This is what happens in your brain when you’re burnt out

Burn-out is a real psychological hell that arises from the professional world and can be observed in all professions. But what happens in our brain after it occurs?

Burn-out is one of the professional ills of recent years. Not being able to do one's job anymore, not being able to meet the demands of a job, not being able to do it at all. The ‘too much’ has taken over and our bodies simply cannot cope anymore. Mentally, physically, emotionally, exhaustion is widespread and the consequences for our brain are obvious.

Burn-out, a professional reality

Unfortunately, it is no longer an epiphenomenon. Burn-out has become one of the main reasons for sick leave in recent years. According to the Observatoire de la compétence métier, in 2021, 480,000 people were possibly suffering from psychological distress and burn-out would have affected 30,000 of them. The risk of developing burnout is estimated to be present in 3.2 million employees according to a study by Technologia. This study dates back to 2014 but the figures could be higher with the recent crises.

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Elisa Ventur Elisa Ventur/Unsplash

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Burn-out, what are the repercussions for the brain?

But from a strictly scientific point of view, what happens in the brain at the time of a burn-out? How does our main organ react, a posteriori, to this exhaustion?

According to our American colleagues at CNN, Amy Arnsten, a professor of neuroscience at the Yale School of Medicine, describes the destructive side of the phenomenon:

One of the most striking [effects] is the thinning of the grey matter in an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex.

This is the area that allows us to reason, reflect and coordinate our actions and to act in an ‘appropriate way’ for ourselves, but also with others. In the event of burn-out, learning new things becomes extremely difficult and the risk of making mistakes is subsequently increased.

At another time, the amygdala, which receives sensory information, may be enlarged. The sense of fear and vulnerability then increases and you begin to perceive your relationships as ‘hostile’. If you feel that you are on the verge of developing a form of burn-out, platforms have been created to help you.

This article was translated from Gentside FR.

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