Workplace Burnout is Now a Recognized Medical Diagnosis

Burnout, the extreme stress or fatigue that can lead to various physical symptoms, is officially a recognized mental health concern.

Last May, the World Health Organization (WHO) included burnout in its International Classification of Diseases, or ICD-11, a diagnostic tool for medical providers.

In the guidelines, the WHO defined burnout as an “occupational phenomenon that results from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Also noted is that burnout only applies to work-induced stress. 

“Research shows that burnout is not a new issue but may be becoming a health concern as it does affect productivity and the health of workers and, studies show, it impacts on the families as well,” said Patricia Student, an APRN at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center.

One Gallup study from 2018 showed about a quarter of employees at a company of 7,500 workers had burnout very often. While almost half answered they had burnout sometimes.  

Burnout usually results from an employee being overworked and underappreciated. It can also stem from boredom with a job.  

Some burnout symptoms include energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job or negative feelings about one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy. Other symptoms include insomnia, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, apathy, irritability, anxiety and getting sick more often.

So, why should you be concerned about burnout when it has become almost commonplace in our go-go society?

“Burnout, if not addressed and allowed to prolong, can easily develop into a depressive disorder and affect negatively your overall physical health,” Student said.   

There’s usually not one source of burnout, but a perfect storm of factors resulting in it. Learn to prioritize the most important things in life and come to terms that you may not get everything finished.

“Get back into the activities that made you feel happy and relaxed and made you laugh without the use of artificial enhancers, such as alcohol or drugs,” Student said.

Of course, good sleep, nutrition, and exercise are always good for everything health-related.

You can also try mindfulness exercises: either an app or start a meditation practice. Know, too, that managing burnout isn’t as simple as balancing work and your personal life, so if your company has a formal Employee Assistance program, be sure to take advantage of it.

“Try not to let a job define how you feel or impact on your health and take back control,” she said.  

For more information on managing stress and preventing burnout, speak with your health care provider.

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.

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