This book shows how to recognize, prevent and cure burnout syndrome for nurses, teachers, counselors, doctors, therapists, police, social workers, and anyone else who cares about and for people. Christina Maslach, the leading pioneer in research on burnout, offers help using illustrative examples and first-hand accounts. She points out what causes the feelings of emotional exhaustion, the callous indifference to people's problems, and the sense of inadequacy about one's ability to help and relate to others.
From the First Chapter:
Burnout. The word evokes images of a final flickering flame, of a charred and empty shell, of dying embers and cold, gray ashes. And, indeed, these images aptly express what these three people, Carol, Jim, and Jane, are now experiencing. All of them were once fired up about their involvement with other people — excited, full of energy, dedicated, willing to give tremendously of themselves for others. And they did give… and give, and give until finally there was nothing left to give anymore. The teapot was empty, the battery was drained, the circuit was overloaded — they had burned out.
Burnout is a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who do “people-work” of some kind. It is a response to the chronic emotional strain of dealing extensively with other human beings, particularly when they are troubled or having problems. Thus, it can be considered one type of job stress. Although it has some of the same deleterious effects as other stress responses, what is unique about burnout is that the stress arises from the social interaction between helper and recipient.
A pattern of emotional overload and subsequent emotional exhaustion is at the heart of the burnout syndrome. A person gets overly involved emotionally, overextends him— or herself, and feels overwhelmed by the emotional demands imposed by other people. The response to this situation (and, thus, one aspect of burnout) is emotional exhaustion. People feel drained and used up. They lack enough energy to face another day. Their emotional resources are depleted, and there is no source of replenishment. As Betty G. put it, “Everyday I was knocking myself out at school — for the kids primarily, but also to prove to others (and myself) that I was a good teacher. I would really be emotionally drained, but all I had to come home to was the cat.” Her motto might have been, “I gave at the office — who will give me something back?”