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Are physicians suffering from burnout or depression?

September 2019
burnout or depression

WHILE PHYSICIAN BURNOUT keeps gaining much-needed national attention, a new viewpoint published online in July by JAMA Psychiatry highlights this concern: Some doctors suffering from major depressive disorder may be mislabeling it as burnout. That mislabeling, in turn, could work to delay or even prevent treatment.

According to the article, the symptoms of depression and burnout overlap, and some studies suggest a strong association between the two. But burnout, which is typically defined as a psychosocial reaction to an overwhelming work environment, “is less stigmatized,” while mental illness and its treatment continue to carry a great deal of stigma within medicine.

The authors recommend pairing any burnout screening with screens for depression, substance use disorder and anxiety. They also call for providing physicians—and trainees, in particular—with confidential, easily-accessible psychiatric services, including Web-based platforms and telepsychiatry. “It is critical,” they write, “that burnout not become the catchall term for emotional distress experienced by physicians.”

Published in the September 2019 issue of Today’s Hospitalist


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