Burned out? Exhausted? Over-tired? Fatigued? Burned out? Up? The above feelings seem to be increasingly common. It seems as if the number of people suffering from burnout just keeps rising. But does this mean that only "weak people" suffer from burnout? And why is burnout on the rise? Didn't people used to have to work and maintain a household? Have we become 'weaker'? Our society today has not become 'weaker' and the occurrence of burnout has nothing to do with 'weak people', quite the contrary. Usually people know that burnout has to do with a feeling that they have done too much. That, after a period of working too hard, there is nothing more they can do. However, many people still do not know what burnout exactly entails. It is certainly useful to read this article if you think you have burnout, because the key to solving burnout lies in understanding burnout.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a mental disorder, in which you are totally burned out. You just can't go on and are often very emotional. You notice that all sorts of things are going on, but most people can only put their finger on the problem after a diagnosis. Burnout often occurs in a work context and often affects people who are perfectionists or very driven. They often set the bar higher for themselves and push themselves to the limit. It can then happen that after a while your mind and body have been pushed too far. If you then experience burnout, you notice that even the smallest task is too much to ask. This is often difficult to accept for people who have the habit of wanting to do more than other people. People often notice that their mind and body become exhausted. However, it is often in their nature to want to go that extra mile, which your body and mind can no longer take. Burnout therefore has a lot to do with the certain habits that someone has. Test if there is a burnout thanks to the free burnout test!

Burnout: preventing burnout?

To give you a better understanding of how and when burnout occurs, we describe how often burnout occurs. In Belgium, several studies have already been conducted into the occurrence of burnout. In 2010, Hansez, Mairiaux, Firket & Braeckman investigated the occurrence of burnout in the active working Belgian population. They obtained the following results:
  • Burnout is equally common in both men and women. There are, however, certain characteristics and/or work factors that seem to occur more often in women than in men.
  • 0.8% of the Belgian population was diagnosed with burnout.
In addition to these figures of occurrence from Belgium, several studies were done in other countries. For example, Santen, Holt, Kemp & Hemphill (2010) examined the prevalence of burnout among medical students. They found that 21-43% of students from the first year to the fourth year of medicine could be diagnosed with burnout. Burnout is thus not only work-related. A high incidence of burnout was also found among doctors and nurses (Grunfeld et al., 200):
  • 53% of physicians were identified with elevated levels of emotional exhaustion
  • 41% of physicians reported experiencing elevated levels of general stress.
Burnout can occur in any culture. However, people do not always know that the symptoms of burnout are linked to a mental problem. In addition, it is often difficult to come out with burnout. If you do not feel understood or have the feeling that you are alone, know that many people worldwide suffer from burnout. You are neither abnormal nor weak.

Burnout: consequences of its high incidence?

If you experience burnout, it can have major consequences for both yourself and your employer. It goes without saying that addressing and resolving burnout takes time and that burnout symptoms can have a strong negative impact. So if you have burnout, you can really suffer from it. For your employer, however, this can also have consequences. For example, someone with burnout costs a lot of money to both the state and the employer and they often have to make new arrangements so that your work is taken over. Burnout has a large, negative impact on our contemporary society (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). In short, burnout can have a major impact on your daily life and functioning. It is therefore useful to seek appropriate treatment for this, so that a new burnout does not have a chance. Test whether you are experiencing burnout symptoms by taking the free burnout test.

How does burnout arise?

There are many different types of causes of burnout. These causes can even differ from person to person. To help you further in your search for the cause of your burnout, we list the most common causes of burnout here.

Inbalance at work

Many people, especially those with high professional levels, identify with their work and company (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). It goes so far that they identify with the success or failure that a company experiences. In the case of failure, this will have a great impact on him/her (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). He/she will be in a state similar to depression. Thus, this identification has far reaching consequences. Burnout is further characterized by inadequate control over one's work, being frustrated and the feeling of having lost one's purpose in life (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). One fails, is tired or used up by making exaggerated demands on energy, strength and resources. The person becomes tired, stubborn, inflexible because change requires extra effort (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). He/she no longer has mental strength to invest in work. This is followed by an attempt to isolate oneself (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). This is often done to avoid stress. Interpersonal relationships with colleagues or customers will suffer (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). Burnout occurs most frequently in the health sector. People who work hard for years or who devote themselves boundlessly to others are more likely to fall prey to burnout. They may suddenly notice that their body is burning up. This may be a sign or symptom of burnout.

Shock events

Traumatic or drastic events can make you feel more stressed or depressed. Think of the death of a loved one, a divorce, ... These events can have a major impact on your functioning. They can completely throw you off track. It is not about objective impact, but about how you perceive the situation. It need not only be drastic events that can cause burnout. Everyday, recurring frustrations can also be a cause. We think here of your neighbors who make a lot of noise, your wife/husband who complains, your colleague who bullies you,.... A sum of these frustrations can also lead to burnout. Even in worse cases, one situation can lead to burnout.


Your personality also plays an important role. This will influence your outlook on situations and the way you deal with them. For example, stress may be a fun challenge for some and the drop in the bucket for others. People with burnout are those who feel very involved. This both at work and in their families. They are very concerned about the failure of one of their members. They are highly motivated to rectify this failure. Therefore, they demand a lot from themselves and set the bar high. As a result, they run the risk of biting off more than they can chew and getting burned out. Furthermore, talking about your feelings, being able to guard your boundaries, asking for help and being optimistic all help against the development of depression. If you have trouble asking for support and don't talk about your feelings, you will quickly feel like you are on your own. While many hands make simple work, you will try harder and harder to get the job done. If you then can't say 'no' to extra work and you look at all this work with reluctance, the sum is quickly made. You get stressed because it is harder and harder to finish the work, so burnout is lurking around the corner. As mentioned earlier, employees identify with their company and the success/failure it experiences. This trait makes these people more susceptible to burnout. This process has to do with the locus of control.

Locus of control

People want to be able to attribute behavior to a particular cause. Based on this trait, we can distinguish two types of people: those with an external locus of control and those with an internal locus of control. People with an external locus of control attribute situations to chance. They have no control over them. For example, the meeting between two people. If there is failure, these people will say that they could not change it. Environmental factors caused the failure. We explain this briefly using an example. You have to collaborate with a colleague to give a presentation. Despite the amount of work this presentation requires, both of you have little time to prepare the presentation. On the day of the presentation, it goes awry. The reason you give for this is that your colleague did not do a good enough job or that your boss gave you too much work so that you could not work on the presentation. In the preceding example we can see that the reasons given for failure are reasons that have nothing to do with you. You cannot change anything about these factors. For this reason, people identify less with failure, resulting in a lesser chance of burnout. However, it should be noted that these people experience more stress, due to the feeling of lack of control (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). People with an internal locus of control would handle the above situation differently. If there is a problem, people with an internal locus of control attribute it to their own failure. They are the reason for failure. To continue on the previous example, people with an internal locus of control would attribute their own incompetence or stupidity as the reason for failure. Thus, the impact of this failure on the person themselves is much greater than on the other person. This increases the likelihood of burnout. However, it should be noted that these people do experience less stress due to the sense of control (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). You can find out how advanced your burnout already is by using the free burnout test.

What types of burnout exist?

We have now described several causes of burnout. Proportionate to the causes, not all people who fall prey to burnout are the same. So there are different types of burnout'ers. They don't all make the same fallacy. Research divides people with burnout into 3 types based on cause. The first type is called thecommitted worker (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). This one works too much. This burnout'er cannot say "no" when asked for something. Even when they are up to their ears in work, they do not want to turn others away and keep adding work. This burnout person goes beyond his/her limits and gradually becomes burnt out or burnout. The second type is the 'too involved' worker (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). This type devotes himself so hard to his work that he finds life outside his job insufficient. The person with this type of burnout, wants to make everyone happy. They are loyal to the upbringing of previous generations and thus say "yes" to everything. At some point, that person notices that he/she can no longer keep all the promises. Then things often go from bad to worse. The third type is the authoritarian worker (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). This type believes that no one else can do his/her job or no one can do it as well as he/she can (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). This type is also called the perfectionist burnout'er. This burnout'er has been taught that you must always do things right. Taken care of down to the last detail. He/she often learned not to apply this only in some specific environments. In one situation this can be valuable, but there are many situations in life where perfectionism keeps us from living and working happily. We figuratively burn out because we're taking on too much. We constantly see how we could have done even better. Do you want to know which burnout symptoms you are dealing with? Then do the free burnout test here.

What is the difference between depression and stress?

According to the DSM-IV, an American diagnostic tool, burnout is not considered a separate disease. It is closest to the definition of depression. But generally speaking, psychiatrists agree that burnout is indeed something distinct. They define it as a state of extreme exhaustion caused by living too long in a way that is fundamentally contrary to one's nature.

Difference between depression and burnout?

The symptoms of burnout are largely similar to the symptoms of depression. With both problems, one has memory problems, one is burnt out, one has sleeping problems, one no longer sees the world, ... (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). Yet a distinction must be made (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). Before we can speak of depression, these thoughts must have affected different areas of daily life, such as work, social relationships, hobbies, etc. Burnout is a problem that arises from overexertion at work. Only in later stages can burnout begin to affect other areas, but essentially it is limited to work (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). Only the most severe cases of burnout also include depression (Iacovides, Fountoulakis, Kaprinis & Kaprinis, 2003). Depression is thus a much more serious and broader concept. It is also difficult to say exactly what depression originates from, whereas burnout originates from overexertion at work.

Difference between stress and burnout?

Stress and burnout are also closely related. However, we can look at this as a cause-and-effect relationship. Stress in itself is not a disorder, burnout is. Stress increases the risk of burnout and in some cases will lead to burnout. Being jaded and tired can in turn increase the likelihood of stress. So we see that stress can lead to burnout and burnout can cause more stress. However, stress is not the only symptom of burnout. It includes much more than just having stress. For these reasons, burnout can be viewed as a broader and more serious concept of stress. Moreover, you can end up in a vicious cycle if you experience prolonged stress. In fact, as stress increases, you will be more likely to experience burnout symptoms. These burnout symptoms can then trigger more stress because you find it strange to experience them. For example, it is not normal to have memory problems at the age of 30, is it? Through this stress you may develop new burnout symptoms and thus increase your chances of burnout. Stress and burnout also do not always have the same symptoms and consequences. Below you will find a comparison of certain symptoms and consequences with stress and bun-out.
Stress Burnout
Too much commitment Little or no commitment
Intensification of emotions Flattening of emotions
Induces hyperactivity It results in feeling helpless
You experience decreased energy You experience decreased motivation and hope
Anxiety as a possible consequence Depression as a possible consequence
Follows are physical Effects are emotional
Can cause premature death Can trigger hopelessness
Take our free burnout test here to test your burnout symptoms.

What are symptoms of burnout?

Burnout can be recognized by specific burnout symptoms. These symptoms of burnout are very similar to the symptoms of depression and the symptoms of stress. To learn to recognize your burnout symptoms all the better in time, we list the symptoms of burnout below. We divide the symptoms of burnout into 3 categories: physical symptoms, psychological symptoms and behavioral symptoms

Physical symptoms of burnout

  • Fatigue: when you experience burnout, you are constantly tired. Despite resting, you continue to feel tired. This fatigue comes about because you have pushed yourself too far over a long period of time. Both your mind and body then seem to be in a constant state of fatigue.
  • Sleeplessness: the stress you experience in burnout can cause you to have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Worrying can also prevent you from falling asleep, which doesn't help your fatigue.
  • Burnout: the stress of burnout can cause you to have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
  • Physical pain: stress and fatigue can after a while also provoke physical pain. For example, we often hear that people with burnout complain of headaches and muscle aches. Because your muscles and body go into overdrive for a long time because of the stress response, this can provoke pain in the muscles and body.
  • Digestive problems and decreased appetite: you eat less because you are stressed. Also, the stress can cause digestion to not go as smoothly as it used to, which can cause gastrointestinal problems.
  • Lowered immune system: stress can also cause you to be more vulnerable to disease.
  • Heart palpitations and other stress symptoms: stress is at the root of burnout, so various stress symptoms will also be present in the case of burnout. For example, it is not uncommon to experience heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, or even heart problems.