Mental health: Work burnout is now a validated medical diagnosis

New Delhi | Updated: June 8, 2019 1:21:32 PM

Burnout, as a psychological term, was first defined elaborately in the mid-70s by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger.

Mental health, mental health burnout, overcoming burnout, burnout, mental health issues, mental health India, mental health awareness, burnout meaning, burnout syndrome(Source: IE File Photo)

By Pooja Priyamvada

Work burnout is now a validated medical diagnosis. The World Health Organization announcing its plans to begin developing evidence-based guidelines on mental well-being in the workplace included Burnout in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) which will go into effect in January 2022 as an occupational phenomenon. It is the most reputed guideline that guides medical providers in diagnosing diseases globally.

Point to be noted is that it is not classified as a medical condition. Burnout is now included in the ICD-11 section on problems related to employment or unemployment under ‘Factors influencing health status or contact with health services’ that defines the reasons for which people contact health services but that are not classed as illnesses or health conditions.

Burn-out is defined in ICD-11 as such:

“Burn-out is a syndrome…resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed….characterized 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

Burnout, as a psychological term, was first defined elaborately in the mid-70s by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. He used it to describe cases in which a physical or mental collapse was believed to be caused by overwork or stress.

The new and more elaborate definition by the WHO is a welcome move for all employees worldwide because it will not only raise awareness about work related stress and mental health issues among health care workers but also employers and companies.

The handbook directs mental health practitioners that before diagnosing burnout adjustment disorder and anxiety and mood disorders must be ruled out. The diagnosis must be strictly restricted to work related stress and not other aspects of life.

The WHO is addressing this issue and redefining it clearly and elaborately is a huge a step towards making it easier for workers to get help for this. Companies and employers now and also have a larger role chalked out for them in addressing burnout and promoting a sense of community at workplace, strong socio-professional relationships, ensuring workloads are not too burdensome and evenly distributed and every worker achieves some sort of healthy
work-life balance.

(The author is a translator, awarded blogger and a social media enthusiast. Views expressed are personal.)

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