What is Burnout?

Burnout is commonly referred to as a reaction to chronic or prolonged stresses from your job or workplace. However, recent research has indicated that people from all walks of life may experience burnout and not just from work. For example, burnout may also be experienced by students who are overwhelmed by their study commitments, or a mother, or carer in a caring role.

Burnout can impact all parts of your life, mind and body. It can have serious consequences including reduced work performance and life satisfaction and has been associated with other mental health conditions. For instance, it has been linked to depression, as both conditions share a number of symptoms such as fatigue, social withdrawal and decreased work performance.

What we know about Burnout

We know that job-related burnout can be triggered by exposure to multiple and continuing work stressors. While such stressors may differ across occupations, they relate to the demanding and unrelenting nature of a job, combined with a toxic mix of lack of resources and support.

Burnout can also be triggered by certain personality traits. For instance, research has linked burnout to a person’s evaluation of themselves and their abilities, a trait known as core self-evaluation.

Low core self-evaluation is when someone has negative views about their own skills and ability to control situations. People with low core self-evaluation are susceptible to burnout as they likely view difficult work assignments as threatening or overwhelming, rather than achievable challenges.

Perfectionists are also at greater risk of burnout, as they tend to set excessively high-performance standards they inevitably fail to meet, thus diminishing their sense of personal accomplishment.


Because there are many overlaps in symptoms, burnout is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, most commonly as depression. When it comes to burnout there is no one size fits all. Management strategies need to be targeted to individual sufferers. This means addressing the unique stressors that contribute to burnout in each person.

Management strategies should also acknowledge the individual’s personality style. Strategies that work to remove external stressors (such as taking a month off work and lying on a beach) might assist some sufferers but might further stress others whose personalities don’t allow them to “switch off” outside the office.

Symptoms commonly affecting people experiencing burnout:

  • Anxiety/stress
  • Depression and low mood
  • Irritability and anger
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Lack of motivation or passion
  • Lack of concentration, memory loss, or brain fog
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Physical symptoms such as aches, headaches, nausea, and low libido
Reach out for support

It takes strength and resilience to work through burnout and you don’t have to do it alone. Doing less isn’t always the answer to burnout. Understanding what you need, how to give yourself what you need, and/or asking for what you need, without guilt or feeling like a failure is a great start to finding the right balance for you.

What is Burnout?