Some Mental Illness may Hinder Work

Bipolar and borderline patients may struggle with keeping a job

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Depression may get in the way of a person’s ability to work. A recent study asked people with depression about their work history.

People with depression and bipolar or borderline had more struggles with work than people with major depression. They were more likely to have missed work for at least two years because of their condition.

"Ask your psychiatrist about ways to avoid missing work."

The study, led by Mark Zimmerman, MD, of the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Brown Medical School in Rhode Island, asked patients at a mental health clinic about their employment history.

They asked patients about how much time they missed work for psychiatric reasons during the past five years. Of the patients interviewed, 181 had depression and borderline personality disorder. Another 84 people had bipolar disorder.

They compared these two groups to 1,068 people who had major depression and no other conditions. They looked at persistent unemployment which was defined as not working because of psychiatric reasons for at least two of last five years. They also looked at chronic unemployment, which was defined as not working at all in the last five years.

Of patients with bipolar disorder, 25 percent were persistently unemployed and 8.3 percent were chronically unemployed.

Of borderline personality disorder patients, 24.9 percent were persistently unemployed and 7.2 percent were chronically unemployed.

This is compared to the patients who only had major depression, where 10.6 percent were persistently unemployed and 3.4 percent were chronically unemployed.

The authors concluded that depression associated with borderline and bipolar disorders is linked to more struggles with having and keeping a job.

The study is limited because it did not find out which symptoms were the ones that led to missed work. So it is not clear what caused people with depression associated with bipolar and borderline personality disorders to miss more work.

The authors also commented that this study did not ask about performance at work, so it is possible that some people in the study who were working were also struggling.

dailyRx News spoke with Peter Strong, PhD, about the results of this study. He said,"I think that these groups of patients respond best to a combination of drug therapy and psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and approaches aimed at the management of dysfunctional thinking and emotion regulation."

He went on to say that less intensive therapies are probably less effective in this population, which can lead to more struggles keeping a job.

This study was published in the December issue of Bipolar Disorders. The authors report no competing interests.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 19, 2012
Last Updated:
December 25, 2012