Bore-out: A Challenge for Unchallenged Gifted (young) Adults.

Updated: Mar 23, 2020

By Ellen D. Fiedler & Noks Nauta.


Introduction

Recognizing bore-out and overcoming it is a significant challenge for many gifted people too many of whom find themselves in tedious, unstimulating situations, feeling as if time is barely dragging by and as if their day-to-day lives have no purpose. The hunger for intellectual challenge that typifies gifted individuals makes them particularly vulnerable to bore-out in the workplace during adulthood. Boredom and bore-out already start earlier in life. Recognizing this feeling and learning to cope effectively wit this is essential for a rich and satisfying life of the gifted.


When gifted children start going to school, they often are disappointed while they had expected much more of this. Ineffective coping may consist of not being motivated for learning any more, cheating, showing aggressive behavior or having mental problems like depressive feelings or addiction to drugs (as a way to fly from reality).


When gifted adults enter the workplace, either for the first time or when changing jobs, they are often confronted with material they already know and a pace that’s too slow for them. Boredom can afflict gifted adults at work but also at home, in college classes, and even in social situations. When they trudge through life day after day without sufficient challenges, this can result in gifted adults suffering from bore-out. We also recognize it in gifted seniors. Bore-out is a condition that has only recently begun to be understood and may actually be the flip side of burnout, a well-known result of ongoing pressure and too much going on in their lives all at once.


In this article we use the experiences of gifted (young) adults to show how important it is that there is attention for boredom in gifted children as early in life as possible.


Burnout

The concept of burnout has been recognized since the seventies and eighties of the 20th century. People working in health care were especially considered to be at risk. Later it was seen that not only people in these professions were at risk, but also people in other fields. Teachers, housewives, volunteers, people in the “helping professions” who combine work and care, caregivers including family members, and even children can have symptoms of burnout.


Burnout is seen as a result of chronically ineffective coping with stressful situations for significant time periods (longer than about six months). A balance scale is often used as a model for depicting burnout in which one side (their burdens) is not counterbalanced evenly with the other side (their available strengths).


Burnout is not a distinct diagnosis according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a worldwide consensus classification of mental disorders. Maslach et al. developed a test for measuring burnout (Maslach, 1996). The third version of this instrument is currently in use (Maslach et al., 2009).


Symptoms of burnout include exhaustion, cynicism, low self-esteem, and physical complaints. Burnout is thought to be a result from continuing too long in a stressful situation without having enough time for recovery. People start out being fully engaged, but then they put in more and more effort, even though they may realize it is burning them out. They then move more and more toward disengagement. Burnout is a serious condition, and people with symptoms of burnout may need professional help. In our experience, it may take quite a while to recover even with help. Personal factors like wanting to perform their job perfectly also play a role. Often adequate understanding or support from others is missing from their lives, including understanding and support from supervisors at work. Other mental problems such as symptoms of depression occur frequently, regardless of which comes first—bore-out or depression. The effect is a situation that is in need to change .


Bore-out

The recently recognized condition of bore-out is conceived of as the other side of the problem of burnout . Rather than pressure and stress from overstimulation, bore-out is related to understimulation. Two Swiss consultants, Rothlin and Werder (2008), were the first to publish a book about this condition. Ironically, the symptoms of bore-out surprisingly resemble these of burnout—exhaustion and a depressive mood—and so are often not recognized as coming from ongoing boredom.


Rothlin and Werder (2008) studied American data and estimate that about 15% of office staff in general have symptoms of boreout. They write about employees who are "… underchallenged, uninterested, and spend hours each day simulating work. These employees have given up and become resigned to their situation, suffering what is effectively the opposite of office burnout."


Rothlin and Werder used ten yes or no questions to be used as a screening tool for bore-out. They called at least five yeses a high score.


Bore-out is a serious condition. It develops under chronic conditions of understimulation and boredom. People suffering from bore-out may need professional help to recover.


Boredom

Bore-out can be viewed as a result of chronic boredom. By recognizing boredom in its early stages the development of bore-out can be prevented. Boredom at work is defined by Reijseger et al (2013b) as: “A state of employee unwell-being, that is characterized by relatively low arousal and high dissatisfaction” (p. 508).


Reijseger et al. (2013b) developed the Dutch Boredom Scale (DUBS) in which eight questions are scored on a five-point scale. The DUBS is a brief self-report questionnaire that assesses boredom at work and is more sensitive than the bore-out scale of Rothlin and Werder. The scale includes the following items:


The Dutch Boredom Scale (Reijseger et al., 2013b)

  • At work time goes by very slowly.