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.
Thanks for the article, I found it quite informative. I'm currently off work with anxiety but it's been brewing for ages, I'm wondering if I am burnt out. The physical symptoms which I've had for the past year I've only realised this past month are my body crying out "stop". I know my body is going to take a while to recover. I think i get the bit about "thousands of disappointments" in that it's all the little things which cumulate together to cause one big ball. One thing which rang bells for me was the bit about changing your circumstances after recovery and listening to your body so it doesn't happen again.
Hi Out_of_step, sorry to hear about that. If it helps you decide whether it's burnout or not, the thing that stood out for me against all previous episodes of depression / stress / sick leave was that I suddenly no longer cared what happened to me. I gave up any idea of needing to preserve anything in my life - all of the fight had gone out of me.
I didn't struggle with physical symptoms, it was all mental for me. But that won't be the same for everyone.