Burnout is an extremely challenging experience. For those that go through it, it can become difficult to navigate daily responsibilities and life in a healthy and effective way. While burnout is not recognized as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it is closely tied to mental health. The symptoms of some mental health conditions can be attributed to burnout one might be experiencing.

What is Burnout?

According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout is “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”

It is often tied to increased levels of responsibility at work or throughout one’s life that starts to feel like too much to handle.

The Difference Between Physical and Emotional Burnout

Burnout can be categorized into two main types or categories, physical and emotional. The two are different in how they present themselves.

  • Physical Burnout- physical burnout has physical ramifications. An individual’s body takes a toll. This could look like increased pain, injuries, lack of sleep, or other physical side effects that are caused by the overuse of one’s body.
  • Emotional Burnout – Emotional burnout has a negative impact on one’s emotional wellbeing. Signs of emotional burnout might include a sense of failure, feelings of being trapped, loss of motivation, increased cynical outlook, feelings of hopelessness, and decreased satisfaction

While different, the two types of burnout often overlap. An individual can experience both emotional and physical burnout simultaneously, which occurs often.

What is the Relationship Between Mental Health and Burnout?

While burnout is not a mental health disorder, it is closely tied to a few. Burnout can be a cause of a mental health disorder, but mental health conditions can also cause burnout. According to a study conducted by the University of Macedonia, burnout has an interconnected relationship with both depression and anxiety. results showed a significant association between burnout and depression (r = 0.520, SE = 0.012, 95% CI = 0.492, 0.547) and burnout and anxiety (r = 0.460, SE = 0.014, 95% CI = 0.421, 0.497).

Those managing mental health conditions may be more likely to experience burnout than someone who does not have a diagnosis.

The Most Common Causes for Burnout:

  1. Work Burnout – For those that have high expectations placed on them by others or by themselves at work that causes them to be stretched too thin in the workplace. This is common for those that work physically demanding jobs or those that are expected to complete large amounts of work outside of their capabilities.
  2. School Burnout – Students can often experience burnout because they have to juggle so many different things while pursuing an education. This is common for students that hold jobs, are active in extracurriculars, or have busy social lives.
  3. Caretaker Burnout – Those that care for someone on top of normal life responsibilities can easily experience burnout due to the emotional weight and physical requirements of that responsibility.
  4. Relationship Burnout – Those with emotionally taxing relationships can experience burnout when they become overwhelmed by the constant demands of maintaining that relationship. This could be a familial relationship, a friendship, a romantic relationship, or any other type.
  5. Mental Health Conditions – As was previously mentioned, those dealing with mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety, might find it challenging to navigate responsibilities. Normal levels of stress can start to become overwhelming and poor emotional health can increase one’s chances of experiencing burnout.

How to Help Clients Navigate Burnout

According to a study in Psychology Research and Behavioral Management, several therapeutic interventions that providers can use to help clients/patients navigate burnout include:

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) – According to the study, MBSR “is a protocolized intervention that teaches mindfulness and stress reduction techniques over approximately 8 weekly sessions.”

Meaning-Centered Therapy (MCP) – In the study, MCP is described as “a protocolized prescriptive, time-limited group or individually based therapy that has proven efficacy for patients experiencing existential distress.”

Burnout can be challenging to navigate, but for patients that seek out the attention of a mental health provider, it can be managed. If you are someone who thinks they may be experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or symptoms of another mental health condition, you should seek out the attention of a mental health provider as soon as possible.