Knowing the Signs
Here are the most common symptoms of depression:
- A person is sad and/or anxious most of the time – they may disclose these feelings or others may notice they feel this way given their behaviour
- A person has lost interest and pleasure in activities they liked before - going out with friends, seeing a football match or spending time with family
- A person says they are chronically exhausted
- A person expresses excessive or unwarranted guilt
- A person expresses hopelessness, helplessness and pessimism
- A person has a loss of appetite, loss of weight, insomnia or is sleeping too much
- A person discloses thoughts of self-harming and even taking their own life.
The number of symptoms present and their severity can vary from person to person, symptoms can also vary over time.
Depression vs. Burnout
Depression is different to burnout.
Depression can be diagnosed by psychiatrists and certain healthcare professionals in line with internationally accepted diagnostic criteria. Whilst there is no medical diagnosis for burnout, the following symptoms are provided in the context of a workplace:
- Physical and emotional exhaustion and depleted energy;
- Disengagement from the job, often expressed as low motivation, poor sense of meaning, and cynicism; and
- Reduced professional efficacy and productivity and a lack of accomplishment.
People experiencing the above symptoms may be experiencing burnout, but these symptoms can also be a sign of a depressive illness, along with those listed in the section above.
The treatment for depression is different to that for burnout.
It is important to get a diagnosis from a medical professional to determine if a person has depression. If their depression is hidden behind the term ‘burnout’, they will not receive the help they need.
If a person has depression, treatment consists of psychotherapy and medication or a combination of the two. Addressing their exhaustion with more sleep or by going on holiday is not helpful and is often even detrimental.
Depression does not go away whilst someone is on holiday, because their work conditions alone are not the cause of their depression. Research shows that sleeping longer can worsen depression and therapeutic sleep deprivation is a treatment for depression which is offered through inpatient treatment.
If a person is not diagnosed with depression but is experiencing burn out, taking a period to recover and have restorative rest, in addition to making structural changes to their lifestyle and work environment, can be necessary. Remember, burnout is a risk condition that can lead to secondary diseases, such as depression, it is important to seek help for burnout.
A non-stigmatising atmosphere in the workplace and a confidential system through which employees can seek help will enable an employee to gain professional health care more quickly. In a stigmatising atmosphere, it is even more difficult for a depressed employee to seek professional help or get support from their employers to find the professional health care they need.