Is It Burnout Or Depression? Know The Difference

Although they might feel similar at times, there are underlying differences between burnout and depression

Written by: Shubhangi ShahPublished at: Jan 10,2022
Updated at: Apr 06,2022

Burnout is a state of utter demotivation, mental and physical exhaustion, and a complete lack of interest in activities, generally related to work. Depression is a state of sadness that persists for a long time. At the face of it, both might feel similar at times. But these are distinct, with the latter a mood disorder that requires a proper diagnosis and treatment, while the latter is not recognised as a mental health disorder. Since, at times, they might feel the same, hence there is a need to clear the confusion. And, hence, to know the difference between the two, Onlymyhealth spoke to Mr. Krishna Veer Singh, Co-founder & CEO, Lissun, which is a tech-enabled mental health startup based in Gurugram, Haryana.

Burnout & Depression: What Do They Mean?

Let’s look at both burnout and depression one by one:


(Photo Credit: Freepik)

Largely stemming from prolonged stress, burnout is a state of high mental, physical and emotional exhaustion.

  • When burned out, a person generally feels overwhelmed, emotionally strained, and demotivated. 
  • Excessive stress and prolonged tension are the main causes, which could result from work-related stress, poor lifestyle, etc.
  • Burnout can have a considerable impact on your productivity and can even make you resentful, cynical, and even hopeless.
  • Long-term burnout can have physical health implications, too, such as lowered immunity, lack of appetite, and poor sleep.
Also read: Do You Know There Are 12 Stages Of Burnout? Know About Them


Depression, unlike burnout, is recognized as a mental health disorder.

  • It’s a mood disorder characterized by the feeling of sadness, emptiness, and irritability.
  • Since it can have a major impact on a person’s day-to-day functioning, hence, proper diagnosis and treatment are crucial to deal with the disorder.

Difference Between Burnout & Depression

(Photo Credit: Freepik)

The symptoms of burnout and depression can often overlap, however, there are many underlying differences, such as:

  • Burnout generally has a cause, such as prolonged stress or emotional and physical exhaustion. Depression, on the other hand, can develop even without a cause.
  • Burnout symptoms disappear once the cause is addressed, which isn’t the case with depression. At times a certain trigger can cause depression, which can persist long after the trigger is gone.
  • Unlike burnout, depression typically requires professional treatment.

Addressing both issues promptly is crucial to functioning efficiently in life.

Also read: What Are The Different Types Of Depression? Doctor Answers

Burnout vs Depression: How To Tell The Difference

The diagnosis for both burnout and depression can be done easily by a mental health professional. Here are some cues that can help you with the difference:

  • Burnout is caused by prolonged stress, generally work-related. On the other hand, depression is more generalized and the causes are multiple.
  • A person dealing with burnout might distance himself/herself from work-related activities. A depressed person, on the other hand, lacks interest in activities in general, and not just those related to work.
  • A person dealing with burnout might feel better after taking a break, which is not the case with depression.

Can Burnout Turn Into Depression?

Yes, if ignored for a long time, burnout can surely turn into depression, as per Lissun. Sometimes, taking a break when burned out can help. However, if you continue putting yourself through the same amount of stress, it can not just cause depression but other mental health issues as well. And these not just impact your work, but your day-to-day functioning. Hence, managing both burnout and depression promptly is crucial.

Tips On How To Take Care Of Mental Health

When ignored, mental health issues can surely turn problematic. Although you might not have total control over your mental health, there are certain things you can do to improve it:

  • Adopt a balanced lifestyle. Although in today’s modern life, rushing around accomplishing tasks is seen with admiration, every person has a threshold, which shouldn’t be breached. 
  • Incorporate enough physical activity in your lifestyle as it helps in managing stress better.
  • Take some time out to engage in activities you find enjoyable. 
  • Take frequent breaks as you need time to unwind and relax.
  • Drink enough water.
  • Talking often helps in times of stress and anxiety
  • Seek professional help whenever you feel necessary

Ignoring a mental health issue or leaving it to deal with in the future is the worst thing you can do to your health. Hence, apart from doing the needful to take care of your mental health, consult a professional whenever you feel the need. As far as depression is concerned, there is a time window. Hence, if you feel sad continuously for 14 days, it’s advisable to see a doctor. 

(With inputs from Lissun, a Gurugram-based tech-enabled mental health startup)

Photo Credit: Freepik


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