What’s The Difference Between Burnout and Depression

A lot of people who are “burned out” show signs of depression. Depression is often an indicator that someone has burnout syndrome. What’s the difference? These terms are often used interchangeably. However, even though they are related in some ways, they’re not actually the same.

Stress has a lot to do with both burnout and depression.

When you are challenged in any way, mentally or physically, emotionally or spiritually, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol. These are known as the “stress hormones”. Your pulse quickens, your breathing becomes deep, your heart starts pumping blood at a faster rate. All of your senses are on high alert. This is part of your “fight or flight” response, which has allowed human beings to survive and rule the planet for eons.

Chronic stress, when your body is constantly releasing stress hormones, can lead to a situation where you simply cannot cope with the never-ending stress in your life. When you feel out of control, like there is no end in sight to the turmoil in your life, depression is a normal reaction. Unfortunately, so is burnout when your stress is left untreated.

The Definitions of Burnout and Depression

The US National Library of Medicine defines depression as:

“A state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect
a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of well-being.”

That respected health institution goes on to say that depression episodes are short-lived. A constantly depressed state is a sign of possible burnout. The Mental Health Foundation in the United Kingdom gives us this depression definition:

“Depression is a common mental disorder that causes people
to experience depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration.”

On the other hand, psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter of the magazine and website Psychology Today tells us that burnout:

“Is more than just a bad day or a bad week. It’s a problem
that significantly interferes with one’s health, happiness,
and over quality of life.”

She goes on to say that the difference between a stressed-out individual experiencing depression, and burnout, “is a matter of degree”.

The respected health authority that is the Mayo Clinic has this to say about burnout:

“Burnout is a special type of stress – a chronic state of
physical, emotional or mental exhaustion.”

As you can see, when depression is long-term, it is often a sign of burnout. Many people enter a distressed state of emotions periodically. Put another way, you may be depressed if you experience a bad day from time to time. Your issue might be burnout if you feel that every day is a bad day. If you do feel depressed or stressed out constantly, your issue could be burnout, which can lead to serious health problems long-term when left untreated.

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