Unexplained headaches? It could be work stress

Armen Hareyan's picture

Complaining about that unexplained bouts of headache or body pain even when you are completely fit? Well it could be work related stress that can cause depression and other health problems.

A survey conducted by India's industry body Assocham has revealed that "the menace of stress and mental fatigue has intensified in recent times at the top and middle positions of many sectors.

The sector include construction, shipping, banks, government hospitals, trading houses, electronic and print media, courier companies, small-scale industries, retail and card franchise companies.

As more of the Indian workforce rushes to catch up with the deadlines, the boundary between home and work is becoming blurred.

As the work hours stretch and more and more jobs entail odd work hours, the stress levels among the Indian workers is increasing in an alarming way causing many health problems.

Dr Roma Kumar senior clinical psychologist says that stress can cause depression, but it can also manifest itself simply as an unexplained headache, pain in arms and legs, sleepiness or insomnia, loss of appetite and in women sometimes over eating.

"I will have to leave my job and go back home as I am constantly suffering from severe pain in my legs", says Sharmila, who works as an PR executive in Delhi. She adds, "Even after many tests the doctors have not been able to diagnose the problem."

There are times when you feel drained, disinterested or have an unexplained nagging pain. It could be job stress and not any physical disease that is hounding you, explains Dr Roma.

Sectors like business process outsourcing (BPO), call centres and information technology (IT) companies because of deadlines, demand for high performance, shortage of staff and threats from competitors are considered to be highly stressful.


Dr Kumar explains "A desire for higher remuneration, rising ambition, competition a desire to earn more and more are all causes of increasing stress in workers in India."

Rohit Dutta, a call centre employee says, "My work starts at 1:00 am at night and I have a fixed number of calls to make, I start with zero motivation. I feel drowsy and irritable the whole day. The only bright spot is the pay packet at the month end."

Stress levels can be found increasing across all age sections of the work force but the reasons might differ, says Dr Kumar. The young age groups of 20-30 years-old are overworked because of the competition and a desire to get ahead very fast.

While those in older age group, most of them with families and having reached mid-management levels, are bogged down by the demands of both a young family and work pressure, she adds.

"I am at a mid-management level in my office, managing people and enforcing targets, convincing and motivating those under you is pretty stressful," Puneet Das, 36 working in a top MNC, Gurgoan says.

He adds, "to meet deadlines I have to work extra hours, and since I have small children, late night becomes a cause of quarrel with my wife and this does cause stress."

But if you thought people who overworked were the only ones who suffered then think again. Mental heath experts say that even boredom can be as lethal.

Software professional Madhumita, working in a top software company says, "It is boring working in a project for a long time since the work becomes very monotonous."

"Sometimes when we are relieved of one project and yet to get into another, the ennui is terrible. I regularly get severe headaches," she adds.

Dr Samir Parikh, consultant psychiatrist says, "Boredom affects workers in many ways. If you are not interested in your work, your sense of engagement, work satisfaction, and ultimately the quality of work suffers."