Chronically unmotivated, irritable, exhausted? You could be suffering from HSP burnout.

Here’s the definition of burnout from Merriam-Webster:

  1. the cessation of operation usually of a jet or rocket engine
  2. exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration

Now, whenever burnout is mentioned, the image that comes to my mind is that of an office worker slumped over his desk, burdened by a never-ending to-do list and unreasonable deadlines.

But although a-hole bosses and a cut-throat work environment can definitely be major contributors to anyone’s burnout, did you know that us highly sensitive people can burn out just from “normal” life?

Because most people around us operate with a nervous system that can take more pummeling than our highly sensitive nervous systems can, all we have to do is copy their lifestyles. All we have to do is live a “normal” life and living that “normal” life can result in “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation”. And if you put us in more demanding circumstances, we’ll be the first to show symptoms.

So what can you do? Well, for starters, you can pay attention to how you are feeling and recognize if HSP burnout is looming.


1. You are constantly on edge

The first sign of looming HSP burnout is irritability.  Basically, everything and everyone is grating on your nerves.  Bad.  Things that in another lifetime you would have let slide now cause smoke to rise out of your scalp.  You have a hard time controlling yourself and your tone of voice is snappy at best, all out hostile at worst.   

2. You feel like crap physically

Obviously, you can feel like crap physically for a gazillion different reasons and it might be necessary to see a health care professional to fully investigate.  But not having enough time to rest and recover between stressors taxes your body. Chronic stress has health consequences.  So things like frequent headaches, upset stomach, or even stress-related chronic illnesses could be a sign of HSP burnout.

3. You can’t get enough sleep

Another tangible, physical sign of HSP burnout is exhaustion.  You are so wiped out that it seems like no amount of sleep will perk you up.  

4. Nothing sounds interesting

When you are tired, on edge, and feeling like crap, the only thing that sounds even remotely appealing to you is crawling into bed.  All the things that other people rave about as “fun” just seem like annoying excuses to waste more energy.  

5. your sensitivities have reached a new level

Perhaps you’ve never been a fan of bright lights, strong smells, or loud noises, but lately it seems like these aversions have reached a new level. The idea of walking through the cosmetics section at JC Penney’s sounds like pure torture. And really, humanity would be much better off if they would just outlaw fluorescent lights. 


The tricky thing about HSP burnout is that when people see you feeling blah, they’ll say things like “let’s talk about it” or “let’s go out and have some fun”.  

But what you really need is the exact opposite.  The only cure for HSP burnout is rest and recharge.  

You need peace and quiet.  Calm time.  No talking.  No cheering up.  Just silence. 

For how long?

Well, until you start feeling better.

For chronic HSP burnout, you might need weeks of soaking up quiet time every chance you get to build your strength back up.  For episodic HSP burnout, a few hours might do.     


I’d be lying if I said I never get irritated or never have any physical complaints anymore.  I’m a human being. 🙂  But what I can honestly tell you is that my physical and emotional state is a-okay the vast majority of the time. 

If you are recognizing some of the signs of HSP burnout and you’d like to ditch them for good, I can tell you that the key for me was learning to prioritize and take care of my HSP needs first.  I no longer wait until I see signs of HSP burnout and then collapse.  Instead I learned to prevent HSP burnout by creating a lifestyle and routines that leave plenty of space for my nervous system to rest and recover.

If you are on the road to doing the same, I hope you find all the resources here helpful!


About the Author

Hi, I'm Anni! I'm a life and career coach for stressed out highly sensitive people. My mission is to help you discover your true self and create a life you ACTUALLY like.

Related articles

5 Pieces of Common Anxiety Advice That Often Backfire for Highly Sensitive People
Having Negative Emotions Doesn’t Make You A Negative Person
How To Find The Right Balance As A Highly Sensitive Person
5 Causes of HSP Overwhelm And How To Address Each
7 Benefits of Parts Work for Highly Sensitive People
What Is Parts Work?
What Is Emotional Regulation And Why It Matters For HSPs
Is There A Highly Sensitive Person Diet?
If Your Stress Reduction Efforts Are Not Working, This May Be Why
How To Resolve Highly Sensitive Person Sleep Problems With An Individualized Plan
How To Manage Intense Emotions As A Highly Sensitive Person
How To Balance Your Conflicting Needs As An HSP-HSS
The HSP Characteristic That Has Hurt Me The Most
3 Mistakes I Made That Cost Me My Health As An HSP
5 Time Saving Hacks I Use To Leave More Time For Recharging
Top 3 Things I Do To Avoid HSP Burnout
Dear Highly Sensitive Person: Here’s The Greatest Gift You Can Give Yourself
Where To Find Help As A Highly Sensitive Person

This website is reader-supported.  If you purchase something through one of the links on this website, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Click the button below to read more about our policies.