Causes and Stages of Burnout

When someone thinks of burnout, they may think about negative or overwhelmed feelings towards their jobs. The feelings associated with burnout can affect someone in any aspect of their life. A lot of people associate burnout with work/life balance . Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of burnout have increased 30% in 2020. Burnout is linked to many different symptoms including:

  • Tiredness
  • Sudden Sickness
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Helplessness
  • Change in behavior
  • Mood changes- like feeling cynical
  • Reduced Performance (at work)
  • Withdrawing

These are just some of the ways to recognize burnout. Burnout is often split into three different types:

  • Overload
  • Lack of Development
  • Neglect

All three of these types of burnout can be associated with someone’s job as well as someone’s personal life. It is normal to feel some signs of burnout and knowing the signs and symptoms can go along way with catching and treating it early. All three types of burnout share similar symptoms like the ones listed above.  


This is one of the most common types of burnout that a person may experience. Overload can be associated with feeling overwhelmed and extreme stress in pursuit of success. This type of burnout has been linked to Type-A personalities. Oftentimes, a person works so hard they lose the important parts of their personal life.

Lack of Development

Like boredom, this type of burnout happens when someone is not challenged at their task or if they do not see any chance for growth. Oftentimes, someone may feel they lack passion and have lost all joy in their work.


Happens when a person begins to feel completely helpless at their job or in their life. Feeling like there is no support and loss of motivation are signs of neglect burnout. Neglect burnout can make people feel unmotivated and passive.

Stages of Burnout

Burnout takes a long time to build up and can have harmful effects on both your mental and physical health. If all your symptoms keep piling up, you can begin to experience the stages of burnout. The twelve stages are:  

  1. Wanting to prove yourself- Constantly. You want people to know your worth.
  2. More Work- You spend all your time working.
  3. Forgetting Your Needs- You are not sleeping as much, spending less time with friends, etc.
  4. Blaming others- situation is not your fault, including stress.
  5. New Values- lose sight of your family and friends.
  6. Problem Denial- You think everyone is lazy and you lose your patience more frequently.
  7. Withdraw- you start to spend less time with friends and family and more time alone.
  8. Odd Changes- you become a different person, more impatient and aggravated.
  9. Depersonalization- you lose value in yourself and others.
  10. Feeling Empty- you begin to try and fill the void.
  11. Depression- you begin feeling signs of depression like feeling lost, tired, helpless.
  12. Burnout Syndrome- Mind and body begin to collapse- it is time to seek help.

Burnout Prevention:

Burnout can be avoided by making small lifestyle changes. If you are feeling like you may be on the road to burnout, try these tips:

  • Take a break- It is okay to distance yourself from your work from time to time and come back to it later. While at work that may be a challenge, it is still good to step away and focus on another less stressful project when possible.
  • Proper Diet and Exercise- eating healthy and exercising help you maintain positive emotions.  The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities each week.  That is equal to about 22 minutes per day.     
  • Ask for help- It is okay to feel overwhelmed and asking for help may be the best solution.
  • Get enough sleep- Sleep is vital to your mental and physical health and can help you stay on the right track.  The CDC recommends that adults sleep at least 7 or more hours per night.
  • Reassess- Look at the positives in your job, your life, and/or individual tasks (even if it is small), this may help to improve your outlook.    

If you feel like you are at any stage of burnout it is okay to ask for help. NorthKey offers services to help you learn and develop coping skills to manage symptoms of burnout.  To make an appointment call 859-331-3292.

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