Self Care / Support

Signs of Burnout

According to the American Psychological Association, job burnout refers to “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.” It is a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion as well as negative feelings such as that of ineffectiveness, lack of accomplishment and cynicism.

Left unchecked, burnout can cause a lot of problems in both your personal and professional life. While your job performance suffers, burnout can manifest even as physical ailments. In order to catch burnout and combat it early, it is important to know what to look for.

Here are a ten signs of physical and emotional exhaustion, the biggest two features of burnout:

Signs of Physical Exhaustion

Chronic Fatigue

Early stages of burnout are characterised by a lack of energy. As burnout progresses, you may feel completely exhausted, depleted and drained of energy most of the time.


Despite the feeling of exhaustion, you may find that you just can’t go to sleep. Towards the later stages of burnout, insomnia may turn into a persistent, nightly ordeal.

Physical Symptoms

Chest pain, palpitations, frequent shortness of breath, stomach-aches and headaches are some symptoms that may be attributed to stress and burnout.

Increased Illness

As your body is physically exhausted, your immune system becomes compromised, leaving you more susceptible to infections, colds and flu.

Loss of Appetite

Burnout can cause you to completely lose your appetite, thus resulting in a rapid and sudden loss of weight.

Cognitive Problems

Your ability to concentrate and pay attention may also be impacted by chronic stress and burnout. When we’re stressed, our attention focuses on the source of the stress, which is perceived as a threat to normal functioning. In the short term, this helps us deal with the problem but with chronic and persistent stress, we are unable to concentrate on other things, which affects our attention span.

Signs of Burnout

Signs of Emotional Exhaustion

Frustration, Cynicism and Other Negative Emotions

You may start to notice that you feel more pessimistic than you used to, and that even the small things start frustrating you much more than they used to. While everybody experiences negative emotions sometimes, when the frequency of these starts to become unusually high, they could be a sign of burnout.

Judgmental Thoughts

Your negative feelings can often manifest into judgmental thoughts about your workplace. You may find yourself starting to complain about your job, the upper management and even your colleagues, and persistently having these thoughts could be a sign of impending burnout.

Generally Decreased Satisfaction

As you start suffering from burnout, you may start to experience a loss of enjoyment in things you would have previously found enjoyable. Without intervention, this symptom may extend to all areas of your life, thus affecting both your personal and professional life.

Lack of Motivation

Burnout is usually accompanied with a lack of motivation in your work. If you don’t feel like you would enjoy any work that you’re doing, and that there is no reason for you to continue with your work, you end up not doing any of your required tasks. This often results in a lack of productivity due to poor performance.

Loss of Self-Esteem

As a result of your loss in productivity, you may find that your burnout is accompanied by a feeling of low self esteem. With your work suffering, you may find yourself doubting your abilities and you may find that you can no longer do things that used to be easier for you to do. This, coupled with your blaming yourself for your poor performance, results in low self esteem.


One very common sign of burnout is to participate in isolating behaviours such as calling in sick more often, coming in late and not participating in any socialising activities. Often a result of other symptoms of burnout, isolation is one of the more severe signs of emotional exhaustion where you simply are not able to deal with social interactions any more.


A feeling of being disconnected from other people, detachment can cause you to take part in the isolating behaviours described above.

Disclaimer: While most cases of burnout manifest with similar symptoms, there may be other signs that are unique to an individual. If you find yourself constantly stressed, and that some of the above signs resonate very strongly with you, you may want to consult a mental health expert.

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