Dr. Herbert Freudenberger was the first to identify the 12-Stage Burnout Symptom Cycle in his 1974 book, “Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement.” Psychologist and author, Joan Borysenko, provides a similar approach to looking at the stages of burnout in her 2011 book, “Fried: Why You Burn Out and How to Revive.”
The very first stage of Freudenberger’s 12-Stage Burnout Symptom Cycle is the Compulsion to Prove, later described by Borysenko as Driven by an Ideal.
Unfortunately, it is often people who show the most promise in their careers who succumb to burnout. Many of the clients that I treat for burnout are high achievers who had very high energy levels and positive attitudes initially in their careers. They were idealists, perfectionists and workaholics, all dedicated to their work and committed to continuously doing well.
When faced with a challenge, even an unrealistic challenge, an individual with a Compulsion to Prove will strive to meet the challenge. Over time, this compulsion to prove, and unfortunately the cycle of burnout, is often repeated over and over. Based on this pattern, I encourage my clients to look back to as early as their late teens to identify any obvious cyclical patterns of burnout they may have experienced.
Freudenberger describes burnout as a cycle, one that people afflicted by the compulsion to prove keep repeating throughout their lives. But there is hope because burnout can be treated and because the cycle can be consciously stopped.
Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta
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