Good mental health is a kind of jigsaw puzzle made up of genetic and environmental pieces. Some are already standard, such as the more or less genetic predisposition to suffer from a mental health problem; and others, are built up over time, by the environment you live in, the family that touches you, the relationship with others, the economic situation, the job, or the traumatic events that may occur. An amalgam of factors define everyone’s good or bad mental health, but not all play the same role. Stress at work, for example, weighs on depression and, according to a study published in the journal molecular psychiatry, If this risk factor were minimized, cases of depressive disorder would be reduced by 18%.
Celso Arango, Head of Psychiatry at the Gregorio Marañón Hospital in Madrid and author of the study, notes that stress is something positive for the body from the start, it is the response to an alarm and the human body is used to it. But everything has its measure. “Stress increases cortisol, which is neurotoxic. Chronic, prolonged stress eventually leads to insomnia, anxiety and depressive symptoms,” explains the doctor, who is also president of the Spanish Society of Psychiatry.
The study, which reviews the available scientific literature on the role of modifiable risk factors, calculates what percentage could be avoided if an important risk factor disappears. It depends on the individual case and the circumstances. For example, the research calculated that cases of schizophrenia would decrease by 38% if “childhood abuse” such as childhood abuse or maltreatment were avoided. And if physical activity were practiced properly and consistently, “in the future, Alzheimer’s cases would be reduced by 15%,” says Joaquim Raduà, a researcher at the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (Idibaps) at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona and also the study author.
Despite the limitations of the research – there may be overestimates or underestimates of the prevalence of risk factors and “the practical effectiveness of specific preventive interventions targeting these factors needs to be demonstrated”, the authors concede – Raduà assures that the study serves to show on the one hand, that social factors explain only part of mental health problems – “Sometimes there is a reductionism that all mental disorders are due to social problems, and they are not; affects genetics, the environment and the interaction between the two. But Raduà, on the other hand, insists that “cases could be avoided if these factors could be acted upon.” Arango admits that the calculations are “utopian” because “you can’t remove them completely”, you can’t 100% remove these risk factors from the map, but you can reduce them. “If we could reduce work stress by 50%, there would be 8% fewer depressive pathologies,” he illustrates.
Stress is bad for your health. In fact, the World Health Organization has already included professional burnout syndrome (Burn out) in the latest update of the International Classification of Diseases as a Work-Related Problem. Toni Corominas, Board Member of the Cluster of Mental Health of Catalonia and Director of the Department of Mental Health at the University of Vic, explains that there are three causes of burnout: “On the one hand, there are emotional and physical exhaustion , as a feeling of stress and exhaustion in the face of the demands of the task; there is also depersonalization, so that work is done in a cold and impersonal way because that person is uncomfortable in their role; and third, lack of personal fulfillment at work”.
Like some kind of slide, that Burn out Onset can trigger anxiety or depression. Aside from the factors of inherent vulnerability, Corominas explains, there are cumulative factors: “These start with a denial when it’s difficult to talk about because there’s still a stigma to saying you feel bad. And then you get into those behaviors that complicate things even more: Instead of talking, you give up a passive attitude, you don’t value new opportunities as a motivating factor for change, and you enter this propensity.
After a while on this descent, with a sense of discouragement and a lack of joy or ability to enjoy things that previously produced a taste, Corominas describes, the path leads toward depression. “This is accompanied by other symptoms such as sleep disorders, appetite or libido, fatigue and performance disorders. This image that might be reactive at first [a la situación laboral]it can become severe depression: the symptoms are intensified by a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, you see no solution to the problem.
All that slipping, yes it can be prevented. Actually, you have to count on it. “When you realize you have a problem, you need to start a confident conversation with your manager or colleagues, you need to create meeting rooms to analyze what’s happening,” says Corominas. If possible, of course. Temporary breaks, a friendly work environment, or facilities to balance family commitments, Arango points out, are some options to better manage stress at work.
For their part, companies, although more aware of this, still have work to do, stresses Corominas: “Since the introduction of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in the 1990s, less than 1% of companies have implemented prevention plans. psychosocial prevention. It was the big issue to come.” Through the Mental Health Cluster, experts have developed guides on anxiety management, stress management, emotion management, and treating mood swings and addictive behaviors.
Corominas highlights some warning signs when this work stress gets complicated. One of them, he says, is “withdrawal” when a person isolates themselves or doesn’t dare to communicate or express their feelings. It also focuses on a possible “change in usual sleep pattern or other daily habits”. Another warning is the “magnification of problems” and finally “the guilt of attributing all evils”. “Beware of guilt because sometimes when you’re with the depressed chip it’s just another trick of the mind.”