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SYDNEY, Australia — Perfectionists often put a lot of pressure on themselves at work, but a new study finds that even stress at home can lead to burnout.

Professor Gordon Parker, a clinical psychiatrist at the University of New South Wales, says perfectionists are more likely to burn out than the average person because of their own “unrelenting standards.” With the added stress of the global pandemic and economic issues like inflation, Parker’s team says it’s safe to say many people are simply exhausted — both mentally and physically.

What is burnout?

The study author explains that the cumulative effect of all these recent stressors can easily lead to burnout. Unlike normal fatigue, symptoms of burnout can also include chronic exhaustion, feeling emotionally numb, and suffering from confusion at home or at work.

While many studies focus on how job-related stress can cause people to burn out, Parker notes that there are plenty of things outside of the workplace that can cause stress and lead to burnout — especially among people who demand perfection.

“Most people consider burnout to be extreme tiredness, but in our studies we have found that the symptoms are much more wide-ranging,” Prof. Parker says in a media release.

“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-recognized reduced performance in work and tasks around the home.”

“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,” Parkers continues. “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,” concludes the author of the new book Burnout: A Guide to Identifying Burnout and Pathways to Recovery.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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1 Comment


    I have been diagnosed with ASD(Autism Spectrum Disorder) from two clinical psychologists. I was told that I’m a “perfectionist”. It is ONLY WHAT I DO MYSELF, I WANT To BE RIGHT. I’m a “self-perfectionist”. I don’t get angry if someone else does something wrong, I’ll fix that up myself. For example I live in a block of units. When it comes to garbage, recycling etc. If another unit member doesn’t flatten cardboard boxes that is placed in the recycling bin, I will get that out and flatten it myself. I WILL ONLY LOSE MY TEMPER when I am accused of something, in which I NEVER DID.
    I used to work as an Warehouse Supervisor for two years. It was my responsibilty to make sure everything is ready to load onto vehicles. And also check -cultural ountrythat incoming stock is not damaged, and report if there is any damaged or shortage of the stock. I received an award from that warehouse. It was called “EAGLE EYE”. The owner said I would spot everything. Damaged goods I reported was put aside for another workmate to repair. That warehouse was GREAT TO WORK AT, AND GREAT TO WORK WITH OTHERS.
    In Australia since we’re a multi-cultural nation, a couple of younger workers couldn’t understand fluent english that I have. So I will ask another worker(manager) to translate to those workers what needs to be done. I thought that if they can’t understand what needs to be done, and they do something else instead, I will get the blame. The next day I got told from that manager that those workers’ said to him, “I’m racist”. That comment made myself lose my temper and I stormed out of the office. I wanted to get hit by a car.
    I’m no longer working there, due to WH&S regulations. I understand why. I accepted that work dismissal.
    I told my GP. He wanted myself to see a clinical psychologist. I told them both that I loved working there. IT WAS THEN, I GOT DIAGNOSED as a PERFECTIONIST. I DIDN’T KNOW BACK THEN at the warehouse THAT I WAS A PERFECTIONIST.
    I HAVE BEEN A PERFECTIONIST MY WHOLE LIFE, cause I ALSO HAVE COMPLEX PARTIAL EPILEPSY. I ONLY HAVE ABSENCE SEIZURES. For example I could black out immediately. Those seizures occur approx. once a month. After the seizure I’m fine. I DON’T lose energy, unlike the epileptics that have convulsions. Those epileptics need approx. a couple of hours to fully recover. I’ve NEVER HAD A CONVULSION.
    I tell you about my epilepsy because I’ve ALWAYS BEEN OPEN TO TELL OTHERS THAT I HAVE EPILEPSY. That warehouse knew about my epilepsy, and know what to do when I have a seizure. THEY WERE GREAT. I’ve had epilepsy for 40 years. In previous workplaces I WAS NEVER AFRAID TO TELL other employers and employees, cause that is VERY IMPORTANT for others, in how to respond. Like I said earlier, that is why I think I’ve been a perfectionist my whole life. I know a couple of other epileptics, but they are afraid to let others’ know. But myself I’m not afraid.
    I had trouble with Centrelink also. Despite I handed in documents from my clinical psychologist, neurologist and GP for myself to be placed on Disability Support Pension. The Centrelink member that served me then didn’t accept those documents. I lost my temper cause it made me feel I did something wrong. I stormed out of that office and wanted to get hit by a car. I didn’t get hit. That office rang an ambulance for myself to get checked on. I got released from hospital a few hours later.
    I NEVER WANT TO KILL MYSELF. THAT ONLY OCCURS WHEN I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG, BUT HAVE BEEN TOLD I HAVE. After that incident at Centrelink I was accepted for Disability Support Pension. It WAS THAT Centrelink member that served me at fault. Maybe if it was a different Centrelink member that served me, I would’ve passed positively.
    I’ve NEVER had any other issues for over two years. I’m NOW an NDIS member. Despite my medical conditions I have a better chance of getting a job. DSP isn’t enough money
    to live on with the cost of living today. Current Government want skilled workers from overseas to migrate and work. Problem with that is “WHERE CAN THEY LIVE?” The housing industry is in crisis. I had an appointment with an DES Centre four weeks ago. Hopefully I CAN FIND A JOB. NDIS is going to help out.