Burnout-depression overlap: a review

Clin Psychol Rev. 2015 Mar;36:28-41. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2015.01.004. Epub 2015 Jan 17.


Whether burnout is a form of depression or a distinct phenomenon is an object of controversy. The aim of the present article was to provide an up-to-date review of the literature dedicated to the question of burnout-depression overlap. A systematic literature search was carried out in PubMed, PsycINFO, and IngentaConnect. A total of 92 studies were identified as informing the issue of burnout-depression overlap. The current state of the art suggests that the distinction between burnout and depression is conceptually fragile. It is notably unclear how the state of burnout (i.e., the end stage of the burnout process) is conceived to differ from clinical depression. Empirically, evidence for the distinctiveness of the burnout phenomenon has been inconsistent, with the most recent studies casting doubt on that distinctiveness. The absence of consensual diagnostic criteria for burnout and burnout research's insufficient consideration of the heterogeneity of depressive disorders constitute major obstacles to the resolution of the raised issue. In conclusion, the epistemic status of the seminal, field-dominating definition of burnout is questioned. It is suggested that systematic clinical observation should be given a central place in future research on burnout-depression overlap.

Keywords: Burnout; Depression; Depressive disorders; Differential diagnosis; Review; Stress.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional / diagnosis
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*