“I had a general burnout: I got extremely tired; I couldn’t do anything anymore. I cancelled tours; I cancelled everything in my life. For a year and a half, I was completely sick; I couldn’t do anything.”— Floor Jansen, Dutch singer, and songwriter
What exactly is burnout?
Burnout can present in various ways (which we will explore shortly), however, the consensus among health professionals is that general burnout is a state of complete mental, physical, psychological, and emotional exhaustion. It was Herbert Freudenberg, an American psychologist, who coined the term “burnout” in the 1970s to describe the ramifications of severe stress and total exhaustion. Since then, burnout has become more understood by the health profession and the term has seeped into the collective consciousness in the West (especially in the UK and US).
The British Psychological Society writes on burnout: “Burnout is not like simple, transient stress. It is a complex, debilitating disorder that results from chronic exposure to occupational overload and it degrades and impairs just about every aspect of normal human functioning. Evidence, for example, suggests that repeated exposure to high levels of stress over time can fundamentally alter the body’s capacity for responding to stressful situations.”
The high incidence of burnout among health professionals (social workers, doctors, nurses, frontline care workers) has been well documented of late, but it is increasingly apparent that individuals carrying the burden of immense responsibility and having to make decisions that will impact the lives of others are also reporting and seeking help for burnout. The hyper successful and those falling into the category of elite executives are often on the brink of complete exhaustion. Just this year, a celebrated statesperson who was catapulted on to the world stage during the Covid-19 pandemic, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Arden, found the immense scrutiny and pressure she had been under for such a sustained period intolerable. She resigned at forty-two years of age (an age when most MPs are still learning the ropes of legislating effectively) citing burnout as the cause, and that six challenging years on the job had finally taken its toll.
At Addcounsel, we have identified and treated different types of burnout:
Occupational Burnout: This is the most widely recognised form of burnout and is primarily associated with work-related stressors. It can occur in any occupation or profession and is characterised by emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, or cynicism, and reduced personal accomplishment. Occupational burnout is often described as work-related stress among medical doctors in England, especially when writing fit notes. Ultra-high-net-worth individuals and hyper successful people are particularly prone to occupational burnout because of the immense responsibility, tough decision-making crucial for successful outcomes, and chronic stress associated with building and/or sustaining a large and complex portfolio.
Academic Burnout: This refers to student and academic burnout caused by the demands and pressures of the educational environment. Emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion, decreased motivation, dwindling interest, and a drop in academic achievement are all symptoms of academic burnout.
Caregiver Burnout: Caregiver burnout is associated with individuals who provide care for chronically ill or dependent individuals, such as family members caring for elderly relatives or healthcare professionals. It can lead to physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, a frequent sense of overwhelm, feelings of isolation and hopelessness, and a reduced ability to provide care effectively.
Parental Burnout: Parental burnout is specific to parents and is characterised by feelings of exhaustion, emotional detachment from one’s children, a sense of being overwhelmed by the demands of parenting and an inability to cope.
Autistic Burnout: Autistic burnout refers to a type of burnout regularly described by people on the autistic spectrum. It is characterised by extreme tiredness, overwhelm, and a deterioration in cognitive and emotional function as a result of extended exposure to environmental, sensory, and social stressors. National Autistic Society has listed several causes for autistic burnout:
- “Masking their autistic traits, for example by suppressing autistic behaviours, pretending to be non-autistic, or working very hard to act in a non-autistic way.
- Difficult or unreachable expectations from family, school, work, or society in general.
- Stress from living in a world not set up to accommodate autistic people, for example managing the stress of having to be in noisy environments.
- Life-changes and transitions that are stressful for anyone, for example transitioning from school to work, experiencing a mental health crisis, or the death of someone close.”
Implications of burnout for hyper successful people
Burnout often comes at a high human cost. The consequences of complete exhaustion and severe stress will range from health conditions such as inflammation, heart disease and autoimmune disorders, to depression, anxiety disorders and often the misuse of mood-altering substances such as alcohol or drugs in order to cope.
Although the underlying causes for occupational burnout and mental health conditions are remarkably similar regardless of socio-economic status, treating mental health disorders when someone has a public profile brings with it an additional layer of complexity. For example, an ultra-high-net-worth individual with a prominent public profile might require security, and won’t be able to entirely switch off from work if they’re contracted to make decisions which impact pension funds, share prices, and others’ jobs. The scrutiny into the decision-making of hyper successful people, the criticism and public shaming or intrusion into their private lives will likely still occur even when they’re in treatment for a mental health condition. It is often the case where even at the point of an individual checking into a clinic for treatment, the needs of the shareholders and employees will still be uppermost in that person’s thinking and in the expectations of the afore-mentioned, particularly when it comes to crisis management.
All these factors need to be taken into careful consideration when planning an effective recovery plan. At Addcounsel, we have a wealth of experience of such scenarios and completely understand external pressures which need to be accommodated when a hyper successful individual seeks help for burn-out. Often, the hardest thing to do is to take the foot off the gas pedal and ask for professional help.
The National Centre for Biotechnology Information (USA) writes: “A stressful lifestyle can put people under extreme pressure, to the point that they feel exhausted, empty, burned out, and unable to cope. Stress at work can also cause physical and mental symptoms. Possible causes include feeling either permanently overworked or under-challenged, being under time pressure, or having conflicts with colleagues. Extreme commitment that results in people neglecting their own needs may also be at the root of it. Problems caused by stress at work are a common reason for taking sick leave.”
What are the symptoms of occupational burnout?
Addcounsel’s team of world-class experts have identified the following symptoms of burnout among our hyper successful clients:
- Headaches and migraine
- Short-term memory loss/attention deficit
- Compassion fatigue
- Stomach pain/intestinal issues
- A sense of helplessness and cynicism
- Low self-esteem and decreased satisfaction
- Feeling detached and disconnected from people
- A lack of motivation
- Chronic procrastination
- Frequent illness
- Changes in appetite
- Insomnia or sleeping for too long
- Reduced performance in everyday tasks
- Withdrawal from family and social gatherings
- Emotional outbursts, mood swings, and meltdowns
The aforementioned National Library of Medicine (USA) writes on the symptoms of work-related/occupational burnout: “All definitions of burnout given so far share the idea that the symptoms are thought to be caused by work-related or other kinds of stress. One example of a source of stress outside of work is caring for a family member. There are three main areas of symptoms that are considered to be signs of burnout.
Exhaustion: People affected feel drained and emotionally exhausted, unable to cope, tired and down, and don’t have enough energy. Physical symptoms include things like pain and gastrointestinal (stomach or bowel) problems.
Alienation from (work-related) activities: People who have burnout find their jobs increasingly stressful and frustrating. They may start being cynical about their working conditions and their colleagues. At the same time, they may increasingly distance themselves emotionally, and start feeling numb about their work.
Reduced performance: Burnout mainly affects everyday tasks at work, at home or when caring for family members. People with burnout are very negative about their tasks, find it hard to concentrate, are listless and lack creativity.”
Contact us today
When you check in to our private and discreet clinics, you’ll be embarking upon a personalised burnout treatment programme tailored to your individual needs. We offer luxury private accommodation for the duration of your stay, with 24/7 access to a team of world-class experts headed by one of the UK’s leading psychiatrists.
Our integrative team is made up of a group of dedicated psychologists, physiatrists, therapists, and nutritionists who are all here to help you on your journey to burnout recovery. We combine our team’s expertise to provide a multidisciplinary treatment approach, fusing therapy, medication, and alternative treatment to improve both your physical and mental health.
Our experts will assess any factors that might have caused your burnout to develop and will leverage the world’s most extensive menu of burnout treatment services to help you get back to your old self, and create a robust aftercare programme to support re-integration into your family and lifestyle. Recovery treatment takes place in a luxury intimate, one-to-one setting in London—no groups, no other patients. Your comfort, safety and privacy are our priority.
Contact us today to start your recovery journey from the comfort and anonymity of our discreet, luxury rehabilitation accommodations in Mayfair, Chelsea, Knightsbridge or Notting Hill, London.