I just came across this interesting article as I was Googling the long term effects of Burnout (because I still feel oddly "broken" and permanently changed nearly two years after going sick).
From a quick read, the article talks about enlarged amygdala, weakened connections between it and other brain structures, and problems with executive functioning - all of which I believe I've also read as features of autism (further hints of connections here in Lagrangian's summary of the Wikipedia entry for Amygdala in this thread: Are you good at identifying emotions feelings within yourself). So I'm wondering if in my case burnout intensified the existing effects of my own autism that I had been masking (& led to my discovery of my own undiagnosed autism). Note that I'm not at all suggesting that burnout might cause autism - that would be a silly leap and we all know that autism is a lifelong condition.
Coincidentally I also listened to a TED talk on executive function that highlighted that EF is needed when learning a new skill, before the automatic parts of the brain take over. I'm wondering if this means that masking asks a lot from the EF brain and places demands on them that eventually give in after years of over-use -> autistic burnout?
Anyway, I'm not drawing any conclusions at this stage (if ever). I have no particular experience in neurological research just an interest and personal experience of burnout and autism, and I thought this was interesting.
I'm not claiming that any of my rambling here is well-thought-through science or research, just a collection of smoking guns and interesting associations.
Many thanks. Really interesting. I've long thought that my amygdalae might be enlarged and I've always had quite high stress levels, from primary school onwards. Plus certainly my experience of life (and the workplace especially) has involved "“the accumulation of hundreds or thousands of tiny disappointments, each one hardly noticeable on its own.”
Brain science fascinates me and I'm partly looking for clues as to things that I can do to help myself recover further other than "keep going and keep trying (harder)".
I'm also beginning to get a bit passionate about the fact that the experts on burnout seem to be the sufferers themselves give or take - Occ Health departments and general media awareness has caught up with championing general mental health, correcting false beliefs around depression and anxiety, but there seem to be few places to turn to for expertise in treating (& even better, preventing) burnout.
I can relate to the bit you quoted too, though for me it was more along the lines of hundreds of medium-sized disappointments :-). i.e. fewer but larger than the quote suggests.
I had high stress levels from somewhere around the end of my teens until my burnout switched everything off. Since then I'm doing better with stress.
How was your experience? Have you experienced what you'd describe as burnout?