Burnout more common among perfectionists — and it can come from stress at home

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.

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