Burn-out was initially explained as a “state of vital exhaustion” but now is specified it’s done by “chronic workplace stress” which “should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.” It is described as “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.” There is no neat or universal way to tease out symptoms of burn-out from symptoms of other mental health conditions, such as depression. This makes it extremely difficult for doctors to recognize the syndrome.
However WHO suggests that burn-out occurs when the demands of a job far outweigh the rewards, recognition, and times of relaxation, which can actually change a worker’s brain, making it harder to deal with stress in the future. Neuroimaging studies have even found similarities between the brains of those who suffer from early-life trauma and those who deal with clinical burn-out in adulthood. Another large study found that workplace burn-out was a significant risk factor for coronary heart disease and for for high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, hospitalisation due to a cardiovascular disorder, musculoskeletal pain, prolonged fatigue, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, respiratory problems, severe injuries, and even mortality before age 45. The ICD’s eleventh edition will only take effect in January 2022.