How Depression and Internalized Ableism Affect Your Career

February 17, 2021 Mahevash Shaikh

If you have depression, especially for an extended period of time, you might also have a case of internalized ableism. The combination of depression and internalized ableism can have a severe impact on your work and career. Let's take a look. 

What Is Internalized Ableism?

Here is a definition of ableism from the website Access Living:1

"Ableism is the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. At its heart, ableism is rooted in the assumption that disabled people require 'fixing' and defines people by their disability. Like racism and sexism, ableism classifies entire groups of people as 'less than' and includes harmful stereotypes, misconceptions, and generalizations of people with disabilities." 

Internalized ableism is when a physically or mentally disabled person believes in ableism on some level. It doesn't matter if this person is high-functioning or low-functioning, internalized ableism can still persist. 

If you are wondering about the connection between depression and internalized ableism, remember that depression—especially chronic depression—is an invisible illness that can also be a disability. Depending on whether you have low-functioning depression or high-functioning depression, the disability factor, so to speak, can be either on the high end or the low end. But it exists and needs to be countered.

How to Manage the Impact of Internalized Ableism on Work

The first thing you need to do is identify how internalized ableism impacts your work and overall career. For example, it might stop you from applying to dream jobs because you're unsure if you can work long hours under pressure. On the other hand, it might cause you to overwork at the expense of your health, so you can prove yourself to be almost as efficient as your neurotypical coworkers. 

Once you have identified the impact, it's time to do some damage control. Talking to your therapist, finding a mentor who can cheer you on and hold you accountable, and becoming more self-aware are some ways to deal with this problem. Disabilities are challenging, so it's important to learn how to stop self-sabotage and play to your strengths. 

Don't allow internalized ableism to stand between you and your career goals. Combat the shame, self-loathing, victim mentality, and guilt. You are worthy and enough no matter what.


  1. Eisenmenger, A., "Ableism 101: What It Is, What It Looks Like, and What We Can Do to Fix It." Access Living, December 2019.

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2021, February 17). How Depression and Internalized Ableism Affect Your Career, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Mahevash Shaikh

Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture, and society. She lives to question convention and redefine normal. You can find her at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

Lizanne Corbit
February, 17 2021 at 10:30 am

When it comes to things like depression and how we externally show up in the world, looking at work and careers is always an interesting one. This concept of internalized ableism makes perfect sense and I'm sure many who are living with depression can relate to having experienced this at some point in time. We can all use the reminder to be more gentle with ourselves, all too often we are our harshest critics and that needs to change. Conversations like these help.

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