Exhaustion, negative attitude, lack of motivation, fatigue, terrible headaches? That’s a normal weekday for millions around the world, especially those who have a job. Turns out that it isn’t only a common feeling for people at their workplace, but a real medical condition according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition, scientists and specialists consider it a worrying epidemic of our modern times.
According to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (or to put it in simple terms, the ICD-10), burnout syndrome is a “state of vital exhaustion.” In some cases, it can just be a matter of mental exhaustion, but it can also have more serious physical effects.
Burnout syndrome was first explored in the 1970s by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in his study about staff burnout. It was later on picked up again by Christina Maslach, who first studied it not only as a phenomenon, but as an actual condition affecting millions all over the world. So, what exactly is burnout?
For Maslach, it has three different dimensions: emotional exhaustion, the depersonalization of the individual (which involves living in a state of negativity and cynicism), and finally, feeling a lack of accomplishments that can lead to the individual to detachment and an unmotivated life.
In the last few years, medical researchers and mental health specialists have delved into the phenomenon that seems to be floating in limbo, since it hadn't been considered a mental condition, nor a physical medial affliction. Now that burnout syndrome has been added to the ICD-10 by the World Health Organization, people might pay more attention to a syndrome that can lead to serious physical and mental conditions besides chronic stress.
One of the main issues here is how we understand life and the world in general. We’ve been taught that in order to succeed we have to work hard, but sometimes we don’t know what that really means. In the capitalist cultures most of us live in, work has become a system where only a few manage to climb up, pushing those who can’t with the idea that hard work can give them a small chance of advancing. That’s why burnout syndrome has become such a relevant and worrying condition; because we’re all likely to experience it at some point in our lives to a degree.
Thus, naturally, this isn’t only a matter of workplace culture, but actually, something that is also worsened by the reality we’re experiencing today. Just take a look at your parents’ generation and how different life conditions and opportunities were for them. While we have to learn how to live with austerity, we’re also a consumerist generation that prioritizes experiences rather than securing a better life. All of this ends up causing us much more stress, which can lead to burnout syndrome.
How to prevent it? It’s not that easy, and actually, it's more about changing the business culture, though you can really make some changes in your attitude at work, like not allowing it to get to you so much and making sure you make time to get the rest you need. It's the small things that can make a difference and help you prevent burnout.
Now, though it has already been added to the ICD’s edition, the list is effective in January 2022, so there’s still a long way to go to make radical changes in the business culture and start seeing burnout syndrome as a serious matter that’s quickly becoming a worldwide epidemic.
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