The silent threat

Burnout is one of the greatest health risks linked to stress. It is generally understood to be a state of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion which progresses over a longer period. There are numerous theories about how burnout develops and how the process takes place. Even though the situation varies from person to person, many undergo several stages as they approach burnout: enthusiasm, stagnation, frustration, apathy, burnout.

From enthusiasm to burnout

Burnout frequently originates from a phase of intense professional enthusiasm or overinvolvement and an attempt to fulfil unrealistic personal or external expectations. You lose sight of when enough is enough. At first, the response to a failure is to try again harder. However, if there is neither success nor a response that is appropriate to the efforts you have invested, a sense of stagnation sets in. When you start to feel that your attempts are pointless, frustration occurs.

Psychosomatic symptoms can occur such as fatigue and exhaustion, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, backaches or digestive problems. These symptoms have an effect on the ability to perform and the hopes that things will change or improve. The feeling of losing control and inner emptiness lead many people to a sense of apathy. You withdraw more and more; you do not have the energy or ability to take on new goals, and managing tasks takes great effort.

Feeling powerless about your circumstances and experiencing severe mental, physical and emotional complaints ultimately lead to a sense of running on empty - in other words, burnout, which requires intervention.

Putting on the brakes during life's "rush hour"

Burnout syndrome is especially common amongst people between the ages of 30 and 50 - the "rush hour" of life. The reason is that in this phase, we often experience multiple stressors simultaneously, such as professional challenges, starting a family, buying a home and financing a mortgage or perhaps worrying about ageing parents.

When it comes to dealing with the consequences of these pressures, professionals often make a distinction between burnout and depression. Some researchers see burnout as a transitional phase: they believe it occurs between the aforementioned mental, emotional and physical exhaustion and the disorders which result from it, such as depression or anxiety. Regardless of how burnout is defined, many patients do not consult a physician until it has already caused secondary diseases .