Enhancing credibility:

A qualitative study of being on sick leave with a stress-related psychiatric diagnosis


  • Ulla Rantakeisu Karstad University
  • Lena Ede Karlstad University




In the Western world mental health problems are increasing and in Sweden these problems are the most common reason for sick leave. Diagnoses of adjustment disorders and reactions to severe stress are increasing the fastest out of all mental health problems. The aim of this study is to contribute new insights into employees’ experiences and management of being on sick leave with a stress-related psychiatric diagnosis. The empirical material consisted of individual interviews with 26 employees who were on sick leave from at least part-time employment because of a stress-related diagnosis. The grounded theory method was used to analyse the results. In the generated model, we propose that sick-listed employees engage in enhancing credibility in relation to themselves and others, here attempting to come across as credible and, thus, avoiding disbelief and the negative attributions of being on sick leave with a psychiatric diagnosis. The interviewees shared the general concern that being perceived as either healthier or sicker than the case may be, as well as greater sensitivity to what others might think, which was manifested as being on guard and controlling their behaviour and emotional display. To return to work, the sick-listed employees tended to re-evaluate their previous performance at work and saw the illness as self-inflicted and as the result of not having been capable of drawing the line between work and leisure.


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Man, looking distraught, sitting alone by a table in a room, staring towards windows with blinds down. Picture by Andrew Neel from Pexels.com




How to Cite

Rantakeisu, U., & Ede, L. (2021). Enhancing credibility:: A qualitative study of being on sick leave with a stress-related psychiatric diagnosis. Nordic Journal of Social Research, 12(1), 181–200. https://doi.org/10.7577/njsr.4051