Learn about burnout syndrome and how to identify its symptoms

Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress, a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity

man in depression

When you burn a piece of wood, it is reduced to ashes. While it is burning it gives out energy and heat. But the ashes cannot give out any fuel. It is no more of any use. No matter how much you burn it, it will not be useful. Burnout syndrome is similar to this.

Burnout is a significant public health problem. Just this year, the World Health Organization upgraded its assessment of the threat posed by burnout. The condition, says the WHO, is a “syndrome” involving a range of symptoms related to chronic stress.

Before you understand the burnout syndrome, you need to understand what stress is.

We tend to think that stress is something that we can see and feel; like sweaty palms, faster heartbeat, gnashing of teeth or stomach problems.

The problem is, stress is much more insidious and creeps into our lives with no obvious signs. In other words, you can be stressed and not even know about that.

If you have many tasks and little time, if you have deadlines, if you struggle to find time for everything you’ve planned, if you feel the adrenaline rush or if you can’t concentrate, you’re probably suffering from stress.

The sad rule is that if you’re constantly feeling stressed, it will turn into chronic stress that will lead you directly to job burnout.

A person is physically, mentally and emotionally drained. And he can no longer bear the burden of work. This is burnout syndrome.

Due to our fast paced lives, the incidence of burnout syndrome is on a rise and in the future it can reach epidemic proportions.

In today’s competitive world, anyone can be a victim of burnout. The risk of burnout among people is rising. It is a major problem in Western countries.

In the latest update of its catalogue of diseases and injuries around the world, WHO defines burn-out as ‘a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’

It said the syndrome was characterised by three dimensions, “Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; reduced professional efficacy.”

If problems arising from work-related stress are not tackled in time a person can face burnout syndrome. The World Health Organization has taken note of this problem.

Who are more prone to burnout?

Everyone faces stress in their daily life. If there is a lot of work to be done, but less time. If the work cannot be finished in the time, then it leads to stress. If you start disliking work and the workplace, then you are in the initial phases of burnout.

People engaged in these professions are at a higher risk:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Social workers
  • Teachers and Professors
  • Advocates
  • Police
  • Fast food sellers
  • Retailers

What are the symptoms of burnout?

  • Chronic fatigue, for example, feeling tired after a full night’s sleep
  • Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy.
  • You’re exhausted all the time.
  • The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming.
  • Avoiding work.
  • Losing trust in colleagues and friends.
  • Preferring to be alone.
  • Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done.

Effects of burnout

Burnout syndrome is a slowly occurring process. It takes a toll on health and career. It also affects a person’s relationship with their family and their standing in society. Social and familial life is ruined.

A question which arises is whether burnout can cause death? Burnout directly attacks the brain. It can indirectly cause death via suicide. The memory is impacted and concentration power is reduced. The person mood constantly shifts and they are prone to mood swings.

The author is the Assitant Director at the Directorate of Health Services, Maharashtra