Know Your Stress: Different Types of Burnout

When we speak about burnout, we’re usually talking about occupational burnout. It’s discussed in relation to someone’s career and becoming burnt out in their professional life. We typically see this in Americans whose lives revolve around working for a living. So what about other types of burnout? There are actually three other types of burnouts that specifically affect the chronic illness community. These three are Chronic illness/Medical Burnout, Autistic Burnout, and Caregiver Burnout.

Before we go into the specifics, it’s important to understand the difference between feeling burnt out and feeling depressed. 

BURNOUT VS DEPRESSION

Burnout is the exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.

Depression – Depression is defined by feelings of sadness, loss of interest in daily life, and   hopelessness; some depressed people also feel angry and irritable. These feelings can be   pervasive throughout all areas of life. If you are feeling these thoughts please seek a medical professional. 

While burnout is not a medically diagnosable condition, depression is. Burnout can sometimes mask depression so it is important to talk to someone professionally. 

TYPES OF BURNOUT

Occupational Burnout 

According to MayoClinic, Occupational Burnout is a state of emotional and physical exhaustion that leaves a person unable to cope with their demands in their professional life.

Causes

  • Excessive and prolonged stress
  • Doing work that is unchallenging 
  • Feeling like you don’t have control over your work
  • Taking on too much responsibilities
  • Lack of supportive work relationships

Symptoms

  • Exhaustion/Fatigue
  • Cynicism or the detachment and depersonalization from work
  • Feeling like everyday is a bad workday
  • Feeling like tasks are a waste of energy
  • Frequent illness
  • Sense of Failure or self doubt
  • Lack/Loss of motivation
  • Feeling of helplessness
  • Quick to Anger
  • Withdrawing from responsibilities
  • Skipping work or coming coming late or leaving early
  • Isolating yourself
  • Procrastinating 

Strategies 

  • Take a vacation
  • Find a way to make work fun and interesting
  • Exercise/Going for walks
  • Healthy Diet
  • Take a break from alcohol and caffeine 
  • Take advantage of FMLA
  • Find someone to talk to friends, coworkers or family
  • Meditation
  • Humor

Chronic Illness / Medical

A state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by dealing with Chronic illness and medical issues. This type of burnout can be extremely dangerous because if the person gives up or stops fighting, then their life can be in jeopardy. Texas Children’s Hospital speaks about this in their psychological complications of living with a chronic illness on their website. 

Symptoms

  • Feeling of helplessness 
  • Exhaustion/Fatigue
  • Detachment and Depersonalization
  • Isolation
  • Procrastinating especially when it comes to making important appointments
  • Missing or not making appointments
  • Lack/loss of motivation in treatment or care plan
  • Cynicism towards doctors and medical professionals

Causes

  • Gaslighting by doctors and medical professionals
  • Explaining disability or condition to those who question it’s validity 
  • Constantly advocating to get care
  • Spending hours on the phone trying to get appointments and referrals
  • Medical PTSD
  • Depression

Strategies

  • Talking to someone you trust
  • Therapy
  • Asking for help with care
  • Finding an online community
  • Try to make one appointment at a time (if possible)

Autistic 

According to AWN Network, Autistic Burnout, is an intense physical, mental or emotional exhaustion.  Autistic burnout is also often accompanied by a loss of skill or regression. Autistic burnout is due to an accumulation of years of trying to appear normal and navigate a world designed for neurotypical people.

Symptoms

  • Easier to reach Meltdowns or overloads
  • Loss of executive functioning
  • Seeming “more autistic”
  • Digestive issues or other illness
  • Difficulty with self care
  • Inability to mask or use appropriate social skills

Causes

  • Prolong masking or mimicking neurotypical behavior. Such as using scripts for small talk, forcing eye contact, and suppressing stims
  • Sensory or emotional overstimulation
  • Executive function demands
  • Stress associated with change
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Illness

Strategies 

  • Recovery day from social events
  • Asking for accommodations (This can be in the workplace or in other areas of life)
  • Finding time to stim freely
  • Taking time for themselves and finding ways to unmask
  • Routines
  • Finding time to enjoy special interests and passions
  • Setting boundaries

Caregiver

According to ClevelandClinic Caregiver Burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. It may be accompanied by a change in attitude, from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned. 

Causes 

  • Can occur when the caregiver doesn’t get adequate help or do more than they are able to physically or financially 
  • Role confusion
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of control
  • Unreasonable demands

Symptoms

  • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Illness
  • Feelings of irritabilities, hopelessness, and helplessness
  • Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring for

Strategies

  • Accept help
  • Seek social support
  • Join a support group
  • Set personal health goals
  • Focus on what you are able to provide as a caregiver. You are not perfect and that’s okay
  • Set realistic goals

Burnouts can be serious. The strategies to help prevent them and manage are only useful once you recognize you are suffering. Make sure to take time for yourself and practice self care. 

Sources:


Amelia Blackwater

Amelia Blackwater is a 32-year-old chronic illness and mental health writer and poet. She finds therapy in writing about her experiences as an Autistic living with a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) called Transposition of the Great Arteries. Amelia is passionate about advocating for mental health for the chronic illness and disability community and writes for several advocacy communities. She lives in Southern California with her husband, parents and two black cats.

You can find her on Instagram / Tiktok / Facebook


From the Editor:

Have you ever suffered from one of these types of burnouts? Let’s get a conversation started over in the Patients Rising Facebook Group .

We’ve discussed stress conditions before:
Living With Migraine and Healthcare Anxiety – by Taylor Bohn
Who Cares of the Alzheimer’s Caregiver? – by Patients Rising

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