Burnout Syndrome – Why is it so common?
Technological development and globalization have changed the workload of workers and through changes of the “basic work content”. There are less and less burnouts from heavy physical work or unflavored working conditions – BUT – it has been replaced with new burnouts, especially psychological. Result of this burnouts are more and more stress and stress related illnesses
Literature defines stress as a congestion that threatens the individuals physical and mental integrity. Stress is a complex pattern of emotional states, psychological responses and thoughts that arise in response to external demands or environment related stressors.
The stressors can be:
- Physical, e.g. Unbearable heat;
- Biological, e.g. Hunger, thirst, illness;
- Psychologically, e.g. The expectation of something bad;
- Social, e.g. Unemployment
Stress and burnout
The term for burnout first appeared in 1974. It was introduced by psychologist Freudenberg, who investigated mental problems with the Social workers staff.
Despite of the similarity between the phenomena, there are also significant differences.
Stress affects an individual in various life situations, and the occurrence of burnout is linked only to his or hers work. Stress is a concept that refers to a temporary adaptation process accompanied by mental and physical symptoms – while burnout is the FINAL stage when all the adaptation processes fail.
The term burnout is usually referred to a specific syndrome due to prolonged exposure to work stress and occurs primarily in occupations that extensively work with people in emotionally challenging situations where an individual is forced to help problems of others while keeping their emotions down.
What we must be aware, that this is not a fake disease or even a condition, but a true syndrome that has the International Classification of a Disease Z-730 (MKB-10), and has a severe, long-lasting and often irreversible consequences
Causes for burnout
Burnout occurs because of frequent unsuccessful managing of stress and depletion of individual energy sources. It occurs when there are major disparities between the nature of the work and the nature of the person performing this work.
Ahead are the leading causes of getting workplace burnouts:
- Feeling overwhelmed (work is more intense, requires more time, is more complicated)
- The lack of control over the work it is doing
- Inadequate reward
- Dissolution of the working community
- Absence of honesty
- Conflicting values
Definition of burnout
Burnout is a unique type of stress syndrome characterized by three characteristics
- Emotional exhaustion: feeling like you lack energy and feeling that your emotional reserves are worn out
- Depersonalization: negativity, cynicism, excessive “distant” responses to other people at work (Individual treats clients as objects, is distant, and has a general negative attitude towards people.
- Reduced personal achievement: individual negatively assesses himself, emphasizes the decline in his own competence and productivity, feels less effective and he is supposed to be.
Unlike stressful, from which an individual eventually recovers – psychological exhausting is a permanent and irreversible condition. Although burnout is often associated with “not being in the mood” it is not a state of depression.
Symptoms and signs of burnout
So far, 130 signs of being burnout have been discovered – ranging from anxiety to changed working drive.
The initial level of burnout is physical fatigue and emotional exhaustion, which are usually the results of unsuccessful attempt at actively coping with the burdensome demands of one’s work life. At this stage, a person can experience symptoms such as anxiety, tension, overactivity (outbreaks of anger, agitation, irritability, etc.).
If the problems continue, we start seeing various changes in behavior, attitude and opinion (e.g. dissatisfaction with work, loss of interest in people, negative feelings about themselves, increased consumption of drugs alcohol …)
All these signs can be grouped into five groups that are defined by the following changes:
- Emotional disorders: intolerance, irritability, emotional void
- Cognitive problems: dispersal, inability to maintain and deepen attention, problems with memory
- Physical disorders: sleep disorders, headaches, fatigue
- Behavioral changes: inflexibility, cynicism in relation to others, rejecting change or avoid challenges
- Changes in motivation: loss of working eagerness, cheerfulness, lack of interest
Preventive action includes awareness and education. Assistance programs should be organized within individual organizations.
The aim of the prevention is to know and recognize the syndrome – If we know the early signs of burnouts, we can use appropriate action to stop it.
Treatment of burnout
First, we need to remove the person from the situation that caused or lead to the burnout. At start he needs peace and rest to calm the body and a healthy diet – this can last from a few weeks to several months until the individual starts feeling the “will to live” again.
It is important to note that when people go on vacation (since the psychological and behavioral stress is eliminated for the time being) it reduces the amount of burnout. Effect is not long-lasting. Burnout at the end of vacation is reduced but only for a brief period.
If you are starting to feel burned out you need so called holistic treatment – which should include both relief of the symptoms and eliminating any factors that caused this too you.
IT IS YOUR BODY – TAKE CARE OF IT
- Westman, M. in Etzion, D. (2001). The impact of vacation and job stress on burnout and absenteeism. Psychology and Health
- Malach Pines, A. in Keinan, G. (2005). Stress and burnout: the significant difference. Personality and Individual differences
- Kraft, Ulrich. Burned Out (2006). Scientific American Mind.
- Burnout (psychology).
- Dollard F., Maureen, Winefield H., Anthony in Winefield R., Helen (2003). Occupatioal Stress in the Service Professions. Taylor & Francis