Burnout affects everyone differently, but there are some common features that most people experience, although in varying degrees. Whilst burnout can have profound effects on us physically, our mental state also suffers a lot.
Below are some of the more common ways that our mental health is affected by burnout, although this will vary by each individual.
Frustration and Anger
Particularly if you are feeling a lack of control in your life, frustration, bitterness, and later anger, can all make an appearance. This can manifest itself in different ways, and it is likely that close family, friends, and work colleagues are the ones that get the brunt of your frustration. This can ultimately lead to outbursts of anger, and occasionally, there may be a risk of violence.
Someone experiencing burnout can become increasingly irritable and therefore hard to live with. The spouse/partner/family member may feel as if they are ‘walking on eggshells’ around the house because the irritability is a major barrier to any kind of social interaction; even simple conversations can become a challenge. You might find yourself becoming annoyed at even the smallest things, or not even sure why you are irritable and annoyed.
Burnout and depression occur together relatively frequently. The stress that leads to burn out can also cause feelings of intense sadness, hopelessness, and possibly guilt and self-blame. This all contributes to lowering your mood, and often depression sets in. This is particularly prevalent when there is a feeling of a lack of control about the situation, and even if you are experiencing burnout, you may feel like you are unable to change the situation significantly.
Inability to Concentrate or Pay Attention
As burnout progresses, it becomes harder and harder to concentrate on anything, particularly anything that is not work related. Even when not at work, or whatever the cause of stress is, it can consume every waking moment. It becomes hard to think about anything else or concentrate on anything.
Activities that were once enjoyable are no longer such, and hobbies can be forgotten about. It becomes hard to pay attention to anything; when this includes being unable to maintain a conversation with your spouse it can cause friction within the relationship, only adding to the negative feelings already being experienced.
Lack of Enthusiasm and Motivation
As the depression, fatigue and lack of concentration set in, it is common to find yourself lacking enthusiasm or motivation, even for activities you previously enjoyed. It can be hard to find the energy to get up and engage in hobbies or social events, with many people preferring to stay at home. This can extend to ambivalence in situations such as being with family, and struggling to engage in basic day-to-day activities.
Inability to Make Decisions
Burnout has a range of symptoms, and when combined, can lead to you not being able to make any kind of decisions. Even simple day-to-day ones can seem insurmountable, and you may not be able to think through the various aspects of making a particular decision.
This can be as minor as working out the shopping list for the supermarket. As your brain is consumed with burnout and is essentially running on empty, even basic tasks like this become a challenge.
This often increases feelings of depression, and self-blame: you used to be able to do this all the time so why not now?
You may realize that practically you are only capable of so much at any one time. However, this does not stop you feeling guilty for not being able complete such basic tasks.