Burnout is real: Signs of chronic workplace stress

Burnout is real: Signs of chronic workplace stress

Reviewed by:
Tracey Griffin, LMHC
Staff Licensed Mental Health Counselor
at Talkiatry
June 28, 2019

A telephone survey conducted by Harris Interactive showed that 82 percent of American workers experience stress at work. More than 35 percent also think that their jobs harm their physical or emotional health.

While it is normal to feel stressed from work, some individuals experience worse effects from the pressure of their job to the point that it affects their physical and mental well-being. This characterizes a condition popularly known as Burnout.

What is burnout?

Burnout was previously defined as a state of vital exhaustion. This earlier definition placed the condition in the gray area where a person may not be necessarily sick, but is incapable of doing work.

This changed in May 2019 when the World Health Organization announced that it now recognizes Burnout as a more serious set of symptoms. The 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) reflects this update. Medical providers use this handbook in diagnosing diseases.

Burnout occurs as a result of poorly managed workplace stress that becomes a chronic condition. WHO did not classify it as a medical condition, but as an occupational phenomenon. The term should not be used to describe experiences in other areas of life as it is a work-related syndrome.

Work-related stress versus burnout

Not everyone who experiences workplace-related stress suffers from Burnout. Burnout syndrome is more than stress alone. What makes stress and Burnout different is that you can moderate stress by coping. Burnout occurs after unsuccessful attempts to cope with job-related stress over time.

You can be diagnosed with Burnout if you experience feelings of exhaustion or energy depletion, negativism towards work, and reduced professional efficacy. Before a diagnosis, however, a mental health professional needs to first rule out adjustment disorder, anxiety and mood disorders.

Tell-tale signs of burnout

Health experts can best recognize specific symptoms of Burnout. However, there are potential indicators that could hint an individual suffers from Burnout.


Do you have morning anxiety? You may have Burnout if you always feel anxious when you wake up or while commuting to work. This could manifest as having a feeling of tightness in the stomaching, or waking up not motivated to go to work.


The quality of your sleep can also give you a gauge of your emotional health. A sign of this would be if you persistently find it difficult to sleep or you wake up in the middle of the night worrying about job-related concerns.

Attitude towards work

Another sign may be finding yourself exhausted from work. Previously exciting tasks may no longer be pleasurable. You may also have trouble concentrating and lose the confidence that you can meet the demands of your job. Negative emotions may likewise arise when you think about your job.


How you view your work and yourself as a professional can affect your relationships. When you lose interest in your job, you may also start treating your colleagues and clients with cynicism and indifference.

Physical symptoms

Consistently depleting the mind and body can weaken the immune system. This depletion can allow Burnout to manifest itself physically. This makes you more vulnerable to illnesses such as cold and flu. You may also experience heart palpitations, chest pain, gastrointestinal issues and headaches. Appetite loss may also occur as a result of exhaustion and this can cause weight loss.

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Who is most at risk?

Several factors can influence a person’s odds of experiencing job-related exhaustion, but some individuals face greater risk. You are more likely to experience Burnout if:

  • You have a monotonous job
  • There is an imbalance between your work life and personal life
  • Those with a highly demanding job that requires overtime work
  • You do not have the ability to control or influence the decisions affecting your job
  • You feel isolated or have poor relationships at the workplace

Certain professions also have a high Burnout rate. Doctors are particularly at risk of chronic workplace stress. Their Burnout rate is significantly higher than the average American worker. A study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in February 2017 showed that about 44 percent of physicians in the United States have at least one symptom of Burnout.

Other emergency service workers such as nurses, police officers and paramedics also have greater risk because of their high-stress work conditions. Workers who deal with people, including prison officers, care workers and teachers, are also prone to Burnout.

How to address burnout

There are many steps you can take yourself to try and address Burnout before it becomes a bigger issue, some of these steps are:

  • Evaluate your options: discuss concerns with your supervisor and try to reach a compromise, solution, or goal for what must get done and what can wait
  • Seek support: Take advantage of any employee assistance programs that your workplace may offer as well as reach out to co-workers or friends and family that may help you cope
  • Try a relaxing activity: though you may have specific activities that help you to relax, some activities to try would be yoga or meditation
  • Be mindful: being mindful means being aware of what you are sensing or feeling at every moment without interpretation or judgement

Consequences of unaddressed job burnout

Unaddressed workplace Burnout may result in insomnia, unhealthy emotions such as anger or sadness, fatigue, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

At Talkiatry, our providers are available for consultations on a wide variety of mental health symptoms. Our providers can determine if treatment is recommended and what options are appropriate for you.

About Talkiatry

Talkiatry is a national psychiatry practice that provides in-network, virtual care. Co-founded by a patient and a triple-board-certified psychiatrist, Talkiatry has over 300 doctors, 60 insurance partners, and first visits available in days. We treat patients with anxiety, depression, trauma, ADHD, and more. Get started with a short online assessment.

Talkiatry is a mental health practice, and our clinicians review everything we write. However, articles are never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may need mental health help, talk to a psychiatrist. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

Tracey Griffin is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who is dedicated to helping people align with their most authentic selves over the last 11 years. This includes addressing the struggles of mental health in an open, empathetic, and non-judgmental, therapeutic relationship. She is dedicated to establishing a collaborative working relationship with individuals to help achieve their goals while living a fulfilled and balanced life. Tracey received her Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling from Pace University following her Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology from the same institution. She has been trained in performing biopsychosocial assessments and is also a Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor.

Tracey’s treatment approach is person-centered in conjunction with evidence-based practices such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and motivational interviewing while remaining culturally sensitive and inclusive. She is well versed in harm reduction as well as abstinence-based approaches to addiction treatment and roots her practice to focus on treating the whole self which can include exploration of spirituality and purpose. Tracey has experience working with individuals who experience co-occurring disorders, anxiety, depression, codependency, addiction, personality disorders, LGBTQ, men’s issues, and trauma.

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