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Aidi Rivera
Aidi Rivera

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Don't Worry, We're Just As Depressed As Everyone Else

Mental health in the web developing community. There are problems. You might even say it's problematic. Grim. At least, that’s what all the articles I read on it seem to say. I started looking into the topic of depression and anxiety in the industry since it’s something I suffer from myself. After the latest plunge my mood took, I wanted to write about it; a form of self-therapy. So, being the professional (nerd) I am, I did some research first. I was curious to see what the coding community had to say before saying anything myself.

The more I read, though, the more I learned how the coding lifestyle can make depression likely. Coding work is isolating; we’re looking at screens and sat indoors all day. The job is high-stress with constant deadlines. Imposter-syndrome and burnout it super common. There was even a connection between depression and more creative people. And web developing can very much be a creative job.

Saying I felt concerned…would be an understatement. For a good, long moment I was utterly convinced. I’d condemned myself to a career that would ensure the complete ruin of my already-fragile mental health. I would forever live as the isolated, suffering artist with deadlines hanging over my head and a potential breakdown awaiting me around every corner. Yes, there was that one positive article in the list of many dooms and glooms that suggested that maybe, just maybe, web devs weren't as depressed as people made them out to be. I, obviously, dismissed it right away. I’d already moved on to see how bad it really was.

Stack Overflow’s 2018 survey of web developers found that nearly 20% of developers self-reported as suffering from anxiety, depression, or both. Out to prove exactly how bad it all was, I looked for some stats on mental health in the general population. Instead, I found a nearly identical statistical representation of what the rest of America looked like instead. That was annoying.

And that obviously couldn’t have been right, so I kept digging. And I kept finding more blogs like the other, positive one, similarly saying that web devs really aren’t that depressed. In fact, some said, they might be happier than people in other fields of work. But, if that were true, why all the emphasis on this problem?

I might agree with some of the articles arguing it might be a bit sensationalist. But I don’t know if I agree that web devs are actually less depressed than everyone else. I don’t think web developers are any more or any less depressed than everyone else. And here’s why:

Being a developer does not make you lonely. There’s strong research that suggests that loneliness is much less about the environment and more about your genes. There’s a genetic predisposition to loneliness. The same way you can feel lonely when surround by a crowd of people, working alone does not automatically mean you are lonely.

Long screen-time is a problem for everyone, not just developers. With the accessibility of smartphones and computers, it would be unfair to say it's a problem specific to the job. If devs are more depressed because they're indoors all day and spend long hours in front of a screen, then so is everyone else in existence.

There’s a similar problem with saying that the job is high stress, and thus developers are more prone to depression because of it. It sets this expectation that any developer job you may have is going to always be high stress. Except, whether your job is high stress depends on the expectations put upon you by your employer.

Burnout, imposter syndrome, isolation, long screen-time; these are all things affecting plenty of people outside of the tech industry. I was aware of imposter syndrome as soon as I was in college. Most of my former classmates to this day feel it and complain about it, no matter what field they’re in. These are all symptoms that are not specific to any one field.

What I’m trying to say is this: correlation does not equal causation. That and also: if we're depressed as web developers it’s because we’re just as depressed as everyone else.

So there’s no reason to panic or believe that being a web developer hikes up your chances of mental illness. But it’s still an important subject to talk about and keep in mind. Your mental health is as important as your physical health, if not more so.

What are things you can do to keep yourself mentally healthy as a web developer?

  • Manage your physical health. Stretch, get out of your chair often and walk around. On that note, take a walk outside while there’s some sunlight.
  • Manage your screen time. Yes, we literally work on our screens but try to limit your social media consumption if it’s taking too much of your free time.
  • Nurture your hobbies outside of coding. Your life doesn’t have to be all code. Let your brain switch lanes every once in a while.
  • Leave your work at the office. Or the office nook for those who might take their work home. Give yourself limits so you don’t overextend yourself if that’s something you’re liable to do.
  • Pay attention to your eating habits. Notice yourself feeling a little groggy after that plate of pasta? Maybe leave the pasta for when you don’t need to problem-solve.
  • Ask for help. Life is hard and sometimes we just run out of juice. Don’t be afraid to ask for a jump.

Top comments (2)

kabirtawhid profile image

Thanks! Mental health is above all!

marvelouswololo profile image

thanks for sharing Aidi, this is awesome.