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4 Causes of Burnout

4 Causes of Burnout



In this article I will highlight why a lot of people are hitting the wall.

Are you currently stuck in a job that is so demoralizing or draining? If yes, then you may be at the hands of burnout disorder.

Burnout can arguably be a diagnosable disorder or not. In the U.S. it is not a recognized disorder; however in places such as Sweden it actually makes an appearance in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10).

Burnout is a state of mind that is known to so many people. It can ravage the body and cause everything from substance abuse to hypertension.

At 180 Sanctuary we understand how common burnout disorder is. So we have created a tailored Burnout Retreat Program where you can recharge at Thailand’s premier center in the lush mountains of Pai.

There are three distinct signs that show when someone is teetering on the edge of burnout:

The first one is Emotional Exhaustion which can also lead to physical exhaustion. A key example of emotional exhaustion is when you have to drag yourself to work which can take heroic. Once at work getting your to-do-list done is completely out of the question.

The second one is reduced personal accomplishment which actually means that it takes a lot of effort to get less done which eventually leads you to wonder what the heck the actual point of doing it is.

The last symptom is depersonalization, is being critical and resentful to other colleagues or clients. Have you ever caught yourself saying the following words back to yourself? “What is with these people?” or perhaps cursed at them in your mind? If so then you may be on your way to depersonalization.

These symptoms also sound very familiar to that of depression. However burnout is different because it is only constrained to one factor work and perhaps a little bit of caregiving as well. Those individuals that are depressing will still be sitting under an umbrella at the pool with a drink in hand. Very different to burnout where an individual can often feel better once they have taken time away from their usual work environment. In other words depression is a little black sheep that can follow you everywhere. This is different to burnout where the little black sheep stays squarely at your work place.

While it can be normal to have negative feelings towards the work that you do. When you have fantasies of smashing the printer then you know you may have crossed the invisible like if burnout symptoms also interfere with your best effort to function.

Now that we a familiar with the symptoms what actually causes burnout? The first is a never-ending landslide of tasks, a toxic work environment or all work and no life balance. Some other factors that contribute to burnout are listed below:

  • 1. Pressure to perform
    Most often than not, when a boss holds high standards we usually rise to the occasion and meet those standards. We achieved because someone believed we could. At some point though we cross the line and our perception of other people’s high standards can actually hurt us. Trying to “please” an overly demanding boss is also falls under this category.
  • 2. Pessimism
    Pessimism is a tendency to see the worst aspects of things or believe that the worst happen; a lack of hope or confidence in the future. A study was once carried out where more than 1000 individuals were asked to read 24 short scenarios. 6 of these scenarios were job-related and they could either be interpreted positively or negatively. Each individual was asked to rate how pleasant each scenario was in their mind’s eye. Because all the scenarios were ambiguous there were unpleasant ratings which reflected a tendency to see the glass as half empty. In contrast there were pleasant ratings which reflected a tendency to see the glass as half full. It turns out pessimistic interpretations (seeing the glass as half empty) coupled solidly with burnout.
  • 3. Mindless scrolling through social media
    A brilliant study in the Journal of Health Psychology found out that social media use at work can lead to an increase in burnout for individuals that are lower in mindfulness. In contrast those who had higher levels of mindfulness, social media was actually a burnout buffer.
  • 4. Feeling alone
    It is not surprising that people we care about would be helpful in preventing burnout, but it is surprising that support is not a cure-all. A study carried out at Wayne State University looked at prison guards and found out that the support of family and friends didn’t impact burnout at all. Instead it was a combination of coworker support and lower depersonalization. However, supervisory support took a bite out of emotional exhaustion.


As we come to the end of this article I would like to point out that burnout is not one monolithic thing and neither is support. It is important that you match social support to your particular needs. Try and build a wide social support network that you need.

Burnout has a lot more causes than just the four I have listed in this article. Burnout comes from both your external work environment and your internal make up. With so many causes there are many ways to combat burn out. Even better? Not all of them involved a baseball bat and a printer!


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