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For a long time, experts debated whether burnout is a disease in its own right or a variant of depression. The World Health Organization (WHO) mentions burnout in the diagnostic catalog ICD11, which is available from 1. January 2022 comes into force, now for the first time. Nevertheless, it is not a disease in its own right.
By: Veronika Wawatschek
For a long time, there was a debate about whether burnout syndrome is a disease in its own right or not. From 2022, there will be a compromise: the ICD11 diagnostic catalog will come into force, listing burnout for the first time – not as a disease in its own right, however, but in a chapter of factors that can influence health. The syndrome is listed under the subheading "work-related problems". The syndrome cannot be diagnosed as a disease in its own right, but the World Health Organization describes the symptoms associated with it as follows. These include feelings of exhaustion or burnout, a negative attitude toward work, even cynicism, and the feeling that one can no longer accomplish anything at work. A geriatric nurse who originally liked her job then sometimes acts aggressively or hostile toward those in need of her care. A scientist, who is actually on fire for his subject, has the feeling that his research and efforts are pointless.
The perfidious thing about it: A burnout syndrome does not appear suddenly, it is more like a smoldering fire, a creeping process. The body often provides the first clues: tension, sleep disturbances, general fatigue or headaches can be an indication that the strain is just getting too much.
It must be pointed out: Even if burnout is mentioned in a professional context, it can also affect housewives, volunteers or people who pursue a hobby excessively.
"Who burns for something, can therefore also burn out."
Prof. Reinhart Schuppel, Johannesbad Clinic Furth im Wald, Germany
From a therapeutic point of view, it makes perfect sense to devote a separate subchapter to the symptom complex. For many of those affected, it is easier to accept their own burnout than depressive symptoms – even though these are often not so dissimilar to burnout.
"For a long time, burnout syndrome was the ticket for many sufferers to say: I have a problem in the modern professional world. Burnout is depression's little brother, little sister, so to speak. Stress can lead to a burnout syndrome, which in turn can lead to an addictive disorder, depression or an anxiety disorder."
Prof. Reinhart Schuppel
Facts and figures about burnout
Statistics surrounding burnout syndrome abound, but each is controversial. As early as the beginning of the 2000s, the International Labor Organization (ILO) noted a significant increase in stress levels in the workplace, with the corresponding psychological consequences for workers. Some experts estimate that one in five professionals will burn out at some point in their working lives. Statistics from health insurance companies show: the number of people taking sick leave due to burnout syndrome has increased in recent years. Likewise, the number of days of absence per patient has increased for this reason.
Affected are all population and occupational groups. However, social professions – teachers, social workers, nurses – as well as police officers and people in leadership positions seem to be particularly at risk of developing burnout. This may be one of the reasons why an above-average number of men seem to be affected.
This is how stress affects the body
Stress in itself is not negative at first. Without a certain stress level, people would not dare to take challenges into their own hands at all. When all hurdles in life are taken away from children, they are deprived of important developmental tasks.
Too much stress, however, has negative effects on body and soul. For those who are constantly under power, also have a high level of stress hormones in the body. A permanently elevated adrenaline, noradrenaline or cortisone level, however, damages the body, can hit the stomach, manifest itself in constipation, lead to heart palpitations or heart stumbles, result in high blood prere, have an effect on breathing difficulties or even cause a hearing loss.