Sweet Validation: Burnout Is Now a Bonafide Diagnosis

Whether you’re a freelancer or work a 9-to-5, workplace stress is real. And now your doctor can even diagnose it.

Editor

Has the stress of your job got you feeling exhausted, cynical, or just plain over it? You could be legitimately burned out. Workplace stress has become such a common problem in modern society that burnout is now an official medical diagnosis in the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), a handbook for medical providers.

In a surprise to no one who’s ever held a job, burnout is defined as a syndrome “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” The three main symptoms required for diagnosis are:

  1. Feelings of exhaustion or lack of energy
  2. Increased mental distance from your job, or feeling negative or cynical about your job
  3. Reduced effectiveness in your job

The handbook notes that burnout doesn’t apply to feelings of stress unrelated to your work life—and that it’s important for doctors to also rule out other disorders, including anxiety, depression, and adjustment disorder (which is related to a stressful life event), according to the ICD-11.

What Causes Burnout?

People who work for companies that place high demands on staff but offer little autonomy or reward for their effort are more likely to suffer from burnout, according to research from WHO. In fact, there are six key areas that can impact your level of burnout:

  • Workload
  • Control
  • Reward
  • Community
  • Fairness
  • Values

If there’s a mismatch between your expectations of these qualities and how they’re reflected in your work place, you’re more likely to feel burned out. So for example, if you’re finding yourself working late hours all the time but not getting recognized for your hard work, you might be at risk.

The obvious solution is to try to make adjustments at your job—if you can. But that’s easier said than done. Some people may not feel comfortable going to their bosses and having frank conversations about things like workload, workplace values, and other issues. Some employers simply may not want to make changes. In these cases, looking for another position somewhere that may be a better fit for you may be the best solution. Because in a world where most people spend an entire one-third of their lives at work, you deserve to be happy there—for the sake of your health, too.

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