Career & Education

WHO classifies burnout as 'occupational phenomenon'

Sunday, June 09, 2019

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has formally classified a phenomenon that's casually been bandied about the workplace for the past few decades at least — Burnout.

It is not classified as a medical condition, but is instead described as an occupational phenomenon in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) in the chapter titled: 'Factors influencing health status or contact with health services'

According to the WHO, burnout is defined as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. It refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life, the agency stressed.

Burnout, the WHO said, is characterised by three dimensions:

• 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.

Burnout was also included in ICD-10, in the same category as in ICD-11, but the definition is now more detailed.

According to, burnout is a gradual process, the signs and symptoms of which are subtle at first, but which become worse as time goes on.

It lists some physical signs and symptoms of burnout as feeling tired and drained most of the time, lowered immunity, frequent illnesses, frequent headaches or muscle pain, and changes in appetite or sleep habits.

The emotional signs and symptoms include sense of failure and self-doubt; feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated; detachment; loss of motivation; increasingly cynical and negative outlook; and decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.

Also according to, the behavioural signs and symptoms of burnout include withdrawing from responsibilities; isolating from others, procrastinating/taking longer to get things done, using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope; taking out your frustrations on others; and skipping work or coming in late and leaving early.

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