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Ask HN: What is the difference between Burnout/Depression/Laziness/Wrong job?
293 points by throwaway130119 on Jan 13, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 86 comments
Burnout gets a fair bit of discussion here on HN, but I'm wondering what the community thinks are the differences between a few subtly different challenges:

1) Burnout

2) Depression

3) Laziness

4) Being in the wrong job

Given that they all have very similar symptoms, how would you determine which one an individual is dealing with?

Burnout is your mind/body's way of telling you and/or signalling to others that you've been stuck on the wrong path for too long.

Depression is a clinical condition that arises when your mind/brain is unable to cope with the experiences/environment it's been in for an extended period of time, and is a signal that a change is needed in the brain/mind (medication and/or therapy) or in the environment (changes to e.g., lifestyle, relationships, job, location) - and likely both.

Laziness is a lack of motivation that could be caused by any number of things, but is generally a sign that your current life situation doesn't inspire you into positive action. But it could also be related to an undiagnosed mental and/or physiological illness that impedes your energy production/utilisation.

Being in the wrong job is a common sentiment, and may or may not be a problem depending on how empowered someone is. An empowered person (someone with enough qualifications/experience/confidence/energy/etc) will negotiate better conditions for their current job or find a new job that they're better suited to. A disempowered person will stay in the job due to lack of other options, and after long enough may end up being affected by one or more of the first three conditions.

Background: experienced it all over 15+ years and researched far and wide.

I think this is a good answer, but depression is a complicated beast.

It would be difficult to give a comprehensive comment in depression, so I think you did fine, but I want to point out that it is difficult and complex, and as much as we understand about it, there is so much that is not understood.

This [1] is a video of a Robert Sapolsky lecture on depression that gives a high level but comprehensive overview of the current (as of 2009) state of understanding depression, kinds of depression, the role of some neurotransmitters.

This is a compassionate, technical, and broad overview.

1. https://youtu.be/NOAgplgTxfc

Jobs are like clothes. There is no "wrong job". There are jobs which fit now, and all other jobs.

A job may fit, then as we grow, we get new ones that fit better.

I would say the stages are usually:

#1: Grow out of the current job

#2: Still working same hours, but tasks become boring, therefore instead of the job fueling us, it drains us... causing Burnout.

#3: Then Laziness settles in, because putting energy into boring tasks only leads to Burnout.

#4: Spiraling down the Laziness slide, into Depression. Simply, Depression is a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. The antidote to Depression is doing... Doing new things we enjoy.

Therefore, take up an entirely new, and different practice. Perhaps move up to management. Or go to a new place, around new people.

TLDR: Do new.

When you have lots of experience but a shortage of "credentials" and hostile employers telling you continuously you'd never be able to get work anywhere else... (I had this from several employers over 10 years .. with harsh gaps between involving things like homelessness)

... well, let's just say depression is inevitable. And being able to see new, a way out or anything else will likely require help from others. I got both help from others (churches (to oversimplify, there are multiple religious groups involved here) and more in my case - psych and medical was mostly unhelpful and/or toxic too - they believed the same lies the employers used!) and from friends and family ... and my life is a whole pile healthier and happier now. And if curious, no I don't attend any of the religious groups I visited during that period now. But I have a lot of respect for them now - well earned. And don't regret visiting any of them. And hopefully none regret my visiting them either too. People are people, and having healthy relationships means both parties should try to be healthy to one another.

Yes, employers can be abusive too, with all the consequences of being in an abusive relationship. This can also result in depression and usually burnout too. Especially if one works to ridiculous levels trying to keep the abusive employer happy. (it's also sometimes really hard to see that it's abusive without either outside help, or long and far enough distance)

I agree with #1, usually there is a good reason one starts with a certain job. For instance money or interesting problems. That in turn can fit into the current life situation, e.g. when expenses need to be done or the previous field got boring.

I disagree though with laziness. IMHO it protects us from doing things that we don't like. People try to hack themselves to overcome it. That's actually dangerous.

Couldn't agree more with this. The same issues occur with entrepreneurial relationships - I've worked in large companies with all of the above issues, and also started various ventures and been highly aware of shifting priorities and focuses that have led to burnout. This is more subtle but since you have to keep things moving forward can create greater personal risk

I don't agree with laziness leading to depression.

Laziness stems from not caring, depression stems from the opposite.

I think what you've labelled as laziness could better be labelled as something else. Apathy perhaps?

The constant criticism lazy people often face can easily lead to depression.

That isn't what the parent seems to be suggesting.

Ah, you are right! Sorry, I am too lazy to thoroughly read long comments...

I like this summary, but disagree slightly with

>Laziness is a lack of motivation that could be caused by any number of things, but is generally a sign that your current life situation doesn't inspire you into positive action.

I see motivation/inspiration/laziness conflated a lot. IMO 'laziness' is just a lack of discipline. You can be disciplined and still accomplish things without motivation or inspiration. In fact, I would argue that if you wait until you are inspired/motivated to get things done, you will be on the less-productive side of the spectrum.

Of course, it can be a huge challenge to stay disciplined when you are burnt out or depressed (or both). But, laziness is the difference between "I am depressed and don't feel like going to the gym" and "I am depressed and don't feel like going to the gym anyway, but I am still putting on my shoes and walking out the door".

Jumping from this, a combination of any of the symptoms may indicate something much more severe with your mental health. You should see a doctor at that point.

Source: Got diagnosed with ADHD after feeling burnout, depression, laziness, and imposter syndrome all at once.

Fantastic answer because it highlights how these conditions can be overcome by changing your situation.

Clinical methodology for treating depression in Sweden is to change the person's living / work situation as a first step before pursuing other treatments.

Related: "If you’re unsure whether to quit your job or break up, you probably should" https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17840275

(prepare for cynical HN discussion at the top, but the article itself is pretty spot on)

I think the OP is looking for a differential diagnosis. Here is my 2 cents:

Burnout: taking time off is a sufficient cure.

Depression: you cannot feel pleasure even at points of success when everyone else is, and it won't be so if you changed anything else about the job.

Laziness: you are not unhappy or unwell but notice other people with roughly your skillset and responsibility are more productive.

Wrong job: you are arguing a lot with people or taking a lot of criticism for having legitimately valid alternative opinions or ways of doing things.

I disagree about burnout. Taking time off could possibly be the worst thing.

In my experience personally and observing others, burnout is most often caused when you have a disconnect between expected reward (monetary, status, or emotional) for labor and actual reward for labor, effectively negatively reinforcing labor. It's especially bad when the miss is uncorrelated to performance, e.g. political or business decisions derail your e.g. promotion or payoff.

Taking a break to mitigate burnout can thus make the next cycle worse. A better choice is to take structured vacations at set points in the future, and when you feel like a missed expectation is likely or has happened, reinforce the work-reward relationship by doing little work things that create pops of success. The counterintuitive thing is that a strategy to counter burnout is more work (but carefully curated to nearly guarantee success)

For programming, I find going into an intense refactoring or debugging cycle is helpful (making green dots out of red ones is immensely satisfying)... When I was a biologist, I found doing routine "never fail" procedures like molecular biology to be helpful after an experimental failure or catastrophe, like staying up on an all nighter and coming back the next day to find a procedural error had ruined the whole thing

> For programming, I find going into an intense refactoring or debugging cycle is helpful (making green dots out of red ones is immensely satisfying).

For me personally whenever I have felt burned out by programming I just went over to one of those competitve programming sites and solve one of their problems. It is also cool seeing your rank move in correlation with others. I know if I quit peogramming for a week then I will actually feel less motivated to code.

Satisfying and constructive work with clear finish, clear product and clearly helpful to finishing goals all help with burnout a heck of a lot. They help with depression too.

Burnout is the mental equivalent of an athletic injury: you might love what you do, but you've been going at it too hard and need time to recuperate. A burnt out person was previously happy doing what they were doing but just now can't go on.

Depression is a mental health condition that can cause lethargy and can be brought on by stress, but it is chiefly characterized by extended and repeated periods of sadness and self loathing and can be brought on by many causes, including traumatic events, changes in hormone balance, or environmental factors. Simple rest and relaxation will not, at least on its own, make depression go away. While a depressed person is having a depressive episode, they may find it very difficult to work, but in between episodes they will work normally.

Laziness means you don't like to work, or at least can't motivate yourself to do the tasks you need to do. It is a character trait that neither starts nor goes away suddenly. Instead it something that must be routinely overcome. A lazy person may have a lower baseline level of motivation than a non-lazy person, but their motivation level should remain about as consistent as a normal person's; they won't have sudden unexplainable drops in productivity.

Being in the wrong job means something specific to the job itself is problematic but the person is otherwise an enthusiastic worker. Instead of sudden dips in enthusiasm, or consistent low performance, they will likely show a slow but steady decline as the negative aspects of their job takes a toll. Often the person in the wrong job actually likes the work itself, but other aspects of the working environment such as coworkers or organization make them unhappy.

Finally, these cases are not mutually exclusive. A lazy person can find themselves in the wrong job, get burntout trying to do it anyways, triggering the onset of depression. Luckily, the remedies for each challenge are very unlikely to have a negative effect on someone who is actually facing one of the other challenges.

This video is a good primer on burnout by an expert.

"Understanding Burnout," Prof. Christina Maslach (U.C. Berkeley) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kLPyV8lBbs

This article is a summary of what's in the above speaker's book

Recovering from Burnout https://kierantie.com/burnout/

I also want to mention the article above has a link to Mind Tools, which is a web site that has a test you can take but I recommend reading their articles on leadership as it helps one understand their place and the direction they need to take as leaders of their own life as well as leaders in the lives of others, which is an interesting perspective in the context of the listed topics.

>a web site that has a test you can take

Yay, 60 points!

ADHD is missing in the list. Many undiagnosed adults with ADHD consider themselves lazy and / or stupid. However, the disorder has important impact on the executive function of the brain and also on emotional regulation (depression is a common comorbidity and is often falsely diagnosed as bipolar disorder). Oh and ADHD makes people more prone to burnout.

I scared to label laziness or stupidity as undiagnosed mental illness/disorder. People with ADHD are valuable to society and have different strengths, weaknesses, and perspectives than those without, although they may not be best suited for jobs that require high levels of executive function.

I said “consider themselves”. Actually there is a study saying high IQ can worsen ADHD symptoms. To me it always felt like I was constantly battling against a invisible barrier that would eat away my motivation despite my many ideas and aspirations.

I think you got the exact opposite meaning of what the parent comment wanted to say.

Assuming you're not trolling: if you think you have ADHD and are telling yourself "may not be best suited" etc I strongly recommend looking into this in more detail. At its root, ADHD is a "hardware problem" in one part of the brain and can occur independent of other attributes of a person. So a highly intelligent and not-so-intelligent person can both have ADHD.

If you DONT think you have ADHD, educate yourself and stop saying ignorant stuff. Do you think near/long sighted people should not wear glasses too, and that people with depression should not get treatment?

You can start by watching Dr. Barkley's videos on youtube.

PS: Every time ADHD is mentioned someone pops up with an ignorant comment. You win this thread!

I disagree with your notion that ADHD is a problem at all. It's just that societal norms value people who don't have ADHD at this time.

Ugh, that’s a bit of a catch-all arugment, though. Acohol addiction? Societal norms problem. Education? Societal norms problem. Going or a killing spree? Societal norms problem. Bad teeth? Societal norms problem. Having to listen to everyone’s opinion out of being polite? Societal norms problem.

Maybe you should find someone with severe ADHD and try to convince them it’s not a problem at all, see how that goes.

In Russia and many other exSoviet countries doctors don't diagnose ADHD.

Modern psychiatry, let alone many branches of medicine the western world takes for granted, including pain management, stroke care or gerentology are nearly non-existant in Russia.

And the point is ...?

My interpretation is the parent poster is from a Soviet Bloc country, is experiencing what the top post wrote about, but is having difficulty in seeking treatment or being assessed for ADHD.

I think I would start with the easiest one, which is whether or not you feel like you're in the right job. Just make a list of what you like about your job and what you don't like. If the dislike category is large, you need to ask yourself some more questions. Are you likely to find employment elsewhere in your field without all those cons? This may require some research. If not, are there other fields of work that may be better suited to your preferences? Again, got to do some research here.

I'm just going to ignore the laziness point since I don't really like that word. You can dislike an activity and avoid it, that doesn't make you lazy. If you need to still do something regardless of whether you like it or not, you need to change how you think about that activity or find a way to enjoy it, otherwise you're just needlessly torturing yourself. Or you just avoid thinking about how much you dislike something and just do it instead. Either way, saying someone is lazy carries both a negative judgement and a lack of insight, so this word I think is best avoided. If you feel you're being "lazy", best to try to understand why you're avoiding what you think you should be doing and fix it.

Lastly, if you're depressed or burnt out, there will be some obvious signs. You'll be tired, have a hard time focusing, you may have muscle aches or headaches all the time. You may see nothing positive in your future and may ruminate excessively about your perceived shortcomings or problems. You may also find it difficult or impossible to react emotionally to things (e.g. being excited or sad). Basically, you'll feel terrible all the time.

1) Burnout - When you first start doing something, like a new project or a new technology you end up enjoying it since there is so much to learn and do. Over a period of time you end up doing the same mundane tasks and have to exert a huge amount of effort to do something which you could earlier do in a short period of time. Usually only limited to work. Switching projects/jobs helps.

2) Depression - It is a state of mind where you do not have the energy to do anything, not only in office but also in personal life. Usually characterized by lack of enthusiasm in anything and a lingering feeling of sadness. Switching jobs won't help, consulting a psychiatrist will.

3) Laziness - A state where you have been doing the same thing for so long that you have gotten good at it and do not feel panic anymore. If you do not have any aim in life and just want to cruise along ( and have the ability to cruise along while getting good reviews in office ) laziness is a valid choice. It might not get you promoted or noticed at office and you will stagnate. IMO it is not a negative state to be in, but not positive either.

4) Being in the wrong job - Two types that I can think of

1. You have tons of energy, you have tons of enthusiasm and want to do tons of work but still you seem to be going nowhere, is a sign of being in the wrong job.

2. You have low energy, you don't enjoy what you do while at your job. At home you have high energy, contribute to projects and can work on stuff which interests you and can get you paid. In burnout, depression and laziness people's ability to do side projects is markedly diminished. This is not the case with being in the wrong job.

4 sub 1: Exactly what happened to me at the plastics factory. So much better off programming.

4 sub 2: I think I have the right job but the wrong home.

> how would you determine which one an individual is dealing with?

The individual needs to talk to an expert (a doctor or a therapist) to find this.

Many medical issues show similar symptoms - we go to a doctor for a physical issue, then why do we think we know enough to diagnose mental issues?

These things are complex, and it is okay to ask for help.

I'm not saying that we're, by any means, qualified to self diagnose. The problem with your analogy is there are physical attributes/tests that tell doctors what is wrong when dealing with physiological problems. Even when the methods rely on us telling the doctors, it's usually a binary choice. On the other hand, it gets a lot more subjective when it comes to mental health.

The list is mixing apples and oranges.

In psychology, laziness simply does not exists as a mental health issue or as a personality trait.

It's a vague and judgemental word used to describe a behavior while the real cause might be burnout, depression or many other.

OP doesn't mention "psychology", nor "mental health issue", nor "personality trait"

Laziness isn't vague, nor judgemental. Laziness is marked by non-production. Which can be measured by simple time-tracking. How many hours a day is he coding/writing vs. on YouTube "passing the time".

Moreover, the post specifically says "symptoms". And he's attempting to discern between the words, specifically asking "What's the difference between..."

I've always viewed laziness as a word that people use to describe behavior when a person didn't do what they were supposed to do, but they dont care or don't know how to investigate why.

What you described is not laziness but either a lack of focus, a lack of awareness of how you are wasting your own time or a conscious decision to not do your work in favor of something else. Both depression and burnout make it hard to focus on tasks that are going to move your life forward, so you could easily be depressed or burnt out AND waste hours on Youtube as a result of it. You could also just be a distracted individual who is not burnt out or depressed and still waste time on Youtube. You could be too tired to devote your mind to coding, so you waste time on Youtube - this is just biological reality, and I dont think we would normally call someone lazy if they can't code anymore after a 12 hour day. Perhaps the act of coding brings about some negative thoughts (e.g. why am I doing this, my colleagues are just going to criticize my commit) so you're actively avoiding it in favor of another activity. This is not necessarily lack of focus but maybe a lack of awareness. Perhaps you are feeling stressed and watching Youtube helps you relax, so it is a strategy to help you avoid burnout in the long run. Basically, I don't think laziness exists, its just a word used to describe something you don't understand.

> how would you determine which one an individual is dealing with?

It really depends on your relationship with this person. If you are peers, it is really none of your business, they need to chat with their manager or HR (if they want too/have too). You have no idea what they are going through at home, it could be some health issue, and none of these things, or all these things. If you are managing someone who is going through this, you need to support them, what can you do to help/understand? Likely this starts with a coffee and a chat on how's things going? Do they need time off, are they over worked, work on what a path forward looks like. If you are friendly peers, chat with them in a non-weird way. Take them for coffee/beers, ask how are things going, how's work?

Just a heads up, don't ask someone who is burnt out or depressed, why they are lazy or lagging behind, this is extremely out of touch with what they are going through. I'm sure they are already hyper aware.

Kinda off-topic, but I've had jobs where I've been considered incompetent, and other jobs where I've been considered gifted and visionary. Other jobs have considered me lazy, a hard worker, smart, and dumb. My point is that often we are given labels in contexts - and those labels are totally unrelated to reality except by the specific people in those contexts. So we need to be careful - none of us are perfect, but that doesn't mean that we should believe what we are told.

My 2c from personal experience (n=1):

1) Burnout is acute exhaustion caused by successive days of lack of sleep, successive weekends of working late with long delays in launch, feedback or project completion.

2) Depression (not the clinical kind) is chronic exhaustion and chronic depletion of dopamine. No hope. No care for the project, product or for completion because you know it doesn't matter. This is caused by poor feedback, rejections, project failures (product does not work) but mostly because of running out of money.

3) Laziness is when your subconscious is too smart for yourself about the prospects of success resulting in inaction. For example: you may be outwardly excited about a project/product but your internal subconscious mind has already doomed it as a failure therefore you find all sorts of excuses not to start or finish the project. Your subconscious has already done FWIW a cost-benefit and SWOT analysis and judges the project as a no-go or no-continue.

4) Being in the wrong job is the number 1 reason for the causes of all 1), 2) and 3) above.

Burnout is what we call this thing when we try to solve it by taking a break

depression is what we call this thing when we try to solve it via medical intervention of some sort.

Lazyness is what we call this thing when we try to solve it through force of will and/or shame, or when we don't try to solve it at all.

Being in the wrong job is what we call this thing when we try to solve it by getting a different job.

for that matter, it might be more useful to s/try to solve it/solve it/ - I mean, clearly, different solutions work in different situations.

I'm not trying to say they are all the same thing; just that the only way I can tell the difference is what therapies work.

Burnout and depression may seem similar on the surface, but burnout frequently starts from resentment and essentially having to “force” yourself through that resentment. Heavy physical and/or cognitive workload usually goes hand-in-hand with the said resentment.

For burnout, rest is important and structuring your work/life systems defensively can help prevent it. Some interesting studies exist on this: https://hbr.org/2014/03/googles-scientific-approach-to-work-...

Depression may or may not be tied to anything a person can control. This is where medication and therapy are very important. Like with most serious health issues, self-medicating and self-treating serious depression can be extremely hazardous.

Depression is a serious mental illness, in which 7-10% of the patients die (because of suicide). Not kidding. It is caused by the imbalance of serotonin and readrenalin neurotransmitters.

Depression is NOT a synonym for "bad mood" or "being tired", it's much more serious than that.

> It is caused by the imbalance of serotonin and readrenalin neurotransmitters.

Totally agree depression is a serious mental illness, but this description is like describing bugs as a "debugging deficiency". We know depression and bugs can be fixed with debugging/ssris but just because we can fix them with it doesn't mean the opposite is the cause.

For instance in addition to serotonin and nor-epinephrine we also know glutamate (nmda and ampa) is involved, as well as opiates, gaba, bdnf, dopamine, and inflammation.

I just finished reading Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions - Johann Hari which may be of interest. Our bodies are complex systems who are sending us messages and sometimes patching them with chemicals may or may not be the right thing to do.

The chemical imbalance explanation is a very simple and convenient one. It pairs nicely with the don't like the situation, apply a patch (pharmaceutical or not), repeat. The patch mutes the signal and the theory is that since the system is functional everything is fine except we haven't dealt with the underlying emotional issue. It makes sense to me given this situation why some patients have trouble staying on medications. We can list as many substances as we want, but to me these solutions pair best with lifestyle changes which are more hard to implement/navigate which most likely why we default to patches when maybe what we need is a full version update.

As I see it, they are a package. The wrong job takes you to burnout, which causes perceived laziness (I'd say it's inability to work), and, if fired, might end up in depression. It's a deep hole that requires noticing early.

Combination of burnout and wrong job can definitely lead to a person feeling like his work is useless and causing depression. Don't think you need to get fired for that.

I went through this process exactly a few years ago. After a major breakdown (my third), my therapist kept telling me to change jobs, but I was too scared/depressed to make any sort of large change in my life.

After six months of weekly therapy, I finally felt well enough to hand in my notice. Once I'd done that I felt a huge weight lift off me. It still took several more months to get back on an even keel, and I'm still popping happy pills. The moral I guess here is... if people are telling you over and over again that your job is a major [bad] influence on your state of mind, then you should probably listen to them.

I've always been an optimistic and motivated person, so I can't speak for depression and laziness. But I can speak for burnout.

For me, burnout is the result of a long period of intense work and effort that accomplishes little. I experienced this in my last job, where I was brought in to a specific purpose by a motivated boss who quit the company a few weeks later. The rest of the org was too bogged down with politics, lack of tech leadership, and other organizational issues. I put in a lot of effort as an individual SWE to fix bugs and help other teammates when they got stuck, but nobody else was putting in so much diligent effort for the sake of the team. I burned out and a t the same time realized that I was on the wrong team, when (1) people kept coming to me for help with the same things I'd already taught them in the past (2) I had way too many moments teaching other people how their own code works (code that they own, that I'd barely looked at) (3) too much energy was spent dealing with other teams rather than on our own team getting work done (4) I had three managers in 18 months (5) everything was owned by multiple teams, and I wore myself out working with too many components that should have been strictly divided between teams.

I have since moved to a new team. This is a much better team -- no politics, no BS, just a few diligent individuals getting things done.

But being on the right team doesn't fix burnout. I'm still burned out from my last job. I took the last six months to ramp up on my current job but I need to take time off soon.

One question, is whether the designation is objective or projective.

There are a lot of "lazy" people "doing the wrong thing", whom closer analysis -- or just actually listening to them -- indicates are actually acting rationally, within their circumstances, and doing the best they can.

In part, the question for me comes down to: Are you going to label? Or are you going to do something about it?

I see and hear a lot of the former. Much less of the latter.

Yet those same people would hate to be treated as they insist others be treated.

So, I don't listen to them, too much.

For years, I made myself ill dealing with tremendously distracting and counter-productive open-space work environments. From college onward, I was told -- encultured -- that "this is the future" and that I'd better learn to cope with, err "thrive", in it.

Now, finally, the cultural dialog is turning the corner on this. They really are horrible, not just in terms of personal welfare but also productivity.

So, what really changed? I was "contrary"; well, actually, I wish I had been more so and actually acted against my circumstances.

Now, it turns out, I was "insightful".

Who really failed? The bozos who stuffed us into cattle pens and couldn't even perform decent metrics against their claims, let alone look at the welfare of their employees.

So, "burnout", "depression", "laziness"? Just words.

Find something you enjoy doing. Some place you enjoy living. And stuff the "opinions" about it.

Burnout is often the result of stress. One of the main causes of stress is lack of control of your situation. When you are in a job where you are not empowered, then it is likely the wrong job. This can lead to burnout. One symptom of burnout is depression.

If you feel like you are in a situation where you have no control and are feeling stressed, find someone to talk to. Take some serious time off. Gain some perspective.

All of this is in my experience. I'm not a psychologist.

I think it's easier to point to the cause of burnout. Too much pressures/stress at work/home for a prolonged period of time, a bad work environment, the loss of an expected reward after a long period of extended hours, etc. Identifying the root cause won't cure burnout, but you can at least take steps to change it. When you're burned out you may feel like you'll never climb out of it, but at least you can identify steps (e.g. new job) that may help in the long term. Burnout can last a while (1 year+) after a really bad experience.

Depression is harder (impossible?) to point to a single cause. You can feel a completely loss of feeling, or even just one feeling (sadness) and not really know why you feel that way. Depression can go on for a very long time.

I think a lack of motivation and creativity is there with both burnout and depression.

Being in the wrong job is when somebody is highly motivated and has a lot ideas, but their work environment kills that motivation or inspiration completely.

For me, laziness is a symptom of burnout, and burnout indicates that I have been over indulging in my work, which, to me, happens only when I am really into it. So, over the years, whenever I encounter an interesting idea to pursue, instead of going at it with everything I have got all day long, I have learnt to force myself to take breaks. I have found that, just like the Judgement Day, I can't stop the burnout but only delay it. Burnouts typically lasts for many weeks, and if its severe I experience general ennui, which is the worst kind. During normal burnouts I engage in my other interests and allow the mind to recover at its own pace.

I never had depression in the medical sense, only a few days of feeling that I am worthless after failures. Oddly, I like this feeling. It keeps me grounded.


- Burnout is happing when things you're most fighting your self take to much on your plate get frustrated and not able to get release. Continuous inner battles and frustration not being able to do things. No able to set barriers in a work environment. Normally people can recover from this over time. - Depression is the state where u end up where nothing brings you joy art all. Depression is the state when you end up if you're not able to bounce back or come out the other end of a misery or something bad that happend in your life. - Laziness is just not being able to do something. but can be a result of things above. - being in the wrong job. not a problem if you have a mechanism to change the job, if you don't have a mechanism, above things can happen by a lot of frustration.

Seems like a psychological probe. Bait, in a sense. Enough rope to hang. But okay, I’ll bite.

Burnout: After all the effort you’ve expended, you never got anything in return. Like chasing unrequited love.

Depression: In a word, hopelessness. An inabilitity to fantasize about the potential for a better tomorrow. With an emotion so broad, any cause is on the table. Grief for dead loved ones. Crippling physical disabilities. Consistent general rejection by any and all total strangers throughout the world at large.

Laziness: As a qualitative word for external behavior, inner state cannot be discerned by this behavioral attribute. As an internal behavior, sometimes even we don’t know why we’re unable to summon motivation for something we cognitively know we should not procrastinate. Sometimes, at it’s core, once I get past a rough patch of avoiding something, I realize that my intuition was waiting on other cues. A subliminal signal was not yet present. Looking back, it was only until someone threw those final switches that my entire psyche agreed that the time was right to swing into action. I’m still not sure how that works, but I’ve seen it enough times, that by now, I’m usually able to interrogate my uncooperative subconscious to discover the things I’m sometimes left waiting on.

Being In The Wrong Job?

This presupposes a “right” job. As if we’re supposed to be wage slaves, living paycheck to paycheck, under pain of death or firing for the entirety of our youth, and productive adulthood, until we retire at an age too old to have fun.

All jobs are the wrong job. This becomes obvious during periods when you don’t have to work.

But, hey, let’s be realistic, right? We just have to be good little employees, right? It’s the way to world works. Can’t have too many chiefs and not enough Indians, can we?

Well, sorry, but the sad fact is, this one’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of answer. The the others are adjectives of character or psychological state. But “fitting in” has no simple description. You could blame talent, mixture of personalities, or the resources supplied by the employer.

Mostly, this thread seeks to lay blame. It smells like a manager looking to cut heads. And I think that’s the real problem.

1) Burnout - When you've done too much work and it affects your productivity.

2) Depression - When you have a chemical imbalance or got hit by a traumatic event that chances the way you perceive things.

3) Laziness - When you do not want to work. It could be due to any reason. You may be mindfully doing it.

4) Being in the wrong job - Actually happens to a lot more people than 1 & 2. But it could lead to 1 and 2. Maybe 3 but then you're getting paid for it.

For 2) you may need to go to a doctor or therapist. Everything else you can do something about. Hope that helps!

I'm an occasional sufferer of depression and I know a few people who suffer it to varying degrees. For me there are a set of symptoms which are always pretty much the same and nowadays I notice pretty quickly when it hits me. It can definitely be a driver of the other things you mention. It might be good to start there

Burnout to me is a sign of extended stress... whether you're in the right job or not. This just means you need a break. Even Michael Jordan needed a break from basketball.

My cynical experience would suggest that 3 is the most likely by a country mile, but the indvidual will always think it is either 1, 2 or 4.

In many cases the fourth one is the case of the first three

Conviction would be my answer

depression is a physical condition where you won’t be able to sleep. Like five days in a roll and because of it, you can’t improve your work performance even if you want to. The only wish you have is a good night sleep.

That is not at all the experience that quite a few depressed people have.

Seriously? https://www.sleep.org/articles/depression-affects-sleep/

I had it, couldn’t sleep well for a month. My ex girlfriend had it, she couldn’t sleep for 5 days.

My experience was erratically alternating between not being able to sleep (sleeping less than four hours per night) and sleeping 12-18 hours per day. Either mode could last half a week, or a whole month.

Many (most?) depressed individuals do experience sleeplessness, but that's not at all universal.

Yes, seriously. It's an experience that some depressed people have, but it's not universal by any means.

1.5) Stress

Don't ask HN for psychological support. Talk to a professional.

Why not? I don't see the guidelines that say that it can't be done. I think people reading this are a super audience prone to the above due the coolness and hypeness of the startup world having to move ever more. If anything, I think it should be talked about on channels like this. And yes, also a professional is necessary.

At some level I agree with you. You can learn tons from folks that are in similar situations or have gone through similar things.

But, if you are really burnt out or depressed, this could quickly become a life or death situation, so seeking professional help in a timely manner, is the best option. Your life could literally be at stake. Reason is, HN lacks context and any sustained attention/followup. Take this thread for example. OP has not provided any comments or followup. We have no context on why this person is asking this question. Are they going through this personally, asking about a co-worker, a spouse? We have no idea. Their question and following discussion could come back to haunt them via a search if they give enough details. We are not experts with context, sure we can offer advice on something we might have gone through, but that is not expert advice tailored to their situation.

So, it is really a good idea, to seek professional help if you find yourself in this situation vs asking random strangers on HN. Chatting with a professional is confidential, they will ask and gather the correct context (with local customs, current medical practice, and laws in mind), and hopefully give you a good path forward.

Your advice might be different on where you are located too. Do you have the same options if you live in the US, EU, or Asia? I have no idea on what your situation is, what your support network looks like, what your resources are, how bad it is, etc. You are much better off chatting with a professional.

Don't forget that a lot of professionals in the psychology area are not very good. Some years ago I had severe depression and a lot of other problems and finding a professional who would actually listen was a really difficult and frustrating experience. So I think there is a lot of value in discussing things on a forum like this in order to get multiple opinions and especially hear from people who have gone through this.

You shouldn't take information in a forum at face value but also don't trust blindly the advice from "professionals" be it doctors, surgeons, lawyers, consultants or others. A lot of them suck.

Right, but no-one is complaining about the "how to find a good professional" advice. People are complaining about the fact that these threads often have a mix of useful, actionable, advice that is somewhat evidence based, and then a bunch of horseshit.

You will get the same mix of somewhat useful information mixed with horseshit from professionals especially in not so clear cut areas like mental health or nutrition. I went through five therapists without improvement to end up with picking up a meditation practice together with some behavior and attitude changes. All these suggestions came from online forums and made a huge difference.

As with everything else, gather as much as information as possible and make up your own mind. Don't believe anything blindly but try it out and see what works for you.

It's the same in tech. I get better information in online forums like this one than I get from most highly paid consultants my management likes to hire.

I agree with this.I had the same experience. It really takes a lot of effort to find someone you feel comfortable with. To be honest the best support I got was from a bunch of total strangers on the internet, that went trough a similar experience as I did. I felt mostly disconnected with professionals that had steady lives that were paid to listen to. With the total strangers on the internet we were at least exploring our issues and trying to find a way out and reporting to each eachother as a sort of journey.

The reason there's a modern flat Earth movement is that technology has enabled people who are grossly underqualified to answer questions about the shape of the Earth fit each other.

I'm curious to see what HN readers think of this subject, but I think it's important to realize the answers may tell us far more about HN commenters than about psychology or any objective truths about mental health. Which is to say: if the OP is asking the question because they're trying to work through their own stuff, they need to know this is no substitute for asking professionals. I expect a lot of wrong answers in the comments, and everyone else should too, and as a non-expert I'm not even sure I can recognize the wrong answers as wrong.

It's also dangerously easy to mistake professionalism with competency. There are a lot of incompetent professionals in absolutely every field and this includes mental health. Just like there are professional programmers who copy-paste code from stackoverflow, there are mental health professionals who copy-paste solutions from a favorite book or two. They don't actually have a deep understanding of what they're doing and will be hopelessly lost when someone's issues don't exactly match the examples in their books.

Now it's still probably true that the average HN commentator knows even less than the average mental health professional, but at the same time there are plenty of people on HN (including actual MDs!) who know more than the average mental health professional. Knowing how to identify these posts can be tricky, but even so I think there's value in seeking for these.

I agree completely: I had meant to imply that the "professional" bit was necessary, but not sufficient.

In therapy a wide range of topics can be explored, and more safely: when I first started therapy my motivations all had to deal with stressors in my present life, but after much discussion I ended up learning and realizing how past trauma influences how I perceive the present. I really didn't know the full set of questions I should have asked when I started, but the professional atmosphere - where I could discuss a wide range of things relatively easily (because of the professional ethics surrounding patient confidentiality) ended up making it easier and safer to explore things I shouldn't.

I think for many people who read this, if they were to go to a therapist motivated by wanting to change their response to stimuli like work stress, may eventually end up discovering how the specifics of their lives to date influence their present, and that knowledge can be empowering.

But here on HN, I don't think you'll get to meaningfully explore things like childhood, past traumas, deep fears, etc. to better understand the present. Stress is common to our (and any) profession, but the ways which we respond to it are deeply personal and transcend our industry.

> Why not?

HN is about as qualified to give good advice on health issues as it is to give good info on astrophysics. There are few licensed medical professionals here.

This is silly. Someone can know something about a topic without being licensed in it. Similarly, someone can be licensed to do something and give poor advice. I don't see why you wouldn't just take all the advice you can get and try to figure out what makes sense and what does not.

This kind of logic is why we end up with anti-vaxxers and flat earthers. Not all opinions are created equal, and if you're having a hard time with mental health, mental health professionals are the best place to go for help.

I completely agree that the actual paper of a license means nothing, and someone can know more than a licensed pro through their own research and experience. BUT, the replies here are from random people on the internet, and there's no way to qualify their level of experience. I'm not surprised to hear this "anyone can do it" perspective from fellow software engineers, because of the shape of our industry, but it's a mistake to apply that universally.

This is why I follow it up with "try to figure out what makes sense". The fact of the matter is, neither you nor I get to decide who voices their opinion on something on the internet. This is why it is important to scrutinize everything you read instead of blindly following the first piece of advice you read.

I do agree that anti-vaxxers and flat earthers are a problem and it is clear that not everyone has the same ability to scrutinize what they read and determine where the truth lies. That being said, I tend to assume that people posting on HN are intelligent and capable of thinking for themselves and in that case, I think it is fine for non-experts to offer opinions.

It's really easy to self diagnose depression or other things because a lot of the feelings and experiences are easily to relate with, which causes people to misunderstand and under value the affect diagnosed depression has on other's lives.

Yeah, but how do you even do that? Like, realistically - step-by-step

Look at all the other people commenting about how terrible the experience was for them?

I'm very, very skeptical of jaded "professionals" that quickly make a diagnosis and move you along the pharma train. I'm also concerned by my location that I may not even have access to "Good Professionals?"

It seems like talking to a professional without a deep prior level of introspection and self-research is precisely the expressway to being on a road that might not even work. (What if I have ADHD and get treatment for something else entirely, or vice versa?)

This thread fits someone like myself perfectly: I feel lazy, I'm certainly depressed, and I experience burnout all the time, and I have absolutely no idea how to actually seek out help.

Simplistic comments like yours always aggravate me a la:

"Call your attorney or seek legal council for further information" (not many people have a lawyer on retainer, bud)

So, I'm very likely to seek out information from the internet from people who have been in my shoes and have helped themselves, and until I get a solid feeling that I know how to proceed safely, I will continue to do so.

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