Burnout vs. Depression: How to Tell the Difference

Are you experiencing burnout or depression? They can have similar effects on you. It is also possible to be experiencing both conditions at the same time. Experiencing them at the same time could have the same root cause or be completely unrelated. How do you tell the difference between the two conditions and what can you do to help?

What are burnout and depression?

Burnout and depression can have many overlapping symptoms, making it hard to tell them apart. They do, however, also have distinct symptoms.


Burnout is the emotional, mental and physical exhaustion that is caused by long-term exposure to stress, emotionally draining situations, working too much, or pushing yourself too hard without taking time to care for your needs. Burnout can happen due to career or parental work.


Burnout symptoms can include:


●      Emotional, physical or mental exhaustion.

●      Sleep disturbances or disruptions.

●      Headaches.

●      Overwhelming feelings of hopelessness.

●      Memory troubles.

●      Not performing well at your job.

●      Feeling anxious or worrying all the time.

●      Social withdrawal.

●      Difficulty making decisions (cognitive dysfunction).

●      Irritability.

●      Nausea.


Burnout can be caused by:


●      Perfectionism.

●      Lack of support or resources.

●      Dirty or unsafe work environment.

●      Dissatisfaction with your job.

●      Low pay.

●      Unrealistic and unattainable goals or deadlines.

●      Unreasonable work demands.

●      Toxic environments.

●      Imbalance of work and personal life.


Depression is a mental health condition that affects over 8% of Americans every year. It is one of the most common mental health issues. It can range from mild to severe and drastically affect your daily life.


Depression symptoms can include:


●      Hopelessness.

●      Fatigue.

●      Disinterest in favorite pastimes or hobbies.

●      Experiencing suicidal ideation.

●      Feeling overwhelming sadness or emptiness most of the time.

●      Anger and irritability.

●      Low self-esteem.

●      Withdrawal from friends and family.

●      Unintended changes in appetite and weight.


Depression can be caused by:


●      Genetics.

●      Grief.

●      Divorce.

●      Chronic illness.

●      Worries about your career or finances.

●      Medical issues.

●      Mood dysfunction.

Key differences between burnout and depression

While both conditions have several symptoms that overlap, there are also distinct differences in the two conditions. Depression symptoms must last at least two weeks to be considered a depressive episode. There is no strict timeline that dictates burnout.

Differences between burnout and depression can include:


●      Duration — Symptoms of burnout can last for weeks or months in order for you to consider it a burnout. Depressive episodes must last at least two weeks but can also become chronic, lasting months or even years.

●      Cause —  Stress can play a role in sparking both, but taking away the stress doesn't instantly make the depressive episode end. Burnout is more complex than just being overwhelmed by stress. Burnout can affect a person’s view of their self-worth or purpose.

How to cope with burnout or depression

While they are two separate conditions, if left untreated, one can lead to the other. It is important to deal with your burnout or depression as soon as you possibly can. Both conditions can respond to a variety of approaches including:


●      Take a break — One of the best ways to meet burnout head-on is by taking a mental health break. It can be a short one-day break, a vacation or a leave of absence. A break can do wonders for your mental health. Taking a mental health day for depression can also be beneficial. It can give you a chance to reframe your mindset.

●      Journal — Taking the time to write down your feelings can be extremely beneficial. You can get it out and move on if you need to. Journaling can also help you identify any potential triggers or negative feelings and how you react to them. Once you know your triggers and how you react, you can shift the way you react and begin to heal.

●      Therapy — Working with a therapist can help you learn better coping mechanisms for your burnout and depression triggers. Therapy can be incredibly beneficial for both conditions.

Seeking therapy for burnout or depression

Seeking professional mental health can be an incredibly difficult choice to make. There is no shame in admitting you need help and can’t get through your burnout phase or depressive episode alone. Seeking help is a brave decision. A therapist can help you improve your life.

Risk factors of untreated burnout or depression

If left untreated, burnout or depression can trigger the other. This can lead to other issues. If continued to be left untreated, your risk of developing other conditions or problems can rise. If left untreated, burnout or depression could cause:


●      Substance abuse.

●      Cardiovascular disease.

●      Type 2 diabetes.

●      Obesity.

●      Prolonged fatigue.

●      Sleep disturbances or disruptions.

●      High cholesterol.

Take care of yourself to avoid complications from burnout or depression

Life is complicated and messy. When it comes to mental health, we believe there’s no one-size-fits-all. At Halcyon Therapy Group, we understand just how important you and your unique situation and perspectives are. That’s why we offer a suite of services tailored specifically to you and your needs. You deserve better, and we are here to help. Book your complimentary consultation today and start living the life you always dreamed of.

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