Does Depression Make You More Prone to Burnout?

December 10, 2020 Mahevash Shaikh

Depression and burnout are two distinct conditions. Even though depression and burnout have many common symptoms, they are not one and the same. That said, I believe having depression makes one more prone to burnout. This is why.

Defining Depression and Burnout

For the sake of clarity, let's take a quick look at the definitions of depression and burnout.

According to Mental Health America,

"Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands."1

According to the National Institute of Mental Health,

"Depression is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working."2

From these definitions, it's clear that they are related yet distinct conditions.  

Why Depression Can Cause Burnout

The way I see it, anyone can experience burnout at work. However, speaking from personal experience, a depressed person is more susceptible to burnout. Some primary reasons are negative self-talk, limited mental and physical energy levels, and a general sense of disillusionment. 

People with depression typically default to negative self-talk. Anything they do doesn't seem good enough, and at work, this can translate into setting unrealistic goals. When these goals are not achieved, people beat themselves up for being incompetent. This becomes a vicious cycle: setting unreasonable goals, failing to achieve them, and letting negative self-talk take over. And I would say that negative self-talk leads to burnout.

People with depression often feel guilty for not accomplishing more in their professional life. To try and make up for their lack of achievements, they work even on their worst days, even when they know they should slow down and respect their energy levels. And I think pushing yourself frequently, leads to burnout. 

I've found that people with depression who listen to their inner critic and fail to foster a healthy rest ethic soon become cynical. Their career prospects seem bleak, and work becomes overwhelming. A sense of disillusionment takes over. And disillusionment leads to burnout.  

How do I know these things? Well, because to a significant extent, I am one of those people right now. 

What Can You Do?

Take a mental health day or two or three to recover. If it's not possible to take time off, take a leaf out of Karen's book and speak to the manager. However, instead of complaining about something unimportant, tell them you need a reduced workload until you feel better. If you are your own boss, make time for your wellness and work less. 


  1. Mental Health America, "Burnout Prevention." Accessed December 10, 2020.
  2. National Institute of Mental Health, "Depression." February 2018.

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2020, December 10). Does Depression Make You More Prone to Burnout? , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 14 from

Author: Mahevash Shaikh

Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture, and society. She lives to question convention and redefine normal. You can find her at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

December, 10 2020 at 5:31 pm

I agree with your recommendation . Taking a day off always helps me and mind to realign with my social responsibilities

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