Help for the High-Functioning: Understanding and Helping Those in the IT Fields

As our series on burnout in high-stress professions comes to a close, we thought we’d also take a look at another profession that can sometimes come with its own mental health challenges. These days so many people work in IT and related fields, which has become a high-pressure environment, that it is important that businesses ensure that they have wellness programmes in place. If you or someone you know works in IT, please take the time to take care of your mental health.


People who excel in the Information Technology (IT) fields are often highly revered by the rest of us. Their brains seem to operate on a more advanced level; they can calculate, troubleshoot and solve the tech issues that the average person can’t even comprehend.

IT folks can create solutions and innovations that change lives. But sometimes, even the most advanced minds need help when it comes to emotional health and wellness.

Common Challenges of an IT professional

As a human race, we face common challenges in life with transitions, identity, life experiences and relationships. These are universal issues that come and go in our lives. Often there are similarities in certain fields of work; traits that tend to draw certain types of people to a particular field of interest.

IT is a specialized field that often draws people with high intelligence, problem solving skills, detail-oriented focus and logic-based thought processes. These traits lend well to a field that is rapidly growing and changing.

Along with the positive traits that often accompany certain types of people in a field of work, there are often inherent challenges.

For people drawn to the IT fields, some of the common traits are imposter syndrome, as well as challenges with work/life balance, relationship challenges and social anxiety.

The Impact of These Challenges

It may seem easy to dismiss the challenges of highly advanced IT folks, considering all the positive skills and strengths that they have going for them.

Even though these positive traits often make them prime candidates for Silicon Valley and sets them up for a wildly successful career, quality of life can suffer greatly if the challenges are not managed. When quality of life is declining, productivity and motivation can falter.

Work attendance can be impacted, and a marked decline in creative processes can take place.

Lack of personal satisfaction can become a larger problem that extends over to businesses as well as individuals. Issues with work/life balance can result in burnout and retention issues.

Those who struggle with social anxiety may struggle with maintaining full potential when the emotional challenges of facing others in the work setting becomes overwhelming.

Relationship issues can become more problematic when they go unaddressed because perceptions and beliefs can fester and worsen over time if not attended to.

People who have difficulty in relationships with others often start to isolate themselves and avoid meaningful interaction.

For people in the IT fields this may be an even more significant tendency, as many people in this field are naturally introverted and tend to keep to themselves anyway.

Some of the physical manifestation of unmanaged emotional health challenges can be increased stress hormones within the body, decreased immune function and fatigue.

Mind and body are closely linked; when one is affected, the other systems often follow suit.

Helpful Solutions Businesses Can Offer an IT Professional

It is often useful for IT businesses to anticipate the needs of workers and be proactive in helping employees who may not be openly talking about these common challenges.

The stigma that accompanies mental health needs can deter people from reaching out for help, but if the help is available and normalized within the workplace, it goes a long way toward these emotional health issues getting resolved.

Create an atmosphere of safety:

Talking about challenges with mental health can feel intimidating, particularly to people who are highly successful in many areas of life. In spite of all the open dialogue in our culture about self-care and mental health, many people feel reluctant to talk about their feelings.

It can create a level of vulnerability that many may find intimidating. Try to develop an open dialogue about emotional health so that people might feel more inclined to get necessary help.

Make help accessible:

Providing easy access to a mental health professional can be a proactive and productive way to alleviate challenges with imposter syndrome, stress and social anxiety. Having a therapist or consultant on hand to assist people with challenges can offer an avenue for assistance that many employees might not otherwise have access to.

Creating room for health within the structure of the day lets employees know that their physical and mental wellness is a priority. Offer routine talks and publications on managing depression, anxiety and self-care to employees also lets them know that they are valued.

Incentivize wellness:

Develop wellness into an incentive plan to encourage people to look after their mental and physical health needs. Prioritizing emotional health as part of an employees’ anticipated needs package is a commitment that a company can offer that shows people that you are invested in them and that you want them to take time to care for their needs.

Self-help for IT Folks Who are Struggling

If you recognize yourself as struggling with some of the challenges common to people in your field, it may be useful to challenge yourself with a few of the following ideas.

Break out of the rut:

Each of us get into ruts in our lives, and if you are finding yourself doing the same thing every single day, it can contribute to negative feelings and general dissatisfaction after a while.

Try to develop new habits in your daily life that forces you out of your current pattern of activity. Attend to your needs for mind, body and spirit. People in IT fields often spend so much time in “mind” mode that the other two categories falter.

Body and spirit refer to taking care of your physical health needs (going to the doctor, moving more, eating well) and in this case, spirit refers to the parts of life that bring you joy (i.e., spending time with friends, doing something creative). Establishing balance can be a game changer when it comes to feeling emotionally well.

Don’t go through it alone:

While you are a unique individual within your own right, chances are, you have a friend or colleague with similar challenges.

Anxiety, stress and feelings of being an imposter are all very common in people with high levels of advancement, particularly in IT. Start a conversation about it. You might be surprised how many others are feeling the same way and not saying anything.

When you know others are experiencing similar emotions, you can validate each other and feel much less alone with your feelings.

Use CBT skills:

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is a great format for observing and reversing issues such as imposter syndrome and social anxiety. Learn more about CBT and consult with a trained therapist to learn ways to use the skills to your advantage.

It can feel daunting to manage emotional health challenges alone. One can do a lot of good self-searching and recovery independently, but often it can be eye-opening to talk with others. When we keep our challenges to ourselves, we eliminate the possibility of relating to someone else who may be going through the same thing.

It may seem tempting to ignore the challenges, hoping they will fade away. Symptoms may come and go, but generally the larger themes will continue to re-emerge over time. Taking time to dedicate to emotional wellness will pay off.

[This blog post originally appeared on Teyhou’s website ~ some content may have been modified for the UK context.]

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