The Emotional Toll of Working in UX

There are times when our work impacts us deeply — sometimes in ways we neither acknowledge nor understand.

Vivianne Castillo
Published in
8 min readDec 3, 2019


Illustration: Deb Lee

This story is from the Founder of HmntyCntrd and is part of Self-Care is for UX, a series on the personal risks of working in design. Check out their Healing Conversations course!

If you are reading this, you most likely fall into one of two categories: You’re either interested in becoming a UX professional or you already are one.

Regardless of which category you fall into, you’ve probably heard or identify with some of the following:

  • You like helping people and are fascinated with human behavior.
  • You’re curious about how people interact with each other, their experiences, and the ecosystems they live in.
  • You enjoy solving problems and learning new things.
  • Many UX professionals are paid well, enjoy their work, and find it meaningful. Let’s be honest; who doesn’t want that?

However, if you are a UX professional, you may have either experienced or know of UX professionals who have experienced the following:

  • You’ve found yourself being given a directive to “be human-centered” only to have your stakeholders show complete disregard for the human aspect of the research or design.
  • You’ve felt overwhelmed, surprised, troubled, or disturbed by something a participant or stakeholder decided to share.
  • You’ve either begun a battle with depression, or your battles with depression have become more difficult since you’ve been on a project or in this career.
  • You’ve noticed a decline in your relational health with friends, family, or colleagues since you’ve been on a project or in this career.
  • In the midst of a project you find yourself having difficulty with concentration, physical/mental/emotional fatigue, emotional eating, intrusive thoughts or images, or apathy.
  • You’ve found yourself feeling sad or grieved after a project ends, sometimes struggling to move on to the next one.



Vivianne Castillo
Writer for

UX Researcher. Humanity in Tech Advocate-Warrior. Founder of HmntyCntrd ( Choosing courage over comfort.