In the depths or on the edge? Distinguishing depression from burnout

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed, you might wonder, “Is it burnout or is it depression?”

A recent survey found a whopping 89% of workers say they’ve experienced burnout in the past year. Statistics show depression affects about one in 15 adults in any given year. But how do you know if you’re depressed or burnt out?

“I think we’re confused about whether it’s depression or burnt out because we use the terms colloquially. Burnout is always workplace-associated and depression isn’t,” said Dr. Jessi Gold, a psychiatrist at Washington University.

Symptoms of burnout might include exhaustion, cynicism, and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment.

Fatigue is a symptom of depression too, but it’s also characterized by feelings of sadness and hopelessness, sleeping problems, concentration issues, changes in eating habits, and suicidal thoughts.

A bigger factor is people who are depressed may experience anhedonia which is the inability to enjoy activities you once loved.

Another difference is that burnout can sometimes be cured by taking a break, but depression usually doesn’t go away if you change your circumstances.

“Burnout can lead to depression. If you catch burnout, and you notice it, and you do things to change it, you can probably prevent yourself from actually getting to depression,” said Gold.

Experts recommend taking a mental health day or considering a career change if you’re suffering from extreme burnout.

If you’re noticing symptoms of depression, it’s a good idea to seek professional help.

A healthy diet and daily exercise can also help you feel better whether you have depression or burnout.

Gold says, although burnout is typically associated with the workplace, it’s important to note that stay-at-home parents and other types of caregivers who “work” at home commonly experience burnout.