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Blog>Guides>Quitting a Job for Mental Health: Know When to Stop

Quitting a Job for Mental Health: Know When to Stop

Article index


  • Learn about the five most common mental health conditions
  • Before deciding to quit, consider what types of reasonable accommodations your workplace can provide
  • Identify signs that you should quit your job

Mental Health, Work, and Finding a Balance

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. This represents about 53 million Americans. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 71% of working adults experience at least one symptom of stress, including headaches and feelings of anxiety. These could be signs of changing mental health in an individual or yourself.

People often define themselves what they do for work because it is a significant part of their identity and provides a sense of purpose and direction in life. Our careers are often a source of pride and accomplishment, giving us a feeling of being valued by society. In addition, jobs often require a significant amount of time and energy, so they often become a central focus in our lives. Our work can also influence how others perceive us and how we fit into different social groups.

Moreover, our careers can impact our financial stability, social status, and overall quality of life, contributing to a sense of self-worth and identity. It is not uncommon for people to feel lost or unsure of who they are when they are unemployed or in a job they do not find fulfilling.

However, it is important to remember that a job does not define a person entirely. Many other aspects of one's life contribute to their identity and self-worth, such as relationships, hobbies, and personal values. Still, most people spend a majority of their days working, so understandably, one’s job plays a big role in their mental health. Some jobs can be very mentally and emotionally taxing, affecting overall well-being. If you’ve struggled with mental health issues, you may have wondered if you should quit your job to save your mental health.

Most Common Mental Health Conditions in the U.S.

There are several types of mental health and behavioral conditions that can impact your ability to work. A stressful work environment often worsens these conditions.

These are five common mental health problems that employees struggle with:

  1. Anxiety disorders: This group includes generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and phobias, including social phobia. These disorders are characterized by excessive worry and feelings of panic, which may be triggered by irrational or obsessive thoughts or specific triggers like spiders or other people. They can also seemingly come out of nowhere.

  2. Mood disorders: Clinical depression, major depressive disorder (MDD), seasonal affective disorder (SAD), bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders are characterized by long-lasting fatigue, low energy, sadness, and feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness. Symptoms like restlessness, aggression, anxiety, or excessively high energy are sometimes associated with the conditions, but these periods last for less time than depressive periods.

  3. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): This condition is triggered by the stress reaction associated with living through a traumatic event, like a natural disaster, war, assault, or serious accident. This stress response can lead to angry outbursts, loneliness, insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, and feeling worried, sad, or guilty.

  4. Psychotic disorders: Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are the most recognizable types of psychotic disorders characterized by abnormal thinking and perceptions of the world. People with these conditions lose touch with reality through delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, or other acute issues.

  5. Personality disorders: Types of personality disorders include borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, paranoia and delusional disorders, schizoid and schizotypal personality disorders, and others. These involve long-term patterns of behaviors and thoughts that are inflexible and unhealthy. Those struggling with these conditions may have a harder time dealing with daily stresses, tend to have stormy interpersonal relationships, and have trouble maintaining a healthy personal life.

Prioritizing your mental health is important. Poor mental health can impact your ability to enjoy your work, stay engaged in tasks, and communicate with your coworkers — and even affect your desire to simply get out of bed every morning. Genetics, family history, and personal history with mental illness can impact whether you develop this condition and whether it gets worse over time.

Seeking Accommodations vs. Quitting

Before you email your boss with a resignation letter, consider how your needs can be met at work. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for physical health issues, and recent expansions of the law now extend to people with mental health conditions.

Accommodations you can ask for include:

  • Flexible work start and end times
  • A flexible break schedule so you can find a quiet space and calm down
  • Specific quiet spaces set aside to help you and other employees relax
  • Reduced working hours (as long as your ability to meet work requirements like deadlines are not impacted)
  • Ability to work from home or telecommute
  • Reduced distractions, including noise and lights
  • Written directions or task lists, or in-person or video conference meetings to verbally discuss these
  • Using a job coach or other professional assistance to help you manage your time
  • Permission to keep food or important medications in your desk during work hours
  • Acknowledgment that certain required prescription medications may show up on drug tests

How to Ask for Accommodations

If you plan to ask for accommodations so you can best manage your mental health while staying employed, here are the steps you should take:

  • Talk to the human resources (HR) manager. This makes the request formal and jump-starts the process of filing paperwork. There may also be similar requests from other employees. Keeping track of these conversations helps the company understand employee needs better.

  • Be specific about accommodations. You may need a specific approach to communication or feedback: you may need less contact with your co-workers or more telecommuting hours to focus at home without distractions. Decide what will serve you best and ask for it clearly.

  • Work with a physician, counselor, or therapist for documentation. Especially if you have a clinically diagnosed mental health condition, be sure your needs are listed in writing by a medical professional. This ensures your accommodations are viewed as an ADA-compliance issue.

  • Keep track of your conversations with your employer. Ask for copies of forms that are submitted through HR or your boss, and keep hard copies of emails sent back and forth about your accommodations. If your needs are not met in a reasonable period, or they are dismissed, you may seek legal remedies.

Negotiate as much as possible. Be ready to discuss timelines for implementation, strategies to remove unnecessary tasks and discuss the possibilities of delegating them to other employees, or how to safely work from home while remotely logging into IT systems. This can take some time, but your employer should be willing to compromise to meet your accommodations.

When Quitting Might Be the Healthiest Choice

If your employer cannot accommodate your needs, or your needs are too great to continue working, then quitting your job might save your mental health. This is a tough decision so do not make it alone. Work with a physician, counselor, or psychotherapist to determine how you can proceed down this path.

Conditions that can affect your mental health include how you are treated at your job, how many hours you work, and your physical surroundings. It’s important to note that prioritizing your mental health includes removing yourself from a toxic environment. Here are some warning signs that you should quit your job:

  • You are consistently bringing negative energy into your home life.
  • You are too comfortable in your role.
  • You tell yourself it’s “just a job.”
  • You can do your job with your eyes closed.
  • You don’t ever want to go to work.
  • You’re making careless mistakes.
  • The environment is toxic.
  • You are feeling physically or mentally unhealthy.

The above issues can worsen your mental health, make symptoms of your mental illness harder to manage, or even trigger a mental health condition. Getting out is the first step to getting better, but what do you do after you quit?

Finding a Healthier Opportunity

A man presents a resume during a job interview.

If you've made up your mind to seek greener pastures, you might feel as if you'll never find what you're looking for: namely, a healthy workplace where you can grow. The good news is that, though it might take a couple of tries, healthy workplaces are indeed out there and tend to exhibit a common set of traits that make them easy to identify:

  • People generally enjoy coming to work and feel appreciated, acknowledged, and essential.
  • Employees not only give 110% — they take responsibility for their actions and decisions.
  • Communication flourishes and no one person is ever constantly at fault. Instead, feedback is viewed as an opportunity for growth.
  • Employees are able to keep things in perspective while maintaining a jovial environment.
  • And most importantly, when kindness and understanding underpin the company's success. While accidents and mistakes do happen on the job, punishments are never severe and employees are allowed to grow.

When these pillars are part of the company's mission statement, workplaces can be filled with people of all backgrounds.

Though it can be difficult to read between the lines during interviews, asking pointed questions to identify one or more of the above will be invaluable for your time and mental health. Doing so might feel scary or awkward, but these feelings can be overcome by prioritizing your self-worth. It's imperative to eliminate toxic opportunities before you find yourself in a similar situation. However, don't fret. With the right support system in place, there's no challenge too great.

Joblist’s platform helps you tailor your job search preferences to find the right role that best fits your needs. We’re built on helping people like you locate opportunities that allow you to thrive.

Ready to explore other opportunities?

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