Symptoms of Burnout
Signs to Look For

This article, Symptoms of Burnout, was written by Cathy Gates. Cathy is a seasoned workshop and small group leader with more that 20 years experience in the area of health promotion and disease prevention. She is the Director of Transformation Leadership International, a leadership development organization focusing on the emotional, relational and spiritual aspects of leadership for individuals and teams. Cathy is also the director of Renewing the Flame .

Use this burnout test to assess your burnout.

Did you know that progression along the stress - burnout - depression continuum is slow and insidious? There is no clear delineation between one stage and another……so burnout can sneak up on you. This slow and insidious nature is the reason why many people ‘hit the wall of burnout’ without ever realizing that they were burning out. That is why it is important to be aware of and watch for the three main symptoms of burnout.

Let’s start with some general burnout symptoms that will be common to everyone. These include:

  1. Emotional and physical exhaustion: You feel worn out physically and emotionally. You have no energy; feel depleted, debilitated and fatigued.
  2. Depersonalized response toward others: You find yourself displaying negative or inappropriate attitudes toward people. Your sense of idealism disappears. You are irritated by others much more easily.
  3. Reduced sense of personal accomplishment: You experience reduced productivity and low morale. You find yourself withdrawing from your responsibilities and from others. Your ability to cope with day to day stress is significantly decreased.

It is equally important to know what burnout symptoms are specific to you. These become your early warning signs. These specific signs of burnout can be divided into four areas: physical, behavioral, attitudinal and interpersonal.

  • Physical Symptoms: Some of the more common physical symptoms of burnout are physical fatigue that is not fixed by a good night’s sleep; muscle tension, weight loss or gain, anxiety attacks, flare up of preexisting medical conditions like hypertension or new health issues such as ulcers, migraines and gastrointestinal upset.
  • Behavioral Symptoms can include loss of creativity, dread of going to work, increased alcohol and drug use, escapist behavior and loss of emotional control.
  • Attitudinal Symptoms: Attitudes include feelings of inadequacy, negativity, feelings of meaninglessness, a sense of entrapment at work or in relationships and a desire to leave ministry or change positions.
  • Interpersonal Symptoms: Some of the interpersonal signs of burnout include increased marital and family conflicts, trust issues, withdrawal from family, loneliness and decreased interest in intimacy or sex with your spouse.
  • This list is just a sampling of symptoms of burnout. What is key for you is to become familiar with your own early warning signs that generally begin to appear when you are not handling stress well. Unless you deal effectively with your stress when you recognize the early warning burnout signs, you will continue on to burnout.

    If you are interested in learning more about symptoms of stress, burnout and depression, please visit the Renewing the Flame web site to sign up for a free Burnout Risk Assessment e-workshop that you can complete at home.

    Understanding the symptoms of burnout is the first step. Knowing what causes burnout is also helpful.

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