Syndrome of emotional burnout of teachers and its prevention

The article analyzes the problem of emotional burnout as one of the types of professional deformation of a teacher's personality. The stages and phases of the development of this deformation of personality are considered; symptoms of its manifestation; factors initiating this process; measures to prevent the development of this syndrome. The topicality and social significance of the chosen topic is the complex nature of the syndrome of emotional burnout, as well as the heterogeneity of the interpretation of its causes and manifestations, which require the search for research strategies and the creation of an appropriate psychological toolkit. The study of this phenomenon allows revealing the features of the burnout syndrome, to trace the mechanisms of the unfavorable impact of the profession on its development, to determine the factors causing its occurrence, to analyze the methods and methods of preventive work aimed at preventing and preventing possible violations in the cognitive, emotional and behavioral sphere. Identification of factors (internal and external), moderating the emergence and development of the syndrome of emotional burnout in teachers, is an important task currently facing researchers. Thus, the purpose of this article is a theoretical review of the available empirical studies devoted to the identification of external and internal factors moderating the emergence and development of the syndrome of emotional burnout in educators.

Modern education makes significant demands on all aspects of the teacher's activity: knowledge, pedagogical skills and methods of activity and, of course, personal characteristics. Its success is determined not only and not so much by professional knowledge, as by the ability to realize them in its activities through the development of professionally important and personal qualities.

The professional activity of teachers is one of the most intense (in terms of psychological) activities and is included in the group of professions with a large presence of stress factors.

In the space of professional activity, the teacher shows only his purely subjective qualities - special abilities and knowledge. Personal qualities he can manifest outside of activity, but in a certain situation they can manifest themselves in professional activities.

The professional activity of teachers has a number of specific features, complicated by many negative factors. One of the particular negative manifestations of the teachers is the phenomenon of «emotional burn- out» or, in another wording, the syndrome of «emotional burnout». This syndrome arises in situations of intense professional communication under the influence of many external and internal factors (Freudenberger, 1974, K. Maslach, 1982, T.V. Formanyuk, 1994, A.K. Markova, 1996, V.V. Boyko, 1996, N.E. Vodopyanova, N.V. Grishina, 1997, V.E. Orel, 2001, T.I. Ronginskaya, 2002, M.V. Borisova 2002 and others) and is manifested as «muffling» of emotions, disappearance of acuity of feelings and experiences, increasing the number of conflicts with partners in communication, indifference and detachment from the experiences of another person, loss of feelings of the value of life, loss of faith in one's own strength [1].

The first place in the number of published studies devoted to the problem of burnout occupy the work concerning the work of teachers. According to the majority of authors (V.V. Lebedeva, S.E.Timoshenko, 1993, S.P. Beznosov, 1997, etc.), teachers are the category of professionals that are most prone to burnout due to the specifics of their activities and are associated with a significant risk of development syndrome of professional burnout, and the formed phases of burnout lead to a professional deformation of the individual.

Studies of specialists state that teachers as a professional group are characterized by extremely low health indicators, which decrease as the length of work increases. It is established that after 10-15 years of pedagogical activity the specialist is in a state of psychological crisis: depletion of the nervous system, emotional burnout develops.

Boyko V.V. cites the following data: Of the 7,300 teachers in general education schools, the risk and increased risk of cardiovascular pathology was noted in 29.4% of cases, cerebral vascular disease in 37.2% of teachers, 57.8% of those surveyed have gastrointestinal disturbances . All of revealed somatic pathology is accompanied by a clinic of neurotic disorders. In fact, neurotic disorders were revealed in 60-70% of cases.(Boyko 1996). This side of the health of teaching is conditioned by many social, economic, housing and household factors. Here is a significant role, of course, and the mental stress that accompanies the professional everyday life of the teacher. It is no wonder that, in order to save its energy resources, many teachers resort to various mechanisms of psychological protection and, at least, are doomed to emotional burnout.

This fact has deep historical roots. The term «burnout» - «combustion» was proposed by G. Freudenberger (N. Freudenberger) in 1974 to describe the demoralization, frustration and extreme fatigue observed by specialists working in the system of «man –human» professions. V. Boyko understands the emotional burnout as «the mechanism of psychological defense worked out by the person in the form of full or partial exclusion of emotions (lowering their energy) in response to selected psychotraumatic effects» [2].

Emotional exhaustion is manifested in sensations of emotional overstrain and in a sense of emptiness, exhaustion of their emotional resources. A person feels that he cannot work with the same enthusiasm and desire, as he worked before. Depersonalization is associated with the emergence of an indifferent and even negative attitude towards people served by the nature of work. Contacts with them become formal, impersonal; the emerging negative attitudes may initially have a latent character and manifest themselves in an internally restrained irritation that eventually breaks out and leads to conflicts. Similar conditions take place in closed work collectives that perform joint activities for a long time (up to six months).

As the understanding of the nature of professional deformations, the group of pedagogical scientists under the leadership of Kazakh professor G. Akhmetova suggests the emotional-informational approach in the monograph «Professional deformities of a teacher's personality: theoretical foundations and prevention» [3; 8]. This synthesis of understanding the approach of information and emotional congestion of the human body leading to changes in the personality. As a hypothesis, they assume that the issue of energy exchange between people and its dynamism can be important. This understanding is based on the concept of the postindustrial (information) society of Alvin Toffler, as well as the idea of three waves of scientific discoveries by Jerome Bruner and others.

The mechanism of the emergence of professional deformation has a complex dynamics. First, unfavorable working conditions cause negative changes in professional activity and behavior. Then, as the difficult situations recur, these negative changes can accumulate in the person, leading to its reorganization, which is further manifested in everyday behavior and communication. It is also established that temporary negative mental states and attitudes arise first, and then positive qualities begin to disappear. Later on the place of positive properties, negative mental qualities that change the personality of a specialist arise [4].

How does the professional deformation of the teacher manifest itself? More often, there is official deformation, when a teacher does not limit his power, he appears intolerant of someone else's opinion, he ceases to see his mistakes, and there is a certainty that his own opinion is the only correct one.

With adaptive deformation, only the adaptation of the teacher to the specific conditions of pedagogical activity occurs, as a result, he develops a high level of conformism; he adopts the behavioral models adopted in the organization of education, acts strictly according to the rules and instructions of the leadership.

At a deeper level of deformation, the teacher has significant and sometimes pronounced negative character changes in personal qualities, including authoritarianism, dogmatism, dryness, etc.

With an extreme degree of professional deformation, which is called professional degradation, a person changes his moral values, becomes professionally incompetent [5].

Thus, the professional deformation of a teacher is a change in the personality of the teacher that occurs during the performance of his professional activity and, to a greater extent, negatively affects both the personality and the activities performed by it, as well as other areas of its life. And the activities of the teacher are always activities to manage other activities, that is, the activities of students.

«The emotional development of students is beneficially influenced by an emotionally stable teacher, with an even and benevolent character, able to resist frustrations and not inclined to extreme manifestations of emotions and mood jumps» [6].

Occupational burnout is a syndrome that develops against the backdrop of chronic stress and leads to the exhaustion of the emotional, energy and personal resources of a working person. The syndrome of professional burnout is the most dangerous occupational disease of those who work with people: teachers, social workers, psychologists, doctors, journalists - all whose activities are impossible without communication. It is no accident that the first researcher of this phenomenon, Christina Maslach, called her book: «Emotional combustion is a payment for sympathy» [1].

Professional burnout occurs as a result of the internal accumulation of negative emotions without appropriate «discharge», or «liberation» from them. It leads to the exhaustion of the person's emotional, energy and personal resources.

The first stage of professional burnout is the reduction of self-esteem:

• positive emotions disappear;

• there is some detachment in relations with family members;

• there is a state of anxiety, dissatisfaction;

• coming home, I often want to say: «Do not bother me, leave me alone!»

The second stage of professional burnout is loneliness:

• There are misunderstandings with students and parents; a professional begins to talk about some of them with colleagues;

• hostility begins to gradually manifest in the presence of students - at first it is hard-pressed antipathy, and then outbursts of irritation.

• People suffering from emotional burnout are unable to establish normal contact with people.

• The third stage of professional burnout is emotional exhaustion:

• the ideas about the values of life are dulled, a person becomes dangerously indifferent to everything, even to his own life;

• The eyes lose the spark of interest to anything, and the almost physically palpable cold of indifference settles in his soul [4].

Fatigue, apathy and depression accompanying emotional combustion lead to serious physical ailments - gastritis, migraine, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc.

V.V. Boyko identifies three phases of the formation of burnout.

Phase of tension. Nervous (anxious) tension serves as a harbinger and a «triggering» mechanism in the formation of emotional burnout. Stress is dynamic, which is caused by exhausting constancy or increased psychotraumatic factors.

The phase of resistance (resistance to increasing stress).

In this phase, a person tries more or less successfully to protect himself from unpleasant impressions.

The phase of exhaustion is accompanied by a general fall in the energy tone and the weakening of the nervous system, the impoverishment of mental resources [7].

Each phase contains certain symptoms that describe the dynamics of the burnout syndrome.

The consequence of professional burnout can be problems in the family, violation of relationships with relatives and, first of all, with children. Under the influence of emotional burnout, anxiety, irritability, aggressiveness, change in the style of communication between the teacher and children are increased. More often the style of communication becomes authoritarian or liberal-condoning, and this leads to a disruption of a favorable psychological situation.

Among the main reasons provoking the syndrome of professional burnout among teachers, it is possible to single out a poor financial situation, insecurity, social injustice, and loss of social prestige; as well as a high responsibility for the lives and health of pupils, the communicative load. Also, among the causes that affect the onset of the syndrome, teachers put on one of the first places a high responsibility for the lives and health of pupils.

Certain personal characteristics, in the opinion of S.P. Beznosova, E.M. Borisova, O.V. Grebennikova, A.V. Emelyaninova, O.V. Inozemtseva, I.A. Kurapova, and others, may be additional risk factors in terms of the appearance of emotional burnout [8, 9].

Among the most striking manifestations of personal unhappiness, teachers include an increased level of anxiety, neuroticism, a tendency to rigidity, an underestimated self-esteem, reduced indicators of satisfaction with work and quality of life [10].

Identify the following characterological features that help the individual reduce the negative impact of stress, namely self-confidence, acceptance of oneself and others, ability to concentrate on positive emotions, positive attitude to life, desire to overcome difficulties, problem solving skills. Individuals with different accentuations have character traits that exacerbate the impact of stressful situations: indecision, anxious suspicion in the form of fears for the future, obsessive fears, irritability and a tendency to hypochondria, mood instability, impulsiveness, isolation, etc. [11].

In Table presents average values of the levels of individual symptoms and phases of the syndrome of «emotional burnout» (CMEA) in pedagogues with different characterological features [12]. According to Table. 1 it is possible to determine the level of severity of individual symptoms and phases of CMEA in pedagogues with different character accentuations. Teachers with a stiffening character accentuation (ZAKH) determine the highest levels; the minimum indicators are for teachers without accentuation of character.

Table The average values of the levels of symptoms and phases of emotional burnout syndrome in teachers with character accentuations (M ± m)


Anxious-timid accentuation of character

Pedantic accentuation of character

Emotional character accentuation of character

Jamming character accentuation

Without accentuation of character

Experience of psycho- traumatic circumstances

18,23 ± 3,90

20,66 ± 6,10

17,97 ± 4,40

21,47 ± 5,12

12,13 ± 4,53

Dissatisfaction with oneself

15,15 ± 2,54

16,97 ± 3,11

18,72 ± 4,17

17,24 ± 3,19

11,11 ± 4,03

Cage drive

13,69 ± 4,17

16,47 ± 3,88

16,86 ± 4,69

17,00 ± 4,63

10,45 ± 3,72

Anxiety and depression

14,15 ± 2,82

18,79 ± 7,19

16,94 ± 5,68

20,32 ± 7,88

10,82 ± 3,77

Voltage phase

61,23 ± 7,08

72,58 ± 15,89

70,50 ± 17,09

75,68 ± 17,30

44,60 ± 14,45

Inadequate selective emotional response

13,92 ± 2,78

15,79 ± 3,46

15,33 ± 3,35

16,50 ± 3,56

9,80 ± 3,26

Emotional and moral disorientation

12,15 ± 3,41

13,26 ± 2,83

13,44 ± 2,83

14,29 ± 2,59

9,23 ± 3,55

Expansion of the sphere of saving emotions

10,00 ± ,56

15,34 ± 3,78

13,14 ± 3,80

16,79 ± 3,93

9,21 ± 3,82

Reduction of professional duties

14,23 ± 3,22

13,53 ± 3,96

12,92 ± 3,72

15,56 ± 4,77

9,08 ± 3,77

The phase of resistance

53,38 ± 10,37

58,24 ± 12,52

55,11 ± 10,89

63,32 ± 12,80

37,33 ± 12,99

Emotional deficit

11,23 ± 4,28

13,66 ± 2,94

11,81 ± 3,47

14,03 ± 2,68

8,44 ± 3,45

Emotional detachment

9,38 ± 1,50

11,03 ± 2,89

11,19 ± 3,66

12,50 ± 3,05

7,66 ± 2,93


12,31 ± 2,93

11,55 ± 3,81

11,14 ± 3,71

11,26 ± 4,04

7,45 ± 3,39

Psychosomatic and psycho-vegetative disorders

14,46 ± 4,56

15,05 ± 4,34

11,61 ± 4,32

15,76 ± 3,99

7,52 ± 3,90

The phase of exhaustion

46,92 ± 9,85

52,08 ± 10,86

44,81 ± 15,72

55,79 ± 11,63

31,08 ± 12,36

Persons with anxious-timid accentuation are inclined to in-depth self-examination and the appearance of compulsive states. The symptom of «personal detachment or depersonalization» is manifested in them not only at work, but also outside the sphere of professional activity. Personality with anxious fearful accentuation begins to assert that working with people is not interesting, does not satisfy, and does not represent social value. In such cases, «burnout» is associated with psychopathological manifestations of the person, with neurosis-like or psychopathic conditions.

Teachers with a pedantic character accentuation rarely enter into conflicts, speaking in them rather passive than an active party. They are inclined to make many formal demands to those around them. The symptom of «experiencing psycho-traumatic circumstances» is manifested as an awareness of the psychotraumatic factors of activity that are difficult to eliminate. As a result, despair and resentment accumulate. The insolubility of the situation leads to the development of other «burnout» phenomena.

Teachers with a strong emotional character accent prefer to communicate in a narrow circle of the elect, with whom good contacts are established, which they understand from a half-word. They rarely enter into conflicts themselves, playing a passive role in them. They have a «stuck» on the grievances. The symptom of «dissatisfaction with oneself» is formed in them as a result of failures or inability to influence the traumatic circumstances. The teacher begins to feel dissatisfaction with himself, with his profession, with specific duties. There is a mechanism of «emotional transfer» - the energy of emotions is directed not so much outwardly as for oneself.

Teachers with a stiff accentuation of character in our study are the most disadvantaged group in terms of the level of symptoms and phases of the syndrome of «emotional burnout». Individuals with this accentuation are characterized by moderate sociability, propensity for moralizing; the desire to achieve high performance in any case, increased demands on oneself and partners. This type of character accentuation is especially sensitive to social justice, but there is also a high level of sensitivity, emotional vulnerability, suspicion.

In connection with the high risk of burnout of teachers and representatives of other social professions, the issue of measures of psycho-prophylaxis of occupational stresses in the occupations of the «man-man» type becomes especially topical. There are two main areas of preventive and rehabilitation work: preventive measures - teaching social (communicative) skills, skills of self-management and self-control, mastering of constructive models of overcoming behavior; rehabilitation of already «burned» people - restoration of the psychoenergetic potential, actualization of personal resources, acquisition of the sense of professional activity and life, strengthening of faith in one's own strengths.

The rehabilitation of a teacher's health is not just a treatment, but also the management of mechanisms that determine the physical and mental development of the personality, promote the principles of a healthy lifestyle, positive self-relationship, open interaction with the world, readiness for change, and taking responsibility.

Psychological conditions for restoring the health of teachers are the development and formation of emotional activity and behavioral flexibility provided by mechanisms of conscious self-regulation. The main means of restoring the health of teachers is psycho-emotional and motor activity. Active means include all forms of therapeutic physical training: various physical exercises, elements of sport and sports training, walking, running and other cyclic exercises and sports, work on simulators, occupational therapy, etc. (So you can maintain health by cutting firewood, digging up the garden or mowing, if you do it regularly and fairly intensively).

Passive means - massage, manual therapy, physiotherapy, natural and reformed natural factors, and psycho-regulatory (psychological) - auto-training, muscle relaxation, specially selected psychotechnics [13].

Models of overcoming behavior are of great importance for resisting burnout and preserving the professional health of teachers. ProSocial actions (search for social support and entry into social contact) and assertive (confident) actions should be considered constructive. These behaviors contribute to successful professional adaptation and reduce the risk of developing burnout syndrome. Nonconstructive behavior patterns - avoidance, manipulative, antisocial and aggressive actions - are associated with a high level of burnout and professional disadaptation of teachers.

One of the important components of the prevention of burnout syndrome is the correction of nonconstructive behavior strategies and the formation of constructive coping strategies (coping with professional stresses), which include confident behavior and social interaction skills.

The burnout syndrome can develop both for teachers with a long record of work, and for young teachers who are just starting their professional activities. The high level of burnout of teachers with a great experience is due to the long-term impact of occupational stresses, and the young teachers - to entering a new professional sphere. The possibility of developing a burnout syndrome at any stage of a person's professional activity indicates the need to develop psycho-preventive and rehabilitation measures that would reduce the risk of burnout and neutralize its negative consequences.

Analyzing the above, we note that the problem of professional burnout syndrome has been and remains relevant. Therefore, in the face of constant innovations in the education system of our Republic, it is important for every teacher to know the basic ways to overcome it.

Thus, emotional burnout is a process that develops in time. It starts with strong and prolonged stress at work. In the case when the requirements to the person constantly exceed the resources available to him, the state of psycho-physiological balance is disturbed. Continuous or progressive imbalance inevitably leads to burnout, which occurs not just as a result of stress, but as stress unmanageable.

In the absence of constructive coping behavior (coping), chronic stress at work causes a person a complex of negative experiences and maladaptive behaviors that pose a threat to the personal health and stability of the organization as a whole.

The risk of burnout is mitigated by a stable and attractive work, representing opportunities for creativity, professional and personal growth, satisfaction with the quality of life in its various aspects, the existence of diverse interests, promising life plans. Less often «burnout» optimistic and cheerful people who are able to successfully overcome life's adversities and age crises; those who take an active life position, and turn to creative search in a collision with difficult circumstances, owns the means of psychic self-regulation, takes care of replenishing its psychoenergetic and socio-psychological resources.

A strong social-professional support, a circle of reliable friends and support from the family can reduce the risk of burnout.



  1. Vodopianova, N.E., & Starchenkova, E.S. (2002). Psikhicheskoe vyhoranie i kachestvo zhizni [Mental burnout and quality of life]. L.A. Korostyleva (Ed.). Saint Petersburg: Piter [in Russian].
  2. Ronginskaia, T.I. (2002). Sindrom vyhoraniia v sotsialnykh professiiakh [Syndrome in Social Professions]. Psikholohicheskii zhurnal – Psychological Journal, 3, 15–17 [in Russian].
  3. Akhmetova, G.K., Mynbaeva, A.K., & Malikova, N.A. (2012). Professionalnye deformatsii lichnosti pedahoha: teoreticheskie osnovy i profilaktika [Professional deformations of a teacher's personality: theoretical foundations and prevention]. Almaty: Kazak universitetі [in Kazakh].
  4. Markova, A.K. (1993). Psikholohiia truda uchitelia [The psychology of teacher's work]. Moscow: Prosveshchenie [in Russian].
  5. Ovcharova, R.V. (2006). Tekhnolohii raboty shkolnoho psikholoha s pedahohicheskim kollektivom [The technology of the school psychologist with a pedagogical team]. Kurgan: Izdatelstvo Kurhanskoho hosudarstvennoho universiteta [in Russian].
  6. Reana, A.A. (Eds.). (2003). Psikholohiia podrostka [Psychology of adolescents]. Saint Petersburg: Piter [in Russian].
  7. Boyko, V.V. (1999). Sindrom «emotsionalnoho vyhoraniia» v professionalnom obshchenii [Syndrome of «emotional burn- out» in professional communication]. Saint Petersburg: Piter [in Russian].
  8. Beznosov, S.P. (2004). Professionalnaia deformatsiia lichnosti [Professional deformation of personality]. Saint Petersburg: Rech [in Russian].
  9. Grebennikova, O.V. (2008). Problema okhrany i ukrepleniia professionalnoho zdorovia pedahohov [The problem of protection and strengthening of professional health of teachers]. Proceedings from Health of the nation - the basis of prosperity of Russia: nauchno-prakticheskii konhres IVserossiiskoho foruma – scientific and practical congresses of the IV All-Russian forum. (pp. 40– 42). Moscow [in Russian].
  10. Akhmetgaleeva, Z.M. (2001). Osobennosti professionalnoho vyhoraniia uchitelei i shkolnykh psikholohov [Peculiarities of Professional Burnout of Teachers and School Psychologists]. Proceedings from Stress and Behavior: VI Mezhdunarodnaia rehionalnaia konferentsiia po biolohicheskoi psikhiatrii (25–26 oktiabria 2001 hoda) — VI International Regional Conference on Biological Psychiatry. (278 pp.). Moscow: Izdatelstvo MHU [in Russian].
  11. Mariutina, T.M., & Ermolaev, O.Iu. (2001). Vvedenie v psikhofiziolohiiu [Introduction to psychophysiology]. Moscow: Flinta [in Russian].
  12. Kondrateva, O.G., & Kondrateva, A.A. (2013). Issledovanie osobennostei formirovaniia sindroma «emotsionalnoho vyhoraniia» u pedahohov s aktsentuatsiiami kharaktera [Investigation of the peculiarities of the syndrome of «emotional burnout» in teachers with character accentuations]. Fundamentalnye issledovaniia – Fundamental research, 11, 1364–1368 [in Russian].
  13. Maklakov, A.G. (2001). Otsenka urovnia razvitiia adaptatsionnykh sposobnostei lichnosti [Evaluation of the level of development of adaptive abilities of the individual]. G.S.Nikiforova., M.A. Dmitrievoi, V.M. Snetkova (Ed.). Saint Petersburg: Piter [in Russian].
Year: 2018
City: Karaganda
Category: Pedagogy