Burnout and Laziness, know the difference.

Sheeraz Qurban

I thought I was just lazy. I would spend most of my time in bed, trying to sleep or just lying down and doing nothing. I did not feel like doing anything and got tired effortlessly. I would spend hours thinking about the things I should do, but I won’t do them. Everything around me was irritating, and I began to hate it. I wanted to change. It was the only thing I needed, a change. But fear of failure would occupy my mind. I would see failure in everything before doing it. But I was wrong about this being just laziness. It was more than just laziness, probably burnout.

Photo by Gui Spinardi from Pexels

Like most people, I also confused burnout with laziness. Laziness and burnout overlap so much that it becomes difficult to differentiate between them. We fail to recognize the behavior correctly. That is the reason I am writing this article. I am sharing with you how I confused burnout with laziness.

What is burnout?

Herbert Freudenberger, an American psychologist, coined the term burnout in the 1970s.

According to psychologists - “a negative state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive stress and an inability to cope with it.”

Burnout does not happen suddenly or secretly. There are signs which we usually label as mere laziness. Below are some of these signs which I spotted in my experience with burnout.


A strange sort of emotional numbness and emptiness, depersonalization is defined as the “persistent feeling of being detached from one’s-self” - American Psychological Association

People like me who suffer from burnout may feel disconnected from everything and see their lives from outside of themselves.

It is most commonly reported by those struggling with trauma, dissociation or DID, and substance abuse. Such people do not feel like themselves anymore, do not feel engaged by anything, feel helpless, and are incapable of taking back control of their lives.


Laziness is a character trait, and character traits tend to remain constant over time. If I were simply a lazy person, then it would stand to a reason that I have always been a lazy person, maybe with few exceptions.

I used to be self-motivated, enthusiastic, and high achieving. Lately, I have become exhausted, apathetic, and unambitious, which indicates that I am suffering from burnout.

Losing interest

People who suffer from burnout lose interest in everything and struggle to find interest in things they once used to do. Nothing was joyful for me too. I used to be passionate and enthusiastic, but then I became phlegmatic. It became hard for me to do the things I enjoyed doing once and was passionate about.


I realized that I often feel emotionally drained, and my emotions get out of control now and then. I get irritated very quickly and have become extremely moody. It never used to be a problem for me. Unlike now, my emotions were in my control. It is another clear sign of burnout.

Neglecting Self-care

I noticed that my sleeping and eating patterns are disarrays. I do not care about my appearance, and I am making zero efforts in grooming myself. Surprisingly, one of the most distressing warning signs that someone may be emotionally and physically burnt-out is if they start neglecting their self-care and socially withdrawing from others.

Initially, I thought it is just my laziness. But lately, I realized that I did not use to be like this always. I used to take good care of my physical and mental health. These signs made me think more about the changes I have adopted, unknowingly.

Burnout happens in stages

Then I found out that burnout does not just happen at once, but it occurs in stages. The changes were happening gradually, and I was unaware of them. I was losing interest in things I once used to love; I was slowly disconnecting from everything around me; I was neglecting my self-care and all these signs discussed above – they did not happen all at once. It happened in steps and stages.

I was unaware of burnout, and I did not know if such a thing exists. It is necessary to spread awareness about burnout instead of simply labeling it as laziness. The earlier you spot the signs of burnout, the easier it will be for you to get help and quicker you will recover from it.

I will share my experience of fighting burnout and how I recovered from it in my next article.

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