‘Burnout’ is Officially A Medical Condition

Most people would probably agree that it is important to work hard. No matter what you do, diligence and perseverance tend to go quite a long way.  Unfortunately, the World Health Organization has warned, this week, that so many people are working too hard that this behavior has been recognized as an occupational phenomenon.  

More commonly known as “burnout,” the WHO has classified the syndrome in its International Classification of Diseases Handbook. 

According to the experts at the World Health Organization, “burnout” is a syndrome that results from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.  Furthermore, the symptoms of burnout include feelings of exhaustion, cynicism regarding your job, and difficulty performing your job adequately. 

Specifically, the WHO dictates that doctors can diagnose burnout if a patient exhibits a collection of three symptoms.  First of all, the patient must describe feeling depleted of energy or having exhaustion. Secondly, the patient must express feeling mentally distanced from a job or having persistent cynicism about the job. Third, the patient must have consistent problems accomplishing their work, successfully.  

The WHO also makes sure to note that the term burnout can only be used, clinically, in the “occupational context [and] should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

Indeed, this is an important point to make.  Burnout was first used as a psychological term in the 1970s.  It was coined by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger who used it as a way to describe patient cases in which he observed “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.”  Specifically, Dr. Freudenberger ascribed the condition to “helping” professions, like those in the medical field. 

Today, of course, we can see burnout in many industries. In fact, the National Institutes of Health describes many different types of people can suffer [clinical] burnout: “from stressed-out careerists and celebrities to overworked employees and homemakers.”  And according to a Gallup survey, last year, at least 25 percent of people reported feeling “burnout” either always or often; nearly half said they experience it “sometimes.”

With that in mind, the agency goes on to explain they have a plan to develop “evidence-based guidelines on mental well-being in the workplace,” to help properly diagnose and treat this condition.