As the word is used more and more often but often misused, we will try to explain to you what burnout is, its causes, its consequences for your health and how it can be recognized.
Burnout, an exhaustion syndrome
Formally-speaking, burnout is not a disease. Considered as an exhaustion syndrome, it is akin to other criteria such as suffering linked to an environment that is unsuitable for us or the consequence of too much stress.
It should also be reminded that a bill aimed at ranking burnout among occupational diseases, but that it was rejected by the National Assembly in February 2018.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.CHARLES DARWIN
Literally, “burn-out” means “to consume” in English, like a small flame which slowly burns down until it fades away.
The term was first used in 1974 by the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. It has come into common parlance today, but it is often misused or used inappropriately. Whenever we are feeling stressed out, we tend to refer to “burn out”, using it as a common noun.
Burnout is now defined precisely as a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion linked to a deterioration in a person’s relationship with their environment.
It is often associated with a professional environment, but it can also be the consequence of private or personal events such as adolescent burnout or maternal burnout.
I invite you to watch the animated film The Last Knit, it is the perfect definition of burnout.
The causes of burn-out
Burnout finds its source in a state of exhaustion which can be both physical (due to a significant and continuous strain on the body) and psychological (due to an overly-strong and continuous emotional strain). People are often quite surprised when “the body gives up”. Sometimes they didn’t see it coming. Indeed, burnout sets in gradually, over days, months, and even years. However, the body generally sends alarm signals (fatigue, pain, skin rash, etc.). Unfortunately, for various reasons, people do not dwell on them, refuse to listen to them, or even do not realize how serious they are.
The victim of a burnout finds himself plunged into a form of paralysis, an almost total inability to work or to carry out the smallest daily activities such as preparing a meal. It is a complete blockage of the body that forces you to rest.
Illness or no illness?
In the end, it doesn’t matter.
What can be said is that this is a scourge that will affect nearly one in three employees during their career.
There are therefore serious consequences for human beings. Burning out isn’t just about being stressed. It is a phenomenon that sets in over several months or even years, against which it is difficult to fight (often for lack of knowledge and / or out of denial) and which consumes us from the inside to the point of knocking us out. .
Having experienced it, having spoken about it with people who had been affected by it as well as with experts, I can say that burnout is neither depression nor a mental illness, but a syndrome with a set of physical and physiological symptoms.
Indeed, when the body and the mind are over-solicited over time and they are unable to rest, to recharge, the consequences on the human being are devastating and affect him in all the dimensions of his life.
What are the signs of burnout?
They are numerous.
But to give a few examples and understand how it affects each part of our being, we will define the symptoms through the following categories:
- Physical manifestations with physical pain, headaches, eating disorders, dizziness, sleep disturbances, chronic insomnia on nocturnal awakenings or non-restful hypersomnia.
- Emotional manifestations with a feeling of stress, anxiety, anguish, irritability, lack of patience, ruminations (the hamster in our head …), negative and devaluing ideas, guilt … These feelings are poles apart from what people usually urge people suffering from burn out to do: to be stronger, to be perfect, to make an effort, not to be so self-centered …
- Cognitive manifestations with difficulty concentrating, memory, attention, and concentration problems, in short, someone who has a burn out drags himself along …
- Interpersonal manifestations such as feeling like isolating oneself, having trouble managing one’s emotions, getting easily angry, flaring up for no reason at all, having a lot of doubts, feeling guilty, no longer feeling on a par with others, devaluing oneself, telling oneself that one can’t manage anymore” and that one “won’t hold out for long”…
So, illness or not, burnout consumes a person from within and, little by little, the victim of a burnout collapses.
If you have any questions or testimonials, please share them on the forum.
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You can assess your burnout by taking the tests on burn out and overexertion at work. They will only take you a few minutes!