“Burnout” Is Now A Recognized Medical Problem

Work can be exhausting. We’ve all reached the point where we have trouble sleeping because we’re so stressed, and we’ve put the rest of our lives on the backburner. It feels like our jobs have become vampires, sucking out the life and energy from our bodies and minds. Just this month, the World Health Organization officially recognized “occupational burnout” has something that can lead to real medical consequences.

The concept of “burnout” isn’t new; the term has appeared in medical literature since the 1970’s, but now it’s finally being acknowledged as a real syndrome. The WHO was careful to clarify that it’s not a real medical condition on its own. It appears in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases in a chapter called, “Factors influencing health status or contact with health services.” Basically, that means burnout is now listed as a reason people seek out help. It’s not as if someone will be diagnosed with “burnout” and get handed a prescription.

In the chapter, the WHO has a three-fold definition for burnout. It causes exhaustion, negative feelings about your job, and a reduction in professional efficiency. How do you treat burnout? It can be tricky. Therapy can help, and so can getting better sleep and eating well, but it takes real lifestyle changes to treat more than just the symptoms.

Overworking is a bad habit that can last years. To get to the core of the problem, a person needs to know when to step back. This might mean being careful to not take on too many responsibilities at work and being very intentional about balancing our lives, so there’s room for family, friends, and hobbies. Depending on the person and their work, changing careers entirely might be the only way to achieve true peace. Everyone has a different limit on what they can handle in their job, and knowing yours is essential to avoiding burnout.