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Mental Health

In sex work there is always emphasis on sexual health, yet our emotional and mental well-being is just as important. Healthy thinking and genuinely feeling good about ourselves increases the likelihood of finding good relationships, caring workplaces and safer practices with clients.

Give attention to your well-being and take action on any changes that are needed. Some things to monitor may be:

  • the number of shifts and the hours of work
  • your attitudes and thoughts about sex work
  • coping mechanisms in dealing with sex work stress, and
  • the balance between work and personal life.

If services to clients are causing physical or mental stress, do things differently. For ideas on setting boundaries with clients, have discussions with experienced sex workers or SWOP staff members. It can really help to share information and tips with others who have dealt with the challenging aspects of work.

The stigma and hidden life that often accompanies sex work can be tough. It can help to maintain friendships outside the sex industry and have at least one friend with whom you can be totally honest. Find ways to express your inner thoughts and feelings—keeping a journal and/or regular counselling sessions can provide a safe space for this.

Support is available

SWOP offers free and confidential counselling in person or by phone. We can also assist in finding counselling services in your local area. Phone the SWOP office to make an appointment with the counsellor: (02) 9184 9466 .


Do you feel as though you simply can’t face another client? Does the idea of getting up and going to work make you scramble under the doona and hide? If so, you could be suffering from BURNOUT!

Signs you might be suffering from burnout include:

  • feeling disillusioned about work and life in general
  • adopting a sarcastic and cynical attitude towards work and clients
  • not turning up for shifts, switching your phone off or being  rude to clients who call
  • feeling restless and frustrated, perhaps tearfuland irritable
  • projecting negative feelings onto others
  • finding it increasingly difficult to see the positive aspects of work (when even the money doesn’t  make you feel better)
  • feeling physically sick at the thought of seeing a client
  • miserable for the whole day if you know you are working that night
  • no longer making an effort to look good.

Preventing and/or treating burnout

To prevent burnout, you need to ensure that you lead a balanced life. Too much work and poor boundaries can take a toll. It is possible to develop a happy medium where work is satisfying and fulfilling, but not so stressful that it takes over your entire life.

Here are some ideas:

  • Develop and maintain a balance between your work and personal life.
  • Develop clearly defined boundaries with clients and, if necessary, co-workers.
  • Work out your priorities and manage your time to reduce unnecessary daily stress.
  • Work reasonable hours and avoid double shifts if you are working for an agency.
  • Have realistic expectations of your self and others.
  • Take plenty of breaks and do something you enjoy on days off.
  • Try and take a holiday each year to “getaway from it all”.
  • Talk to someone you trust about your feelings, like a close friend or counsellor.
  • From time to time, look at the big picture. What are your goals?
  • Challenge negative thinking and self-talk and focus on the positives.
  • Take responsibility for your well-being and happiness.
  • Practise nourishing your physical self with baths, aromatherapy, exercise, yoga or a manicure.
  • Get back in touch with your sexuality and sexual self-identity.
  • Nourish your emotional self by listening to soothing music, gardening or following a creative   pursuit like writing or art—all are great methods of self expression.

What can happen if burnout is not addressed?

If you ignore the warning signs of burnout, you may become very stressed, depressed or physically unwell. Unresolved feelings of frustration or anger may lead you to lose your objectivity about work and end up feeling like you simply can’t work anymore. Before giving up, step back and take a look. Are you burnt-out? If the symptoms of burnout persist, you maybe suffering from anxiety and depression. It is strongly recommended you visit your doctor to discuss any concerns.