Acting Out And Mental Illnesses In The Workplace


You have finally found that perfect job, or at least the job that makes you want to bear the hassle of waking up, getting dressed, and do the commute to work. It’s something you feel that you need and want, and the pieces of your working life seem to fit together. However, no matter how “perfect” your job can be, the environment of the workplace, its people, and most importantly, how you fit in that social space, there is bound to be a significant occurrence of moments of despair and discomfort. This can be a challenge to one’s mental health, and reacting the wrong way can pose as a negative impact to your work life. When such issues arise, a good practice will be to take a step back and analyse the situation and your behaviour. Impulsiveness and irrational responses can overcome and get the better of you, and you have to bear the consequences. It’s not about whether you’re right or wrong in these situations. What matters most is how you and the people you share the experiences with can grow from the bad things moving forward. Being honest and open about your mentality to yourself and your co-workers is important to bridge a gap less travelled, and to create comfortable awareness of the complications in your mind. 

Everyone has their ways of reacting to situations in the workplace, and no one can say otherwise. But as someone with a mental condition and trauma experience, the spectrum of your actions go all over the place. These mental conditions include depression, bipolar, and attention deficit disorder amongst others – having a bad day in your life, but having the need to show up at work, communicating with co-workers, doing your job, and handling problems at work that make your day even worse, having sudden mood swings that cause you to snap at your colleagues over the smallest of things, the inability to focus on the tasks at hand, standing up and pacing the office because you are restless, feeling trapped in a mental box that just tears you up inside throughout the day. These are some of the circumstances and behaviours of people who suffer from mental conditions that are brought into the workplace. Sometimes, having complete acceptance of your condition and learning to internalise and deal with yourself as a form of strength and perseverance can positively affect how you deal with yourself in the workplace, but on the other end, lack of control and overwhelming environments can cause lashing out and internal havoc. The latter is what’s important, to dive into and properly analyse how to evade impulsiveness and destructive behaviours. 

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How Mental Illnesses Affect You In The Workplace

From experience, depression, bipolar, and attention deficit disorder are conditions that feeds on the environment and lack of mental clarity. It is a metaphorical dark rainy cloud over your head that won’t go away, drastic mood swings that leave the people you interact with confused and taken off guard, and a thriving lack of the ability to be present at work even though the job means something to you. When you bring such conditions into a workplace, there’s bound to be friction between your mental state and your work environment. You may go into work feeling like nothing can make you happy that day, the unknowingness of how your mood may be, if it’s better to stay away from your colleagues to prevent any conflicts, or how are you going to survive those 8 hours and be productive even though you can barely keep your attention on your work. 

One of the common occurrences I’ve seen and experienced is that these people that suffer from depression, they lack the motivation and heart to do what they love about the job, and brood throughout the day, just doing the bare minimum. With depression comes a negative mindset, and acting out because of this is undoubtedly something that will happen. When you’re feeling extremely down and in your own bubble during work, and a colleague or your boss approaches you for work, even if it’s a small task, at that point of time you just want to be left alone. You respond bluntly, rudely, unprofessionally. If they were feeling what you felt, they would maybe have a glimpse into understanding why, but most people rely on immediate reactions to decipher the situation. When impulse strikes you at those particular points in the day, you may lash out at the people who are just there to work as a team. Sometimes, it maybe be their way of approaching you at your dark moments, or they are just not good at accessing your situation, but that’s no qualified reason to treat them like a punching bag. 

People suffering from bipolar disorder prove to be emotionally volatile and have very unexpected and illogical responses to people and their work environment. One moment, you are ambitious, and the next, you’re dreading your job. The best way to ease this issue is to find the parts of the day that you know will make you happy, like getting your favourite lunch, talking to your favourite colleagues. On the other end, you have to identify and avoid what could make you feel down during the day, like that colleague that always annoys you, the bad coffee from the canteen downstairs, or even just staying away from the long queue at the printing machine. These may seem like small things, but learning to identify these 2 spectrums of mood changes will drastically help you to go through the work day without triggering your emotional instability. 

A common situation for sufferers of attention deficit disorder is their long-standing lack of the ability to focus on their tasks at hand, and stay grounded in the midst of everything else that is happening around them, like having to deal with fellow colleagues on a project, group meetings, the managers, and so on. Everything around you piles up and you feel restless, unable to delve deep into what you need to do and what matters for the day. There are good practices for these situations. These include finding your special place in the office to be alone and work, drinking good tea to calm your nerves, planning your day from the first step into the office, and organising your work meticulously. These actions will help to keep you grounded for the day, and help to instil more focus in your work.

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Acting Out

All these mental issues have their own traits, but what’s common between them is causing the mental struggle that starts internally, to externalise outside the brain. You may end up snapping at a colleague for something trivial, being sloppy in your work, being unable to go through a one hour meeting without day-dreaming, being late for work because you just can’t seem to get yourself out of your comfort zone at home, getting angry at things that would otherwise be just simply part of your job. Such situations can be minor, but some can be more serious whereby someone can get hurt physically or mentally. These reactions and situations affect your standing in the office, and how your colleagues and bosses view you.

In order to live your working hours in an environment that gives you peace and provide an ambitious nature, do things that prepare you for the day. Plan ahead, sleep well, eat well, get a hobby during your free time, connect with loved ones. These may not seem to be actual solutions to prevent acting out, but from experience, they will definitely set your physical body on the right path to influence the mental part of yourself to be better. We are all living in this world together,  and co-existing well is a state of mind that we all have to learn to handle and synergise with our interactions and environment.

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We all have our issues to deal with, internally and externally. No one in the world can say that they are perfect the way they are. As intelligent sentient beings, we have the capacity to learn, grow, and succeed in our attempts to create a society worth living for. We need to learn to live with ourselves and each other. Be open, be honest, be comfortable in your own skin. And that will be enough to prevent mishaps and dreadful outcomes in the workplace and even more so, in your life in its entirety.


A Word From A Space Between

Your job is something to cherish and be accountable for. The workplace should be a supportive environment where you spend your time doing what you love, or need to. Acting out and letting impulsiveness take control of you in that space can have repercussions and consequences you will end up greatly regretting. However, it’s a problem that can be solved with proper insight, treatment, and personal responsibility.

Need a helping hand?

Many of the providers practicing in A Space Between are skilled at helping clients navigate a multitude of mental illnesses which can affect you in your workplace. Some providers utilise a mind-body approach; others focus on skills-based techniques for tangible solutions.

Explore our free client-matching service and let us help you find a therapist who fits your unique needs.

Where private practice meets
A Space Between provides flexible co-working office spaces for rent to therapists and other professionals in Singapore.
A Space Between is a destination for mental health therapy activities. Counsellors utilise our many conducive therapy rooms for consultations. Located conveniently downtown and offering your independent therapists rent by the hour, we house many professional mental health practitioners, including LGBTQ+ friendly ones. To find out more about the therapists practising in A Space Between, write to us at [email protected].
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