According to many definitions of burnout, including the definition by the WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (WHO), burnout is related to stress accumulated and related to work. However, other research shows that burnout can be a result of another specific set of responsibilities such as; taking care of a family member or having a child with chronic illness, relationships destress, concern about physical health and worries about job security or money.

The Clinical psychologist Cassandra Aasmundsen-Fry, PsyD, within the Mindwell Modern Psychology (as cited in Lawler, 2021) and Therapy explains that people might begin to feel psychically and/or mentally unwell or not being able to cope with the daily routine when the symptoms of burnout begin to kick in. In fact, it was also taken into consideration that sometimes, the symptoms of burnout are overlapped with the symptoms of depression and can be misdiagnosed. Being left untreated, burnout can lead to detrimental effects on the well-being of the person but also on the relationships of that person who is suffering from burnout. 

If one looks into the signs of burnout, according to the UK Mental Health Organisation (2021) the most common ones are:- 

  • Feeling tired or drained;
  • Feeling helpless and defeated;
  • Self-doubt;
  • Procrastination. 

Nevertheless, there are 7 less known signs of burnout which one should take into consideration if you are noticing these changes or feeling these symptoms but also if someone in your family, friends or close-knit is manifesting these signs. 

1 Being constantly pessimistic

This means that the person suffering the burnout will adopt a critical vision not only of themselves or their situation but also on a larger scale, of the world around them. They might be apathetic and also might lose the meaning or the purpose of what they’re doing (Bernstein, 2016 as cited in Lawler, 2021) or whether life is really worth living, according to Midwestern University (2018).   

2 Trouble to sleep

Not being able to sleep at all; insomnia or having restlessness in sleep can be both a result of burnout. 

3 Stomach aches, Headaches and muscle pain

Experiencing headaches and having gastrointestinal problems such as stomach pain, bloatedness, nausea and constipation or diarrhoea might also be symptoms of burnout. Muscle pain can be another symptom since muscles will become tense to guard against pain. Hence when the body is experiencing stress it will hold it on as tension and as a result, you would feel muscle pain (American Psychology Association, 2018). 

4 Lowered immunity

Stress can compromise the immune system which then will lead the person to be prone to catch common illnesses such as colds more often or even feeling under the weather more often. 

5 Weight gain

This can come as a result of various combinations such as eating habits that may change, change in sleeping patterns and biological responses. When the body is experiencing stress, the cortisol levels are high and hence, the body might gain weight. Becoming overweight may then lead to other diseases such as; heart disease and the possibility of stroke. 

6 Isolation

People suffering from burnout might feel that whatever they do is not right or is not appreciated and become self-critical and tend to isolate themselves from others which then might lead to destress in their relationships and as a result to this, become self-isolated. Being socially engaged can alleviate stress. 

7 Making use of unhealthy food, alcohol or drugs to cope

Some people self-soothe or self-medicate to cope with burnout. Eating junk food may be an instant gratification and an easy way out of not having to prepare food. Additionally, some might make use of alcohol or drugs to cope which can lead to several negative effects. 

If you or anyone dear to you is exhibiting some of the above symptoms, seek professional help. Professionals can help you find coping strategies or also refer you to medical assistance if the need arises. 

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Rachel Osmond is a Family Therapist with Willingness who works with individuals, couples and families. She also has experience with children and adolescents. 


American Association of Psychology (2018). Stress Effects on the body. Retrieved on 25th January 2023, from, M. (2021). 8 unusual sings of burnout. Everyday Health. Retrieved from  on 26th January, 2023.