Burnout occurs when a person has exhausted all of their physical, mental and emotional resources. There are three different degrees along which the person keeps sinking into a relentless process of overexertion.
Even though burnout seems to happen suddenly, it is a syndrome, that is, a set of symptoms that gradually set in over months or even years. The person is often unaware he is subject to nervous exhaustion.
A person in burnout has consumed from within, over time. There is no longer any resource, no more energy.
In the 1980s, the American psychologist Christina Maslach and the psychiatrist Susan Jackson defined three stages in the process of burnout.
Stage 1: Exhaustion
The first stage is emotional exhaustion, both physical and mental, which implies a lack of energy, a feeling of emptiness. At this point, the person is nervously drained, no longer feels energy, only extreme fatigue which is often accompanied by other symptoms such as insomnia, mood swings, difficulty expressing emotions and focusing, a desire to isolate oneself, migraines …
During this first stage, the notion of pleasure begins to disappear. Any activity, however pleasant, seems to turn into an obligation, a chore.
Stage 2: Dehumanization
The second stage touches on the interpersonal dimension with a dehumanization of relationships. It implies the development of impersonal, detached, negative, even cynical attitudes towards people, including those closest to them. The person isolates himself, closes off all feelings. At this stage, the change in behavior usually alerts their close circle of friends and relatives. It is therefore strongly recommended that the person get help as soon as possible to slow down this death spiral.
Stage 3: Loss of bearings
The third and last stage refers to the devaluation of his work and of the person himself. At this point, the person has lost self-confidence. He has lost his bearings and questions his values and skills. His perception of the world and of himself becomes as negative as it is painful and is accompanied by demeaning thoughts such as “I’m no longer good for anything …”
Depending on the person’s history and temperament, this third stage will result in a “bore out” phase, the person gives up and is not interested in anything, or a “burn in” phase, in which the person becomes hyperactive.
In both cases, the individual continues to draw on their ultimate resources and the body eventually gives up. With cortisol no longer being produced, he literally freezes. The machine explodes due to overheating! For some people it may also result in a stroke, a cardiovascular accident, even suicide.