Will Allen-Mersh
Head of Brand

Think mental health support should be a priority in your company?

See how Spill works →

Burnout symptoms test

The incidence of burnout has doubled since April 2020. This 30-second online test for burnout helps anyone self-diagnose the symptoms

Burnout symptoms explained

Burnout is a workplace phenomenon characterised by three symptoms occurring together:

  1. Exhaustion
  2. Negativity
  3. Ineffectiveness

Exhaustion is when you feel tired, unfocused and lacking in energy a lot of the time. Other people might notice that you seem quieter, slower, or more withdrawn.

Negativity is when you feel downbeat, cynical and hopeless about your job and work prospects. Other people might notice that you’re quick to see the worst in things or seem more self-critical than usual.

Ineffectiveness is when you feel like you’re not getting much work done, or the quality of your work is lower than usual, even though you’re trying as best you can. Other people might notice that you’re dropping the ball at work more than usual, you’re missing things you usually wouldn’t, or the quality and speed of your work has dropped dramatically.

Quick online test for burnout

Because burnout isn’t a medical condition, there’s no official ‘yes or no’ diagnosis. It’s not like being able to get an X-ray and objectively tell whether you have or haven’t broken your arm. As with so much of mental health, burnout exists along a spectrum. So instead of “do I or don’t I have burnout?” the question is “how severe are my burnout symptoms?”

While there isn’t an official medical test, the Maslach Burnout Index is the most widely used tool for assessing burnout severity. It was created by Christina Maslach, who’s probably the world’s leading expert in the psychology of burnout. We’ve condensed the test down to three key questions for a quicker and easier version.

Download a PDF version here

Burnout symptoms vs. other diagnoses

Burnout is commonly confused with regular emotional exhaustion and depression, which have overlapping symptoms but are characterised by some key differences.

  • Regular emotional exhaustion is often the result of overstretching oneself in both work and life: trying to juggle too many things at once. Its common symptoms include extreme tiredness, irritability, a lack of concentration and a lack of interest in everyday activities
  • Depression is a medical condition that often includes the symptoms of burnout (exhaustion, negativity and ineffectiveness), but can also include more general low self-esteem and, at its worst, suicidal ideation. Unlike burnout (which is caused primarily by work-related factors), depression can be triggered by life events (such as bereavement, losing your job or giving birth), influenced by your genetics, or can sometimes happen for no reason at all.
Burnout depression tiredness venn diagram

Some questions to ask yourself that may help distinguish if your symptoms might be explained by regular emotional exhaustion or depression:

  • Have you felt over-stretched yourself both in and outside of work recently? Are you trying to juggle both a busy job with lots of social activities, hobbies, commitments like childcare, etc?
  • Do you often feel exhausted, irritable, and find it hard to concentrate — but can still get work done and still feel like you are good at your job?
  • If you feel downbeat and cynical, is this mainly about your job and your ability to do the work — or does this cynicism extend to other areas of your life, like your ability to be a good friend or partner, or your ability to enjoy hobbies and social events?

→ If you think or someone you know is experiencing burnout, take a look at our burnout recovery plan in order to overcome the symptoms.

→ If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call the Samaritans’ free helpline on 116 123.

Find out why progressive companies like yours are using Spill