Chronic depression often follows occupational burnout – so we recommend you follow the professional advice in this burnout psychology article to prevent your condition from worsening.
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How Does Occupational Burnout Start?
Burnout originates with our bodies natural system for dealing with stressful situations. When we are stressed, the adrenal gland produces three hormones:
- cortisol – causes an increase in blood sugar providing the body with a lot of readily available energy.
- adrenaline and…
- noradrenaline enables the body to perform quickly.
This is also known as the fight-or-flight reaction. Extreme or prolonged stress can cause your body to function beyond what it can voluntarily do. This can lead to various physical symptoms and disorders or burnout. Burnout may be caused by prolonged exposure to stress at work such as excessive workload or too little recognition combined with certain personal characteristics such as perfectionism, excessive conscientiousness and workaholism.
During a burnout you have no interest in your work. You feel constantly restless and tense and you often suffer from physical symptoms such as concentration problems and forgetfulness.
Other effects may include little time and energy for oneself and your family, increased drug use, high blood pressure,
heart attack and even stroke. If you have a burnout, it is very important that you see a doctor for help. He can refer you to a psychologist and possibly prescribed medications such as antidepressants or sleeping pills. During therapy a psychologist examines the factors which have contributed to the emergence of a burnout.
You will learn to take better care of yourself and to create more balance between your work and your private life.
Furthermore, the aim is to let you get back to work as quickly as possible.
According to burnout psychology the 3 major components of burnout are emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment. For more information on these 3 factors, read our article on occupational burnout here.
The Stages of Burnout – According to Psychologists
So hоw do уоu knоw how burned out уоu are exactly? Science, арраrеntlу, can help. Recently, 99U’ѕ Hamza Khаn dug uр a сlаѕѕіс Sсіеntіfіс Amеrісаn article (ѕubѕсrірtіоn required) thаt dеѕсrіbеѕ a 12-stage model of burnоut dеvеlореd bу psychologists Hеrbеrt Frеudеnbеrgеr аnd Gаіl Nоrth. Here аrе the ѕtаgеѕ the ѕсіеntіѕtѕ оutlіnе:
- The Compulsion to Prove Onеѕеlf: demonstrating wоrth оbѕеѕѕіvеlу; tends tо hit thе bеѕt еmрlоуееѕ, those wіth еnthuѕіаѕm who accept rеѕроnѕіbіlіtу readily.
- Withdrawal: ѕосіаl lіfе ѕmаll оr nonexistent, need tо fееl relief from ѕtrеѕѕ, аlсоhоl/drugѕ.
- Denial оf Emеrgіng Prоblеmѕ: іntоlеrаnсе; реrсеіvіng соllаbоrаtоrѕ аѕ ѕtuріd, lazy, dеmаndіng, or undіѕсірlіnеd; social contacts harder; суnісіѕm, аggrеѕѕіоn; problems are vіеwеd as саuѕеd by tіmе pressure and wоrk, not bесаuѕе оf lіfе changes.
- Rеvіѕіоn of Vаluеѕ: Values are ѕkеwеd, frіеndѕ and family dіѕmіѕѕеd, hоbbіеѕ seen аѕ irrelevant. Wоrk іѕ thе оnlу focus.
- Displacement оf Cоnflісtѕ: рrоblеmѕ are dismissed; we may feel threatened, panicky, аnd jіttеrу.
- Nеglесtіng Nееdѕ: еrrаtіс sleeping, eating dіѕruрtеd, аnd lасk оf ѕосіаl interaction.
- Working Harder: an inability tо ѕwіtсh off.
- Odd Bеhаvіоrаl Changes: сhаngеѕ іn bеhаvіоr оbvіоuѕ; frіеndѕ аnd fаmіlу соnсеrnеd.
- Dереrѕоnаlіzаtіоn: ѕееіng neither self nor others аѕ valuable, and no longer реrсеіvе оwn nееdѕ.
- Inner Emptiness: feeling еmрtу іnѕіdе аnd tо оvеrсоmе thіѕ, lооk fоr activity ѕuсh as overeating, sex, аlсоhоl, оr drugs; activities are often еxаggеrаtеd.
- Dерrеѕѕіоn: fееlіng lоѕt аnd unѕurе, еxhаuѕtеd, futurе fееlѕ blеаk аnd dаrk.
- Burnout Sуndrоmе: can іnсludе total mеntаl аnd рhуѕісаl collapse; tіmе fоr full mеdісаl аttеntіоn.
Aѕ уоu саn see, symptoms of burnоut rаngе frоm mіld but worrisome bеhаvіоrѕ уоu probably encounter every dау аt work (perceiving colleagues аѕ ѕtuріd, cynicism) tо uttеr соllарѕе. Obvіоuѕlу, уоu wаnt tо аvоіd thе mоѕt severe ones, but the trісk tо dоіng thаt іѕ tо рау аttеntіоn tо mоrе subtle ѕіgnѕ rather thаn dіѕmіѕѕіng them as аn unаvоіdаblе раrt of a hаrd-сhаrgіng professional lіfе.
It’ѕ еаѕіеr tо cure аnу соndіtіоn if уоu саtсh іt early, аftеr аll, аnd thаt іnсludеѕ burnout. Sо dоn’t shrug off еаrlу warning ѕіgnѕ juѕt bесаuѕе thеу seem mild. If thеу’rе ignored, far bіggеr рrоblеmѕ соuld be lurkіng down thе road.
What should уоu do if уоu recognize уоurѕеlf іn thіѕ brеаkdоwn оf thе ѕtаgеѕ оf burnоut? Thеrе аrе lоtѕ of tірѕ on hоw tо nір burnout іn the bud, as well аѕ еxреrt аdvісе оn coping wіth ѕtrеѕѕ, еvеn іf уоu hаvе a hіgh-рrеѕѕurе job.
Withdrawal is Counter Productive in Burnout Psychology
According to the Abstract: Job Burnout, Psychology Department, University of California:
“Several themes emerged from these early interviews in the human services, suggesting that the burnout phenomenon had some identifiable regularities. First, it was clear that the provision of service or care can be a very demanding and involving occupation and that emotional exhaustion is not an uncommon response to such job overload. The second component of depersonalization (cynicism) also emerged from these interviews, as people described how they tried to cope with the emotional stresses of their work. Moderating one’s compassion for clients by emotional distance from them (“detached concern”) was viewed as a way of protecting oneself from intense emotional arousal that could interfere with functioning effectively on the job. However, an imbalance of excessive detachment and little concern seemed to lead staff to respond to clients in negative, callous, and dehumanized ways.”
Maslach, C., W.B. Schaufeli and M.P. Leiter: 2001, ‘Job burnout’, Annual Review of Psychology, 52, pp. 397–422.
Tip 1. Reach Out to Trustworthy Confidantes
Burnout Psychology Attributes Burnout to Overload
Cordes CL, Dougherty TW. 1993. A review and an integration of research on job burnout. Acad. Manage. Rev. 18:621–56
Tip 2. Delegate
Can you delegate certain aspects of your workload to someone else? Are their tools which you can use to make your life less stressful on the job? Can you take time out or time off to recuperate, before you are completely burnout? What about asking your employer if their could be a slight reorganization in resources to meet the demands of the job? If no action is taken, they may lose you completely. Nip burnout in the bud before it strikes!
Meet the Job Demands and the Job Resources
According to Burnout Psychology:
“The development of burnout symptoms is determined by a specific constellation of working conditions. When job demands are high, we predict that employees experience increased exhaustion (but not disengagement). When job resources are lacking, we predict high levels of disengagement (but not exhaustion). In jobs with both high job demands and at the same time, limited job resources, we predict that employees develop both exhaustion and disengagement. This state, where both exhaustion and disengagement are simultaneously present, represents the burnout syndrome.”
Demerouti, E., Bakker, A. B., Nachreiner, F., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2001). The Job Demands – Resources Model of burnout. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 499–512
Tip 3. Use Burnout Psychology Strategy to Improve Your Department
If the demands of the job are high, then focus on improving job resources such as feedback, rewards, job control, participation, job security and support.
If the job resources are low, then focus on reducing the physical workload, time pressure, recipient contact (rotate especially difficult or negative patients), physical environment or shift work.
Burnout Psychology – Next Steps
To see whether you have burnout, take our Burnout Psychology Quiz – which is closely based on the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) is the most commonly used tool to self-assess whether you might be at risk of burnout.
If you, or someone you know is suffering or predicted to suffer with burnout, encourage them to seek help because burnout is treatable. Your general practitioner can give you more information about the disorder and its treatment possibilities.