The Five Stages of Burnout: Stages 4 and 5

We’ve spent the past several weeks discussing the 5 Stages of Burnout as presented in the systemic stress management counseling certification I obtained from the American Institute for Preventative Medicine when I worked as a health coach for several college campuses. I loved my work. However, there were circumstances where I found myself worrying that those in the later stages of burnout would not seek the help they needed in time.

You can read about Stages 1 and 2 here and Stage 3 of burnout here. In Stage 4 and Stage 5 of Burnout, people are in crisis and require intervention support.

WHO’s International Classification of Diseases 11th edition (ICD), which categorizes diseases for diagnosis by health care professionals and determines coverage by health insurers, was published on Saturday ending more than four decades of debate among experts over how to define this stress disorder.

The new diagnosis is defined as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy. Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

Burnout is Now an Official Medical Condition – The American Institute of Stress

The most important part about having burnout recognized as a medical condition is the opportunity to access medical care that many medical insurance companies will cover some or part of the treatments. If you are in a crisis stage of burnout this could truly mean the difference between life and death, however, hopefully knowing interventions are available will allow you to access care before touching a higher stage of burnout.

Signs of Stage 4 Burnout

Stage 4 is considered the crisis stage. This stage includes intensified symptoms of Stage 3. Additionally, people often find themselves in a vicious cycle of poor health and poor self-confidence in this stage. 

Stage 4 Burnout May Include

  • Inefficient work, requiring longer hours.
  • Unending cycle leads to feeling trapped. 
  • Lack of self-care.

People in Stage 4 may have difficulty remembering common tasks for completing things on time. Many wonder if depression is present. It’s also possible that someone may become verbally abusive. There will be a noticeable difference in their personality.

Signs of Stage 5 Burnout

Stage 5 of Burnout is called the “Devastation & Inability” Stage, and it always requires medical intervention.

Results of Stage 5 Burnout Include:

  • Severe depression
  • Heart attack
  • Incapacitation
  • Hospitalization

While some people become used to the rush of cortisol that comes with last-minute deadlines, our bodies adjust to the cortisol levels. Ultimately, our bodies cannot handle sustained stress and we will have physical symptoms telling us we need to slow down and rest.

Curious to Learn More About Burnout?

Lessons from the Sidelines front cover final

As the wife of a football coach, Beth Walker encourages women whose families are in the public eye to pursue their own callings even as they support their husbands’ careers and ministries. Through her personal stories as well as interviews with other women who are also living just outside their husbands’ limelight, Beth shows it’s possible to do both.

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