Interesting article: Burnout, amygdala, neurological changes, cognition

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 Former Member'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.

https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/burnout-and-the-brain

Parents Reply
  • I've just gone back to the original article I mentioned and found this

    "It’s also possible that individuals who have low executive functioning to begin with end up being more vulnerable to the negative effects of stress — ultimately resulting in higher rates of burnout."

    which is very similar to what we were both saying.

Children
  • There's definitely a good theoretical and experiential basis to support the idea that certain underlying neurological differences make a person more susceptible to the effects of stress and anxiety. The only problem with the articles that I found is that number 11 suggests that the Caudate Nucleus is enlarged in Autism as opposed to being smaller. However, I'd take a guess that as it is less stable to begin with that might make it more susceptible to the effects of stress and therefore more likely to shrink in Autistic as opposed to non-autistic people. I might have a look to see if can find any evidence to back up that theory next week when I'm less busy.

  • Interesting, I have crappy exec function and I'm really prone to burnout. Currently signed off with it.