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Is Burnout An Actual Medical Condition?

Is Burnout An Actual Medical Condition?
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workplace burnout


We all know the feeling. You’ve been working round the clock. You’re not sleeping enough. You’re not eating right. No matter how much you rest, you still feel exhausted. You feel like you need to get out of your current job or make a drastic change that will push the “reset” button on your body.

The feeling is burnout. Burnout refers to that unrelenting mental and physical exhaustion that you just cannot shake. It’s like running at full-speed for hours and never reaching a destination. Everyone experiences burnout at one point or another, most often in regards to their jobs. Burnout can become so extreme that it causes a person to quit their job, which can obviously have larger consequences on the rest of their life.

Does Burnout Count As A Medical Condition?

Aside from the effect that burnout can have on your career and your finances, does it have any actual effect on your health and well-being? People who have experienced burnout can say that it did have a significant impact on their health. It can lead to extreme fatigue, headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart palpitations and more. With effects like that, it sounds like burnout is a legitimate medical issue. With that said, the World Health Organization (WHO) has just added burnout to the new version of their International Classification of Diseases and they have officially classified it as a syndrome.

burnout syndrome

What exactly defines a syndrome? A syndrome refers to a group of symptoms or signs that occur together due to a related cause. It is not necessarily a prolonged medical condition, but also not a passing isolated incident. According to WHO, the biggest cause of burnout syndrome is work-related stress. While we already knew that work was the biggest cause of burnout, what exactly is it about work that is having such a detrimental effect on people?

What Is Causing Burnout Syndrome?

More so than ever, people are working extra hours at their jobs. There are millions of people living paycheck-to-paycheck, barely able to make ends meet. This leads them to take on extra hours at work or to even take on multiple jobs. On top of that, many workplaces are more fast-paced than ever, since we live in a society that is now accustomed to immediate gratification. For example, many people that work in customer service are required to spend hours on end tending to customer after customer as quickly as possible.

work related stress

It doesn’t help that people in general are more cruel to one another in modern society. Customers are more likely to lash out at employees who make a mistake or do not work fast enough. Co-workers are more likely to lash out at one another when feeling overwhelmed. Employers are more likely to lash out at their employees if the workplace is not as productive as it should be. The constant pressure to perform quickly and the incessant fear of being scrutinized or attacked are obviously clear things that could lead to burnout syndrome.

How Can Burnout Syndrome Be Avoided?

Is there anything you can do to avoid the burnout phenomenon? The easy way out would be to quit your job, but most people cannot afford to do that. Also, you’re likely to experience burnout at the next job anyways. Decreasing the burnout phenomenon relies more on the workplace itself than the individual. Companies who have frequent issues with burnout amongst their employees may need to look at their work schedules and look at morale amongst their employees. They may need to address issues of bullying within the company as well as workplace accommodations. Are the employees’ needs being met? Are any particular employees being overworked? Are any employees being mistreated? Addressing all of these issues can help reduce the chances of burnout syndrome occurring due to work.

burnout syndrome causes

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