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What is Burnout?


The ICD-11, the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Disease defines burnout as a “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”  As such, burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental stress caused by chronic stress. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion – do you feel physically tired or sick and are you emotionally drained?

  2. Increased mental distance from your work, or feelings of negativism related to your job – are you often unfocused for extended periods of time or do you constantly second guess your ability to perform tasks? Do you feel a sense of paranoia related to your job role, or do you feel alienated by your colleagues? Often sufferers of burnout feel a fierce sense of low esteem and a severe loss of interest in their workplace duties.

  3. Reduced professional efficacy – are your actions and inactions are actually impacting your job performance and do you find yourself often being unfocused for extended periods of time?

A number of different internal issues such as depression and anxiety and external issues (such as a hostile work environment) can result in an individual experiencing burnout. burnout can affect anyone facing a great level of pressure at work, but is particularly common among people with controlling tendencies or high levels of perfectionism.

What are some of the symptoms of burnout?

  • Depression and anxiety – although these can also be pre-existing conditions that are exacerbated.  
  • Physical and emotional exhaustion – does your job harm your physical and mental well-being?
  • Low self-esteem and doubts about one’s work competences – often hard decisions leave us questioning ourselves and our mistakes can cause us a momentary lapse of confidence; however if you find that these feelings are consistently affecting your performance then it may be a symptom of burnout.
  • Lack of motivation, energy and insomnia – at times, jobs can be boring and lead to a lack of focus, however if you are finding it extremely difficult to get yourself to go to work and complete tasks on time it could be signs of burnout.  
  • Regular indigestion – This can also be a symptom of anxiety.
  • Eating disorders: overeating or undereating – you may find your eating habits changing rapidly, either to cope with the constant stress or as a symptom of it.
  • Recurring headaches or migraines
  • Self-medicating to handle an increased amount of work-related tasks – This can often lead to the individual becoming addicted to other drugs and substances, such as cocaine, stimulants, alcohol and prescription drugs.
  • Irritability or aggression towards colleagues as well as family – prolonged frustration can lead to anti-social behaviour and can damage your relationships both at work and at home.
  • Insomnia – is your mind racing when attempting to sleep? This may also be due to the medication that you may be taking to combat the stress of work and to aid focus.
  • Colds and other illnesses – you may experience a reduced performance of your immune system due to stress.

Are you at Risk of Burnout?


Factors that can lead to burnout include:

  • Work-life imbalance: It’s expected that at times you will need to prioritise work over time spent with family, friends and hobbies. However there’s a fine line between a healthy compromise and Over prioritising work. If you’re finding that your work life is damaging your relationships with your friends or family and you’re finding barely any time to relax, then it’s likely you’re increasing the risk of burnout.
  • Mismatch in values between your beliefs and how your employer does business. Do you find the way your business conducts itself immoral?
  • Poor job fit: Continuing at a workplace that doesn’t fit your interests and skills can be demoralising and can lead to a lack of self-appreciation and esteem.
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics: When you work alongside office bullies, micromanagers, narcissists; or you feel undermined by managers or colleagues. Are the way you and other staff treated affecting your emotional wellbeing? A toxic workplace environment can be the cause of a number of issues.
  • Inability to control decisions that directly affect your schedule, assignments or workload; lack of available resources to do your work.
  • Ambiguous job expectations from your supervisors; uncertain degree of authority you hold at work.
  • Jobs that are too monotonous or too chaotic: a workplace that is intellectually and emotionally understimulating can lead you to feeling undervalued or exhaustively bored. Equally a chaotic workplace can lead to the consumption of a surplus of mental energy, leading to issues such as insomnia, exhaustion and anxiety.
  • A history of depression, anxiety or other mental health problems.

What potential job roles are at risk of burnout?

  • Psychotherapist burnout: Research has identified that over half of sampled psychotherapists had moderate to high levels of burnout (with the majority of results based on quantitative cross-sectional self report surveys). Factors such as being younger in age, having less work experience and becoming over-involved in their patients problems were identified as the most common personal risk factors.  
  • Teacher burnout: Teaching can be notoriously stressful and a recent survey has identified that 81% of teachers said they have considered leaving teaching in the last year because of the pressures of workload, with 40% reporting that they spent more than 21 hours a week working overtime.
  • Prison officer burnout: working within prisons can be an extremely stressful and dangerous environment. Research has shown that this kind of job role can lead you closer to burnout. Prison officers higher in neuroticism and with an external locus of control might be at greater risk for burnout.
  • Executive burnout: The life of an executive requires an individual to be placed in high-stress situations, making decisions that could impact their entire business. This often places a heavy burden on people in senior management.

How Burnout Can Lead to Alcohol and Drug Problems

Working professionals, especially those working in high-stress business environments, may begin to self-medicate to help ease the symptoms of stress and burnout and maintain their performance at work. What begins as occasional drug use to alleviate the symptoms of burnout and stress can soon spiral into dependency.

Cocaine Abuse in the Workplace

Cocaine may be used by professionals in an attempt to increase alertness and their ability to work for longer periods of time without getting tired. However, despite these initial effects, prolonged cocaine use will lead to impaired concentration and memory skills, as well as reduced judgment and decision-making skills. If you’d like to know more about cocaine abuse and treatment, please see here.

Alcohol Abuse at Work

Alcohol may be used by professionals to relax in the evenings after work. However, as a person builds up tolerance to alcohol, they may have to consume greater amounts to get the same effect. They may begin to rely on alcohol to be able to get through the day – a drink at lunch, leaving work early in the evenings, an eye-opener drink in the morning. Soon they may be inventing ‘meetings’ and other occasions so that they can drink or taking sick leave due to the effects of heavy drinking. This pattern of drinking is likely to develop into a full blown alcohol addiction over time.

Prescription drug abuse at work

Individuals suffering from chronic work-related stress may use stimulant drugs such as amphetamines to increase their energy levels and alertness `(‘uppers’). Individuals may also use benzodiazepines to calm their anxiety, as well as sleeping pills to combat insomnia (‘downers’). This dual-self-medicating can lead to a vicious cycle of addiction.

How can you be treated for Burnout?

Burnout can affect individuals from many different types of job sectors at any level. It is vital that senior managers have a company drug and alcohol policy in place and a system for identifying drug or alcohol addiction in the workplace, with the aim of finding a suitable treatment programme for affected employees. Early recognition and intensive treatment is the best way to rescue the company’s investment in a highly trained employee.

Individuals at risk of burnout can find treatment at Smarmore Castle Private Clinic. Our medical and therapeutic team has the experience to treat alcohol, drug and gambling addictions alongside other co-occurring problems such as stress, burnout, anxiety and depression.

Our residential rehab treatment programme includes detox, consultant psychiatrist care, medical treatment, psychotherapy, complementary therapies and aftercare. We treat addiction as a disease of the brain and evidence shows that abstinence is essential for an optimal and long-lasting recovery.

Our addiction treatment programme has been carefully constructed with over 30 years’ practical and professional experience.

Do you feel like you suffer from work-related stress and are at a risk of burnout? You can Contact us if you’d like to talk to someone about it, we can offer you specialist advice in identifying and treating burnout in the workplace.


More Information on getting treatment for Burnout:

For more information about the admissions process, or treatment at Smarmore Castle alcohol and drugs rehab centre, please call our confidential phone lines:

  • From the Republic of Ireland, please call us on: 041 986 5080
  • For international enquiries, please call: +353 41 986 50 80

 You’re welcome to call our team anytime – 24-HRS A DAY

If you would like to apply direct for admission, you can do so on our APPLY FOR ADMISSION page.


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Smarmore Castle is located near Ardee, County Louth, about 45 minutes north of Dublin, Republic of Ireland and 1.5 hours south of Belfast, Northern Ireland.