Burnout is a psychological disorder, in which a person is emotionally exhausted and can achieve little. The person can find no more energy to perform work. Burnout is often considered a work-related problem. Working women and managers suffer more often from this condition than other people.
Burnout occurs as a result of prolonged emotional overload and stress. The risk factors are:
- Heavy workload.
- Poor working atmosphere.
- Limited control capabilities (such as making decisions on holidays and breaks).
- Low reward.
When a person is a very perfectionist and always aims high, there is additional risk. There is also a link between education and workload. The higher one’s education, the higher the risk of work-related stress. Burnout occurs mainly in people in social or interpersonal professions, such as social work, healthcare and education.
In case of burnout, three responses are distinguished. Emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (feel like standing outside one’s own body or mind), and reduced personal skills. These responses don’t have to occur simultaneously.
Specific signs and symptoms of burnout are:
- No longer enjoying going to work (due to fatigue).
- Sleep disorders.
- Too long and too much worrying about work.
- No longer able to enjoy things.
- Lost interest in sex.
- Chaotic thinking and acting (not able to organize anymore).
- Headache and neck pain.
- Loss of appetite.
Neurotic symptoms, such as guilt, anxiety, depression or obsession, usually manifest at a later stage.
It is difficult to make a good clear diagnosis, because burnout is not officially recognized as disease. Whether a person is suffering from burnout can be measured by means of a questionnaire.
Burnout is often treated with short-term psychotherapy. The psychotherapist examines how the burnout occurred. In addition, risk factors are analyzed and addressed. The treatment of a burnout will depend on the phase which one is in. The patient often resumes work during the therapy as soon as possible. Staying at home doesn’t help to get rid of the problem. If stress symptoms are caused by problems at work, the company doctor must also be informed. He or she can provide guidance in building up the workload again.
It takes a long time for a burnout to develop and it usually also takes a long time to get rid of it. Most people succeed, but not without help. The prognosis therefore is closely related to the guidance offered, the personality of the patient, the nature and amount of the work-related problems and the presence of other stressors in the past and present. With adequate guidance by a psychiatrist, psychotherapist or psychologist, eighty percent of patients would be able to recover within six months.
- To avoid burnout, a person must ensure sufficient relaxation.
- Rhythm and regularity are the secret of a relaxed life. Having to improvise every day is more demanding than necessary. A fixed schedule provides rest.
- When energy is a bit level again, the patient should not immediately go back to work. Only with a well-organized life, without chaos and with room for things that are satisfactory, the stage of vocational integration begins.
- Practicing an outdoor sport with social element, such as football, tennis, hiking together and cycling, can be a good aid to recovery.
- Taking good care of yourself is good for the immune system. Healthy eating and drinking, quit smoking, get enough sleep and exercise on time, make you more fit and therefore more resistant to stress. Both physically and mentally.
- The indication ‘burnout’ was used for the first time in the early seventies of the last century by the American psychotherapists Herbert Freudenberger and Christina Maslach.
- The prevalence of burnout is estimated at 10% of the working population.
- Work-related stress occurs especially among people aged 35 to 55 years.
- Nervous exhaustion is considered as a preliminary stage of burnout.