What’s Burnout?

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Burnout is a psychological condition caused by long-term stress, overwork, and a lack of support or recognition. It is characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced efficiency. Burnout is not the same as stress and can have long-term physical, mental, and emotional effects. Preventive measures include recognizing risk factors and ensuring physical, mental, and emotional needs are met. Treatments include drug-based and alternative therapies, and if left untreated, burnout can cause long-term physical, mental, and emotional damage.

Burnout is a psychological condition in which a person habitually feels physically and emotionally exhausted, is cynical and critical of themselves and others, and works less efficiently than usual. This condition is usually caused by long-term stress, overwork, and a lack of support or recognition.

While burnout is often confused with stress, it’s not the same thing. Stress is characterized by urgency and anxiety, but burnout is characterized by a loss of interest and a feeling of “giving up” or failure. It is a recognized disorder in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10), a standard for the classification of mental disorders approved by the World Health Organization (WHO); but as of 2011 it is not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the standard guide for classifying mental disorders in the United States. Left untreated, this condition can have long-term physical, mental, and emotional effects.

Signs and symptoms
Burnout has both physical and emotional signs. While it affects people differently, those with this condition generally have at least some of the following symptoms:
Physical symptoms:

Insomnia or sleeping much longer than usual.
Lowered immunity – constantly having colds or stomach problems.
Back and shoulder pain or muscle pain in general.
Low energy.
Inability to relax without medication, drugs or alcohol.
Significant weight gain or weight loss in a short amount of time.
Reduced sex drive.
Not showering, grooming, or dressing appropriately for the job.

Non-physical symptoms:

A sense of disengagement, or a feeling of “just going through the motions.”
Feeling critical of both yourself and others.
Getting irritated more easily than usual.
A diminished sense of accomplishment.
A lack of motivation
Feeling like a failure.
Dull emotions and lack of empathy or compassion.

In response to these symptoms, people tend to isolate and withdraw from others. They may suddenly abandon responsibilities, take a long time to do things they can usually do quickly, or procrastinate on even simple tasks. Since they cannot relax naturally, they often self-medicate to create artificial relaxation with drugs, alcohol or sleeping pills.

Cause internal ed the Estonians
The main cause of burnout is long-term stress. This stress can come from overworking, working on things incompatible with one’s beliefs or interests, or working without recognition or support.

Many are exhausted in high-stress jobs, such as medicine, pre-college education, law, law enforcement, and social work. However, it can also be caused by a stressful home life. For example, a stay-at-home mom who is solely responsible for running the household and caring for her children may be at just as much risk as someone in the workplace if she doesn’t get adequate breaks, doesn’t have spouse or family support, or has the resources to do what is expected of her.

Burnout occurs due to a combination of internal and external factors. External factors are often more obvious, but internal factors are just as important.

External factors:

A job that requires extreme activity: constant commitments or long periods of inactivity, or both.
A situation that is at odds with one’s own values. For example, a social worker who has to comply with standards she deems unethical could be at risk, as could a mother who stays at home to raise her children when she feels a great sense of fulfillment and accomplishment from working outside the home.
Not receiving recognition for work either in the workplace or at home.
Unclear or unrealistic expectations in the workplace or at home.
A boring, monotonous or too easy situation.
Lack of control or autonomy in the workplace. Being micro-managed or constantly monitored can lead to this feeling.
Not being able to get your physical, mental, or emotional needs met. Being consistently unable to fend for yourself in any of these areas is a major factor in many cases. Physical needs include things like good nutrition, sleep, and exercise. Mental and emotional needs vary from person to person, but include mental stimulation, enjoyment or laughter, spending time alone or with others, or acknowledging one’s feelings.

Internal factors:

Some personalities are thought to be more prone to burnout than others, particularly those who tend to be perfectionists or have ‘Type A’ personalities.
The inability to set boundaries. This is often related to self-esteem and leads people to take on more than they can realistically handle.
Setting unclear or unrealistic expectations about yourself in terms of your personal life. This can be just as harmful as unclear or unrealistic expectations in the workplace.
Being unaware of or suppressing personal needs, whether it be the need to be alone sometimes, proper nutrition, or the need to create.

Preventive measures

The best way to prevent burnout is to recognize when risk factors like the ones listed above occur and work to change or avoid them. While it’s not always possible to avoid triggers entirely — people sometimes have to stay in jobs they’re not suited for because they need the money, or they may not be able to stop doing a certain project, such as raising a child — there are usually a few ways to change the situation.

For example, an at-risk stay-at-home mom or dad might try setting more boundaries, such as asking their spouse to help with some parts of the household; or she may be looking for a support network among people in a similar situation. A work-stressed person might discuss change plans with the boss or ask about expectations for her position.

Ensuring that physical, mental and emotional needs are met is another important part of preventing this condition. Ways to do this include:

Incorporate the activity into your day. Even a ten minute walk can help things.
Eat properly and get enough nutrition.
Getting enough sleep: This varies from person to person, so it’s important to experiment to find out what’s needed. It’s also important to recognize things that interrupt sleep, like watching TV before bed or keeping your cell phone on at night.
Incorporating periods of relaxation into the day. It could be a few minutes of meditation in the morning, a nap after lunch, or an hour of reading before bed.

As with many conditions, burnout is easier to overcome the sooner it is recognized. Having a network of people who care about your well-being is an important aspect of this, since depleted people may not be able to notice symptoms in themselves until they become severe.

While serious, burnout is definitely a treatable condition. There are both drug-based and alternative treatments, one of which may be more or less appropriate depending on the cause, and which can also be used together. In some cases, a person may need a complete job or lifestyle change to recover.

The most important part of treating burnout is acknowledging it and talking to someone about it. It’s important to schedule a visit with a doctor, as they may be able to shed some light on issues that may be contributing to the condition, but depleted people may also consider talking to a counselor, religious adviser, or even just someone who can empathize.

A doctor can prescribe medications to treat burnout symptoms, including:

Sedatives or sleeping pills.
Medication to help with any digestive problems.
Other medications to address the associated physical problems.

There are also many non-drug-based treatments, including:

Counseling or therapy.
Journaling: It can help people better understand their needs and spark ideas on how to meet them.
Stress Management Techniques: Some people find it helpful to perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of their situation and goals.

While these types of treatments can help with burnout symptoms, it’s usually impossible to truly treat it if the situation or internal factors remain unchanged. Some people find that they have to quit their jobs altogether, take long-term leave, or negotiate with their boss to change things about their workplace or their schedules.


If burnout is left untreated or not addressed, it tends to become increasingly severe and can cause long-term physical, mental and emotional damage. Physically, it can increase a person’s chances of heart problems, strokes, digestive disorders, fertility problems, diabetes, weight gain, teeth grinding, and bone and muscle problems, among other things.

Mentally and emotionally, long-term burnout can lead to depression and anxiety, forgetfulness, nightmares, mental breakdowns, and the risk of suicide. In some cases, this condition has actually led to people dying from overwork or committing suicide. This is particularly evident in Japan, where the phenomenon of karoshi, or death from overwork, is considered a social problem and is addressed by various government and corporate programs.

This condition also has an indirect effect on others and can be dangerous in those in jobs where others rely on them, such as medicine. An exhausted employee is far more likely to make careless mistakes and mistakes than one who is focused on their work, which can be extremely dangerous in medical, social and educational settings. For example, an exhausted doctor is much more likely to miss a symptom or make a mistake in a prescription, or an exhausted teacher may not notice when a child is showing signs of abuse.

Additional Resources:
Siti internet:
www.mindgarden.com — Information on the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), a leading clinical resource on burnout.

www.helpguide.org — A comprehensive site covering the causes, effects, triggers, and treatments for burnout.

www.cdrcp.com — A physician-written resource on burnout with additional links.

www.lifeevolver.com — Information on burnout prevention.

www.mindtools.com — Information on the causes of burnout and treatment for burnout and work stress.

www.apa.org — The American Psychological Association’s website on building resilience, which can help prevent burnout.

Video Resources:
Video 1 — Un video quiz sul burnout.

Video 2 — A short video on the physical effects of work-related stress.

Video 3
— An interview on the signs of work stress and how to deal with it.

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