What is a burnout?

A burnout, loosely translated as being burned out, is relatively common and has long since lost the fashion sense of letting things go for a while. Research from 2013 showed that it is proportionately more common among poorly educated young people. It should not be confused with being depressed or stressed, but they are close. What exactly is it and what can you do about it?

What is it?

The literal translation of burnout is being burned out and that gives a very concrete indication of how someone feels. There is no energy for work, neither for the working environment nor for the private environment. Yet it is usually related to the working environment where someone can no longer function and the feeling in the private sphere can be a consequence. No energy, no motivation, not wanting to see colleagues, etc. In total, it comes down to three things that together form the burnout and where the first two are dominant, namely:

  • Exhaustion, this can feel like this both physically and mentally.
  • Cynical attitude, adopting a defensive attitude towards work and colleagues.
  • Personally less competent, often declining self-confidence and not thinking that they are able to do the job well.


Burnout or depressed?

Burnout is sometimes compared to being overwrought or depressed. On the one hand, this is being combated, because the cause usually lies on a completely different level and therefore the treatment must be different. On the other hand, science is also evolving and more and more scientists are finding that burnout, stress and depression are relatively close together and that the treatments are therefore not that much apart.
It goes without saying that treating the symptoms is different from tackling the cause. The source must be traced and addressed in order to ultimately resolve the consequences.

How do you get it?

Burnout in the most traditional sense of the word is related to work. There may be many causes behind this. Some examples, which you sometimes see combined in the workplace:

  • Stress due to prolonged reorganizations, including the long period of uncertainty about job retention and content and the professional future in general.
  • Persistent negative atmosphere, such as someone who is expelled from the group and still tries to continue functioning or negativity about the employer that is continuously felt in the workplace.
  • Strong discouragement policy, the employer does not see the value of his/her employees or the employer wants to get rid of people in a cheap way, pulling the employee into a negative spiral.
  • Extremely high workload, which involves a longer period of time, during which the man/woman must continuously function at the peak of their abilities.


Who gets it?

People who have a perfectionist streak in particular are more susceptible to burnout. The chance that someone wants to do something better at all costs (after all, when is it good) and that it will be disappointing is a lot greater for the perfectionist. The negative spiral then quickly started.
There is no scientific line to be drawn when it comes to certain professional groups. What does play a role, in addition to the perfectionist streak, is the chance of an ideal image being undermined. There are more idealists in certain professional groups than in others. Just think about healthcare.
Furthermore, it is indicated that in general the pressure is increasing in what has to be done. Work hard and earn a lot of money, a rich social life, exercise to keep your body toned and combine this with a healthy lifestyle. Then there is not enough time left to relax and the balance disappears. If this lasts longer, the scientists say, there is a greater chance of experiencing a burnout.

Young people

Although you would sooner think of it in older employees, it is the young people, especially the less educated, who are more likely to burn out. Researcher Irene Houtman states that it is mainly the result of the labor market that is becoming increasingly flexible and people have to continuously show what they can do. We are talking about one in six young people within the target group.

How do you solve it?

First of all, the cause must of course be identified and if you cannot resolve this yourself, a series of conversations with a psychotherapist can help. There are often several factors that play a role and to solve it, all aspects must be discussed. The aim is to allow people to participate in the normal working process as much as possible.
For many people, these kinds of moments are often a kind of eye-opener to do what really makes them happy, where the passion lies. Sometimes he blames himself for why it took so long for the shells to fall off his eyes. This shows that sometimes something serious has to happen to take someone out of the safe, familiar world.


Letting someone sit at home for a while and just giving them medication is no longer the current solution. But it all depends on the recognition and acknowledgment by the person with the burnout. Only then can recovery and a renewed future begin.

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