Burnout is subjective. In fact, there’s no agreed-upon diagnosis for burnout in the medical community. It’s not an official disease or mental disorder, but it’s certainly recognized as a stress-related state that many people experience. It’s also officially an “occupational phenomena” according to the World Health Organization, as of 2019.
One of the most widely cited psychological assessments of burnout, the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), was published in 1981 by Christina Maslach, a burnout researcher and expert. In that original inventory, Maslach laid out 22 items related to occupational burnout that measure three dimensions: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment. The survey, which takes about 15 minutes to complete, has since been widely used in many different occupational settings and there are even abbreviated versions of this survey circulating the internet.
Most people agree that burnout is the result of chronic stress, and some people require that burnout be work-related to fit their definition. The World Health Organization (WHO), for instance, defines burnout solely in a work context as an “occupational phenomenon” that is characterized by three main traits: “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”
If you’re feeling completely burned out, think about what “burned out” means to you personally. Ask yourself the following questions:
Questions To Ask
-What emotions am I feeling?
-Physically, how do I feel?
-Am I exhausted/fatigued?
-Am I being productive at work?
-Have I noticed changes in my memory?
-Do I feel depressed?
-Do I feel motivated?
-How am I sleeping?
-How am I eating?
-Am I feeling overwhelmed?
-How am I managing stress?
-How long have I been feeling this way?
According to one of the earliest definitions of burnout from psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, burnout is a “product of unremitting stress and unrelenting demands…the victim’s emotional circuits become increasingly overloaded from constant excessive demands on his or her energy, strength and resources. After decades of maximum effort, the individual finds himself screeching to an inexplicable halt.”
Some of the common symptoms of burnout listed in research on burnout are:
-Feeling cynical about work
-Being unproductive at work
-Lack of motivation at work
-Feeling of impatience
-Feeling generally “ill” but with no specific medical diagnosis
-Being unable to sleep
-Waking up in the morning and being exhausted
-A negative attitude
-Inability to concentrate
If you identify yourself with any of the commonly listed symptoms of burnout, it may be time to talk to someone who can help. If you’re reading blogs about burnout, you’re probably realizing that your stress levels are too high. Of course, daily life can be stressful. But there’s an important difference between periods of stress and chronic stress. If you recognize yourself in some of the descriptions above, it’s a good time to acknowledge how you’re feeling so that you can begin to take steps towards healing.