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Burnout (Burning Syndrome): how to detect it and take measures

Burnout (Burning Syndrome): how to detect it and take measures

July 31, 2022

The Burnout syndrome (burned, melted) is a type of work stress, a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion that has consequences on self-esteem , and is characterized by a gradual process, by which people lose interest in their tasks, the sense of responsibility and may even reach deep depressions.

Burnout syndrome: burned at work

This syndrome was first described in 1969 when the strange behavior of some police officers at that time was observed: agents of the authority who showed a specific symptom picture.

In 1974 Freudenberger made the syndrome more popular, and later, in 1986, the American psychologists C. Maslach and S. Jackson defined it as "a syndrome of emotional fatigue, depersonalization, and a lower personal fulfillment that occurs in those individuals who work in contact with customers and users. "

What is Burnout Syndrome and how does it manifest?

The syndrome would be the extreme response to chronic stress originated in the work context and would have repercussions of an individual nature, but it would also affect organizational and social aspects. Since the eighties, researchers have not ceased to be interested in this phenomenon, but it is not until the late nineties, when there is some consensus on its causes and consequences.

One of the general explanatory models is that of Gil-Monte and Peiró (1997), but others such as those of Manassero et al (2003), Ramos (1999), Matteson and Ivansevich (1997), Peiró et al (1994) or Leiter (1988), are born to respond to the strategies and intervention techniques necessary to prevent and minimize the effects of a problem that is increasing especially since the beginning of the crisis (Gili, McKee, and Stuckler, 2013).

Cultural differences in Burnout Syndrome

Even so, and counting on the advances developed by research in specific fields, there are still various interpretations about the most appropriate type of intervention when it comes to correcting it: either individual type, accentuating psychological action, or social or organizational type , influencing working conditions (Gil-Monte, 2009). Possibly, these discrepancies have their origin in the cultural influence.

The studies of Maslach, Schaufeli and Leiter (2001), found that there are certain qualitative differences in the American and European profile, since the latter show lower levels of exhaustion and cynicism . Regardless of the continent in which you live, there are certain aspects that you must know in order to act on time and to prevent or correct it. In this article you will find some clues about this phenomenon. What you learn can help you deal with the problem and take action before it affects your health.

People at risk of suffering

You may be more likely to experience Burnout if you meet several of the following characteristics (in the form of signs or symptoms):

  • He identifies so strongly with work that he lacks a reasonable balance between his work life and his personal life.
  • Try to be everything for everyone, take on tasks and functions that do not correspond to their position.
  • He works in jobs related to work activities that link the worker and his services directly with clients. This does not mean that it can not be presented in other types of work, but in general doctors, nurses, consultants, social workers, teachers, door-to-door salesmen, interviewers, collection officers and many other trades and professions have a higher risk of developing the condition. .
  • Feel that you have little or no control over your work.
  • His work is especially monotonous and does not have frights.

Can I be experiencing Burnout at work?

Ask yourself the following questions to know if you are in danger of suffering Burnout:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you crawl to go to work and usually have problems to start once you have arrived?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you lack satisfaction in your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned with your work?
  • Are you consuming excessive food, drugs or alcohol to feel better?
  • Have your sleep or appetite habits changed because of your job?
  • Are you worried about unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical problems?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing Burnout . Be sure to check with your doctor or a mental health professional, however, some of these symptoms may also indicate certain health conditions, such as a thyroid disorder or depression.

Main symptoms

  • Emotional exhaustion: a professional burnout that leads the person to a psychic and physiological exhaustion. There is a loss of energy, physical and mental fatigue. The emotional exhaustion is produced by having to perform some work functions daily and permanently with people who have to be served as work objects.
  • Depersonalization: it manifests itself in negative attitudes in relation to users / clients, there is an increase in irritability, and loss of motivation. Due to the hardening of relationships, it can lead to dehumanization in the treatment.
  • Lack of personal fulfillment: decrease in personal self-esteem, frustration of expectations and stress manifestations at a physiological, cognitive and behavioral level.


The exhaustion of the work present in the Burnout Syndrome It can be the result of several factors and can occur normally when there are conditions both at the level of the person (regarding their tolerance to stress and frustration, etc.) and organizational (deficiencies in the definition of the position, work environment, leadership style of superiors, among others) .

The most common causes are the following.

1. The lack of control

An inability to influence decisions that affect your work: such as your schedule, missions, or workload that could lead to job exhaustion.

2. Unclear job expectations

If you are not sure about the degree of authority you have or your supervisor or others expect from you, you are not likely to feel comfortable at work.

3. The dysfunctional work dynamics

Maybe you work with a conflicted person in the office, you feel belittled by your colleagues or your boss does not pay enough attention to your work.

4. Differences in values

If the values ​​differ from the way your employer does business or deal with complaints, the lack of correspondence can take its toll.

5. Bad adjustment of employment

If your work does not fit your interests and abilities, it can become increasingly stressful over time.

6. The extremes of activity

When a job is always monotonous or chaotic, it needs constant energy to stay focused, which can contribute to higher levels of fatigue and work exhaustion.

7. Lack of social support

If you feel isolated at work and in your personal life, you may feel more stressed.

8. Imbalance between work, family and social life

If your work takes up a lot of your time and effort and you do not have enough time to spend with your family and friends, you can burn out quickly.

Psychological and health effects

Ignoring or not treating Burnout can have significant consequences, including:

  • Excessive stress
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • A negative overflow in personal relationships or life at home
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Cardiovascular deterioration
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes, especially in women
  • Cerebral stroke
  • Obesity
  • Vulnerability to diseases
  • Ulcers
  • Weightloss
  • Muscle pains
  • Migraines
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Problems with menstrual cycles

Remember, if you think you may be experiencing Burnout, do not ignore its symptoms. Check with your doctor or a mental health professional to identify or rule out the existence of underlying health conditions.

Therapy, treatment and advice

If you are worried about Burnout at work, you should take action. To start:

  • Manage stressors that contribute to the exhaustion of work. Once you have identified what is feeding your Burnout symptoms, you can make a plan to solve the problems.
  • Evaluate your options . Discuss specific concerns with your supervisor. Maybe they can work together to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions.
  • Adjust your attitude . If you have become cynical at work, consider ways to improve your perspective. Rediscover the pleasant aspects of your position. Establish positive relationships with colleagues to achieve better results. Take short breaks throughout the day. Spend time outside the office and do the things you like.
  • Seek support . Whether it comes to coworkers, friends, loved ones or other people, support and collaboration can help cope with work-related stress and feelings of exhaustion. If you have access to an employee assistance program, take advantage of the services available.
  • Evaluate your interests, abilities and passions . An honest assessment can help you decide if you should consider an alternative job, such as one that is less demanding or that best fits your interests or core values.
  • Do some exercise . Regular physical activity such as walking or biking can help you cope better with stress. It can also help you to disconnect outside of work and dedicate yourself to something else.

In summary, it is advisable to keep an open mind while considering the options, and if you think you are suffering from this syndrome, try to solve it as soon as possible.

It is also important not to make the problem something more serious by confusing the Burnout Syndrome with a disease: neither is it, nor do its triggers have to be found in one's own body to be clear about this, it is good to read this article: "The differences between syndrome, disorder and disease. "

Bibliographic references:

  • Martín, Ramos Campos and Contador Castillo (2006) "Resilience and the Burnout-Engagement model in formal caregivers of the elderly", Psicothema, vol.18, nº4, pp. 791-796.
  • Maslach and Leiter (1997) The truth about burnout. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
  • Maslach, Schaufeli and Leiter (2001) Job Burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397.422.
  • Matteson and Ivancevich (1987) Controlling Work Stress: Effective resource and Management Strategies. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Occupational Burnout: When Work Becomes Overwhelming (July 2022).

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