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As overload refers to a set of requirements to a successful outcome or to fulfill the resources or capabilities, in particular the performance of a person, an organization, or not enough of a system.

An overwhelming situation is a situation in which a person is objectively overwhelmed or feels a subjective feeling of being overwhelmed. Expectations , especially role expectations , are an essential factor in the subjective evaluation of situations that are overwhelming .

Generally speaking, excessive stress can no longer be compensated for in the event of excessive demands. On the contrary, under certain circumstances the resilience decreases more.

Overtaxing a person


Flow diagram

In psychology one speaks with overlapping meanings of psychological, social, emotional, cognitive or intellectual overload, sometimes also of mental or nervous overload, of excessive demands in everyday life, possibly of multiple excessive demands.

In the area between excessive and insufficient demands, on the other hand, there can be a state of flow if there is a match between requirements and skills .

Temporary situations of excessive demands arise, for example, in the form of overstimulation , technostress , or when the complexity of a situation is too high to grasp the totality of all relevant factors and to come to a well-considered decision or solution. Excessive demands can lead to a lack of attention and thus lead to hazards, for example in traffic. Psychological overstrain is sometimes associated with fear of failure, a feeling of helplessness or powerlessness and, in general, with stress , especially when there is pressure or compulsion to cope with a task. Expectations of others and demands on oneself, e.g. through perfectionism , have an impact on the individual. If overworked, resilience and the ability to learn can decrease, and if overworked, burnout can occur . In the case of permanently overwhelming or acutely excessive psychological stress or excessive stress, in extreme cases psychological trauma can occur .

Excessive demands are seen as a possible cause of violence, especially violence within families and violence against children , violence by young people and abuse of those in need of care .

A social skills training to counteract social overload.

See also: defense mechanism , tension (psychology) , depression , double bond theory , psychophysiology , pseudodebility , psychotraumatology

Developmental Education and Family Psychology

If the parents are overburdened, society and the state may be responsible. For example, if the family is overwhelmed, depending on the situation, parenting advice , parenting training , the use of a house and family carer , concrete support for parenting or, especially in the case of neglect or sexual abuse of children , withdrawal of the child is possible. In Germany this is where the youth welfare office comes in .

Even in early childhood it can lead to excessive demands (early childhood overexertion): In the case of excessive crying in infancy , there is sometimes talk of a mutual excessive demand of both the infant and the parents. In such cases, the outpatient clinics offer professional help .

For example, children can be overwhelmed by their parents, school, physical impairments or the loss of friends or caregivers. Parents are sometimes overwhelmed with their diverse responsibilities in family, work and society and sometimes expect more consideration from their children than they can afford. While the parents have options for action, the child is largely dependent on the parents, especially at a young age.

According to social scientist Christine Henry-Hutmacher, many parents are insecure and feel overwhelmed. This is "also due to the fact that expectations and demands in the parent-child relationship have increased". Nowadays upbringing requires not only strength, time, communication and argumentation skills but also a basic educational knowledge from parents.

In connection with the theory of the authoritarian personality , it is postulated that excessive or insufficient demands could impair the positive development of the child, since the possibility of being able to cope with the tasks assigned to him is central to the development of autonomy and independence. In the salutogenesis approach , Aaron Antonovsky points out that premature toilet training expectations and inappropriate feeding practices can "be devastating to the development of a sense of manageability", with negative effects on the development of coherence . A parentification , a role reversal between parent and child is generally rated as a non-child-friendly and harmful excessive demands of the child or youth.

In psychoanalysis, the entanglement of children in excessive demands and adaptation is seen as the cause of a lack of awareness of their own desires and needs and a later tendency towards depression ; above all for the reason that the fulfillment of expectations can become the motive for action.

School pedagogy

In school pedagogy , the aim is to avoid over- and under-demanding of the student. The flexible school entry phase , but also measures such as individual support and home tuition, are seen as suitable measures when a student is overwhelmed. In the case of school performance that is not sufficient according to the school report card, the transfer to the next higher school class may be refused after appropriate advance warning from the parents .

Even with gifted children, it is crucial not only to counteract insufficient demands, but also to prevent excessive demands by making decisions about the type, scope and speed of the learning process by the child, the parents and the teacher together. Wolfgang Butzkamm and Jürgen Butzkamm, on the other hand, see a "slight overburden" as identical to the pedagogical principle of multiple presentation .

Medicine and gerontology

In medicine, one speaks of decompensation when the body can no longer compensate for the malfunction of an organ system. Overstrained health can require therapy, rest, relaxation or “stepping down”.

People who are overwhelmed with coping with everyday life due to old age or dementia need care . Excessive demands can also manifest as disorientation or confusion . If your carers are also overwhelmed with the care, it is assumed that they are in need of home care .


In ergonomics and human resources , one speaks of excessive demands when the scope of work or the requirements for knowledge and skills are higher than the person in charge can handle. When overworked by excessively long working hours, one also speaks of overwork .

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work speaks of work-related stress when the demands of the work environment exceed the employee's ability to cope with or control them. It lists ten categories of potentially dangerous job characteristics, work environments and organizational factors.

With regard to increased work flexibility and job rotation , but also management methods such as intrapreneurship , reference is made to the possibility of excessive demands on employees.

A potential analysis and other personnel development measures can help to avoid under- and overburdening of employees. Through resource management , based on a prioritization , requirements can be adapted to individual employees and departments to improve work efficiency and motivation.

One differentiates u. a. between technical overload (insufficient professional competence ), overexertion (excessive exertion) or overload (excessive physical and psychological stress ) and time overload (excessive time pressure ).

The overstrain of nursing staff is particularly emphasized. Nursing staff has to do nursing and emotional work under time pressure .

If the span of control in terms of the number of a line location directly subordinates too high, there is an overload of management.

See also: corporate health management , human error , excessive demands on regulation


In sport, the overload syndrome is understood to mean that physical overload does not increase performance through training . The appropriate training load is determined by the so-called load norms. One also speaks of overexertion .

See also: Exhaustion , principle of subjective insufficient demands


A development of increasing individualization in the industrialized nations places more personal responsibility on the individual . Failure is largely perceived as an individual failure and as a result of individual excessive demands.

Migrants try to protect themselves against excessive demands and social isolation through integration within their own ethnic group in the form of “ parallel societies ” . For immigrants, migrant networks can contribute to social mobility in the host society and in this way contribute to integration into the host society.

Sociology studies systems at the interface between the individual and the group.

In many societies, belonging to a family or social group has a mitigating effect on situations of excessive demands, including excessive financial demands ( over-indebtedness ).

Sociology shows that social individualization goes hand in hand with structural excessive demands on the family .

Increased economic and psychosocial demands can systematically lead to situations of excessive demands. The absence report of the Scientific Institute of the AOK (WIdO) shows an increase in absenteeism due to mental illness in Germany; In 2009, both the resulting sickness rate and the proportion of absenteeism reached their highest values ​​for years. Performance and behavior disorders are also increasing in children, with parents' economic problems having a particularly negative impact on the quality of their upbringing.

See also: alienation

Overtaxing organizations, institutions and systems

Institutions and authorities

One also speaks of excessive demands or failure of institutions or authorities, for example when an organization cannot cope with the complexity of a situation, but also when authorities cannot cope with the volume of work or the number of cases to be processed and insubordinate delays occur.

See also: organizational fault , state liability law


A priority for action by an efficient small unit together with a duty to support the larger unit when it is overburdened is called subsidiarity . In particular, it is a political and social maxim that puts personal responsibility before state action.

One speaks of the failure of a (social) system, especially when the political conditions lead to pronounced social problems within the population or when they do not offer sustainable prospects. The political discourse is particularly concerned with economic and distributional aspects as well as environmental conditions.

With regard to the Weimar Republic , one speaks of the excessive demands of parties and associations by parliamentarianism.

Excessive demands on political leaders can give rise to wrong decisions and possibly lead to an unnecessary escalation of internal and international conflicts.

Web links

Wiktionary: Overstrain  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b Lothar Böhnisch : Deviant behavior: An educational-sociological introduction , Juventa, 1999, ISBN 3-7799-1511-1 , p. 112. (online)
  2. Christine Henry-Hutmacher: "Introduction". In: When parents only want the best ... Results of a panel of experts from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, 2010, accessed on September 22, 2018 . P. 4.
  3. Detlef Oesterreich: Authoritarian personality and socialization in the parental home. Theoretical considerations and empirical results , In: Susanne Rippl, Christian Seipel, Angela Kindervater (ed.): Authoritarianism. Controversies and approaches in current research on authoritarianism , Opladen, Leske + Budrich, 2000, pp. 69–90. In it: p. 72, quoted from Rainer Strobl: Scientific explanations of right-wing extremism. (PDF; 129 kB) Accessed December 27, 2010 . P. 21
  4. Aaron Antonovsky: Salutogenesis. To demystify health , German extended edition by Alexa Franke, Forum for Behavioral Therapy and Psychosocial Practice, Volume 36, German Society for Behavioral Biology Tübingen DGVT Verlag, 1997, ISBN 3-87159-136-X , p. 97
  5. Josef Giger-Bütler: You meant it well: Depression and family. Beltz, 2003, ISBN 3-407-85788-8 , p. 113. (online)
  6. Annette Heinbokel: Gifted: Recognize, Problems, Solutions. LIT, Münster 2001, ISBN 3-8258-3078-0 , p. 64. (online)
  7. Wolfgang Butzkamm , Jürgen Butzkamm: How children learn to speak: child development and human language , Gunter Narr Verlag, 2008, ISBN 978-3-7720-8297-9 . P. 111 .
  8. Facts 8, Stress in the workplace , summary of a report by the Agency, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, June 2, 2000. Therein p. 1, box 2: "Stress-causing characteristics in the workplace"
  9. Elisabeth Höwler: Challenging behavior in people with dementia: Experiences and strategies of carers , Kohlhammer, 2008, ISBN 978-3-17-020491-1 , p. 49. (online)
  10. Absenteeism Report 2010: Mental illnesses reach a record number. (No longer available online.) Rp online, July 9, 2010, archived from the original on July 11, 2010 ; Retrieved July 11, 2010 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.rp-online.de
  11. Klaus Hurrelmann: Why do we need parent schools and family centers? More and more parents are overwhelmed by the upbringing. Parents School Dortmund, Family Center NRW, archived from the original on February 21, 2011 ; Retrieved July 11, 2010 .