Burnout

Burnout is a psychological response to “long-term exhaustion and diminished interest,” and may take months or years to bubble to the surface.

First defined by American psychoanalyst Herbert J. Freudenberger in 1972, burnout is “a demon born of the society and times we live in and our ongoing struggle to invest our lives with meaning.”###

During his research, Freudenberger and his associate, Gail North, developed a simple outline to describe how otherwise healthy individuals can burn out, the key being that people may experience several or all phases, though not necessarily in a specific order.

The identified phases are:

  • A compulsion to prove oneself
  • Working harder
  • Neglecting one’s own needs
  • Displacement of conflict (the person does not realize the root cause of the distress)
  • Revision of values (friends, family, hobbies, etc., are dismissed)
  • Denial of emerging problems (cynicism, aggression, and frustration become apparent)
  • Withdrawal from social contexts, potential for alcohol or drug abuse
  • Behavioural changes become more visible to others
  • Inner emptiness
  • Depression

Burnout syndrome (including suicidal thoughts and complete mental and physical collapse)