The conversation around men’s health is a new and developing subject. For years ‘boys don’t cry’ was the common opinion, this ‘suck it up’ mentality extending to all areas of men’s health from the mental to the physical. Now don’t get me wrong, with NHS funding scraped back to a minimum and healthcare workers being stretched further than ever, not only men are suffering. But it is important to consider that men between the ages of 20 and 40 are half as likely to seek medical help compared to women.
Burnout is described as a ‘physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress’
Unlike diagnosable conditions such as depression and anxiety, we have all experienced a burnout to some extent. I remember as early as primary school, coming home after my year 6 maths exam and not understanding why my body felt heavy yet jittery, I was tired and emotionally exhausted. This was my first experience of what we would now refer to as burnout (though I aced that exam, not to brag).
The reason men are at the centre of this story is because they are 7% more likely to attempt to get through a burnout alone, rather than seeking outside help. With men making up three quarters of suicides in Britain it’s more important than ever to change the narrative around men’s health.
Burnout can be caused by a number of issues, but in the majority of cases work related stress is a main factor. This can include unclear expectations, feeling out of control, extreme workloads and a lack of work/life balance.
The symptoms of burnout differ between men and women
Women more often experience a sense of emotional exhaustion, whereas men are more likely to experience depersonalization. Depersonalization is the experience of feeling unreal, detached, and often, unable to feel emotion, which of course would be stressful and upsetting for anyone.
Another common symptom of burnout for men is cynicism, a feeling of pessimism and irritability that can seep into other areas of life such as relationships. This can lead to inefficiency and a lack of productivity which further increases the prevalence of the two previous symptoms. Although, men find it harder to recognise signs of inefficiency in their work compared to women, possibly due to the fact that men are twice as likely as women to have inadequate health literacy.
Other symptoms of burnout include:
- Excessive stress
- Sadness, anger or irritability
- Alcohol or substance misuse
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Vulnerability to illnesses
What can I do if I am experiencing burnout?
As burnout tends to be a combination of different factors, there isn’t one cure-all treatment or medication. If the symptoms you are experiencing are becoming overwhelming or unmanageable, we would always recommend you visit your GP and discuss what your options might be. Although it can seem unbearable, there is always a solution.
Some jobs are more stressful than others, in fact 1 in 3 Doctors experience some kind of burnout symptoms everyday (read our article on the 6 jobs that can cause illness for more information). A good way to manage burnout is to analyze what part of your job is causing the stress and find ways to deal with it. For example if you feel overworked make sure you take a full lunch break, or create an adequate work life balance by leaving your work behind you when you leave the office.
Stress management is different for everyone, but some tried and tested methods include exercise, meditation, counselling, keeping a stress diary and taking time away from work.
If you found this article useful check out our mental health survival guide to post grad life.