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Valeria
Valeria

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Is coding mental health friendly?

With our ability to work from anywhere any time it seems like an awesome choice to live stress-free. But at the same time, a lot of us have mental disorders of varying intensity.

I can't help but wonder if it is because e.g. a personality disorder or generalised anxiety doesn't affect the career in dev or if the lack of social interactions actually perpetuates the problem and let the disorders bloom.

What do you think?

Discussion (15)

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buphmin profile image
buphmin

This is individual scenario specific. Each person in each job could answer differently.

That said in and of itself coding is perfectly fine. Writing code is mentally engaging and allows you to solve complex problems. In this you can think abstractly and be challenged with varying issues. These are all good things for mental health and longevity of a career. Any job that provides a variety of problems to solve and is engaging can be considered a healthy career.

The problem with "coding" is not the coding part at all, but the people around you and the job. Negative behaviors of your team, impossible deadlines, poor work culture, and more can all weigh a person down regardless of the type of job. Unfortunately software companies have a tendency to combine a lot of these negative aspects into the job. Additionally the large divide between the technical experts and the non-technically inclined can be a large source of friction.

Another part is an individual's approach to the job. Things like make clear delineations between when it is time to work, and when it is not are important. Managing a work life balance, however that applies to you, is also crucial to mental healthy.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial • Edited on

You can't really answer this properly on dev.to as there are too many people take offence at facts. So I will dance around it and you will have to fill in the blanks as to which conditions / impairments I am referring to.

Development in of itself is not stressful, in fact with certain mental health conditions development can be a soothing experience as certain mental health conditions are closely linked with a more logic-orientated thought process.

Development is also a great career for certain groups who do not fit the narrative of what is acceptable as "customer facing" who may have conditions or impairments that are not mental health related, but nearly always have the side effect of mental health issues due to the additional stress their condition brings due to societal pressures, harassment, bullying etc.

It also has lower physical and communicative barriers to entry than most careers and is easy to work remotely. This coupled with the ability to have a flexible work schedule also allows people with certain mental health conditions seek employment they otherwise would not be able to attain in a normal office environment 9-5 type job.

And finally, the prevalence of mental health conditions increases as IQ increases, tech tends to attract above average IQ so yet again we would expect to see a higher prevalence of mental health conditions than average.

As an aside to that, people with disabilities are more likely to go into higher education than non-disabled individuals, so yet again there is a greater pool of educated individuals who have a disability who may fit the criteria for a job in tech.

So for this reason the prevalence of mental health conditions does indeed tend to be higher in tech, but I do not think that the job itself causes mental health conditions at any greater prevalence than other medium to high stress work environments, instead we see an above average incidence of mental health conditions as the industry is better suited to / more welcoming / can support the needs of people with mental health conditions.

This doesn't even account for that fact that we are in an industry that talks about mental health more than many other industries, which can obviously skew your perceptions.

So to answer the original question: Yes, coding is mental health friendly, the environment a company creates is the only bit you need to worry about.

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ianturton profile image
Ian Turton

On the one hand coding is great as you get regular serotonin hits when things are going well, but on the other hand it's terrible as there are almost endless opportunities for you to berate yourself over bugs that you tell yourself are obvious.

The trick is to manage how you "speak" to yourself - try to remember you would never say that to another coder (would you?). That and regular breaks, preferably at something that has nothing to do with a keyboard.

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valeriavg profile image
Valeria Author

Very true. I'd like to add that I find pair programming helpful to remind ourselves we are still humans and prone to silly mistakes. Of course second pair of eyes has higher chances to catch it too ๐Ÿ˜‰

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biffbaff64 profile image
Richard Ikin

I have depression and anxiety, coding definitely helps me.

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valeriavg profile image
Valeria Author

Sorry to hear that. I won't pretend I know what it's like. My friend says that the hardest part about being different is that society expects you to behave as you are not. What helps you? Is it problem solving, as was mentioned here, or something else?

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biffbaff64 profile image
Richard Ikin

Definitely the problem solving. I can get lost in coding and everything else disappears for a while.

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antonmelnyk profile image
Anton Melnyk

Programming is one of the most stressful careers, the ones that joined industry because of money and "stress-free" life are quickly faced the reality.

Sitting on a desk most of the time, having to handle heavy brain gymnastics, constant learning, pressure on deadlines, and other things are not exactly natural or mental friendly for our brains and bodies. Thus, the high amount of mental issues and burn outs among developers.

Yes, in theory you can sit on the beach, do physical exercises every hour-two to stay active, and have 3 day work week, to have a lot of rest... but let's be honest, how many developers actually do that.

Programming itself can be fun and exciting of course, and money is good, but even biggest lovers are burning out, because real industry is not just about programming itself.

In the end coding is more about business, communication and hard, sometimes monotonous work. This is not exactly mental health friendly.

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valeriavg profile image
Valeria Author

I agree, fast paced businesses tend to suck the holy light out of you. How do you handle it?

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ekafyi profile image
Eka

๐Ÿค” It's as "mental health friendly" as any other middle-class white-collar jobs of similar rank/level (or even slightly friendlier). Negative things that happen in tech companies do happen in other types of companies, too. At any rate, I personally would be much more stressed if I were in, say, education, marketing, or hospitality!

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heatherw profile image
HeatherW

Coding can be incredibly frustrating at times especially if you are not supported in your work or have a difficult project to complete. And with the rise of self taught developers imposter syndrome is a real issue for many. These can lead to a lot of anxiety for developers.

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nefofortressia profile image
Nefo Fortressia

No.

Bugs will make you even stressed out.

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shagshag profile image
Georges Cubas

I like bugs as I like challenges. I enjoy investigating why what should work isn't. It's an investigation and the feeling of victory when, after a long time of struggle, the code compiles without error is exhilarating.

But if there is a deadline, all the fun part of the bug disappears to give way to stress.

For me, it's not the bugs that are stressful but the deadlines.

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valeriavg profile image
Valeria Author

I agree here. It's not the bugs that are stressful, but the time limit to fix them. There is no way to completely avoid bugs during development and unfortunately there is not always enough time to properly test and fix.

Still I have an impression that none of it could be a "traumatic experience" on it's own. Yet being responsible for a big service outage or a failed project could, couldn't it?

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nefofortressia profile image
Nefo Fortressia

Yea, it's pretty much not the bugs, but the time. Even if you are working on a personal project and haven't set a deadline yet, you will still be stressed if for example your project haven't progressed much for an arbitrary amount of time.