Workplace “burnout” declared occupational phenomenon by WHO

Accepting the challenges of stress stemming from work, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized workplace ‘burnout’ as an occupation phenomenon. According to a recent announcement made by the group, the definition of burnout is being revised in its latest version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) – 11, the global handbook of disease, which would be implemented from January 2022.

Burnout was previously incorporated in the preceding version of the WHO’s disease handbook, the ICD-10, in a similar category as of now, however, at that time, it was defined as a state of vital exhaustion. Unfortunately, the previous definition was misleading because it characterized that one is not completely capable of accomplishing their work and yet they are not fully sick, said Torsten Voigt, a sociologist at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) Aachen University, Germany.

New definition affords legitimacy to people dealing with burnout

The latest definition of burnout labels it as a ‘syndrome’ and ties it to workplace-related chronic stress not been managed effectively. Notwithstanding the previous reports, burnout has not been categorized as a medical condition, rather, it has been coined as an occupational phenomenon. It has been incorporated in the chapter pertaining to contact with health services and factors impacting the status of health.

The new definition is more comprehensive and affords legitimacy to people dealing with a burnout. As stated by WHO, burnout is manifested as reduced professional output, feelings of contempt and pessimism towards one’s job, mounting mental dissatisfaction from one’s job, and feelings of exhaustion. Further, doctors can use it only in the context of one’s work, and not use it to refer to the other aspects of one’s life.

Despite burnout not being classified as a mental health disorder, experts feel that it is a positive sign that it would now be considered as a serious concern. Moreover, the new definition by WHO will make it easier for people to access help, especially in some European nations where health care specialists bank on the ICD for diagnosis.

Further work required

Talking about the subject, one expert stressed that the need of the hour is to describe the definition of burnout with greater clarity. There is a pressing need for crucial discussions about how precisely can the condition be defined and measured. It is also believed that the new definition might spread awareness regarding burnout amongst not only the health care professionals but also amongst employees and the public in general.

Multiple studies have demonstrated that the susceptibility to developing a burnout can increase because of certain characteristics of the workplace culture. This can be handled by employers who can address burnout by ensuring that their employees have strong social connections, a sense of community at the workplace, a manageable workload, a friendly environment, and a healthy work-life equilibrium.

Diagnosis and management of burnout

The latest definition by WHO necessitates that for the correct diagnosis of burnout, mental health care professionals exclude the probability of the affected person having mood disorders, anxiety, and other disorders related to stress. Burnout is distinct from depression as it is related explicitly to one’s work and their relationship with it.

Once this understanding is established, it could pave the way for highly targeted research focusing on preventing and treating the problem. To ensure mental well-being at workplace, WHO has also announced its plan to design evidence-based guidelines on the subject.

Workplace burnout is treatable

Workplace burnout is for real and if it is chronic, it can affect one’s physical as well as mental well-being. One can easily fall prey to anxiety, depression, and experience increased amounts of stress as a consequence of burnout. Therefore, one must seek professional assistance to deal with this issue and attain complete mental health recovery.

If you or a loved one are feeling the symptoms of burnout or any other mental disorder, the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline can help. Call our 24/7 mental health helpline (855) 653-8178 to know about the finest mental health treatment centers in your vicinity. Our representatives can guide you with credible information about available evidence-based treatment modalities. You can also use our live chat service to get in touch with one of our representatives for more information.