Have you ever felt like you just couldn’t bear to go to the office one more day? Or that your workload is beyond insurmountable? If you’re saying “yes” and “yes,” there’s a chance that you may have experience burnout — and most Americans have. It is a state of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion which occurs when we feel overworked, overwhelmed and unable to meet life’s many demands. But burnout is more than breaking down, or falling apart. According to the World Health Organization, burnout is now a legitimate medical diagnosis.
The decision to add burnout to the International Classification of Diseases, or ICD-11, was not made in haste. Researchers have been studying the effects of burnout since 1974, when psychologist Herbert Freudenberger published the first known paper on the subject. So what are the symptoms of burnout? According to the handbook, doctors can diagnose someone with burnout if they meet any of the following criteria:
- They have feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.
- They experience increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job.
- There is reduced professional efficacy.
It is important to note that before diagnosing someone with burnout, doctors must first rule out adjustment disorders as well as anxiety disorders and mood disorders. The diagnosis is also limited to work environments, meaning it cannot and should not be used in other situations. Still, it is an important step in acknowledging the extreme pressures many are under, particularly in America — where, according to the International Labor Organization, the average American work[s] 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers. America is also the only industrialized country that has no legally mandated sick time or leave.
No word on how burnout will be treated, though it will presumably be handled like other mental health conditions.