February 24, 2021

Symptoms of Physician Burnout: Know the Warning Signs

Being a physician can be stressful. With so many patients’ well-being depending on you, it’s easy to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. If you experience symptoms of stress on a near-constant basis, you may be suffering from burnout, which is dangerous for both you and your patients. Look out for these early warning signs of burnout so you can get the help you need to keep you healthy and performing at your best.

1. Exhaustion

For many physicians, the most obvious and persistent symptom of burnout is exhaustion. Burnout-related exhaustion can make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning and leave you feeling drained by the end of the day. If you find yourself coming home from a busy shift and collapsing on the couch, with no energy to cook, spend time with your family, or enjoy your hobbies, you could be reaching the point of burning out. Get help now before your exhaustion begins to affect your ability to do your job well.

2. Emotional Detachment

Do you ever find yourself making sarcastic comments about your patients, or feeling cynical about your work? These behaviors can be a sign of emotional detachment, which is a key component of burnout for many physicians. Being a physician can be a very emotional occupation, as you’re often dealing with people who are frightened or in pain. If you start to become desensitized to the cases you deal with, that could be a sign you need to seek help for physician burnout.

3. Feeling Useless or Meaningless

If you find yourself asking “What’s the point?” regarding the work you do as a physician, you may be experiencing burnout. Sometimes, a string of bad days can make you question the value of the work you do or your ability to provide quality care. If this feeling continues, it can develop into depression. Take the chance to talk to a manager or co-worker to find out if your feelings are normal and get help to process them.

4. Work Is Taking Over Your Life

Are you able to pay attention to aspects of life outside of your work? You might not notice that you’re spending less time with your friends, or that the hobbies you used to love have been squeezed out by a demanding work schedule, but losing touch with your identity outside of being a physician can be a key part of burnout. One telltale sign of burnout is the inability to stop thinking about your work, even when taking part in leisure activities that you usually enjoy.

5. Making Mistakes

As burnout progresses, it can impact your ability to do your job. Everyone makes a mistake occasionally, but if you are making more errors than usual, you need to take a step back and work out what is going wrong. It could be time to get some professional help to beat burnout. As a physician, any mistakes you make could have devastating impacts on people’s lives, so it’s important not to brush errors under the carpet.

Are you still not sure if you’re experiencing physician burnout? Use the Well-Being Index to assess your well-being and monitor your mental state. This free tool can help you spot the early signs of burnout, which can be difficult to identify when you are suffering from this all-too-common condition.

Well-Being Index Team

The Well-Being Index team is made up of thought leaders, healthcare associates, technology experts, and content creators dedicated to improving well-being by equipping organizations with the tools and data needed to Go Beyond Burnout.