Burnout and neurodiversity are closely linked. For example, autistic people sometimes struggle with a particular kind of burnout called "autistic burnout." Other times, a neurodivergent person is simply the first person in a group to burn out, revealing harsh conditions that everyone is working under.

When we talk about burnout, it's important to take neurodiversity into account because we are learning that neurodivergent people make up such a large part of our population.

But first...

Burnout is mental and physcial collapse brought on by long-term overwork or stress.

Burnout was only recently recognized as a real syndrome. The International Classificatin of Diseases, 11th edition (ICD-11), published by the World Heath Organization, defines burnout as a “syndrome” caused by “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

The ICD-11 divides burnout into three “dimensions”:

The ICD-11, as well as psychological research on burnout, limits it to the workplace, stating that burnout only applies “in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

But as I write in my new book, A Light in the Tower: A New Reckoning with Mental Health in Higher Education, a person who works from home can burn out from any kind of labor. Endless slide decks and endless dishes are equally laborious and can be equally stressful.

Burnout is serious. As burnout expert Dr. Rebecca Pope-Ruark points out in her book, “Depression and anxiety often accompany burnout.” Furthermore, she notes, “if left unchecked, burnout can lead to fatigue and sleepless, drug and alcohol abuse, and physical health problems.”

Burnout is widespread; so widespread, in fact, it is hard to spot. It is an institutional problem—one that is caused by environments, not by individuals. It is also a systemic problem that our overworked society accepts as normal.

When all of our colleagues or friends are suffering, suffering becomes normalized. When a problem is systemic, it becomes invisible. In my book, I call this widespread and hard-to-spot burnout “systemic burnout.”

The only solution to a systemic problem is a large-scale solution.

Neurodivergent people are particularly susceptible to burnout. We are already operating in a world that is not built for our brains. Add in overwork and unreasonable expectations at work or home, and you have a recipe for burnout.

As Dr. Pope-Ruark told me in an interview, “We know that living in a world geared for neurotypical people can lead to a form of burnout more common in autistic people and people with ADHD.” The same holds true for other neurodivergent people, such as a person with social anxiety or depression.

As Dr. Pope-Ruark explained to me, “When you are constantly stressed about how to fit in and do your job as a neurodivergent person in a neurotypical world, the stress can have serious consequences.”

If neurodivergent people are able to control our environments better, then we are better able to prevent burnout. But a neurodivergent person can rarely do so, and so they burn out faster than their neurotypical colleagues.

But is this burnout the fault of the neurodivergent person? No.

Burnout is an institutional, not individual, problem. If you are an employer, neurodiversity among your employees is a good thing, bringing a diversity of skills and perspectives and thereby enriching your workplace.

When it comes to burnout, you can view your neurodivergent employees like the canaries in a coal mine. When they burn out, they will let you know that burnout among your other employees is not far behind, and you need to make some changes.

The first step to solving a burnout problem is to prevent burnout in the first place. If you think you might be burning out, take stock. Notice whether you feel overwhelmed, because feeling overwhelmed is a precursor to burnout.

It can be harder for neurodivergent people to spot burnout because we are accustomed to feeling overwhelmed and exhausted just from our day-to-day living.

Here is an example that might help.

If you open your inbox to an avalanche of emails, and you feel overwhelmed with a negative emotion and want to hide under your desk, you are not yet burned out. You still feel something.

If you see that avalanche of emails and just don’t care? You are approaching burnout, the “increased mental distance” the ICD-11 mentions. Don’t wait until you feel apathetic do something. When you feel overwhelmed, intervene.

But if you are already in burnout, remember it is not your fault, and there are some things that you can do. Dr. Pope-Ruark Rebecca provides expert advice in her book on burnout, which includes four “lenses” for making your way through burnout:

But remember: the conditions that cause burnout are not your fault. They are institutional (in your workplace or your home). For neurodivergent people, they are also social and cultural.

To avoid and prevent burnout, we, as a society, must fight against cultural expectations that cause burnout in the first place.

To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

References

Katie Rose Guest Pryal, A Light in the Tower: A New Reckoning with Mental Health in Higher Education (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2024).

Rebecca Pope-Ruark, Unraveling Faculty Burnout: Pathways to Reckoning and Renewal (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2022).

World Health Organization News. “Burn-Out an ‘Occupational Phenomenon’: International Classification of Diseases.” World Health Organization, May 28, 2019.

QOSHE - Burnout and Neurodiversity - Katie Rose Guest Pryal J.d
menu_open
Columnists Actual . Favourites . Archive
We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

Burnout and Neurodiversity

114 0
20.05.2024

Burnout and neurodiversity are closely linked. For example, autistic people sometimes struggle with a particular kind of burnout called "autistic burnout." Other times, a neurodivergent person is simply the first person in a group to burn out, revealing harsh conditions that everyone is working under.

When we talk about burnout, it's important to take neurodiversity into account because we are learning that neurodivergent people make up such a large part of our population.

But first...

Burnout is mental and physcial collapse brought on by long-term overwork or stress.

Burnout was only recently recognized as a real syndrome. The International Classificatin of Diseases, 11th edition (ICD-11), published by the World Heath Organization, defines burnout as a “syndrome” caused by “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

The ICD-11 divides burnout into three “dimensions”:

The ICD-11, as well as psychological research on burnout, limits it to the workplace, stating that burnout only applies “in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

But as I write in my new book, A Light in the Tower: A New Reckoning with Mental Health in Higher Education, a person who works from home can burn out from any kind of labor. Endless slide decks and endless dishes are equally laborious and can be........

© Psychology Today


Get it on Google Play