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Always Exhausted? 'Burnout' Is A Medical Condition, Says WHO

Always Exhausted? 'Burnout' Is A Medical Condition, Says WHO

The number of publications on burnout increased considerably over the past 40 years and identified six categories into which each study can be grouped. 

We've all had days where quitting and sitting at home seemed like a better option than going to work, but we've ended up dragging ourselves to work because we had no other choice. On days like these, we have no energy to work or even strike up a conversation with a colleague. There's just so much stress that you've been experiencing that your body's decided it's had enough. This feeling is also known as a burnout. According to CNN, Burnout is now an actual medical diagnosis, and it's mentioned in the International Classification of Diseases, (ICD-11) which is the World Health Organization's handbook that guides medical providers in diagnosing diseases.



 

The description reads: Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased the mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.



 

Before you jump to conclusions and diagnose yourself with Burnout, there are a few factors you need to check. Doctors say adjustment disorders, as well as anxiety and mood disorders, must be ruled out. Also. this diagnosis is limited ONLY to work environments, it cannot be combined with any other situation! Scientists have been studying the finer details of burnout for decades now, with psychologist Herbert Freudenberger publishing an article on the same in 1974.



 

Linda and Torsten Heinemann are the authors of a 2017 review of the literature published in the journal SAGE Open. They say that over the four decades after 1947, more than hundreds of subjects have appeared in the study. But, back then, burnout was not considered an actual mental disorder even though it is "one of the most widely discussed mental health problems in today's society."



 

According to the Heinemanns, a major reason for this is because the research focused more on burnout focused on "causes and associated factors," than on attempts to develop specific diagnostic criteria. This then led to "vagueness and ambiguity" around the concept of burnout. Even though burnout is one of the most widely discussed mental health problems in today’s society, it is still disputed and not officially recognized as a mental disorder in most countries.



 

In the tradition of the social study of science, the objective of this article is to analyze how burnout has been investigated in the health sciences in the past four decades, and how this has influenced the ways burnout is understood today.  We show that the number of publications on burnout increased considerably over the past 40 years, and identified six categories into which each study can be grouped.  The studies are not equally distributed across the categories: Most focus on causes and associated factors



 

The studies are not equally distributed across the categories: Most focus on causes and associated factors. Only a very small number of articles deal with psychological and somatic symptoms of burnout and attempt to develop diagnostic criteria. We argue that just this distribution is the reason why burnout research reproduces the vagueness and ambiguity of the concept that it aims to clarify and discuss our results in light of the concept of medicalization.



 

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