them. As a result, I tend to apply for positions that are objectively equal to or below my skill set. I even turned down an assistant manager position and became a sales associate instead because my anxiety was so debilitating, even though the hours and pay were not that great.

Given the state of the economy, I try not to take rejections to heart, but that’s easier said than done. I lie in bed or ask myself why I even bother putting myself out there. Sometimes, after an awkward interview or interaction with a potential employer, I take a long shower and try to wash away the shame and sadness. That kind of hopelessness and doubt in my own worth is awful. Depression and anxiety twist every positive thought or expectation I have for myself. I constantly question every day how to maintain equilibrium during this uncertain, tumultuous time. How can I stop comparing myself to friends and colleagues who are employed and successful? How can I reckon with the intrusive thoughts telling me I’ll fail? How can I remain focused on finding work when I struggle to get out of bed? How can I not let my demons overcome my desire to succeed?

The practical, realistic side of me knows I want and need to work, that if I find or create a job I love and excel at, it’ll do good for my soul. The anxious and depressed side of me struggles to accept that. I do want and need a job. I just don’t know how to trick my mind into believing that.

The words “anxiety disorder” and “depression” are only blanket terms covering the myriad of unique symptoms people have. We battle these illnesses in different ways depending on the situations we find ourselves in, yet I haven’t come across any articles addressing the experiences people with anxiety and depression have while job hunting. I think it’s long past time to change that. How do you stay positive while job hunting? What tips or tricks do you have to help other people with anxiety and depression feel more confident during the process?

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