Signs and symptoms of emotional burnout

emotional burnout
Ted Scott
Ted Scott
19 March 2024
8 min

Lately, things have been going unusually well for you. You work a lot and hardly ever rest, forgetting about adequate rest and sleep. Active work gives its results: you have an interesting, promising project, high salary. Everything seems to be great, and the busy rhythm of life is not frightening at all, but it is a pity that there are no extra hours in the day, then you could have more time!

But, one day when you wake up in the morning, the thought comes to you that you don’t want to go to your favorite job. Each new day becomes a real torment. You feel empty, powerless, apathetic, irritable. You practically stop sleeping. Spoil the relationship with colleagues, who until recently were your favorite team. You work on automatic, not seeing the sense in the actions, producing very different results from what you expect from others. All of the above signs indicate that you have emotional burnout. This is not laziness or lack of desire to work. This is a disease, in 2019 included in the International Classification of Diseases. Why does it arise? What is fraught with emotional burnout? How to fight it and how to prevent it? These questions we will discuss further.

What is emotional burnout

Officially, this term is interpreted as a syndrome that develops as a result of accumulated chronic stress. It is a peculiar psychological defense mechanism triggered in response to stress. Burnout is often faced by people who want to succeed in all areas of life, so the diagnosis of emotional burnout is otherwise called “the disease of excellent students”, although it has nothing to do with school, academic performance and even intellectual ability. This disease is subject to representatives of social professions, a lot of contact with people: doctors, psychologists, teachers, or caring for elderly relatives, children. On their part, burnout manifests itself in the form of indifference to the growing demands of management, negative reaction to the “whims” of patients or clients, the emergence of a sense of failure, professional incompetence.

The process of emotional burnout consists of several stages. The more neglected the condition is, the more difficult it is to overcome. In the absence of proper treatment, you get serious chronic diseases dangerous for a person, such as diabetes mellitus, diseases of cardiovascular system, digestive tract. You are tormented by constant headaches, insomnia, depression. Career collapses and the whole life goes downhill.

Manifestations and signs

Burnout develops gradually when the body gradually runs out of vitality to cope with stress. The manifestations of symptoms of emotional burnout can vary, but often include fatigue, apathy and deterioration in professional performance. One of the key manifestations of emotional burnout symptoms is a constant feeling of fatigue and energy depletion. The first symptoms of burnout are subtle, so they are easy to miss. Some of them manifest themselves periodically, but the diagnosis of emotional burnout is made when the symptoms of the disease are observed daily for a long time and constantly intensify. In general terms, they can be described as follows:

  • Exhaustion associated with overexertion, exhaustion of one’s physical and emotional resources, accompanied by a constant feeling of fatigue from the very morning.
  • Personal detachment, lack of emotion, lack of empathy for others.
  • Emotional burnout is characterized by a sense of self worthlessness, decreased self-esteem.

The symptoms of burnout can be roughly divided into the following groups:

Severe fatigue in the absence of vigorous activity. Fatigue.

Sleep disorders, eating disorders (lack of appetite or overeating).

Dizziness, feeling short of breath.

Headaches, nausea.

Frequent colds.

GI malfunction.

Rashes, inflammation on the skin.

A feeling of heaviness in the legs.
Pessimistic mood.

Lack of motivation.


Indifference to everything.

Unreasonable irritability.

A feeling of anxiety.


Cynicism towards work and others.
Frequent interruptions at work due to fatigue.

Lack of physical activity.

Increased injuries.

Impulsive behavior.

Use of alcohol, tobacco, medications, drugs to improve the condition.
Decreased concentration.

Memory impairment.

Lack of desire for development.

Working in a mechanical mode, without enthusiasm.
Loss of zest for life.

Ignoring hobbies.


Unwillingness to socialize with other people.

Procrastination, the intentional procrastination of doing important things.

Disappointment in friends and loved ones.

Burnout can lead to both disability and career destruction. And it takes a long time to recover from this state: from a few weeks to a year and a half.

Stages of emotional burnout

why people burnout

Psychology distinguishes four stages of emotional burnout, described by the German scientist Matthias Burisch:

  • Increased self-demands, involvement in the process.

The success of any team depends on the performance and involvement of its members. They should love their work, strive to do it well, increase their performance against the background of other, more successful colleagues. But the desire to be ahead, excessive love for work, desire for constant self-development, creating “the best version of oneself” often plays a cruel joke on people, causing burnout.

Sometimes working in an intensive mode is due to project requirements. But periods of activity should be followed by quality, adequate rest to regain energy. If you work late, then take extra courses, in between which you attend trainings, without letting yourself relax and switch to neutral tasks – sooner or later it will lead to burnout.

  • Fatigue.

Increased self-demanding, constant heavy loads bring their “fruits”. The body reacts to them with physical and moral exhaustion. At this stage, a person feels a lack of strength, his immunity decreases. He often gets colds, becomes irritable, anxious.

Then you have trouble sleeping. You suffer from insomnia during the night, which makes you feel sleepy and broken all the next day. Eating behavior is disturbed. You want sweet, salty, fatty, calorie-rich food, or your appetite disappears altogether.

  • Decreased socialization.

At this stage, the person stops communicating with colleagues, relatives and friends. Becomes embittered, cynical. Breaks off long-standing relationships, deliberately limits the circle of communication.

  • Disgust Syndrome.

It is accompanied by a feeling of apathy, hatred for everything around. Depression and despondency appear. A person may even change in appearance: from a stylish, needle-dressed fashionista with perfect hair to turn into a sloppy, unkempt person with greasy, unkept hair. Nothing pleases him, does not arouse interest. He sits for hours in one place, looking at one point. Work, hobbies, family, personal life – everything goes “downhill”. In severe cases, this stage can end in a serious mental disorder or even suicide.

Joseph Greenberg’s five-stage model provides a more detailed description of the stages of emotional burnout:

1“Honeymoon”The employee works with enthusiasm, ready to perform any difficult tasks. But as the workload increases, he loses interest in his work.
2“Lack of fuel”Fatigue appears, sleep is disturbed. Work discipline deteriorates: the employee is late, tries to leave early, is constantly on smoke breaks.
3“Chronic symptoms”This stage is accompanied by aggression, irritability. The employee becomes less neat, does not follow the appearance (this is especially pronounced in women).
4“Crisis”Chronic diseases occur. Partial or complete loss of working capacity. Self-esteem decreases, quality of life deteriorates.
5.“Punching the wall”The problems listed above worsen, leading to serious disorders and the development of dangerous diseases.

Causes of emotional burnout

Causes of emotional burnout

The causes of professional burnout are not always related to overwork or intensive pace of life. Although there is even a stable expression about it: “burned out at work”. This process is more related to the peculiarities of character, the ability to find a balance between work and personal life, the quality of rest, the presence of a sense of satisfaction from life and work.

One of the common causes of burnout is devaluation. Not understanding the purpose and usefulness of his activity, the employee feels not needed by the company. This leads to a decrease in motivation, a drop in self-esteem, and the development of the “impostor” or “loser” complex. Here is a simple example: you are involved in a serious project, literally “burning” at work, devoting most of your time to it. Then suddenly your bosses decide to cancel the project. The reasons could be any: the customer has refused, the budget has been cut. Or when the work was completed, the manager had no reaction to your efforts, not even a thank you.

Non-payment of promised bonuses, unfair attitude on the part of immediate and top management, banal lack of adequate response of the manager to the actions of employees – all this also contributes to the onset of burnout.

Other causes of the syndrome:

  • Unfavorable psychological environment in the team, with constant conflicts, bullying by colleagues;
  • Inadequate, toxic executive;
  • Psychological pressure from the company, with deliberate creation of unbearable working conditions;

Often from a very young age, parents, grandparents, or educators teach children to “orient themselves to those around them.”

“What will others think of you?”; “Listen to your elders – they know best what to do”, “Don’t argue with the teacher – he is always right”.

With such attitudes, the person will subconsciously try to please others without taking into account his own capabilities, literally sacrificing himself to his family, friends or work. At some point his resources will run out, and this will lead to burnout. Therefore, it is important for those who work a lot with others to take quality care of themselves.

The point is that by giving his strength and health to other people, a person exhausts his mental and physical limit, becoming perpetually tired and irritable. Thus, he loses his motivation and professionalism, becoming unclaimed. To avoid such a situation, sometimes you need to stop in time, switching to your own interests, not trying to help everyone. This will save important resources for work and life, avoiding burnout.

Differences from depression

Emotional burnout is sometimes wrongly compared to depression. The symptoms of these conditions are indeed similar. But the approaches to overcoming them may differ. Depression is a global condition affecting all spheres of a person’s life. Burnout is associated with his main activity: work, study or upbringing of children. Differences between depression and burnout:

I’m a bad manager, I’m not doing a good job, my business is a useless endeavor.I’m a terrible husband, father, son, friend.
I’m given stupid tasks, partners are unbearable, coworkers are nasty.You can’t trust anyone, all people are bad. They lie, pretend and cheat at the first opportunity.
I won’t succeed, I’ll lose money, my business will be taken away by competitors.My life is meaningless, there’s no future.

Burnout can last for a long time, gradually becoming chronic. In the absence of the necessary actions to overcome this condition, it turns into severe depression. It is impossible to cope with this condition on one’s own, it requires medical treatment.

How to deal with emotional burnout

Many problems in life are easier to prevent than to treat. This statement also applies to emotional burnout. The following tips will help you to restore your strength, get active and feel good again:

  • Don’t be afraid to reach out for support. Regular communication with family, friends and colleagues is important for maintaining social connections.
  • Engage in physical activity. Active movement is the best way for a person to relieve the brain of negativity. In addition, you will improve your health and become more confident in yourself.
  • Take regular vacations. A timely break from work will help you reboot.
  • Establish a sleep and rest regime, get enough sleep, eat regularly and properly. If necessary, consult a doctor.

If you detect signs of burnout, try to change the sphere of activity. Discuss this issue with your management or relatives. Use the help of professionals, they will tell you how to better cope with BMS in your conditions.

Burnout prevention with the help of LeaderTask

Best Calendar Apps

In order to cope with burnout at work or in life, it is important to learn how to properly manage available resources, organize work so that you can do more in less time. The LeaderTask personal task manager will help you with this.

The functionality of the application includes a full set of time management tools that will help you easily plan and structure all your daily tasks. With the help of the service you can easily get rid of chaos in business. Make all tasks realistic and understandable. Will highlight among them important, priority cases. The program has all the necessary options for planning, including the Pomodoro timer, Kanban boards for visualizing work tasks, a daily planner for calendar planning.

You will be aware of all important matters thanks to the intelligent notification system, which will send you a message about an upcoming task or scheduled meeting in advance. This will save you from unnecessary nervousness and disorganization. You will be able to track your performance on a graph to increase motivation, communicate with other employees and management via a convenient corporate chat.

The app works on all digital platforms, has a quality mobile version, and functions offline, without internet.


If you feel emotional burnout, you should try to figure out what caused it. Having analyzed the causes of this state, take measures to eliminate them from your life. To avoid burnout, keep a balance between different activities, do not fixate only on work, do not strive to do it perfectly. Be sure to allocate time for rest, even if you are not very tired. Regularly go on vacation on schedule, do not miss it. Don’t keep your emotions inside, learn to express them. Manage your work and life with time management. This way you will be less tired, have more time, get rid of secondary and unimportant tasks.

Professional Task Planner and Organizer
Download the LeaderTask app and enjoy the simplicity and convenience of planning your tasks.