What You Need to Know About Burnout Syndrome

The signs of burnout syndrome are evident both in a person's behavior and attitudes. Students and athletes are especially prone to suffering from burnout syndrome.
What You Need to Know About Burnout Syndrome

Last update: 05 August, 2019

Burnout syndrome refers to a condition of occupational or professional exhaustion which was, in the past, only attributed to adults. However, we now know that, in modern society, children and adolescents also suffer from this condition in their activities.

According to a study conducted at the University of Murcia in Spain, youth are especially prone to present burnout syndrome in educational and athletic contexts.

What is burnout syndrome?

Researchers Jerry Edelwich and Archie Brodsky define burnout syndrome as a progressive loss of idealism, energy and purpose. At the same time, other social studies describe it as an emotional and physical state of exhaustion.

In the case of children and teens, they may often suffer symptoms of burnout syndrome in educational and athletic settings. In both cases, diverse behaviors appear which indicate that a student or athlete is suffering from burnout syndrome. We’ll explain these behaviors in more detail below:

What You Need to Know About Burnout Syndrome

Burnout syndrome in students

William J. Knaus pointed out in a study on burnout syndrome that burnout is often underestimated in students. First, he points out that children and adolescents are often subject to rules and norms that may produce frustration, apathy or anxiety.

At the same time, as is the case with adults in work settings, they may be overwhelmed by information and tasks.


The symptoms that each child or teenager presents may vary according to his or her personality. However, parents should pay special attention to the symptoms below:

Characteristics of children and teens at risk of burnout syndrome

Of course, burnout syndrome can affect any school-aged child or teen. However, it’s important to point out that students who possess certain characteristics may be at greater risk:

  • Children and adolescents who lack certain academic abilities and are more prone to experiencing frustration than their peers.
  • Disinterested students who perceive a lack of rewards and view school as an adverse and unpleasant context.
  • Children and teenagers with attention deficitThey display minimal attention and “disconnect” more easily than others.
  • Students with behavior problems.
  • Children and teens who suffer from anxiety and may display difficulties with attention, concentration and memory.
  • Students who are perfectionists and treat learning at school in an obsessive way.

Children who suffer from burnout syndrome often experience marginalization, which is a consequence of their poor academic performance.

What You Need to Know About Burnout Syndrome

Burnout syndrome in athletes

Burnout syndrome can also appear when children and adolescents participate in activities where they feel the pressure to perform as best they can. This is often the case with athletic competition.

Furthermore, researchers point out that some youth may feel enough frustration that they want to quit their sport. According to the article published by the University of Murcia, the following are the symptoms that athletes with burnout may present:

  • Seeking perfection in their activity.
  • Decreased ability to relate to others.
  • Excessive focus on others.

Phases of the appearance of this condition in athletes

According to the study, athletes may feel a great deal of pressure to excel in the athletic environment. This may also include a lack of effort on behalf of their coach to make the situation better.

Below are the phases that athletes with burnout syndrome go through:

  • A decrease in enthusiasm and energy. Competition may affect their once positive feelings.
  • Due to their lack of motivation, young athletes may experience “blocks” in their training (similar to writer’s block). As a result, they may suffer anxiety and abandon their activities periodically.
  • As a consequence of the previous phases, child and teenage athletes may present loss of confidence and self-esteem, depression, alienation and abandonment.
  • Within these phases, athletes may also suffer from lack of motivation, lofty and unrealistic goals, emotional instability, weak social support.

What You Need to Know About Burnout Syndrome

Both in academics and in sports, we can observe consequences like frustration, low concept of personal performance, psychosomatic disorder and behavioral problems.

Many children and teenagers may feel a certain degree of pressure when performing daily activities. This pressure can lead to behaviors that parents may not always notice. Therefore, it’s important to study your child’s attitudes during this stage that can be so complex.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Garcés de Los Fayos Ruiz, Enrique Javier. (1995). Burnout en niños y adolescentes: un nuevo síndrome en psicopatología infantil. : Psicothema, ISSN 0214-9915, Vol. 7, Nº. 1, 1995.
  • Domínguez, C. C. C., Hederich, C., & Sañudo, J. E. P. (2010). El burnout académico: Delimitación del síndrome y factores asociados con su aparici?́. Revista Latinoamericana de Psicologia. http://publicaciones.konradlorenz.edu.co/index.php/rlpsi/article/view/403

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.