The Signs of Burnout Are More Subtle Than You Think

Here are 5 signals you might be missing

Eric Sangerma
Published in
4 min readOct 6, 2021


Photo by Tangerine Newt on Unsplash

Burnout takes time to develop: it creeps up on you quietly. Its hallmarks are hopelessness, cynicism, and an inability to focus.

It’s also associated with physical symptoms like heart palpitations, blood pressure problems, muscle tension, and random aches and pains.

But it manifests in more insidious ways too. You may be at risk of burnout if…

1. You’re irritated by the little things.

When you lose the ability to enjoy your job, you also run out of patience for it.

Coworkers you used to like suddenly seem pushy, boring, or obnoxious. Your routine feels unbearably stale, but new projects are even more exhausting.

If you have a client-facing job, it takes inhuman effort to talk to them politely and attentively.

Plus, the irritation may spill over to your personal life. You get either snappy or robotically distant, even when you’re with people you love.

You can’t handle minor inconveniences like a broken appliance. You also can’t enjoy your hobbies the way you usually do because you keep getting distracted or annoyed by some detail.

2. Bad habits become more tempting.

Life-ruining or relatively harmless, bad habits seep into your life when you’re under too much workplace stress.

Maybe you’re back to chewing your nails, or you’re drinking more coffee than usual. You spend money on stuff you don’t need, all for that brief rush of joy you get when making your purchase. You haven’t smoked in more than a decade but you miss it more than usual.

There’s a well-documented link between burnout and addiction. Some turn to alcohol and drugs for the first time because of burnout. Those who struggled in the past are likely to relapse under the strain.

When I got burned out, I started compulsively hate-reading people on social media. This isn’t that big a deal… except that it robbed me of hours I could have spent with people I love. It enhanced my bad mood and feelings of pessimism, and I couldn’t stop even…



Eric Sangerma
Writer for

I Help Companies Excel and Individuals Thrive. I write about Mental Health, Relationships and Productivity. Follow me: