The term “burnout” was first coined by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in his 1974 book, “Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement.” Freudenberger defined burnout as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”
Dr. Freudenberger was the first to identify the 12-stage Burnout Symptom Cycle. 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.”
I encourage my clients that are experiencing burnout to examine the Burnout Symptom Cycle to try and recognize how they might be experiencing each stage.
Here are the 12 stages of the Burnout Symptom Cycle, as described by Freudenberger (and later by Borysenko).
Stage 1: Compulsion to prove (Driven by an ideal)
Stage 2: Intensity (Working like a maniac)
Stage 3: Subtle deprivations (Putting your own needs last)
Stage 4: Dismissal of conflict and needs (Miserable and clueless as to why)
Stage 5: Distortion of values (The death of values)
Stage 6: Heightened denial (Frustrated, aggressive and cynical)
Stage 7: Disengagement (Emotionally exhausted and disengaged)
Stage 8: Observable behaviour changes (I’ve morphed into What?)
Stage 9: Depersonalization (Get away from me)
Stage 10: Emptiness (Inner emptiness)
Stage 11: Depression (Who cares and why bother?)
Stage 12: Total burnout exhaustion (Physical and mental collapse)
If you need help determining if you are experiencing burnout and would like to talk to someone about managing the stress in your life and getting back on track, please contact me at my Calgary office.
— Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta