Basic Definition of Burnout

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basic definition of burnout

Basic Definition of Burnout

Since the mid 1970’s the phrase “burn out” has become somewhat of a “buzz word” for a variety of issues.  Depending on whom you talk to “burnout” can be defined as a problem dealing with drug, alcohol abuse or the poor structure of an organization that leads to a decline in productivity.

What exactly does the word “burnout” mean?  Many definitions are vague and blurry.  This phrase can be explained in many ways.  Here are a few ways to define burnout:

  • A loss of will
  • Unable to stimulate one’s personal forces to move forward
  • An active emotion of anxiety that produces a mood of depression
  • A useful technique to reduce stress levels (this implies that burnout can be positive.)
  • Environmentally produced anxiety
  • Stress caused by despair
  • Stress at work
  • Apathy created by exhaustion

Idealistic Extremes

What creates burnout?  This question is one that has been debated for several decades.  One of the areas that seem to cause burnout for many individuals can be defined as “extreme idealism.”   Although there is nothing wrong with having an intense hope and vision for your job, volunteer work or “calling” there certainly is a danger in expecting far too much.

There have often been those who take on a task or job with such zeal, anticipation, energy, hope and enthusiasm that soon into the task this over-exertion will deplete them personally.

The practice of pacing oneself is absolutely essential to avoid burnout.

Individual Factors

For those who suffer from “burnout” there are some studies that show unique characteristics in these individuals.  Burnout prone individuals are:

  • Empathic
  • Sensitive
  • Humane
  • Dedicated
  • Idealistic
  • People focused
  • Anxious
  • Introverted
  • Obsessional
  • Overenthusiastic

Here are a few more basic definitions of burnout:

  • A negative state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that is the end result of a gradual process of disillusionment.
  • It is typically found among highly motivated individuals who work over long periods of time in situations that emotionally demanding.
  • Burnout is a latent process of psychological erosion resulting from prolonged exposure to job stress.
  • Burnout is a process that begins with excessive and prolonged levels of job-tension.
  • Burnout is complete when the workers defensively cope with the job stress by psychologically detaching themselves from the job and become apathetic, cynical and rigid.

How are your dealing with the issue of burnout?


Dale Roach


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