Burnout is officially a disease

Burn Out Source: Google Images

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognised burnout in its Internal Classification of Diseases (ICD). This classification is widely used as a benchmark for diagnosis of various conditions.

This decision was reached during the WHO Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland – which concludes on Tuesday, May 28 – this also displays the progress of the medical community in defining what exactly burnout is.

In the latest update of its list of diseases and injuries, WHO defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

It said the syndrome was characterised by three symptoms:

  • 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.

“Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life,” says the classification.

A recent PPS study reflects that burnout is a major issue among South Africa’s top professionals.

The study’s finding were collated from a survey of 5 837 professionals across every major job category – these include law, medicine and engineering.

22% of all respondents felt that they were overworked – citing long hours and staff shortages.

The data also reflects that this means that professionals often take their problems home with them, as 50% of doctors said that they are depressed due to a combination of being overworked, working long hours, and burnout.

This has led to an increase in South Africans who turn to alcohol and narcotics substances to cope with their problems, says Malcolm Young, GM of the Choose Life Specialist Recovery Centre.

The updated ICD list, dubbed ICD-11, was drafted last year following recommendations from health experts around the world.

The ICD-11, which will take effect in January 2022, contains several other additions, including classification of “compulsive sexual behavior” as a mental disorder, and also recognises video gaming as an addiction. Here it has been listed alongside addictions such as gambling and cocaine.

The updated list also removes transgenderism from its list of mental disorders meanwhile, and now lists it instead under the chapter on “conditions related to sexual health”.