We collected and answered the most common questions and presented them in “Burnout FAQ“. We hope it will make the phenomenon more clear and understandable.
1) Is burnout a mental disease or not?
It is not a mental disorder in the clinical sense (ICD -10) but a set of different physical and psychological symptoms that arise and it is important to perform a correct diagnosis (category Z73.0, the chronic fatigue syndrome or burnout syndrome).
2) Is burnout a personality disorder?
It is not a personality disorder (like neurosis, psychosis, schizophrenia, paranoia). It is a pathological behaviour modification which arises when specific and strong stress conditions affect the person.
3) What is the main cause of burnout?
It is the loss of personal expectations and hopes, and is particularly dramatic in cases of those with high initial motivations and with an optimistic approach to life.
4) When was the term burnout first used?
In the Thirties, the word “burnout” was used to define the physical condition of athletes who became physically drained and were no longer able to compete.
In 1974, Freudenberger used it for the first time to describe a state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by one’s professional life – “a disease of over-commitment”.
5) Which areas of a person will be affected by the symptoms of burnout?
Unfortunately burnout affects the entire human functioning, which means that there are significant symptoms affecting behaviour, emotional, physical and mental well being.
6) Are there people with a higher burnout risk?
- Those seen as “top performers” or “high flyers”
- People who strive for highest standards and want to be in control at all cost
- People who no longer feel in control and able to influence their working life
- Those working in organisations with strict or unclear roles, procedures and goals
- Those with very high initial motivation who became disappointed or lost their illusions
- Career driven individuals no longer able to cope with work pressure
7) Are there professions with a higher burnout risk?
Burnout can affect people of all professions, however latest research shows that burnout is experienced more frequently by the professionals involved in the health care (medical doctors, assistants, health counselors), in the education (teachers, trainers) and in the safety sectors (policemen, firemen, traffic warden).
8) Is there any difference in the burnout symptoms between women and men?
Yes, women usually score higher on the scale of emotional exhaustion and men on the scale of depersonalization; moreover the number of women experiencing burnout is higher than men.
9) Will significant stress levels always lead to burnout?
No. Burnout is caused by very high stress levels, but is not inevitable when high stress is experienced; whether it will lead to burnout, it depends on individual’s coping ability.
10) Is it possible that the same discomfort is classified as burnout in one of European countries and as something different in another country?
Yes, it is possible, despite the fact that definitions and models can be compared to define the common symptoms. Additionally, cultural and social patterns of working and living can strongly influence self-confidence and produce different external pressures on a person.
11) Weakness, tiredness, no more interest in own work: are these symptoms of burnout or what else?
These may be only initial signals of the need for a break and to invest more time for him/herself; but they may also suggest that our stress levels are increasing and getting closer to the burnout threshold. If this is the case, it is better to discuss it with competent experts.
12) May burnout be looked at as a social illness nowadays?
Current style of life and work in European countries and increasing economic worries make it easier to become stressed and, later, to experience the burnout situation: it is not classified as a social illness, but it is more frequent now than in the past.
13) Is the employee burnout risk related to the wellbeing level in the workplace?
Organizations can help employees avoid burnout by paying attention to the wellbeing in the workplace. This will help companies prevent both work related stress and burnout in both men and women. Periodical audits and resulting action plans led by managers supported by professional consultants are a powerful tool to manage any burnout risk factors.
14) How can coaching help?
Coaching is a highly effective intervention method which can be used to both prevent (LINK) and treat (LINK) burnout.
15) What are the advantages of using coaching in the context of burnout?
Coaching can be the first step in seeking professional support without the perceived stigma of psychotherapy or psychiatric treatment. Coaching can be used in the workplace context and beyond. Coaching is designed to help more in the short term than it is the case in psychotherapy. Coaching helps to develop inner resources for coping with stress in the future, which may be more appropriate than psychotherapy which is usually aimed at healing the traumas of the past.
16) How do I know which coaching companies I should contact?
All coaches should be accredited by national or international coaching associations which ensure that the professionals receive appropriate training and undertake the minimum number of supervised coaching hours.