Burnout is a term that was coined in the 70’s but has in become more common in recent years. This is unfortunately due to an increase in chronic stress and therefore in the occurrence of burnout.
It’s a term that is intuitively understandable but have you ever wondered what it really refers to? Here is a short explanation.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is a reaction to prolonged or chronic stress and is characterized by three main elements: exhaustion, cynicism, and feelings of reduced ability. More simply put, if you feel exhausted, start to really disconnect from the key people and activities in your life, and begin to feel overwhelmed and generally less capable, you are showing signs of burnout.
The stress that contributes to burnout can come from your job, your relationships, and/or your overall lifestyle. Personality traits and thought patterns, such as perfectionism and pessimism, can contribute as well.
The term “burnout” was first coined in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger, in his book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement. He originally defined burnout as, “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”
While burnout isn’t a recognized clinical psychiatric or psychological disorder, there are some similarities between burnout and diagnosable conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorders, or mood disorders. Burnout however, is much more common. For example, in a 2018 Gallup study, 23% -44% of people who are employed outside of the home experience burnout every year. Here are some other stats that Gallup provides that really illustrate the impacts of burnout:
Even though those Gallup stats are alarming, it’s important to remember that burnout is less severe, more temporary in duration, and caused by situational stressors rather than a biologically mandated chemical imbalance. (It’s kind of like depression’s non-clinical, less intense cousin that just comes for a visit and leaves when you reduce the stress in your life.)
Symptoms of Burnout
It can be difficult to recognize when you’re slipping from a state of chronic stress to burnout. A general sign of burnout is when you feel like giving up, or you simply can’t motivate yourself to put in the (often high) effort that’s needed to maintain your relationships, take care of yourself and your surroundings, and/or do the work that’s required of you. Some common symptoms include:
- Feelings of dread
- Depleted physical energy
- Emotional exhaustion
- Lowered immunity to illness
- Less investment in interpersonal relationships
- Increasingly pessimistic outlook
- Increased absenteeism and inefficiency at work
If you think you are experiencing or at risk of burnout, let’s talk.