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How To Tell If It’s Postpartum Depression Or Burnout

How many of you feel the urge to throw your alarm clock across the room and hide under the covers in the morning? How many of you experience frustration and exhaustion at work or in your private life? Are these symptoms of postpartum depression or do they rather point to burnout? Well, the answer is not as simple as we’d like it to be.

That’s because first of all, most mommies don’t think of burnout as a form of postpartum depression. After all, it’s just motherhood with all its challenges and obstacles and chores. Change the baby, feed the baby, bathe the baby, rock the baby to sleep, talk to the baby, clean the house, and so on. However, a new study suggests that postpartum depression and burnout are much more similar than they are not!

postpartum depression

Postpartum Depression = Burnout?

In a study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, almost 1,500 American public school teachers were surveyed during an academic year.

Out of the entire lot, the researchers managed to identify a set of teachers who were burned out. When they matched their burnout symptoms to a depression inventory they discovered something interesting. The researchers could see that 90% of burnout subjects were suffering from depression.

Furthermore, the burned-out teachers were 50% more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders. So what do these findings mean for you, ladies?

Firstly, it means that depression and burnout overlap, which means that the symptoms of postpartum depression and those of burnout overlap as well. Secondly, if you’re one of the mommies who try to lose weight and get rid of the extra baby fat, this is bad news.

When depression combines with anxiety and burnout your body is likely to go into a rebellious mode. It will try to save up on its fat and stop burning calories in order to ensure its survival. This means you won’t be able to make any progress with your weight loss plans until you manage to pull yourself out of the hole.

Burnout Can Happen Outside The Office As Well

Every mother out there who has to take care of her entire family will damn well know the symptoms of burnout – at least from time to time! People believe burnout is something that only happens to hard-working employees.

In reality, burnout can happen to anyone. The moment you take a break from all the energy-draining work or chores, something changes. You don’t feel better but you do remain in the same lethargic state.

Furthermore, while burnout and postpartum depression share a lot of symptoms, they are not identical.

You see, mommies who believe they suffer from burnout tend to disregard their symptoms. In the meantime, those who believe they suffer from postpartum depression are more likely to seek help from a therapist.

What Exactly Is The Definition Of Burnout?

Despite recent findings, there are still a lot of people out there who remain skeptical about these two afflictions. That’s because there are experts such as Berkeley University psychologist Christina Maslach, who claims that burnout is predictive of depression but not depression itself.

Maslach is also the person who created the standard test for burnout, titled the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Despite appraisal and success, the measure of burnout is still incomplete. That’s because burnout is defined solely as exhaustion, which only tells half the story.

Michael Leiter, Ph.D.,  a psychologist at Acadia University believes burnout to be a 3-part syndrome of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy. He claims that exhaustion is a component of postpartum depression and any other kind of depression. However, it is not that big of a part to equate burnout to a mood disorder. While postpartum can take place in a case of extreme burnout, one can still be burned out without being diagnosed with depression.

Another reason why we should define postpartum depression and burnout as individual entities are due to the treatment approach. Indeed, the help one gets for depression is different from the help one would get for burnout – despite the fact that the conditions are treated similarly via cognitive-behavioral therapy.

How Do We Treat Them?

Basically, we treat them by taking either medication or therapy, or both.

The therapist’s job is to help the client identify their biggest issue with their job and/or private life and seek out a meaningful change by means of reframing.

Of course, besides identifying the issues and seeking out change, the most important thing in either the case of postpartum depression and burnout is to cultivate healthy relationships.

That means relationships in which you can communicate effectively and feel loved, accepted and supported.

So, if you believe you might be suffering from either or both these conditions, you should immediately seek professional help. The last thing you want is to become inefficient as a mommy for your sweet little baby. All you need to do is ask your physician for a referral or take the bull by the horns yourself and visit the website of the APA (American Psychological Association) and enter your zip code in order to find a specialist in your area.

To sum up, postpartum depression and burnout have a lot to do with chemical changes in the brain, but also with our environment and state of our relationships. Whether it’s a corporate decorum where there is a lot of animosity between the coworkers or simply a home with way too many things that need to be done, you must keep in mind that it is not your fault and that there are many ways to climb yourself out of this hole. Seek the help of a specialist.

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