14 Tell-Tale Signs of Burnout to Look Out For

Burnout is incredibly common nowadays, and it can have a huge impact on life. Find out the signs of burnout here so you can spot it early and make a change.

Society celebrates ambitious, high-achieving, and hard-working people. Yet these traits can be a double-edged sword.

You expect results, so put yourself under exceptional pressure to get them. Crazy hours and workloads follow. It’s full throttle, pedal to the metal stuff, with a self-imposed whip ready to crack at any sign of slacking.

Unfortunately, all of this makes you susceptible to burnout. Real, serious, and ubiquitous, it’s a type of chronic stress that saps your energy, enthusiasm, effectiveness, and general joie de vivre. Exhausted, detached, and overwhelmed, life becomes a real struggle.

65% of employees say they experienced burnout last year. If you’re worried you’re on a similar trajectory, be vigilant for the following signs. If you relate to them, it might be time to pump the brakes, give yourself some grace, and maybe even get some help.

1. Chronic Fatigue

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One of the main symptoms of burnout is severe, ongoing exhaustion. It isn’t just tiredness. You feel it in your bones. You can’t shake a sense of lethargy. Sleep doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. Coffee only takes the edge off. You feel drained to the core. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, it gets to a point where you feel like there’s nothing else to give.

2. Insomnia or Poor Sleep

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Ironically, sleep might not come easily. You’re exhausted but can’t switch off. You get into bed, and your mind races with thoughts, plans, and worries. When burnout’s approaching but not quite in full swing, it might only happen occasionally. Yet as you move further down that line, insomnia can become more common. Of course, this only exacerbates your fatigue.

3. Physical Ailments

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It might feel like your body’s starting to betray you. You’re accustomed to being in good health. But suddenly, everything’s going downhill. Maybe your muscles ache, or you’re light-headed a lot, or your tummy’s playing up, or you’re getting headaches and shortness of breath. Whatever the case, see a doctor to confirm if it’s related to burnout or something else.

4. Trouble Focusing

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Concentrating on your work can become increasingly difficult when you’re burnt out. You might feel distractable, fidgety, and unable to stay task-oriented. Some people also complain of being more forgetful than usual. It’s like their brain’s reached capacity. Your mind stops firing on all cylinders, making it harder to take in new info.

5. Weight Loss or Gain

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Burnout can also impact diet, appetite, and weight. Some people might feel hungrier, start craving comfort foods, and eat more than normal, gaining weight as a result. For others, the opposite happens. Their appetite drops, they start skipping meals and eating less, and they end up losing weight. You might have a mix – eating more comfort food than usual but less overall.

6. Depression

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Many people who experience burnout also experience depression. Indeed, there’s a significant overlap in symptoms between them. It can begin as a mild sense of melancholy, and maybe you have moments where everything seems hopeless. Self-esteem can suffer simultaneously. These sentiments and sensations can worsen and worsen.  

7. Increased Anxiety

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Anxiety is another common sign of burnout. You can feel the tension in your body. You’re on edge and full of worry. It might be manageable in the early days – like a low-level unease that’s unpleasant but ignorable. Over time, though, that anxiety can turn into a monster. You can feel it loom ever larger until it starts impacting your daily life, work, and relationships.

8. Frustration and Anger

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Burnout can make you angry. It’s like you’re no longer yourself. You’re on edge, tetchy, and irritable. You might feel trapped, frustrated, and impatient. It’s easy to turn that anger on others, too. Maybe you’re having more arguments with loved ones or colleagues than normal. Whatever the case, inner and outer conflict can become more common.  

9. Cynicism and Pessimism

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It’s difficult to stay optimistic and enthusiastic about life with everything going on. You could be exhausted, anxious, borderline depressed, and physically unwell. It’s understandable that your outlook on work and life would change as a result. You might feel more negative, less trusting, and more cynical about almost anything.

10. Loss of Interest and Enjoyment

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It’s also hard to find enjoyment in something causing you so much strife. Work that may usually give you a huge sense of pride, purpose, and pleasure can flip on its head. Burnout makes you resent it somehow; it loses its appeal. Sadly, this loss of enjoyment for your work can start to creep over into other areas of life, including time spent with loved ones.

11. Loneliness and Isolation

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People who burn out can become incredibly isolated. Overwhelmed by work and stress, their social life dwindles. Yet it’s not necessarily because they’re busy. They may prefer being alone and start avoiding company.

Combine this with a loss of interest/enjoyment, an angrier disposition, and newfound pessimism, and you could imagine why socializing might become less of a priority.

12. Feeling Detached

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Some people who burn out end up in a state of detachment. Perhaps due to exhaustion, they disconnect from the world and others in it. A notch on from apathy and indifference, it’s as if they’ve been given an emotional anesthetic. They might avoid going to work, stop responding to calls, or no longer be the capable, caring, organized person they are normally.

13. Hopelessness

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Imagine feeling deep fatigue, sadness, and emotional detachment. It becomes incredibly hard to maintain a sense of hope. You might start questioning the point of everything; life and work start feeling less worthwhile and meaningful.

Again, hopelessness is very common with depression – another similarity worth keeping in mind when considering your situation and seeking help.

14. Poorer Performance

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There’s a sad irony to burnout. It’s often caused by people striving to succeed, hit sky-high targets, and keep up with a crazy workload. But when it strikes, it makes those things impossible.

Productivity and performance both suffer. You might work the same or even longer hours, but your output dwindles. Worse, the situation can spiral. You end up working harder to make up for lost time, which exacerbates the burnout, which then makes you less productive.

Notice the Signs of Burnout? Consider Making Changes

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As I was writing this post and researching the symptoms of burnout, it was quite scary how many of the signs I can see in myself. Honestly, it’s been a bit of a wake-up call. It might be time to start taking better care of myself.

If you’ve read this list and had a similar reaction, then I hope it’ll be a useful prompt to forge a better work-life balance. I’m a huge advocate of working hard, but if it’s coming at the expense of your health, it can’t be worth it.



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Author: Danny Newman

Title: Writer and Content Creator

Expertise: Travel, Digital Nomadry, Outdoors, Blogging

Danny Newman is a writer, content creator, and digital nomad from the UK. He founded the travel and lifestyle blog What’s Danny Doing, a popular resource for people seeking more adventure, self-discovery, and purpose. A nationally syndicated writer, Danny’s work features in dozens of online publications, including MSN.com and news sites across the US.