Burnout – what is it?
Burnout is a process of increasing exhaustion accompanied by reduced physical and mental capabilities which is triggered by chronic stress factors. Those affected feel that they can no longer manage. The stress factors are usually found in the workplace environment, but could also be related to excessive demands in social or family contexts.
The symptoms of a burnout syndrome can be described using the following five categories:
1) Motivational symptoms
Exhaustion, loss of motivation, lack of drive, reduction in self-initiative which could extend to feelings of resignation.
2) Performance-related symptoms
Impaired concentration and memory, reduced decision-making ability connected to self doubt, a decline in productivity, creativity and flexibility, reduced ability to carry out complex tasks, increased inaccuracy and disorganisation.
3) Emotional symptoms
Depressed state or mood swings, feeling empty inside, anxiety, nervousness, irritability which may lead to cynicism, increased aggression.
4) Behavioural level symptoms
Reduced or increased activity, impulsiveness or increased procrastination, engaging in more risky behaviour, increased intake of addictive substances, withdrawal from social life, neglecting leisure activities.
5) Physical symptoms and their side effects
Chronically overloaded responses like fatigue and difficulty sleeping as well as headaches and back pain, dizziness and gastrointestinal complaints, cardiovascular diseases, dyslipidemia and stomach ulcers.
Burnout is a gradual process, which is generally preceded by a strong commitment to work.
The I-S-A-R model shows a typical four-step process and covers the most commonly described symptoms found in the research literature. Atypical processes are also possible, for example with people who also feel overburdened in situations in which they are not under any particular pressure to perform.
The preventative and therapeutic strategies for dealing with stress induced illnesses are, depending upon their form, comprised of:
- 1) Early diagnosis of increased vulnerability to stress
2) Coaching and psychotherapeutic interventions
For both of these steps it is recommended to have outpatient consultations with a specialised psychotherapist or professional support from a coach. Those affected can turn to the Centre for Stress Related Illnesses at any time for a consultation with a member of the therapy team.
- 3) For advanced cases of burnout, an inpatient therapy is recommended - one which uses regenerative offerings in combination with an intensive individualised programme of psychotherapy. Depending upon the form of the illness, the treatment can be supplemented through the use of medication and biological therapies.