Burnout vs. Depression: Which One Do You Have?

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Do you come home from work or have the day off and still feel utterly drained with no energy to do anything? You may be wondering if it’s just burnout from a demanding job or something more serious like clinical depression.

In many cases, it can be difficult to know which one you’re dealing with. Oftentimes, terms like burnout and depression are used interchangeably, but these issues are not the same. And they require very different treatment plans.

Terms like burnout and depression are used interchangeably, but these issues are not the same. And they require very different treatment plans. Click To Tweet

Understanding the nuances between them can be crucial for obtaining proper help. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 8.3% of all U.S. adults have experienced a depressive episode. Meanwhile, a 2022 survey shows that 42% of the global workforce report burnout. How can you tell which one you have and how to overcome it?

In this post, we’ll explore the differences, symptoms, and solutions associated with both burnout and major depressive disorder to help you identify and heal from whichever one you might be experiencing.


In short, yes. However, understanding which one you have may take a bit of digging. While burnout and depression are associated with similar symptoms, they stem from different causes that require distinct treatment.

Here’s a breakdown of what causes burnout vs. depression, according to an international team of researchers:

  • Burnout is not considered a mental health disorder, rather it is typically related to chronic workplace stress. It can also be due to other issues like medical, interpersonal, or social stress.

This can include unrealistic job demands, lack of control over your work, insufficient return on investment (of time and effort), and a lack of community or support. What follows are feelings of exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional or personal performance.

  • Depression is a mental health condition that affects your thoughts and behavior patterns. It is a brain-based disorder that can develop from a variety of factors including genetic predisposition, unhealthy brain function, neurochemical imbalances, and significant life events.

Now, let’s dive into the symptoms of burnout vs. depression so you can get on the road to recovery.


If you’re feeling mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted from dealing with repeated stress for too long, you may be experiencing burnout. Plus, it’s not just about work—parents, relationships, and caregiver burnout may leave you feeling endlessly tired, overwhelmed by responsibilities, or worried you’re not doing a good job.

Burnout symptoms often include overwhelming fatigue, detachment from work, and a sense of ineffectiveness. These symptoms are more often directly related to prolonged workplace stress which can significantly impact job performance and satisfaction.

Here are five symptoms of burnout to keep in check:

  • You may have chronic fatigue if you consistently feel physically and emotionally drained, even after a full night’s sleep.
  • You may become detached and cynical if you’ve become increasingly negative, distant, and disengaged from work or personal responsibilities.
  • You may see reduced performance if you’re struggling to concentrate, feeling less effective, and noticing decreased productivity.
  • You may feel more irritable with mood swings if you’re experiencing heightened agitation, repeated frustration, and sudden mood changes.
  • You may also have physical symptoms like headaches, dizziness, stomach or digestive issues, and other stress-related physical ailments.


Depression symptoms extend beyond interpersonal circumstances to permeate every aspect of your life. These symptoms include persistent sadness, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and feelings of worthlessness or guilt. It’s important to know that you are not your thoughts.

Here are five symptoms of depression to be mindful of when checking in on yourself:

  • You may feel persistent sadness if you have continuous feelings of unhappiness, hopelessness, or emptiness.
  • You may feel worthless if you struggle with intense feelings of guilt, meaninglessness, or self-blame.
  • You may feel a loss of interest with a diminished interest or pleasure in activities you once engaged in or enjoyed.
  • You may have disrupted sleep like insomnia (inability to go to sleep) or hypersomnia (inability to stay awake), excessive sleeping, and grogginess.
  • You may feel changes in appetite resulting in significant weight loss or gain with unhealthy nutritional choices for quick energy and inconsistent eating patterns.


To overcome symptoms of burnout, you need to address the external factors that may be triggering an internal response. This may look like workplace changes, stress management strategies, and sometimes taking time off to recuperate.

It’s not just about restoring your energy levels so you can get back to work. It’s about healing the mind-body connection, so you can prevent burnout symptoms in the future. Additional healing strategies include:

  • Create A Self-Care Routine: Make a habit of regular breaks, whole food nutrition, low-impact exercise, meditation, and relaxing daily hygiene.
  • Seek Professional Support: Ask HR or a professional coach to address and find accommodations for certain work-related stressors.
  • Make Lifestyle Changes: Find tangible solutions to your stressful work and home responsibilities to create a sustainable environment to heal symptoms.


For depressive symptoms, it’s about treating the root cause, which requires treatment from a mental health professional. A holistic brain-body approach is a powerful way to heal from clinical depression.

  • Engage In Therapy: Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help you address negative or intrusive thought patterns, track behavior changes, and gain coping strategies.
  • Take Nutrition Seriously: Consult your doctor to discuss your important health numbers and identify vitamin or mineral deficiencies and hormonal imbalances that can contribute to mood disorders.
  • Build Brain-Healthy Habits: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep cannot be overstated when it comes to supporting mental and brain health.
  • Be Careful with Medications: Antidepressants are often prescribed as a common depression treatment, but research shows that two-thirds of people don’t respond fully to medication alone. A 2020 study found that combining CBT with prescribed medications significantly improved effectiveness compared to using medications alone.
  • Consider Supplements: Nutraceuticals, such as saffron, can be effective mood enhancers. In fact, a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial found saffron to be as effective as fluoxetine (Prozac) without the common side effects that come with antidepressants.

It’s important to acknowledge that depression takes more professional support due to a multitude of causes. These may include genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, significant life changes, emotional trauma, and prolonged stress.

Unlike burnout, depression is not limited to the external effects of how much work you take on in your professional or personal life. Additionally, burnout can lead to feelings of hopelessness about certain circumstances in your life while depression involves persistent feelings of worthlessness extending beyond the reality of your life.


Treatments for burnout and depression must be tailored to an individual’s specific condition. While there are overlapping strategies, recognizing the primary condition is crucial for effective treatment.

The brain-imaging work at Amen Clinics can help identify types of depression by revealing abnormalities in brain function. Brain scan technology called single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) helps pinpoint depression causes and provide a more accurate diagnosis. This leads to a better outcome in your depression treatment.

According to a 2021 study, people experiencing burnout are prone to symptoms of depression, but that doesn’t result in a direct clinical depression diagnosis. Knowing the difference is key to finding the right treatment and support.

Depression, burnout, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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