Signs of Burnout at Work

Burnout is a state of physical and mental exhaustion that can zip the joy out of your family interactions, friendships, and career. Continual exposure to stressful situations, such as witnessing upsetting news, working long hours, or caring for an ill family member, can lead to this stress condition. However, it is not that easy to spot burnout. 

To make this simple, we have come up with a guide in this article to help you identify the signs of burnout.

What is Burnout?


The term burnout, first coined by Herbert Freudenberger in 1974, is relatively a new term. He used this term in his book ‘Burnout: The high cost of high achievement.’ Burnout is a reaction to chronic or prolonged job stress. Feelings of reduced professional ability, cynicism, and exhaustion are the three main dimensions that characterize burnout. 

In simple words, if you begin to feel less capable at work, begin to hate your job, and feel exhausted, you are showing burnout signs. Burnout is much worse than ordinary fatigue; it makes it challenging for individuals to handle day-to-day responsibilities and cope with stress. People experiencing burnout may even feel hopeless and adopt a pessimistic outlook on life.

If you are experiencing burnout, do not expect it to go away on its own and go for the proper treatment. If burnout is left untreated, it could lead to significant psychological and physical illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and depression.

Who Can Get Burnout?


Anyone continually exposed to high-stress levels can experience this condition. Helping professionals, like nurses, doctors, and first responders are more vulnerable to have burnout. Burnout is not only career-induced; parents taking care of their children can also experience this type of extreme exhaustion. 

As per the findings of a recent study, fathers and mothers can also burn out, just like business executives and doctors. Personality characteristics like being ‘Type A,’ perfectionism, and needing to be in control can also maximize your risk of burnout.

Signs of Burnout 


It is crucial to get treatment when you experience burnout. If it is left unchecked, it can be destructive for your happiness, job performance, health, and relationships. 

The following burnout signs are the indication that you may be experiencing burnout:

Lack of Motivation 

When you do not have intrinsic motivation for your work, or you do not feel enthusiastic anymore, there is a chance you are experiencing burnout. Moreover, it may be harder to drag yourself into the job daily and get going in the morning.


Feeling tired all the time is one of the first signs of burnout. Exhaustion can be physical, mental, or emotional. You may notice that you do not have any energy.

Cynicism, Frustration, and Other Negative Emotions 

You may feel that you may be disillusioned with everything, or whatever you do does not matter anymore. You will find yourself feeling more pessimistic than before. Experiencing negative emotions from time to time is normal – everybody has them at one point or another. However, it is critical to know when these emotions are becoming unusual for you.

Interpersonal Problems at Work and Home 

You can split it into two ways: (a) you are getting into arguments or having more conflicts with other people, or (b) you withdraw from talking to your family members and coworkers. You might notice that you get tuned out despite being present physically.

Slipping Job Performance 

Are you unsure whether you are burnout or not? Then compare your last year’s job performance to the current one. Burnout does not happen overnight; it tends to occur over an extended period. So, taking this long-term view might reveal whether you are experiencing more chronic burnout or a temporary slump.

Not Taking Care of Yourself

When suffering from burnout, some individuals engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms like smoking, binge eating junk food, not getting enough sleep, drinking too much, being too stationary, or not eating enough. Another issue is self-medication and could include drinking more alcohol or relying on sleeping pills to sleep. 

Furthermore, it also includes drinking too much coffee to drag yourself into work every morning.

Health Problems 

Over an extensive period, consequential chronic stress can lead to real health problems, such as heart disease, obesity, digestive issues, and depression.

Generally Decreased Satisfaction 

It is the tendency to feel less satisfied and happy with your home life and career. You might feel stuck or dissatisfied when it comes to whatever is going on with your social activities, in the community, or at home. 

Five Stages of Burnout

These points are inspired by the burnout study of Winona State University. As per the recent study, by the age of thirty-two, the average professional experiences burnout. Just like all other illnesses, the symptoms of burnout vary from person to person. The following five stages are common among individuals experiencing burnout.

1. Honeymoon Phase 

When we take on a new task, we often begin by experiencing high commitment, creativity, job satisfaction, and energy. It is especially true at the beginning of a business venture or a new job role. In this first stage, it is crucial to start implementing positive coping strategies – as you experience predicted stresses of the initiative you are handling. The common symptoms are:

  • The compulsion to prove oneself
  • High productivity levels
  • Readily accepting responsibilities
  • Unbridled optimism
  • Commitment to a job at hand
  • Free-flowing creativity
  • Job satisfaction
  • Sustained energy levels

2. Onset of Stress

In this stage of burnout, you may feel that some days being more complicated than the rest. You may find that your optimism is waning and notice common stress symptoms affecting you emotionally, mentally, or physically. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Avoidance of decision making
  • Fatigue
  • The general neglect of personal needs
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Reduced sleep quality or lack of sleep
  • Lower productivity
  • Anxiety
  • Change in diet or appetite
  • Forgetfulness
  • Grinding your teeth at night
  • Heart palpitations
  • Inability to focus
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Lack of social interaction
  • Unusual heart rhythms

3. Chronic Stress

At this stage, you will frequently experience stress and notice changes in your motivation and stress levels. Moreover, the symptoms of this stage will be more intense than the previous stage. The common symptoms of this stage include:

  • Apathy 
  • Cynical attitude
  • Denial or problems at home or work
  • Feeling out of control or pressured
  • Increased caffeine consumption
  • Missed targets or work deadlines
  • Physical illness
  • Repeated lateness for work
  • Social withdrawals from family or friends
  • Aggressive behavior or anger
  • Chronic exhaustion
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Feeling panicked or threatened
  • Increased drug or alcohol consumption
  • Lack of hobbies
  • Persistent morning tiredness
  • Procrastination at home and work
  • Resentfulness
  • Uptake of escapist activities

4. Burnout 

Burnout itself is the fourth stage where your symptoms become critical. In this stage, you cannot continue your routine normally as it becomes increasingly difficult to manage. The symptoms of this stage include:

  • Chronic headaches
  • Complete neglect of personal needs
  • Desire to drop out of society
  • Development of an escapist mentality
  • Obsession over problems in life or at work
  • Physical symptoms increase or intensify
  • Social isolation
  • Behavioral changes
  • Chronic bowel or stomach problems
  • Increase or continuation in escapist activities
  • Desire to move away from family/friends or work
  • Feeling empty inside
  • A pessimistic outlook on life and work
  • Self-doubt

5. Habitual Burnout 

Habitual burnout is the final stage of burnout. This stage means that the burnout symptoms are planted in your life, and you are not experiencing significant ongoing emotional, physical, or mental problems. Common symptoms of this stage include:

  • Chronic mental fatigue
  • Chronic sadness
  • Burnout syndrome
  • Chronic physical fatigue
  • Depression 


During current times, burnout is prevalent at workplaces. To identify whether you are experiencing it or not, look for the signs of stress at work discussed in this article. You may also encounter some other signs and symptoms because every individual is different. Therefore, get professional help at the right time, and it will become easy to manage the symptoms.