Do Depression and Burnout Symptoms Overlap?

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Study Reveals Depression and Burnout Symptoms Overlap

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Author: Shernide Delva

If you’re one of the 70% of Americans who hate their job, you probably are familiar with what it feels like to be completely and utterly burned out. Countless hours working at a job that you hate can really take its toll. Burnout is defined as a condition in which someone has become “very physically and emotionally tired after doing a difficult job for a long time.”

Most of us know how that feels like but how much is burnout correlated to depression? A new study revealed that the two actually overlap considerably.  I remember working a sales job full time and going to school having to worry about my grades and my sales quota. There were nights I definitely felt burnt out and out of control. Many people may even find themselves abusing substances like marijuana and alcohol to cope with the stress. A solution that is far from ideal.

The study led by psychology Professor Irvin S. Schonfeld of The City College of New York’s Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership and his colleague, Renzo Bianchi, of the Institute of Work and Organizational Psychology, University of Neuchatel, Switzerland found several similarities and overlaps between depression and burnout.

The findings are based on a survey taken by 1,386 public school teachers from pre-k to 12th grade during the 2013-13 academic year. I could not think of better way to research the effects of burnout than to study teachers! Teachers are known for being sorely under-appreciated and overworked.

  • Based on responses to the survey, the teachers were categorized as belonging to either a burnout or no-burnout group.
  • Less than one percent of the no-burnout group met the criteria for a diagnosis of depression
  • On the other hand, 86 percent of the burnout group met the criteria for depression
  • The teachers in the burnout group were three times as likely to have a history of depression and four times as likely to be taking antidepressant medication
  • Teachers in the burnout group were twice as likely to report a history of anxiety disorder

The survey results show that burnout and depression are indeed very highly correlated.

“Our purpose was not to determine the prevalence of burnout or depressive symptoms in a representative sample of teachers,” explain Schonfeld and Bianchi. “Our analytic purpose was to determine the extent to which burnout and depression overlap, both dimensionally and categorically.”

In the academic profession, burnout is very common. Positive traits that make for more appealing teachers, such as openness, also make them more susceptible to feelings of weariness and emotional exhaustion. Unfortunately the problem is getting worse. As more students participate in flexible learning options such as part time, distance and online learning, it becomes even more difficult for teachers to provide the right amount of learning support.

Veronica Moore, manager of Leicester’s staff counselling and well-being service, said:

“Often burnout is caused by people putting too much pressure on themselves. Frequently we find that people who are already stressed take on more commitments, which can lead to a downward spiral.”

On top of feeling weary and exhausted, people who are experiencing burnout begin to lose interest in their job and their performance suffers as well. They lack the ability to be personable due to their growing sense of work dissatisfaction. Gender plays a role in how a person responds to burnout too. Men were found to be more likely to suffer depersonalization in their work while women experienced more emotional exhaustion.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by work, remember to take a moment and breathe. Acknowledge that you may be too overwhelmed and need some time to release all those emotions that are bottled up inside of you. Find a healthy way of releasing those feelings like doing yoga or writing your feelings in a journal. Remember it is so important to put yourself first so you can be the best version of yourself for everyone else.

Depression and burnout have symptoms that if left untreated can result in feelings of being overwhelmed and isolated. Do not fall into the cycle of addiction to cope with your emotions. Get help before those feelings become worse. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-561-221-1125