8 Things That Lead To Emotional Exhaustion

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Ever feel like life is stressful every single day to the point where you feel overwhelmed or anxious more often than not? Experiencing some daily stress and anxiety is normal, but over time, chronic stress can take a toll on the body.

Emotional exhaustion is caused by a long period of constant life stress, whether from personal stress at home or stress related to work (Casasso, 2019). The term “burnout” was first used by Psychologists in the 1970s to describe the effects of severe stress on “helping” professionals, such as doctors and nurses.

The American Psychological Association’s David Ballard, PsyD describes job burnout as “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.”

Emotional exhaustion will differ from person to person and it is important to note that what might be stressful for one person, may be more manageable for somebody else.  Understanding what your own triggers are will go a long way to helping you understand how to manage your exhaustion.

As always, this is a reminder that this article is for education and interest purposes only and is not designed to self-diagnose signs or symptoms of emotional exhaustion. If you can relate to any of the signs in this article , always speak to your doctor or healthcare professional and seek medical advice if necessary. Emotional exhaustion can be difficult to manage so don’t suffer in silence.

With that being said, here are 8 things which can lead to Emotional Exhaustion.

High pressure jobs or working environments.

Those in demanding or stressful jobs such as police officers, nurses, social workers, and teachers may be more at risk at experiencing emotional exhaustion and burnout than others. For example, medical professors in the early stages of their career show higher indicators of emotional exhaustion and burnout risk, according to a 2014 study from the Netherlands. Research shows that people with high work demands, and those who are preoccupied with thoughts about work during leisure time, are more at risk of emotional exhaustion.

Working long hours. 

Working long hours may have some perks in terms of financial gain and can be a distraction, but that does not mean that it does not impact people’s emotional wellbeing. Working long hours reduces time which can be spent at home, with friends, family and having leisure time. Not having a balance can tip people towards emotional exhaustion rather than maintaining a work/life balance.

Financial stress or poverty

Having to pay for bills, housing, running a car and food shopping are amongst some of the vital provisions which people need and often, these things do not always come cheap! Worrying about money can be a big factor which causes emotional exhaustion especially if it means you have to work longer hours or work an extra job to make ends meet. People may feel that they have too few personal resources, such as status, money, or support.

Living with a chronic illness, medical condition or injury.

This can be exhausting in itself, especially if it hinders your daily life and ability to function as you would like to. Some conditions can have a significant physical impact which in turn can cause emotional exhaustion especially if it is harder to manage that condition or if people have little support systems in place.


Numerous studies have cited perfectionism as being a risk factor for such conditions. Individuals who strive for what they see as “perfection” in one or more areas of their lives often experience emotional exhaustion and burnout. By way of explanation, perfectionists are more likely to put themselves under excessive stress by taking on more than they can comfortably manage.


Loneliness may increase feelings of emotional exhaustion and burnout as people without many close relationships may have fewer people with whom to share their feelings. Research suggests that fostering social relationships may help people lessen the harmful effects of burnout, potentially, by promoting resilience and a sense of greater well-being.

Poor self-care

People who do not prioritize their own well-being may be more prone to emotional exhaustion. This can include those who do not get enough exercise, sleep, or healthful foods. For example, some research links insufficient sleep with a greater risk of burnout. Excessive use of alcohol or illicit drugs may also increase risk, especially if people use these instead of more constructive coping techniques.

Prolonged divorce proceedings going through a significant life change, such as divorce or death of a loved one / death of a family member or friend

Significant life changes can throw you into a whirlwind of emotions and situations, some of which you may never have experienced before. Some people may turn to using harmful coping strategies, such as drugs or alcohol, to deal with stress.

People can experience emotional exhaustion after a period of excessive stress, so looking out for the symptoms can help people take steps to improve them. Lifestyle changes and stress reduction methods can help, for example, regular mindfulness practice can reduce anxiety and depression and improve mood. According to one research study, people who practice mindfulness report significantly less emotional exhaustion and more job satisfaction than those who do not use mindfulness technique (Hülsheger, 2013).

If you have found this article useful or feel like you have been experiencing emotional exhaustion, then please leave a comment in the box below. We love to hear from our readers and appreciate the support we receive from you. You keep us here at Psych2Go motivated towards out mission to make psychology and mental health accessible to everybody. Keep safe and keep your eyes open for my next article.



Cafasso, J. (2019). What Is Emotional Exhaustion and How Do You Fix It? [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/emotional-exhaustion [Accessed 18th Sept, 2020)

Hülsheger, U. R., Alberts, H. J. E. M., Feinholdt, A., & Lang, J. W. B. (2013). Benefits of mindfulness at work: The role of mindfulness in emotion regulation, emotional exhaustion, and job satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(2), 310–325. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031313

Lorenzo, J. (2019) 8 Signs Of Emotional Exhaustion That You Need To Know About According To AnExpert. (n.d.). Bustle. Available at: https://www.bustle.com/p/8-signs of-emotional-exhaustion-that-you-need-to-know-about-according-to-expert-15796400 [Accessed on 30 Aug. 2020]

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