Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Caregiver Burnout Series: Part Two: What is the Difference Between Burnout and Depression?

In yesterday's post, we noted that the symptoms of Caregiver Burnout are almost identical to the symptoms of depression. So how do you know if you're depressed or if you're experiencing Burnout?

Burnout usually responds to a healthy dose of self-care, and continuing to do the things that help.

Depression -- on the other hand -- lingers on for two or more weeks, not responding as easily to self-care measures and more often linked with serious symptoms like suicidal thinking.

When trying to figure this out with patients in my medical practice, I often ask something like this:
"If we could just give you a week off and a gift certificate to your favorite store, would it make things better?" (As if we could do this!)

For the person who is depressed, a temporary break and a gift certificate would be nice, but it wouldn't really solve anything. But for a person who is experiencing Burnout, a break can make a significant difference -- particularly if a break and some serious self-care are part of an ongoing effort in that direction.

It is critical to get some help if you think you are depressed, or if you simply don't know. Your Primary Care Provider, a Counselor, or the Social Worker at your Kidney Center are great resources.

Important Warning: If you are feeling so down that you are thinking about suicide, you MUST get help! If you can't see your Primary Care Provider immediately, call the Crisis Clinic or go to the nearest Emergency Room for an Evaluation.

Things can get better, but only if you're breathing!

Tomorrow's blog post offers Part Three in this series on Caregiver Burnout: Treating Depression.
Take care. Linda Gromko, MD

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