Freudenberger created a scale consisting of 12 stages of burnout. The first step still looks very harmless:
At first, patients with burnout have an obsessive desire to affirm themselves (“I can do something”), maybe even in competition with others.
Then begins a careless attitude to their own needs. A person no longer devotes free time to himself, he plays sports less, he has less time for people, for himself, he talks less with someone.
At the next stage, a person does not have time to resolve conflicts – and therefore he displaces them, and later even ceases to perceive them. He does not see that there are any problems at work, at home, with friends. He is retreating. We see something like a flower, which is increasingly fading.
In the future, feelings about oneself are lost. People no longer feel. They are just cars, machines and can no longer stop.
After a while, they feel an inner void and, if this continues, they often become depressed.
At the last, twelfth stage, a person is completely broken. He falls ill – bodily and mentally, experiences despair, often there are suicidal thoughts.
Once a patient came to me with emotional burnout. He came, sat in a chair, exhaled and said: “I’m glad I’m here.” He looked exhausted. It turned out that he could not even call me to arrange a meeting – his wife dialed a phone number. I then asked him on the phone how urgent it was. He replied that urgently. And then I agreed with him about the first meeting on Monday. On the day of the meeting, he admitted: “All two days of the weekend I could not guarantee that I would not jump out of the window. My condition was so unbearable. ”
He was a very successful businessman. His employees did not know anything about this – he managed to hide his condition from them. And for a very long time he hid it from his wife. At the eleventh stage, his wife noticed this. He still continued to deny his problem. And only when he could no longer live, already under pressure from the outside, was he ready to do something. This is how far burnout syndrome can lead. Of course, this is an extreme example.
From enthusiasm to disgust
In order to indicate in simpler words how emotional burnout manifests itself, we can resort to the description of the German psychologist Matthias Burish. He described four stages.
The first stage looks completely harmless: it really is not quite burnout yet. This is the stage when you need to be careful. It was then that idealism, some ideas, a certain enthusiasm motivated a person. But the demands that he constantly makes in relation to himself are excessive. He demands too much from himself for weeks and months.
The second stage is exhaustion: physical, emotional, bodily weakness.
In the third stage, the first defense reactions usually begin to act. What does a person do if the requirements are constantly excessive? He leaves the relationship, dehumanization occurs. This is a reaction of counteraction as a defense, so that exhaustion does not become stronger. Intuitively, a person feels that he needs peace, and to a lesser extent supports social relations. Those relations that must be lived, because you cannot do without them, are weighed down by rejection, repulsion.
That is, in principle, this is the right reaction. But only the area where this reaction begins to act is not suitable for this. Rather, a person needs to be calmer about the requirements that are presented to him. But this is precisely what he does not succeed in – getting away from requests and complaints.
The fourth stage is the strengthening of what is happening in the third stage, the terminal stage of burnout. Burish calls it “disgust syndrome.” This is a concept that means that a person no longer carries any joy in himself. With regard to everything, disgust arises. For example, if I eat rotten fish, I vomit, and the next day I hear the smell of fish, I have an aversion. That is, this is a protective feeling after poisoning.