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What Is Emotional Exhaustion?

By Felicia Dye
Updated May 17, 2024
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Emotional exhaustion is a condition that results from an excessive amount of stress. When suffering from this condition, which may also be referred to as emotional depletion or burnout, a person tends to feel as if her inner resources have been drained. This condition can have psychological, physical, and social effects. It generally does not require medical intervention unless more severe problems, such as depression or high cholesterol, have developed. In most cases, a person can recover if he takes a vacation, gets rest, or eliminates the cause of stress.

If a person becomes overburdened with stress, there is a possibility that she will suffer from emotional depletion. This condition makes a person feel as though she does not have the necessary emotional and and physical resources to meet the demands in her life. Despite the name, the cause of this condition does not have to be one that people tend to associate with emotional well-being, although it can be. Possible causes include a demanding job, financial problems, or struggles within an intimate relationship.

This condition may be characterized by a number of physical symptoms, such as headaches, ulcers, and sexual dysfunction. Psychological effects may include irritability, anxiety, and frustration. A sufferer may additionally experience varying degrees of fatigue, but it is also possible that she may suffer from insomnia. There is a possibility that emotional depletion can lead to more serious conditions, such as depression and gastrointestinal problems.

Serious adverse effects on a person's relationships may also take place as a result of emotional exhaustion. Individuals suffering from this condition often become more prone to conflicts. They may become cynical, rigid, or passive. It is also likely that they may begin to isolate themselves.

A person suffering from this condition may need to do several things to recover. It is likely she will need rest, and it may be necessary for her to change her environment, at least temporarily. Meditation and counseling can be helpful, especially if the causes of stress are complex and extensive. More serious mental or physical treatment may be necessary when other conditions have developed as a result of the emotional exhaustion.

There is not an accurate means to determine how much stress will result in emotional exhaustion. Stress tolerance can greatly vary from one person to another. It is believed, however, that individuals with strong coping skills are more capable of enduring greater amounts of stress and therefore less likely to suffer from emotional exhaustion.

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Discussion Comments

By SarahGen — On Feb 12, 2013

@ZipLine-- Physical exhaustion and emotional exhaustion are different things. They can both cause physical effects, but will probably vary a bit.

Physical exhaustion can cause things like chronic pain, hernias and similar injuries. Emotional exhaustion tends to be harder on the mind and the physical symptoms are usually a result of psychological effects.

When I had emotional exhaustion, I couldn't sleep, I started drinking and smoking more, I would have migraines and mood changes often. I also had menstrual irregularities and acne which I usually never experience.

By ZipLine — On Feb 11, 2013

Aside from headaches, insomnia and fatigue, what other physical effects can emotional and physical exhaustion lead to?

By bear78 — On Feb 11, 2013

I suffered from emotional exhaustion several years ago. I was experiencing financial problems and was forced to work multiple jobs. I was so stressed about whether I would make ends meet every month that I became burnt out. I started experiencing exhaustion symptoms like anxiety attacks and depression. I stopped socializing and spent even weekends alone. I even ended up in the emergency room one day due to a terrible anxiety attack.

With the encouragement of my family, I quit my jobs and moved back home to get some rest. I didn't do anything for about six months. This was a great time because I found the opportunity to rest my body and mind. I didn't have to worry about rent or food. I also got the opportunity to go to a therapist and treat my anxiety.

After six months, I found a job close to home. I still live home which has eliminated a lot of financial stress and what I make is enough for me. This is how I overcame my emotional exhaustion. Perhaps it will be a positive example for someone else going through the same thing.

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