and burnout

Signs & Symptoms

The word stress refers to a feeling of having an insufficient defense system, or just thinking so, when one is threatened or expecting threat.1 This word can also mean constrict or tighten.2

The influences that trigger stress reactions are calledstressors.3 It is important to realize that just like experiencing stress itself is highly individual, so is the perception of stressors. In other words, what stresses one person does not have to stress the other.

The stressors fall into these categories: external (loud noises, danger), difficulties satisfying primary needs (sleep, food), workload (time pressure, excessive demands, also low demands regarding a boring job), social stressors (social isolation, interpersonal conflicts), conflicts (self-consciousness during attempts to accomplish tasks).4

Stressed person

However, stress does not necessarily have to be only negative. When categorized by quality, one can talk about distress, which is accompanied by tension and anxiety and often leads to mental disorders; but also about eustress, which is produced by pleasant events, such as weddings or job promotions5

Stress can be categorized by different criteria than quality. Among other criteria one can find, for instance, the duration of stress. Acute stress is sudden and most often life-threatening. It can cause even memory loss or loss of consciousness.6

Chronic stress, on the other hand, is caused by long-term stressful conditions which gradually eat away one’s resources which their organism needs to cope with this situation. It can lead to total exhaustion. Among the causes of chronic stress belong long-term adultery, extensive workload, sleep deprivation, poor interpersonal relation, or inadequate living conditions. 7

Distress reactions

Stress affects people on many levels. It can bounce back on the physical level by significant weakening of one’s immune system or depleting bone and muscle mass while putting on fat in the abdominal area.8 On top of that, the physical condition is affected by declining reproductive functions, and one can experience pains around their chest, headaches, intestinal cramps and other discomfort.9

Stress then, of course, reflects onthe mental level. The most common reaction to stress is anxiety. Other usual reactions include anger, aggression, or apathy, which may develop into depression.10 Last but not least is the effect stress has on learning abilities, since stress affects the hippocampus, the center for learning and memory.11

The consequences of long-term stress can be serious. In the long run, high blood glucose levels are one of the causes of so-called elderly diabetes; heightened blood pressure causes hypertension. High blood pressure then might lead to an ischemic stroke manifesting as a heart attack.12

For more information about psychosomatic illnesses, possibly triggered by stressors, visit the section Psychosomatics.Information and support materials regarding not only stress but also burnout syndrome can be found in the section Multimedia.

Remember, stress has a number of causes. Those which may seem trivial to one person might in someone else invoke very strong responses. Do not resent professional help when you feel you need one. To act is always the best solution.

Burnout syndrome

According to the Medical Facility Department of the Ministry of the Interior, people with a high workload and people working in helping professions should keep in mind the burnout syndrome. It is those people who take on demanding work tasks and spend an excessive amount of time at work, often underestimating the warning signals that the body sends them.

Medical Facility Department of the Ministry of the Interior further states that burnout syndrome is a state of chronic stress. This stress leads to exhaustion, and even feelings of inferiority and lack of success. By the time the syndrome approaches, mostly inconspicuously and slowly, a person is no longer able to function effectively on a professional and personal level.

The difference between stress and burnout is a matter of degree, which means that the sooner you recognize the symptoms, the better you will be able to avoid the burnout syndrome:

  • chronic fatigue
  • insomnia
  • forgetting / deteriorating concentration and attention
  • physical symptoms
  • more common illnesses and loss of appetite
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • anger
  • loss of joy
  • pessimism
  • isolation
  • separation
  • feelings of apathy and hopelessness
  • increased irritability
  • insufficient productivity and poor performance

It's great if you don't have any of these problems. However, you should keep all these warning signs in mind. Take your time and honestly evaluate the level of stress in your life. Learn to say "No," organize your work well, and spend your free time doing the activities you like. You can look at the Self-Care section for inspiration. If you feel you need professional help, go to the Help section.

/more info/


  1. Křivohlavý, J. (1994). Jak zvládat stres. Praha: Grada. 
  2. Janíček, P., Marek, K. a kol. (2013). Expertní inženýrství v systémovém pojetí. Praha: Grada.
  3. Selye, H. (1966). Život a stres. Bratislava: Obzor
  4. Křivohlavý, J. (1994). Jak zvládat stres. Praha: Grada. 
  5. Halan, Y. C. (2005). Managing Stress. Slough: NEW DAWN PRESS GROUP.
  6. Matoušek, O. (2003). Pracovní stres a zdraví. Praha: Výzkumný ústav bezpečnosti práce.
  7. Hartl, P. & Hartlová, H. (2010). Velký psychologický slovník. Praha: Portál. 
  8. Ayers, S. & Visser, R. (2015). Psychologie v medicíně. Praha: Grada.
  9. Rice, W. H. (2012). The Handbook of Stress Science: Biology, Psychology and Health. Thousand Oaks: SAGE. 
  10. Atkinson, R. (2003). Psychologie. Praha: Portál.
  11. Kim, J. J. & Yoon, K. B (1998). Stress: Metaplastic effects in the hippocampus. Trends in Neurosciencees, 21(12), 505-509. doi: 10.1016/S0166-2236(98)01322-8.
  12. Atkinson, R. (2003). Psychologie. Praha: Portál.