Burnout Vs Depression

Estimated reading time: 22 minute(s)

Burnout and depression are two common problems of today, with many similar mental health symptoms and side effects. Despite sharing a close symptom profile, the two conditions are extremely different. It is imperative to diagnose them rightly so that the most appropriate treatment can be commenced to control them. Knowing the difference between burnout and depression also helps people figure out what they are experiencing so that they can work on finding relief sooner.

Difference Between Burnout and Depression

Burnout or burnout syndrome describes physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that may come from long-term exposure to:

  • Overworking
  • Emotionally demanding situations
  • Stress
  • Pushing oneself too hard without investing time in self-care and tending to personal needs

Burnout can negatively affect physical and mental health. While the problem has different types, career burnout and parental burnout remain the most common types. [1] Following are the groups of people most vulnerable to developing burnout:

  • Nurses
  • Doctors
  • Teachers
  • Elite athletes
  • Social workers
  • Parents of chronically sick children

While burnout has a lot of similar symptoms as depression, it is not a subtype of this psychiatric illness. Some common symptoms characteristic of burnout include the following:

  • Exhaustion
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of empathy
  • Poor work performance
  • Problems with thinking or decision-making
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea

Depression, on the other hand, is a type of mental health illness that impacts up to 8.4 percent of people living in the United States every year. Some of its common symptoms include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Hopelessness
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Disinterest in once pleasurable things
  • Excessive tearfulness

Burnout Vs. Depression: What are the Key Differences?

While certain symptoms of burnout vs depression may overlap, such as low mood, poor concentration, and loss of interest, there are many major differences. For instance, to meet the professional diagnostic criteria for depression, a person must exhibit a combination of symptoms that last for at least two weeks. There is no such strict timeline to diagnose a person for burnout.

Following are some additional symptoms of burnout vs depression:

Duration of symptoms

While there is no definite timeline for burnout, the symptoms need to be present for at least a few weeks or months to consider the possibility. Depression, on the other hand, must present with the relevant symptoms for at least two weeks but can last for months or even years.


Prolonged stress can play a role in triggering depression; however, removing it cannot cure the condition. Depression also has a multifactorial background, with both genes and circumstances contributing to its development. Burnout, on the other hand, maybe cured if the triggering factor is removed.

Treatment Options

The best treatment for burnout is socializing with loved ones and taking time to relax with the main idea of addressing the internal conflict. Depression, on the other hand, typically requires a stricter, more professional approach involving medication and psychotherapy to address its impression on everyday life fully.

How to Manage Burnout & Depression

Regardless of whether a person has depression, burnout, or an element of both, there are plenty of ways to address the issues and keep their symptoms in control. A combination of medication, therapy, exercise, meditation, self-care, and taking a break are different ways to cope with the underlying symptoms. Keep the five tips mentioned below to treat both conditions in the best way possible.

Read about burnout and depression.

Some people may struggle to identify negative symptoms in themselves. This is because internalized feelings are often hard to separate and distinguish true feelings from emotions coming from prolonged negative feedback. This generates shame, which beats people down, making it hard for them to accept their positive traits and qualities.

Consider reading stories and books about how people managed adversities, including internal struggles, to gain empowerment. Try resonating with these stories to validate your own and instill hope in yourself for a better future. Reading about these stories can also push you to address the harmful emotions leading to depression or burnout.

Meditate more.

Find a special place to try meditation and reflect on your feelings. Meditation has been helping millions of people process emotions in a way that benefits them while helping their cause. The technique also helps them be more mindful and remember to practice kindness with themselves, especially during hard days. Meditation is also a great way to slow down the fast minds and instill calm and peace.

Consider journaling your feelings.

When you write things down, you are essentially getting them out of your head. Moreover, writing down your emotions and going through them loudly can also help you realize how you truly feel and compare it with the way you process information. This comparison helps you identify negative thought patterns while checking their origin. When a person reaches this point where they are capable of identifying their negative thoughts, the healing process can finally begin.

Take time for yoga.

Yoga can help people express their emotions and process them through their body. While exercising has a lot of proven benefits, yoga takes a step further by helping people find balance. Once a person finds emotional equilibrium, it becomes easier for them to learn more about themselves and understand their worth.

Come up with a mindfulness practice.

One of the best ways to become self-aware is by practicing mindfulness. [2] Mindfulness practices can help people find their inner voice, listen to it, and use it for guidance. Many people also use mindfulness to accept things that bring them peace and joy.

Seek professional treatment.

If none of the tips mentioned above is making a difference, do not hesitate to seek professional help. The right time can vary for anyone, depending on the type of signal they get. For instance, if you feel mentally exhausted despite following all the tips mentioned above, seek professional help. Remember to choose a professional who can provide you with a proper diagnosis after ruling out other medical conditions. The development of any suicidal tendencies is quite common in people working in high-workload professions. Any symptoms suggestive of a positive suicide must never be ignored, and a professional must be contacted to address them as soon as possible.


Can you have both depression and burnout together?

It is possible to experience depression and burnout simultaneously. The causes for both conditions may be completely unrelated or may be exacerbated by one another. However, things may not be the same for each person as everyone responds differently to stress.

Can burnout lead to depression?

If left unresolved, burnout may lead to depression in some cases. Remember that a. burnout depicts a physically and emotionally exhausted state, which may include depressive symptoms like general unwellness and fatigue. Both conditions have a direct relationship through the presence of stress and a lack of control over the environment, features common in burnout and depression.

How can I find a therapist to manage burnout or depression?

A good way to find a therapist for burnout vs depression is by looking into an online therapist directory. All therapists with a license are skilled in helping people struggling with all kinds of mental health issues, such as depression. Consider looking into clinician bios and their reviews to understand the scope of their practice and whether their experience will suit your circumstances. Some therapists also provide free phone consultations to help people determine if they are a good fit for them. If you still cannot make a decision, consider getting a referral from your physician, as they have access to many providers. This will also keep your doctor in the loop about any treatments you are getting.


1 Mikolajczak M, Roskam I. Parental burnout: Moving the focus from children to parents. New directions for child and adolescent development. 2020 Nov;2020(174):7-13.

2 Suleiman‐Martos N, Gomez‐Urquiza JL, Aguayo‐Estremera R, Cañadas‐De La Fuente GA, De La Fuente‐Solana EI, Albendín‐García L. The effect of mindfulness training on burnout syndrome in nursing: a systematic review and meta‐analysis. Journal of advanced nursing. 2020 May;76(5):1124-40.

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