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  • Laryssa Levesque

How to Tell if You Are Suffering from Burnout

Are you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, unable to concentrate, and pushed past your limits? If so, you may be suffering from burnout. Keep reading to learn more about how to tell if you are just stressed out or if you are in fact dealing with burnout syndrome.

how to tell if you are burned out

What is Burnout?

Psychologist Herbert Freudenberger coined the term burnout in 1974. He called it “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.” While the term is most often applied to the workplace, burnout can also occur when you have gone through any period of prolonged stress, whether it be from caregiving, being a new parent, or going through difficult situations such as divorce.

Is it Stress or Burnout?

When most people think of burnout, they think of being extremely stressed. While there are many similarities in terms of the signs and symptoms of being stressed, burnout takes stress to the extreme, to the point of total depletion, emptiness, and hopelessness. There is nothing left to give with burnout; whereas with stress, we are still able to function relatively well and are motivated to engage in our daily lives.

Here are some differences between stress and burnout:

signs of burnout

How do you know if you are at risk for burnout?

There are several risk factors for developing burnout, ranging from workplace factors to personality traits and even lifestyle choices. People who are overworked, underpaid, and have demanding supervisors are at high risk for burnout. Feeling underappreciated in the workplace significantly increases your risk of experiencing burnout. In fact, workers who believe they are not treated fairly are 2.3 times more likely to experience burnout. Experiencing financial issues can also cause added stress which leads to burnout.

Certain personality traits such as perfectionism can lead to burnout. In the case of perfectionists, it happens because they are constantly pressuring themselves to do more and better, which eventually drags them down when they don’t measure up to the impossible standards they set for themselves.

As well, if you are someone who struggles to set boundaries and tend to be a "people-pleaser", you are also at high risk for burnout. For example, behaviours such as always agreeing to working extra hours, struggling to say no to social plans, or being too compliant in a demanding relationship can eventually lead to burnout.

Certain careers are known to carry a high risk for burnout such as physicians, nurses, counsellors, social workers, teachers, and those in service professions. But no one is really immune; burnout can happen to anyone under prolonged stress.

Burnout Syndrome in the Workplace

Burnout Syndrome is so prevalent and pervasive that it is now included as a mental health diagnosis in the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases, 11th edition (ICD). According to the WHO, burnout syndrome is a diagnosis that results from uncontrolled workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

The three dimensions of workplace burnout are:

  • Feelings of energy depletion

  • Increased mental distance from work, or feelings of negativity or cynicism towards work

  • Reduced professional efficacy

Burnout in Relationships

Burnout exists not only in the workplace, but can also arise in family and romantic relationships. When you feel that your relationships are draining you and no longer providing the joy or satisfaction they once did, you may be experiencing relationship burnout.

Common symptoms of relationship burnout are:

  • Emotional exhaustion; You feel drained by your relationship and have no energy to put in, despite knowing your relationship needs some work

  • Detachment & cynicism; You don't feel close to your partner and are increasingly critical and negative about them

  • Lack of investment in the relationship; You stop putting in effort and maybe rather spend your time elsewhere

Caregiver Burnout