I’m somewhere around a 9 or 10

I’m good, I’ve got a few more stages before I totally flameout.

Where are you?


  1. DanDare says

    I hit 13 a year ago. Had to seek counselling. Briefly dropped back to 1 before climbing back to 8. I’m sure Australia’s election will fix everything. Or not.

  2. Rich Woods says

    Well that’s quite a disturbing scale. I hit a 5 before chickening out on that life. If I found 5 too much to cope with, I can’t imagine being a 9 or 10.

  3. birgerjohansson says

    I hit 12 1983 and it took more than a decade before I could work again.
    Most of the anhedonia is gone, but I have never bounced back all the way.

    This is why I keep telling people they need to take care of themselves when they are under protracted stress.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    I hit 12 ten years ago. Thank Jebus I don’t have to work, but I miss normality (like being able to read novels).

  5. Dennis K says

    I’m at 11, except replace “depressed” with “nihilistic” and “lost” with “accepting”. I’m old, so step 12 ain’t no big thing (replacing “full burnout” with “being dead”).

  6. PaulBC says

    I think had this one licked after stage 2.

    Alternative stage 3: You realize it doesn’t matter if you “measure up” but people will still pay you to do things you’re good at and enjoy doing.

    Key to avoiding burnout: expectations management.

  7. crocswsocks says

    Thanks to mental illness, I’ve never had a job worth hitting 3 for. Blessing in disguise?

  8. Akira MacKenzie says

    Oh, I’ve been at 11 for a while now. Just hoping that 12 comes with the sweet, sweet release of death.

  9. bravus says

    One of the things I’ve found helpful is to (attempt at least to) focus on my own values and the things I think are worthwhile doing, rather than on other people’s metrics.

    (OK, I’m in a privileged position now as a tenured full Professor, but for the great majority of my career I was striving for that next promotion.)

    For me that was doing quality teaching that ignited the passion of students, publishing quality research that excited fellow researchers, and serving students and colleagues.

    Doing those things, and only then working on the metrics like counting publications or reading student evaluations of teaching and figuring out how to succeed/be rewarded for the work done was more effective for me than focusing on the metrics as goals.

  10. GMBigKev says

    Solidly 11 right now. I’m trying to get a different job, and I’m working on getting a therapist / psychiatrist but it’s been a rush. Got transferred to a different unit with a different job role that I never got really read into. I’ve been trying to get work finished but the area is very… dry and empty with exception of the same thing that everyone’s already written about. I have no cohesion with anyone else in my unit. I was temporarily assigned to another entire division and that was great but then I was slotted right back into the job I’m not happy with. I’m in hot water with my boss because I wear headphones so I can listen to things on the Internet because I get distracted by every noise and every conversation around me. Oh and my beloved lost their job yesterday.

  11. Derek Vandivere says

    Hmm – over here in the Netherlands, being ‘overstressed’ and having to miss work is a much more common phenomenon. I had my own case when I was a consulting working for a difficult client (ironically, I’ve now been an employee of that client for over a decade and it’s a great place to work!).

    Not sure what the origin of the chart is, but my own experience is that it wasn’t a sequential progression. It started in a different context, and definitely didn’t go through many of those stages until I woke up one morning and just couldn’t force myself to go into the office.

    I think the graphic is more about burnout from overwork than it is from otherwise stressful situtations.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    You deserve good news to feel better.
    Summer Lee won the Democratic primary for congress by 40 votes! Never say “my vote does not count “!

  13. strangerinastrangeland says

    Nothing that linear for me, I feel like I am bouncing back and forth between 0 and 11 on my way to 12. :-(

  14. angoratrilobite says

    I am currently at a 0, however, last year I was at a 12. I was trying to manage a demanding full time career while also being the care giver of a family member with dementia. I snapped like a brittle twig and had a breakdown. I think I got ptsd from it because certain words or phrases still make me incredibly anxious and upset.

    I say 0 because I have no desire to “prove” myself in any way. I give my best effort but my field of fucks is barren.

  15. dianne says

    Is it bad that I looked at this and thought, “I’m a 3 or maybe 4. Meh, I’m such a lightweight”?

  16. PaulBC says

    bravus@13 I’m very skeptical that you can be hired at tenure track let alone eventually gain tenure without hitting at least stage 7 on this scale. I was able to get a PhD without too much stress because I had research project that consumed me personally, and my advisor was cool and didn’t push a schedule until one day he announced I had better schedule my defense.

    But the rest of it? I give up. I agree with Sayre’s law. The fights are so vicious because the stakes are so small. And not just academic politics. The hardest, most brain-frying work I have ever done is, first of all not even the interesting part of my dissertation that I’m proud to say still gets cited, but proofs of some more esoteric algorithms so that my adviser and maybe another dozen people can pat me on the head and say “clever boy.”

    My daughter put some animation on YouTube as a pre-teen. In fact it’s quite good, and she got millions of views and some monetization. I get email from Academia.edu or similar congratulating me on my 1993 paper getting its 50th view! 50 views, count ’em. I rock! That’s an average of more than one per year.

    Am I bitter? No though I can see if it comes off that way. The main thing is that I’m basically a lot happier getting paid to do stuff that I know how to do and not constantly subject to judgment (only annually or maybe quarterly) instead of working on something really hard, finally just being relieved to have cracked the nut I put in front of me, and finding that nobody really cared to begin with.

    And that was a digression, because research is the part I am actually good at. Teaching? Applying for grants? Even refereeing papers. OMG, how do people put themselves through life in academia?

  17. springa73 says

    I don’t think I’ve ever been beyond 5 or 6, but not necessarily because I’m good at self-care and relaxing. I have strong obsessive-compulsive disorder, and dealing with it is often the focus of my life, leaving me without enough energy to become totally focused on work. On the downside, the OCD has caused me to lose jobs, including one that I really liked.

  18. says

    Make that burnout from groups in general. I’m ok with individuals and managed to maintain affection for the species. I think being able to try mentally dissect myself and the species with what we know about brains and tourette syndrome helped there.

  19. John Morales says

    Vaguely responding to SC, Brony, chigau,

    Sure, if one were to be going to starve or die or something unless one could prove oneself to others, fair enough. But I took stage 1 as feeling it needful to prove something to oneself (notice how stage 4 implicitly presumes that).

    Simply put, my whole life has been characterised by a lack of ambition, which is most certainly seen as a moral and personal failure by certain cultures and leads to achieving less than otherwise, but it sure helps in avoiding burnout. It’s a lot easier to merely seek comfort and sufficiency in life than to seek riches or renown or suchlike.
    So, yeah, why would I ever need to prove myself to myself?

    (Can’t get to stage 2 without stage 1, in that schema)

  20. PaulBC says

    John Morales@29 Interesting… because don’t take it the wrong way, but you strike me as doing a lot of oneupmanship in these comments threads. It seems you have something to prove. (And there is nothing wrong with that.)

    I also agree (and said something similar) that reducing ambition can reduce stress by a lot. I have a perfectly fine life, and one that’s a lot more enjoyable than when I was more competitive. It’s not so much a lack of setting goals, but avoiding goals that put me in competition with so many other people that I’m unlikely to do anything that can’t be done much better by someone else.

  21. says

    John Morales @ #29:

    Simply put, my whole life has been characterised by a lack of ambition, which is most certainly seen as a moral and personal failure by certain cultures and leads to achieving less than otherwise, but it sure helps in avoiding burnout. It’s a lot easier to merely seek comfort and sufficiency in life than to seek riches or renown or suchlike.
    So, yeah, why would I ever need to prove myself to myself?

    Ah…not same. :) My ambition is unrelated to any sense of needing to prove myself. Our perspectives are different, though I fully respect yours.

  22. says


    I have a perfectly fine life, and one that’s a lot more enjoyable than when I was more competitive.

    I’ve transferred most of my competitiveness to Wordle.

  23. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @29:

    my whole life has been characterised by a lack of ambition

    Mine too! I’ve done what I enjoyed without regard for promotions or accolades, etc. Seeing the cut-and-thrust (often into someone else’s back) of academic politics wasn’t the main reason I quit physics, but it helped dispel any sense of regret on leaving. I loved my second career as a computer programmer for a small company. Then we got bought by a large corporation, and they proceeded to pare us down until I was the last programmer, basically doing the work (at that point mostly maintenance and bug fixes, but permanently on call) of three. Burnout snuck up on me while I pondered the merits of quitting.

  24. John Morales says


    This is the latest post of a series over some time where PZ has given indications that he’s under severe stress.

    Unfortunately, it seems to me that there’s an element of self-expectation outside the admitted financial (health cover, for example) incentives to keep persevering at the same pace instead of easing up. That bit is up to him.

    Perhaps this blogging avocation is an outshoot of his actual vocation, but perhaps not… and it’s the former I like.

    No advice from me, just noting this trend worries me. But PZ is smart.

    (Selfish, I; I like this blog)

  25. says

    (Selfish, I; I like this blog)

    Right, you’re not at all concerned about anyone’s health. :)

    I’m happy the semester’s over and hope you have some time to unwind, PZ.

  26. brightmoon says

    I’m at about a 7 . I’ve hit 12 about 5 times in my life mostly dealing with my narcissistic parents and an abusive bf. 12 is hell! . Seven can be dealt with the semi social isolation is really bugging me!