Burnout symptoms, like feeling negative, having low energy and lacking motivation, are common and usually present as a result of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. These tend to be related to work, caregiver responsibilities or home chores.
Burnout is most common in high-pressure professions, like teachers or health care professionals, but can also present in people who are competitive or who feel that they need constant control of their tasks.
If you suspect you may have burnout, you are advised to speak to your family doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist. Treatment usually involves counseling to learn coping strategies that help your to deal with stress and constant pressure.
The main symptoms of burnout are:
1. Constant feeling of negativity
Burnout can lead to a constant feeling of negativity that makes you feel unworthy, hopeless, helpless, dissatisfied and unmotivated to face difficulties that lie ahead.
2. Physical and mental fatigue
It is common for people with burnout to experience constant fatigue and difficulty recovering. This can cause lead to trouble with planning, memory and rationalization.
3. Lack of motivation
A common characteristic of burnout is a lack of motivation to perform non-work-related activities, like watching TV, reading a book or being with other people. This is usually due to fatigue and exhaustion.
4. Difficulty concentrating
Some people with burnout may notice difficulty concentrating at work, school or home. This is usually due to mental and/or physical exhaustion and from difficulty sleeping.
5. Lack of energy
A lack of energy is common in those with burnout due to fatigue and/or frequent stress and difficulty with resting.
6. Reduced productivity at work
Reduced productivity at work is a common symptom of burnout. It is related to a lack of energy, physical fatigue, mental exhaustion and changes to mood (like feeling constant negativity). These are typically triggered to frequent stress.
7. Difficulty liking the same things
It is common for people with burnout to feel like they no longer enjoy the things that once brought them pleasure, like their work or a favorite leisure activity.
8. Mood swings
Mood swings are common in burnout, and can present as irritability, sadness, anxiety, anger and other exaggerated reactions.
9. Feeling indifferent
People with burnout can feel apathetic or indifferent when performing tasks at home or work. They can also act coldly toward family or friends.
In addition to feeling apathetic, some people may also skip work, be late frequently or notice overall reduced productivity.
Online symptom checker
Take the test below to determine your risk for burnout:
This test is just a tool, and does not diagnose or replace the opinion of a health care professional.
Confirming a diagnosis
Burnout is diagnosed by a psychiatrist who will evaluate your symptoms and the impact they have on your daily routine. He or she will also look at the characteristics of your work life and other difficulties you may face on a daily basis.
Sessions with a psychologist can also help to identify the possible causes for excessive stress and other issues that may be occurring, like anxiety and depression. These conditions can often be confused for burnout.
The doctor or psychologist may use the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) questionnaire, that helps to identify and quantify symptoms to facilitate a burnout diagnosis.
Treatment for burnout involves psychotherapy sessions like developing coping mechanisms for stress and negative feelings. He or she can also help to augment your perception of control on the tasks and responsibilities.
In cases of burnout, it is important to implement measures that reduce excess work and studying and to create more realistic goals. The doctor can help you to identify your priorities and goals, and advise you to avoid situations that can worsen stress.
Depending on the intensity of your burnout symptoms and on any additional problems (like anxiety and depression), the doctor may prescribe antidepressants (like sertraline or fluoxetine) and anxiolytics.
Burnout can lead to complications like depression, alcoholism, and illicit drug use. In more serious cases, it can lead to suicide, particularly when burnout is not appropriately identified and treated due to barriers in the person's life.
People with burnout also have a higher risk developing diabetes, high blood pressure, muscle aches and headaches.
How to prevent
To prevent burnout, it is important to focus on strategies that can help reduce stress, like:
- Defining small goals, in your work and home life
- Participating in enjoyable activities with friends and family
- Participating in activities that are not part of your daily routine, like traveling, eating out or going to the movies
- Preventing contact with "negative" people who constantly complain about others or work
- Speaking with someone trustworthy about what your feelings.
In addition, exercise (like running, walking or going to the gym) for at least 30 minutes a day can help to relieve pressure and trigger the production of substances in your body that promote wellbeing.
Therefore, even if you are unmotivated to exercise, it is important to persist with it and invite a friend if needed.