Burnout is a state of mental and physical exhaustion that can zap the joy out of your career, friendships, and family interactions. Continual exposure to stressful situations, like caring for an ill family member, working long hours, or witnessing upsetting news related to politics and school safety can lead to this stress condition.
Burnout, however, isn’t always easy to spot. With that in mind, we’ve put together a guide to help you identify the signs of a burnout, as well as ways to prevent it.
What is a burnout?
Coined by the psychologist, Herbert Freudenberger in the 1970s, burnout describes a severe stress condition that leads to severe physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.
Much worse than ordinary fatigue, a burnout makes it challenging for people to cope with stress and handle day-to-day responsibilities.
People experiencing a burnout often feel like they have nothing left to give and may dread getting out of bed each morning. They may even adopt a pessimistic outlook toward life and feel hopeless.
Burnout doesn’t go away on its own and, if left untreated, it can lead to serious physical and psychological illnesses like depression, heart disease, and diabetes.
Who gets a burnout?
Anyone who’s continually exposed to high levels of stress can experience a burnout. Helping professionals, such as first responders, doctors, and nurses are especially vulnerable to this health condition.
Along with career-induced burnout, people caring for children can also have this type of extreme exhaustion. A recent study found that, just like doctors and business executives, mothers and fathers can also get a burn-out.
Personality characteristics like needing to be in control, perfectionism, and being “Type A” can also increase the risk of a burnout.
What are the signs of a burnout?
Worried that you have a burnout but unsure of the signs? We’ve compiled a list of symptoms that you can use as a guide.
- Exhaustion. Feeling physically and emotionally depleted. Physical symptoms may include headaches, stomach aches, and appetite or sleeping changes.
- Isolation. People with burnout tend to feel overwhelmed. As a result, they may stop socializing and confiding in friends, family members, or co-workers.
- Escape fantasies. Dissatisfied with the never-ending demands of their jobs or study, people with burnout may fantasize about running away or going on a solo-vacation. In extreme cases, they may turn to drugs, alcohol, or food as a way to numb their emotional pain.
- Irritability. Burnout can cause people to lose their cool with friends, co-workers, and family members more easily. Coping with normal stressors like preparing for a work meeting, driving kids to school, studying for exams and tending to household tasks also may start to feel insurmountable, especially when things don’t go as planned.
- Frequent illnesses. Burnout, like other long-term stress, can lower the immune system, this can lead to being susceptible to the flu, and insomnia. Burnout can also lead to mental health concerns like depression and anxiety.
The 12 stages of a burnout
Unlike a cold or the flu, a burnout doesn’t hit all at once. Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North have outlined the 12 phases of this stress syndrome:
- Excessive drive/ambition. Common for people starting a new job or undertaking a novel task, too much ambition can lead to burnout.
- Pushing yourself to work harder. Ambition pushes you to work harder.
- Neglecting your own needs. You begin to sacrifice self-care like sleep, exercise, and eating well.
- Displacement of conflict. Instead of acknowledging that you’re pushing yourself to the max, you blame your boss, the demands of your job, or colleagues for your troubles.
- No time for nonwork-related needs. You begin to withdraw from family and friends. Social invitations to parties, movies, and dinner dates start to feel burdensome, instead of enjoyable.
- Denial. Impatience with those around you mounts. Instead of taking responsibility for your behaviors, you blame others, seeing them as incompetent, lazy, and overbearing.
- Withdrawal. You begin to withdraw from family and friends. Social invitations to parties, movies, and dinner dates start to feel burdensome, instead of enjoyable.
- Behavioral changes. Those on the road to burnout may become more aggressive and snap at loved ones for no reason.
- Depersonalization. Feeling detached from your life and your ability to control your life. 10.Inner emptiness or anxiety. Feeling empty or anxious. You may turn to thrill seeking behaviors to cope with this emotion, such as substance use, gambling, or overeating.
- Depression. Life loses its meaning and you begin to feel hopeless.
- Mental or physical collapse. This can impact your ability to cope. Mental health or medical attention may be necessary.
More information or book an appointment?
Would you like to discuss your burn-out, stress and/or trauma issues with a mental health therapist? We have a large team of mental health specialists that can treat you, so feel free to book a consultation at HelloDoc Health! Most consults can be covered by your (international) health insurance.
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