Depression and clients

TL;DR I’ve been successfully treating my depression for years, but some client interactions are still a trigger. What can I do to cope?

First time posting. Looking for some advice. Diagnosed with major depressive disorder 10 years ago and type 2 bi-polar 4 years ago. I’ve been a full-time developer for almost 3 years and, lately, I feel like my depression is triggered by the same thing: client-induced stress/frustration.

I work for a small agency, which means devs frequently need to engage in 1 on 1 communication with the clients. As anybody who has worked for an agency probably knows, clients can be a nightmare.

For me, it usually goes like this: Client asks for feature in unrealistic timeline, I work on feature, additional requirements creep in, I work more on feature, start to get frustrated, deadline passes, client makes passive aggressive (or, sometimes, just plain aggressive) comment in Campfire or Github issues, I sink into depression, become short with loved ones, become passive aggressive about my job, etc.

Has anybody successfully battled client-induced stress? I would love some advice, or just to know that others can relate.


You’re not alone. I’ve definitely been in similar situations as well. For me, the biggest contributor is how non-confrontational I am.

There is a stubborn, but diplomatic, strength required to push back against scope creep and unrealistic expectations. Ideally, you’re supposed to either tell them no, or get them to accept that their requirements will increase deadlines, costs, or both. In the real world, however, people out of touch enough to make unreasonable demands tend not to accept reason as justification for not getting what they want. Some have learned that if they just stubbornly keep insisting on whatever they want, people eventually relent and tell them OK because they’re tired of arguing, and they mistakenly think they won. Even though they really end up getting failed deadlines and cost overruns just like they were told they would, they blame everyone else but themselves for it. Pushing back in a diplomatic way that actually convinces them to accept what you’re telling them is a skill of its own. Unfortunately, it tends to be one that devs rarely develop well. If you have issues with confrontation, anxiety, self-worth, etc, this is even harder to deal with. This is why I write code and am not management. I hate having to deal with that stuff. Of course, since I avoid it as much as I can, when I occasionally get stuck dealing with it, I’m even less prepared to cope.

I find it a difficult and delicate balancing act between not caring about the client’s opinion and demands to prevent myself from becoming overloaded with stress and frustration, and caring enough to actually do my job properly and create the thing I was hired to do within professional standards. The hardest thing is knowing when a particular client has gone so far past reasonable that they are unsalvageable and no longer worth worrying about. You do your best to keep it from getting that far, but every once in a while, some people and projects just can’t be saved. If you did your part to try to prevent it, then you have to keep reminding yourself that it’s not your fault and doesn’t reflect on you.

You can fix broken, you can’t fix stupid. :wink: