Often times, a new client will contact me because they need help coping with depression. They may have been diagnosed as “depressed” by their family physician and may or may not be taking medication to help them cope.
I have found that in many of these cases, these clients are actually experiencing burnout, and their symptoms of depression are in fact one of the indicators of the cycle of burnout.
Some of the symptoms of burnout may include having no energy, being unable to concentrate, listlessness, feeling disengaged from the world, not participating in social engagements, being unable to sleep, or sleeping too much. Some of my clients express in counselling they have even lost their primary self-care skills – no longer going grocery shopping, eating sugar for energy, not cooking for themselves, and no longer exercising.
During a counselling session, I encourage my clients to assess what has brought them to this point. In many cases, these clients don’t realize that it is the sheer amount of work and life obligations, combined with certain personality traits that have overwhelmed them. They are experiencing burnout.
It is easy to confuse burnout with depression, as the symptoms of depression also include fatigue, social withdrawal and feelings of failure. The emotional exhaustion component of burnout is comparable to the sadness and fatigue of depression, and the depersonalization that comes with burnout looks a lot like the social withdrawal of depression.
My clients are often relieved to learn they are ‘burnt out,’ rather than ‘clinically depressed,’ because it helps them to recognize what has brought them to this point, and to connect their situation with their symptoms.
Read more about the 12-stage burnout symptom cycle.
Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta
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