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Sober Nation

Putting Recovery On The Map

06-13-19 | By

Burnout is Now An Official Diagnosis

Unmotivated? Fatigued? Feeling exhausted, drained, and overworked?

The World Health Organization is taking the symptoms of burnout seriously and have renamed the “state” of exhaustion to a “syndrome.”

Decades ago, the term, “burnout” may have raised multiple eyebrows. In the 1970’s, the term was typically used to describe the side effects that heavy drug users experienced. Though, in 1974, German-American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger noted the symptoms of an alternate problem at a clinic for homeless and drug-addicted people, and it wasn’t the “burnout” that was loosely passed around by those addicted.

Symptoms of Burnout

Burnout was once classified as a problem related to life management, however, just last week, the World Health Organization relabelled the syndrome as an “occupational phenomenon” to better describe that burnout is a work-related syndrome caused by chronic stress.

Symptoms of burnout can include mental exhaustion, reduced productivity at one’s job, and negative and cynical feelings about one’s employment.

In wake of the news, Dr. Sherry Benton, a Florida-based psychologist who specializes in behavioral health, noted that burnout isn’t definitively the result of being overworked. Benton stated that employees who don’t feel fulfilled, or have a sense of purpose are more likely to feel drained at their workplace. She added that while employers may be tempted to reduce responsibilities for an employee to curb the stress, it may only be a temporary fix. Benton mentioned that those who are wanting to cut the burnout out of their workplace must create a wellness strategy that focuses on the mental health aspect of things.

“The best long-term fix is to provide as much support and reinforcement as possible and help your employees find their purpose so they feel energized from work, rather than drained,” Benton says. “Employers should consider implementing supplemental resources into their wellness plans that focus on mental health.”

In a survey conducted by Gallup, employees who are experiencing burnout are 63% more likely to take a sick day, and twice as likely to be looking for alternative employment.

Creating Awareness

To combat the newly defined condition, those behind the LinkedIn acquired the workplace management platform, Glint, which uses employee surveys to measure engagement levels. Founder of Glint noted the feedback employers get from platforms like his can be crucial in creating a positive workplace by addressing issues that arise.

“Our mission is to create a happier work environment for companies and their workforce,” Barnett says. “The components of being happier at work revolve around mental health and creating a safe place for people to be themselves.”

While brining more awareness to the definition of burnout is important, Elaine Cheung, a professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University, noted, “there needs to be greater critical discussion on how we can more precisely measure and define this condition.”

She also told stated that she welcomes the WHO’s new definition because it might raise awareness of the problem of burnout not only among health care workers but also individuals and employers.

“I think a lot of people have a lay definition of what burnout may be,” she says. “But I think by highlighting the specific facets of burnout … my hope is that it might create greater awareness.”

Additionally, the World Health Organization is about to begin development evidence-based guidelines on mental well-being in the workplace.

Burnout in the new version of its handbook of diseases, the International Classification of Diseases — ICD-11 —which will go into effect in January 2022.

Think You Might Have Burnout?

Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself:

  • Have you become angry or resentful about work or colleagues?
  • Do you feel guilty you’re not spending enough time with your family or friends?
  • Have you found yourself more emotional or feeling tense for no obvious reason?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be time for change.

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