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Why perfectionists are more likely to burnout

Based on a substantial study, the first thorough self-help book on burnout has been published.

For some people, the cumulative effect of prolonged periods of stress can result in burnout. (Pexels/Antoni Shkraba)

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A mental health and mood disorders expert has been carefully studying the phenomenon of burnout for a number of years. Based on a substantial study, the first thorough self-help book on burnout has been published.

According to the study, those who have a tendency to be perfectionists are more likely to veer into burnout because of their own "unrelenting standards" than other people. It also emphasises some of the warning indicators of burnout.

What is burnout?

With the worries accompanying pandemic lockdowns, the pressures of inflation and other life stressors, many people are feeling at the end of their tether.

For some people, the cumulative effect of these prolonged periods of stress can result in burnout. Unlike normal tiredness, the experts suggest burnout symptoms include constant exhaustion, emotional numbness and confusion at home or in the workplace.

Some conventional tools used to diagnose burnout focus on work-related stress, however, mental health expert and lead author Professor Gordon Parker suggests that the impact is much more extensive. Professor Parker said: "Most people consider burnout to be extreme tiredness, but in our studies we have found that the symptoms are much more wide-ranging.

"People struggling with burnout also suffer from cognitive dysfunction, sometimes known as 'brain fog' and disconnection from their friends and family, as well as the more typically-recognised reduced performance in work and tasks around the home."

Who is most likely to burn out?

Burnout is widespread among high achievers in the workplace - but is becoming increasingly more prevalent in personal lives.

Professor Parker said: "Most people think that burnout is a work problem. Actually, we found that stress experienced at work or at home can set the wheels of burnout in motion. He added: "Our analyses indicated that burnout may also develop as a result of predisposing personality traits, especially perfectionism.

"People with perfectionistic traits are usually excellent workers, as they're extremely reliable and conscientious. However, they're also prone to burnout as they set unrealistic and unrelenting standards for their own performance, which are ultimately impossible to live up to."

What can be done about it?

Professor Parker is the founder of the Black Dog Institute, which conducts research into mood disorders and works to remove the social stigmas around mental illness.

During his extensive research on burnout, and with decades of clinical work under his belt, he has determined how to best identify and manage it. 

This research is outlined in a recently published book, Burnout: A Guide to Identifying Burnout and Pathways to Recovery. Critically, the book offers a guide for navigating out of burnout, including identifying sources and coping strategies to minimise the impact of stress.

It contains new evidence-based tools for readers to work out for themselves whether they have burnout and generate a plan for recovery based on their personal situation. Chapters help readers recognise their own burnout patterns and provide approaches to help them regain their passions and build their resilience. 

  • FIRST PUBLISHED
    02.01.2023 | 01:30 PM IST
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