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How Can I Tell if I’m Depressed or Burned Out?

0 2 years ago

What’s the difference between burnout and depression?

The concept of burnout comes from workplace psychology, said Angela Neal-Barnett, a psychology professor at Kent State University and author of “Soothe Your Nerves: The Black Woman’s Guide to Understanding and Overcoming Anxiety, Panic and Fear.” Typically, therapists associate burnout with work, although researchers are also studying parental burnout, when caregivers feel chronically exhausted. Burnout has become pervasive in the cultural lexicon, especially during the pandemic. On TikTok, the trend of “quiet quitting,” or doing the bare minimum at a job, has gone viral, as people share stories about feeling burned out by long hours and a punishing “hustle culture.”

Workers can become burned out when they feel like they don’t have control over their day-to-day lives, getting bogged down in the minutiae of their tasks. People who are burned out may feel depleted and cynical about their jobs; they can resent their assignments and co-workers. They might feel irritable and ineffective, like they just can’t get anything done. For people who interact with others in their jobs, like health care workers or people in the retail and service industries, they might start to lose empathy, thinking of patients or customers as just another number, or a rote task to complete. There are also a litany of physical symptoms that can come with the unending stress of burnout: insomnia, headaches, and gastrointestinal issues.

The World Health Organization includes burnout in the International Classification of Diseases, its diagnostic manual, characterizing it as an “occupational phenomenon,” not a medical condition. Depression, however, is a clinical diagnosis. People with depression often experience anhedonia, the inability to enjoy activities they once treasured. “You can be reading a book you used to love and now you hate it,” said Dr. Jessi Gold, a psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis. “Or you love watching Bravo, but now it doesn’t make you laugh anymore.” With burnout, you might not have energy for your hobbies; with depression, you might not find them fun or pleasant at all, said Jeanette M. Bennett, an associate professor who studies the effects of stress on health at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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