4 Signs to Tell the Difference Between Burnout and Depression

February 5, 2020 Mahevash Shaikh

Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and disillusioned at work? You may have burned out -- or you may have a case of depression. It is easy to confuse one for the other because depression and burnout have a lot of symptoms in common. However, having experienced both, I can vouch for the fact that they are not one and the same thing. According to my personal experience, here are four signs you may be suffering from depression and not burnout.

It's Depression, Not Burnout If:

1. You Have Lost Interest in Activities You Used to Enjoy

A person who has burned out feels often feels disinterest or apathy at work and has trouble with productivity and focus just like a person with depression. I've found, in the case of depression, this disinterest doesn't stop at work, it extends to all areas of life. For example, you don't care for the TV show you were once obsessed with, spending time with friends and loved ones feels like a chore, and, over time, life itself may lose its appeal. In fact, this disconnect from the rest of the world is exactly what I experience whenever I am in the middle of a bad episode of depression.

2. You Feel Hopeless and Suicidal

When nothing interests you and life is a daily struggle, it is natural to want to end it. Speaking from personal experience, a deeply depressed person gravitates towards suicidal ideation because they are convinced that their painful mental state is permanent and death is the only way to get rid of it. All the suicide survivors I know (including me) have confided that even though they attempted suicide, they didn't want to die, they only wanted to end their suffering. 

3. You Struggle to Get Out of Bed Each Morning

To the discomfort of my loved ones, I have often declared that I love to sleep because it is the closest you can get to death without actually dying. Also, it provides relief from the unavoidable need to function and allows one to simply be. When you struggle to wake up no matter whether it is a Monday or a Sunday, you are more likely to be depressed than burned out. I have found that an intense episode of depression drains me of my physical and mental energy faster and longer than a bad case of burnout. 

4. You Are Reading This Article

You probably read this article because you wanted to know whether you have burnout or whether you have depression. Truth be told, I think it is extremely hard to differentiate between burnout and depression because they seem to have a lot in common. The silver lining is that both can and should be professionally treated. While the effects of depression are more immediate, over time, an untreated case of burnout could become just as dangerous. Irrespective of whether you have burnout or whether you have depression, make sure you consult a licensed therapist to get the help you need.

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2020, February 5). 4 Signs to Tell the Difference Between Burnout and Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Mahevash Shaikh

Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture, and society. She lives to question convention and redefine normal. You can find her at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

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