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The difference between depression and burnout is not always easy to see. There are even certain diagnostic tools that make no distinction between these two and therefore do not regard burnout as a separate disease. If we were to compare burnout to other mental disorders, it is most similar to depression. Therefore, the difference between depression and burnout is not always evident.
Even though diagnostic tools do not consider burnout to be a separate disease, psychiatrists do state that burnout is a separate disease. Burnout is generally defined as an extreme exhaustion after the body and mind have been exhausted and pushed too far, according to them.
Is it therefore easy to differentiate between depression and burnout? Definitely not. Depression and burnout namely are very similar to each other and are often seen together, too.
Depression and burnout are very similar to each other. Here, there are symptoms that match both of them. The following examples are among them:
The above symptoms apply to both depression and burnout. If psychiatrists then want to set a diagnosis, they will often notice that the same tests can be used for both the diagnoses. The results of these tests may thus indicate both depression and burnout.
As you can see, it is really difficult to define the difference between depression and burnout. In the following paragraph, we will give clear differences so that you get a clearer picture of the symptoms.
The first difference between depression and burnout is that depression is more general. Depression will namely affect several parts in life and can also develop from different parts of life, such as:
Burnout is generally work related. Of course, the stress which you experience at work can affect your relationship, but in depression, this is often more clearly seen. Furthermore, a burnout tends to develop from a work situation, while depression can develop in a more general way. A burnout can eventually also influence other parts of life, similar as depression, but it is more likely to occur in a later stage. (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). Depression on the other hand, can have a quick and large influence on several parts of life, while burnout will limit itself to work for a longer period of time.
Depression and burnout can also occur together. It is not unlikely that a severe burnout can also cause depression symptoms.