Burnout Present in Almost All Atypical Depression


Burnout is a hallmark of depression and present in nearly all cases of atypical depression, according to a study published in the International Journal of Stress Management.

stressed woman

There is a significant association between burnout and depression, according to a study published in the International Journal of Stress Management.

Researcher Irvin Schonfeld, MA, PhD, MPH, from the City College of New York’s Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership studied over 5,500 teachers in order to estimate the prevalence of depressive disorders in workers with burnout while examining the overlap of burnout with the atypical subtype of depression. The average age of the teachers was 41 years, and the teachers were 78% female. The participants were assessed for burnout through the Maslach Burnout Inventory and depression was evaluated using the 9-item questionnaire of the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ).

Nearly all of the teachers the researchers defined as burned out met the DSM4 qualifications for depression (90%). Of those, 92% of teachers scored a 15 or higher in the PHQ, the level at which active treatment for pharmacotherapy and/ or psychotherapy is strongly encouraged. Atypical depression was found in two-thirds of the burned out participants with major depression (63%).

The warning sign of being burned out, emotional exhaustion, was strongly associated with depression. The other 2 trademarks of depression, depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment, were present in the burned out participants, however not as pronounced as emotional exhaustion.

“The present study suggests that the burnout/depression overlap has been largely underestimated,” the authors wrote. “Atypical depression may account for a substantial part of this overlap. Overall, our findings point to depressive symptoms and depressive disorders as central concerns in the management of burnout. The clinical research on treatments for depression offers solutions that may help workers identified as burned out.”

Additional researchers on the project were psychologists Renzo Bianchi and Eric Laurent of the University of Franche Comté.

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