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Burnout Treatment: From Synonyms to Symptoms—What Are the Signs of Burnout?

“Self-care is your fuel…Whatever the road ahead or the path you’ve taken, self-care is what keeps your motor running and your wheels turning.”

Melissa Steginus

Burnout persists in 2024

Burnout is still having a major impact on individuals from all walks of life, from social care workers to executives, entertainers, and elite athletes. Medical doctors and clinicians are certainly not immune from this syndrome, with many finding themselves suffering with the very same symptoms of exhaustion, depletion, and numbness that they’ve been observing and diagnosing in their patients for decades. For clinicians working on the frontline of healthcare and in the mental health and addiction sector, the risk of burnout at some point in their career is high. The toxic combination of highly stressful and emotionally charged encounters with patients (and oftentimes with colleagues), persistent staff shortages and long hours drives clinicians and those working on the frontline in the health care sector into a highly adrenalized state which will, over time, lead to burnout. An increasing number of publications on the subject of burnout in the UK are stating that health and social work professionals are ranked the highest for burnout/severe exhaustion, anxiety, and depression.

Alarmingly, the British Medical Association revealed that in 2022, 30 percent of junior doctors reported experiencing burnout to a high/very high degree due to their increasing workload. In recent years in America, a Medscape 2021 survey found that up to 42% of physicians have demonstrated symptoms of burnout. WHO recognises burnout as a medical condition; it has been classified as a syndrome conceptualised in workplace stress. International Classification for Diseases (ICD-11) clearly states that: “Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions:

1) Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.

2) Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job.

3) A sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

In the last eight months, the American actor and producer, Sandra Bullock has spoken openly about suffering from burnout and needing to take time out from her work to recover and reassess her lifestyle. She told Hollywood reporter: “I don’t want to be beholden to anyone’s schedule other than my own. I’m so burnt out. I’m so tired, and I’m so not capable of making healthy, smart decisions and I know it.” Many gifted artists in entertainment have recently reset their lifestyles and reviewed what led them to burn out in their careers, from Lady Gaga to popular British fitness presenter, Joe Wicks. One of the common threads among them is habitually saying yes to opportunities to stay ‘relevant’, and more importantly, continue to practice their art in a highly competitive field. While enthusiasm has its own momentum, without sufficient respite and time to allow the body to recover from bursts of stressful, albeit enjoyable work, burnout is always a possibility.

Executive and leader burnout is also on the rise, with extremely high demands placed upon those overlooking large and/or profitable companies. CEOs, executives, and upper management in many sectors are reporting burnout, and it’s becoming increasingly common for such individuals to exit their positions and start afresh. Years of dealing with disgruntled or dissatisfied shareholders, navigating the constant hyper changes in trends and markets, dealing with unhappy and sometimes hostile management, and planning for the future of a company, can take its toll on a leader. Even a savvy CEO with a towering reputation knows that unless they perform every quarter, their position is in danger of being undermined. That kind of pressure alone causes immense stress which for some, can culminate in complete exhaustion. As recently as last year, the highly regarded former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, had to exit the world stage in her early forties because of burnout, mostly caused by her time in office throughout the period of the Covid-19 pandemic. She said: “I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple. We need a fresh set of shoulders for that challenge.”

According to Mental Health UK The Burnout Report (January 2024): “The working arena has changed, but it appears the tactics to support colleagues haven’t changed dramatically. Our research found that nearly half of workers (49%) said their employer doesn’t have a plan to spot the signs of chronic stress and prevent burnout in the workplace, while just 29% of people knew what plans their employers had in place. Meanwhile, a staggering one in four (24%) told us they felt ‘unable to manage stress and pressure in the workplace’, with one in five working adults (20%) needing to take time off work due to poor mental health caused by pressure or stress in the past year.”

 The symptoms of burnout

For many hardworking individuals, learning they have burnout often doesn’t happen until they’ve crashed hard. The difficulty is that some of the symptoms of burnout can be overlooked or ignored. Those running on adrenaline are in a survival flight mode state which has its own momentum. This survival state can carry an individual through all manner of stressful events on any given day over a sustained period, thereby giving the false impression that they can and must go on. But a crash will inevitably occur, if they fail to recognise that they’ve been operating in survival mode and take swift action. It can take someone up to a year, often eighteen months to fully recover from years of working in a highly stressful environment/field.

Let’s explore the symptoms of burnout:

  • Inability to carry out important objectives and duties in the workplace and/or at home 
  • Feeling exhausted to such a degree that even more mundane tasks (such as responding to emails or simply taking a shower) become a challenge
  • Deep feelings of cynicism and resentment towards clients/patients, colleagues, shareholders, the organisation, and eventually the sector one works in. This can start with more complaints that usual, leading to scepticism and cynicism
  • Mood swings. Feeling enraged over the slightest irritation which once upon a time would have seemed trivial
  • Isolating or withdrawing from colleagues/business associates in the workplace and a spouse/partner, family, friends at home
  • It can and often does escalate into deep depression (some may require medication at this stage, depending on the advice of a medical doctor)
  • Low sex drive. In some cases, ceasing sexual activity altogether
  • Suicidal ideation and feelings of hopelessness and/or powerlessness over one’s circumstances
  • High blood pressure
  • Very low self-esteem and self-worth. Constantly doubting oneself and lacking self-belief
  • Gastrointestinal problems (pain in the gut, for example)
  • Sleep issues and insomnia often leading to chronic fatigue
  • Increased alcohol consumption or use of recreational drugs
  • Lack of appetite and/or turning to comfort eating
  • Regular headaches and migraines
  • A sense of apathy, dissatisfaction or sometimes, despair

As always, prevention is better than a cure. While an increasing number of people, many of whom are high-net-worth or ultra-high-net-worth individuals, may have seen themselves as leading a healthy life-style, they were in fact close to or, in danger of, burnout. They may have tried their very best to get sufficient sleep, discuss their concerns with a therapist/psychologist, eat healthily and take regular vacations, and yet burnout ensued.  Some have reported that even after a two or three-week vacation from a highly stressful position, within a week of returning, all the symptoms of burnout flared up again, frequently appearing to be worse. At that stage, it’s very likely that burnout had already occurred, and a luxury holiday only masked the underlying syndrome. Sometimes, one of the many strategies for recognising and recovering from burnout is to leave the working environment which is the main cause of the problem. It really depends on individual circumstance and careful consideration.

Contact us today to start your burnout treatment

At Addcounsel, we understand the impact that burnout can have on your day-to-day life, particularly your career. You may be finding it impossible to fully focus on work, lack interest in your career objectives, and/or feel exhausted and depleted of energy. We understand the impact that burnout can have on every facet of your life. Without rehabilitation and treatment by trained professionals, burnout can result in serious consequences both for you, and for the people who love and depend on you.

You don’t have to go through this alone. With the right treatment and support, you can go on to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Our private clinic takes an integrative and ‘whole person’ approach to treatment, focusing on the symptoms, triggers, and causes of your burnout. We’ll set you up with a bespoke and private burnout treatment plan designed to help you get back on track and ready to take on the world with renewed vigour and enthusiasm.

Our dedicated team will help and guide you through the entire process in the comfort and anonymity of our luxury, private burnout treatment accommodation in Mayfair, Chelsea, Knightsbridge or Notting Hill, London.

Contact us today to start your recovery journey.

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