Burnout vs Depression and Anxiety

Burnout became a very popular term in the past decade. Loads of people claiming they were ‘burnt out’ with work (I was one of them) and many probably were.

One client once described burn out as ‘“something chic, almost fashionable, because burnout is something positive, socially recognized: You worked your way to death, so you don’t have to feel guilty.”

This is something professionals in mental health recognise as a ‘socially acceptable self diagnosis.’ The problem though is that the person claiming burnout can really be suffering from depression.

Escalating work requirements, never being off, checking emails and voicemail constantly, all the stress of modern living can lead to deep exhaustion, a listlessness that makes the supermarket shop seem too much. And the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns have only added to the load.

In many ways, it’s good that the term ‘burnout’ became almost fashionable, because people are more willing to go to the doctor to talk about suffering from burnout than they are to discuss the potential of having a depression.

If this helps remove stigma then its for the good of us all, anything that enables people to seek help is always good.

Because the number of people off work due to mental illness keeps rising,and in some western nations mental disorders are the number one reason for hospital admissions ahead of heart attacks, stroke and back pain. (of course, these stats were pre-Covid.)

According to an OECD study published in early December 2014,  20 percent of workers in industrialized countries are said to suffer from mental illness.And on 2018 OECD said…

Mental disorders account for one of the largest and fastest growing categories of the burden of disease worldwide. Mental ill-health can have devastating effects on individuals, families and communities, with one in every two people experiencing a mental illness in their lifetime. As many as 80% of those with a common mental disorder, and up to 50% of those with a severe mental disorder, do not seek or receive treatment. Mental ill-health also weighs heavily on societies and economies; the economic burden of mental ill-health can rise to up to 4% of GDP, and those with mental illness have poorer educational and work outcomes than those in good mental health.

Health at a Glance: Europe 2018 says that mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety disorders and alcohol and drug use disorders, affect more than one in six people across the European Union in any given year. Besides the impact on people’s well-being, the report estimates the total costs of mental ill-health at over EUR 600 billion – or more than 4% of GDP – across the 28 EU countries.


This massive rise of mental illness in the industrialised world suggests that the demand for constant availability as well as the increasing intensification of work for years have hit people hard in their minds.

In a 2006 survey of 20,000 employed German citizens about their job and health problems, employees felt much more stressed in 2005/06 survey period than five years earlier. The proportion of those who felt “rather overwhelmed” at work rose from 4.6 to 17.4 percent. Almost half of the respondents stated that they were constantly interrupted and interrupted while working. And multitasking (“doing different types of work at the same time”) increasingly drained their nerves: previously it was 42 percent that felt exposed to this burden, the proportion  rose to 59 percent at the time of the survey.

And this has gotten much worse since then with the rise of social media and the constant pinging of alerts on our smartphones.

I’m not saying saying that everyone experiencing burnout has depression, but many people who think they have burnout actually have depression. As the experts at the Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at Charité Berlin suggest, a burnout that needs treatment is actually a depression.

No question about it: constant stress dulls the brain and can make you depressed. Whether the stress comes from the job or the family, from overworking or underloading, is completely irrelevant.

But not everyone who feels burned out needs therapy: “Stress and occasional excessive demands are part of life and do not need medical treatment.”

We need to be careful in creating social diagnosis to add to the increasing medicalisation of being human. Because the psychiatric industry aligned with the pharmaceutical companies increasingly want to label and medicalise all human differences and emotions.

We might soon be in the situation where no-one will be mentally healthy and we all have some kind of diagnosis to carry around with us.

But whether you’re experiencing burnout or depression or anxiety, there are things you can do to help yourself.

And it starts with allowing yourself to show up differently, to not always be ‘on.’ In fact, take joy in being switched off!

When was the last time you switched off your mobile phone and left it in a drawer even just for an hour?

When did you last have an evening to relax by yourself and do nothing productive, instead reading or talking to the person beside you or simply sitting still in contemplation?

When did you last consider what brings you joy and actually plan your day so you experience a joy filled five or ten minutes?

We all can say we don’t have time, we’ll do that later, we’re too busy right now. But if your body and mind are on the brink of collapse, you’ll be forced into taking a break and it will be much longer and much less pleasant than one you plan for and create for yourself.

We can work ourselves to the brink of collapse, I know, I did it. Full on nervous breakdown. Its not pretty and it took me 10 months to pull myself out of the hole I’d fallen into and a couple of years to rebuild my life without medication.

And put aside the guilt. Where the fuck did that come from anyway? Why should we feel guilty when we’re being idle? Who decided it was virtuous to work ourselves into an early grave? It certainly wasn’t the ones working.

For me, this is one of those social hypnotic trances that we’re induced into for the benefit of a small minority. Like how the miners and mill workers in the early industrial age were told be grateful they had a job as they received their pittance for working 12-14 hours a day.

Self care is about breaking the hypnotic trance you are currently in that doesn’t serve you. Breaking the influence of the old judgements and beliefs you’ve absorbed and lived by.

It takes effort but if you spend 30 minutes every day taking care of your mind now, you won’t lose months and even years to recovery from a complete collapse later on.

Take the time now, walk in nature, talk to animals, friends, family, sit in the quiet, think about what you’re thinking about. Meditate, exercise, stay clean in body and mind.

And think about the things you love, focus on what makes you feel good. Put your attention on the new thoughts and beliefs you are creating that will build a life worth living.

Recovery is hard work so do what you can now, before you need the more arduous steps to be taken on that side of a collapse

And if you get stuck, just think about how you want things to be, what you want life to be like, how you want to be. And focus on that. With all you’ve got.

Not the difference from where you are to where you want to be. Stay focused on what you want and how you’ll feel when you’re there and are living that life. Imagine those feelings now flooding through you. Fill yourself up with those wonderful, optimistic, happy, satisfied, content feelings.

You don’t have to feel burnout nor depression nor anxiety.

Give yourself a break. Every day. Think about what you want, feel the feelings that vision brings and clear your mind of the past and the future.

Be here now. And allow being here now to feel good for you.

Because life always just works out.

When you get out of the way and let it happen.

And the easiest way to get out of the way is to focus on what you want.



PS. Below you’ll learn more about how I can support you in your healing journey.

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See yourself fully present and grounded, living with fulfillment and satisfaction with how life is unfolding for you, with zero regrets, able to handle anything that comes up as you fearlessly carve your own path forward.

Want this now? Check out this page and get in touch to get started on living your ideal life today. Or simply take the product tour to find out more.


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