Job Burnout: What is it and Taking Action

Is mental burnout actually a thing?


Burnout is an occupational syndrome where you just feel like you have nothing left to give. You are done, fed, up, checked out, and have felt this way for some time. You may experience symptoms of indifference, agitation, irritability, anger, anxiety, and depression. 

Burnout is identified in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as a specific occupational phenomenon. Initially recognized by Herbert Freudenberger, burnout can manifest in both mental and physical symptoms. It is classified as a syndrome, rather than a medical condition, that results from unrelenting and prolonged workplace stress. Burnout leaves individuals in a state of emotional and physical distress, that can also lead to feelings of reduced personal and professional accomplishment an identity. Whatever the cause of the burnout, it significantly affect your mental health. 

Most often, we think of burnout as a solely work-related syndrome. However, many people do not only experience burnout with work, but also with studying, parenting, COVID, or any sort of stressor that causes significant and prolonged emotional exhaustion. This can result in attitude and mood changes, and often family members, friends, and individuals in your work environment may notice the shift. Burnout can result from high level demands, such as working overtime shifts in a healthcare setting, and result in ongoing feelings of overwhelm, feelings of hopelessness, cynicism, and general exhaustion.

In a butshell: Burnout manifests a result from doing too much for too long.

What are the risk factors for burnout?

Anyone can be at a risk of burnout. Burnout often affects individuals who are hard workers and people pleasers, those with big hearts that are the “givers” of the community. Those who may be at risk for burnout may have personal or job-related tasks, demands, and responsibilities that are above and beyond what one could consider a reasonable level of stress, for a prolonged period of time.

How do I know if I am experiencing burnout?

Warning signs of burnout not only include emotional exhaustion, but a myriad of both mental and physical symptoms. The best way to explore if you may be burnt out is by starting to ask yourself questions:

Have I become indifferent to the patients or population that I work with?

Have I been considering leaving my profession?

Do I lack the mental and physical energy to maintain my productivity?

Have I been feeling disillusioned about this job? 

Am I feeling that my job is no longer what was once cracked up to be?

How difficult is it for me to get started in the morning? 

Do I dread getting up and going to work?

How has my sleep patterns, quality, and quantity of my sleep changed since I started feeling off?

Have I become increasingly irritable and impatient with my colleagues, coworkers, customers, or patients?

Has there been a decrease in a sense of satisfaction in my work?

Have other people noticed that my mood has significantly changed in the past few months?

Have I been using dark humor more frequently that I normally do?

Am I experiencing increased cynicism and criticism directed at work and to my colleagues?

Have I recently experienced increased physical discomfort that has not been medically explained?  

Taking Action

The first step would be to contact your doctor and make an appointment if you are considering the possibility of burnout. Talking to a mental health professional with experience in treating burnout can help ease the symptoms and related conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Overcoming burnout is a unique journey specific to each individual and their needs – reaching out for support from medical and healthcare professionals can be the first step towards positive change.  

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