Emotional burnout syndrome, its symptoms, prevention and treatment.

(ESB) is a group of characteristic mental and somatic symptoms that result from chronic stress. This syndrome is commonly referred to as a profession that requires close contact with people. It is most often attributed to health workers, nannies, caregivers and parents who have difficulty raising their children. What does emotional exhaustion mean? How do you define "burnout" and help yourself or a loved one? 

Emotional burnout syndrome

A little bit about burnout... 

Emotional burnout is a multidimensional disorder, interrelated psychological and psychopathological disorders that can occur in people practicing certain professions.

There are three phases of burnout syndrome: 

  1. emotional exhaustion;
  2. depersonalization (self-perception disorder);
  3. decrease in the assessment of one's abilities.

Initially, burnout syndrome was related only to professions in which work is based on interaction with another person. The risk group consisted primarily of social workers and guardians in various types of institutions, therapists, probation officers, police officers, health workers, teachers, prison staff, consultants, flight attendants. Today, however, it is believed that burnout may also affect people who only have indirect contact with others and those whose work is not important with the client (e.g. architects). The physical and emotional exhaustion of this group of people has similar dynamics.

Like many psychological concepts, burnout has many definitions. Herbert Freudenberger, an American psychologist of German origin, has managed to change several professions during his whole life, to observe the dynamics of development of chronic fatigue, stress and even toxicomania, to write several books that have become helpers for psychologists and psychotherapists (the most famous are "Situation Alert", "American Psychologist" and "Burnout: the high price of high achievements"). The author himself defines burnout syndrome as a state that slowly crystallizes during a long period of constant stress and involvement of all vital energy, which ultimately has a negative impact on motivation, beliefs and behavior. 

But the leading American social psychologist and educator Elliot Aronson, who as one of the researchers introduced the concept of burnout in German psychology, sees this syndrome as a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion caused by long-term involvement in situations that are emotionally burdensome. 

The definitions of burnout syndrome vary between the two psychologists, but most agree that burnout is a state of frustration and exhaustion resulting from strong mental, emotional and physical commitment to work to such an extent that the person eventually begins to lack the motivation and strength to maintain commitment at the current level.

symptoms of emotional burnout

7 major symptoms of emotional burnout.

"Burning out" starts gradually. In the beginning, a person tries to prove something to himself unsuccessfully, spends all his energy on it, works on wear and tear and ignores his own needs, after which apathy begins, there is a search for the culprits of failures, the work absorbs not only all free time, but also life. As a result - irritation and constant discontent with others, isolation from others, unwillingness to fulfill their obligations, because "who cares". The peak of emotional burnout - the abandonment of their own hopes and desires, and the logical conclusion - the emergence of physical and mental collapse, accompanied by suicidal tendencies. 

What are the main symptoms of emotional burnout that can be observed by a person who has experienced emotional burnout? 

  1. He becomes cynical, there is sarcasm in his speech, sarcastic jokes.
  2. He wants to run away from everybody to the edge of the world, leave everything and buy a one-way ticket to some sunny island, which is within walking distance from the ocean.
  3. He makes mistakes in the elementary, everything falls out of his hands, memorable dates are forgotten and conversation threads are lost.
  4. He is constantly tired, even if he spends all Sunday mornings in bed, gentle in the warm sunlight. Tiredness from idling is almost the most important sign of emotional burnout.
  5. He is always dissatisfied, it seems to him that his environment consists of enemies and envious people, and at the end of the working day he is ready to throw himself on the wall.
  6. He is overwhelmed by doubts about his own strength and competence.
  7. He constantly feels bad, he is worried about headaches, nausea and lack of air, and the doctors are unable to make the right diagnosis. 

Sometimes working stress can lead to serious health problems. It is noteworthy that emotional burnout can be exacerbated by rapid deterioration of health: everything starts with a common cold and ends with serious heart disease. 

What is the treatment for emotional burnout that can be offered to those who have recently experienced this common condition? If a reader of this article has noticed at least one symptom mentioned in the list above, it is time for him to change something in his own life.

ways to treat burnout

Here are a few ways to treat burnout:

  • give more time to talk to the people who cheer you up;
  • give up some of the work that you can transfer or try to give to another person;
  • do something just for yourself - take a day off from work where you can devote all your time - enjoy the life you have worked for;
  • Try to shorten your daily to-do list, leaving only the most important things to do - don't take on too many responsibilities that you can't handle;
  • discuss your concerns (at work with colleagues and at home with family and friends);
  • ethink your professional guidelines to get a taste of the job again: quite often burnout is accompanied by fatigue from doing routine work;
  • Try to find something new in your preferred field of work - choose courses and training to help you gain new experiences;
  • Rest - this item should have been at the beginning of the list; a well-deserved rest is not considered a flight from reality - just consider that your vacation (even if it takes a little longer) is just a doctor's recommendation, prescribed in the conclusion. 

Emotional burnout syndrome appears invisibly and goes off slowly. The consequences of prolonged work stress can easily be confused with a banal cold or the presence of a bad boss. If you quickly understand (or at least feel) the symptoms of emotional burnout, you can limit yourself to a week of inactivity on a sunny beach near a warm sea or enjoying the sound of waves crashing against a rock during a fabulous sunset.