What’s the Difference between Burnout and Depression?

An excess of stress and anxiety, going through a traumatic event, or faulty mood regulation in the brain can cause numerous types of mental health and mood disorders. Among these disorders are burnout and depression. These may sound like the same thing, and in many cases, the signs and symptoms are similar. However, there are distinct differences between these disorders.


The man experiencing a burnout

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Generally speaking, burnout can be described as a state of extreme exhaustion. It is usually caused by a prolonged period of stress and anxiety. Many overachievers experience burnout after working diligently for long periods of time without breaks. But burnout can happen to anyone. It is most common among teens, college students, parents, and caretakers.

Typical Signs of Burnout

• Sleep issues — sleeping either too much or too little

• Issues with concentration

• Forgetfulness

• Feeling exhausted physically and emotionally

• Feeling ineffective

• A short temper

* Depression may also be a symptom of burnout


A woman with a depression sign

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Depression is different from burnout as it does not necessarily result from a prolonged period of stress and anxiety. It can result from excess stress, but actually, depression may be the result of a lack of stimulation as well. In other situations, depression may be caused by a genetic vulnerability to the disease, medical issues, taking specific medications, or a specific traumatic event — such as a death in the family, tough breakup, or losing a job. While addressing the underlying issues causing the burnout is often enough to recover from it, depression is not limited to the occupational context. Depression is a complex state of internal imbalance, affecting many areas of one’s life. Moderate to severe depression may even require medical treatment.

Typical Signs of Depression

• Sleep issues — sleeping either too much or too little

• Eating issues — eating either too much or too little

• Issues with concentration

• Immense guilt

• Losing interest in old hobbies and friend groups

• Feeling as if nothing matters

• Emotions that are difficult to control

What should you do if you are experiencing burnout or depression?

It is essential to take care of yourself if you notice signs of either of these disorders. Consider talking to your doctor and seeking a referral to a therapist or counselor. Even though there are medications on the market that are meant to help with both disorders, there are also many forms of therapy and even foods that can help you to fight anxiety and depression.