Burnout: What is it? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Burnout is a term that's become all too familiar in the modern world, often used to describe a state of chronic stress and exhaustion related to one's work environment. It's a serious issue, with far-reaching consequences not just for the individual experiencing it, but also for their colleagues, employers, and loved ones. Let's delve deeper into what burnout is, its causes, symptoms, and most importantly, how to overcome and prevent it.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a syndrome that stems from chronic workplace stress that hasn't been successfully managed. It's characterized by feelings of exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional effectiveness. It's important to note that burnout is strictly related to the work context and should not be confused with other types of stress disorders or mental health issues.

In 2019, burnout was officially recognized as a syndrome and included in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). However, it's not considered a disease or medical condition.

Causes and Risk Factors

Burnout is a multifactorial process that can be influenced by individual variables (such as age, sex, and marital status) as well as organizational and social factors in the workplace. It's often the result of an imbalance between professional demands and available resources.

The risk of burnout can be heightened by several factors, including:

  • Unrealistic goals
  • Excessive workload
  • Lack of control over work-related resources
  • Contrasting values between the individual and the organization
  • Inadequate tasks or increased responsibility without proper compensation
  • Difficult interactions with colleagues or customers
  • Inadequate health and safety policies
  • Poor communication and management
  • Unfair treatment or lack of recognition

While burnout was initially associated with "helping professions" (such as healthcare and social work), it's now recognized that it can affect anyone in a stressful work environment.

Symptoms and Consequences

Burnout manifests itself through a decline in psychophysical resources and a decrease in professional performance. The symptoms can be physical, psychoemotional, and behavioral, and may include:

  • Lack of initiative
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Emotional detachment and reduced interest in work
  • Difficulties in relationships with colleagues or clients
  • Demotivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low self-esteem
  • Guilt, anger, and resentment
  • Agitation and nervousness
  • Constant worry
  • Tiredness
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive problems
  • Back pain and muscle tension

If left untreated, burnout can lead to more serious issues like isolation, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and depression.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis of burnout is made by a professional in the field (such as an occupational doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist) based on the individual's symptoms. The process involves interviews to collect information about the extent of the problem and its impact on the individual's life.

Treatment of burnout involves both organizational and individual approaches. The first step is to promote awareness of the problem, followed by changes in behavior and attitudes. Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral interventions, can be beneficial in managing the symptoms and promoting a new balance.

In the workplace, strategies to address burnout may include seeking support from supervisors or human resources, increasing social support, and improving work-life balance.


Preventing burnout is crucial and involves a proactive approach. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Ensure you're meeting your basic needs (like sleep, food, and exercise) and getting enough rest.
  • Set realistic goals and don't expect too much from yourself.
  • If your workload is overwhelming, discuss it with your supervisor or delegate tasks if possible.
  • Avoid conflicts with colleagues and maintain a positive attitude.
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle to increase your resilience in dealing with stress.

In conclusion, burnout is a serious issue that requires attention and proactive measures. By understanding its causes and symptoms, seeking help when needed, and implementing prevention strategies, it's possible to manage and overcome this syndrome.

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The Wellyme Team

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