Burn-out syndromeUnder appropriate circumstances, burn-out can lead to a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety disorder.
The term is still relatively young: the American psychoanalyst Herbert Freudenberger coined it in the early 1970s. But the symptoms of total emotional exhaustion are much older, already the Old Testament reports about it. However, burnout only became a mass phenomenon in modern society.
The ICD-10 describes the symptoms associated with burnout as follows:
– Being burnt out – State of total exhaustion – Lack of relaxation and leisure time – Stress – Physical or mental strain
In today's high-performance society, many professionals tend to self-exploit: constantly reachable by smartphone or laptop, information at ever shorter intervals and still constantly on the go – the boundaries between leisure and work become blurred.
Those who do not manage to escape the constant stress and create space for themselves are at risk of collapsing at some point. In the final stage of burnout, those affected can no longer perform, even if they actually want to.
Who is at risk?
Burnout mainly affects people who are particularly idealistic about their jobs, often beyond their personal limits: nurses, doctors or teachers, for example.
According to the "gratification crisis" model According to the medical sociologist Johannes Siegrist, the risk of burnout is particularly high when the relationship between expenditure and recognition is out of balance.
According to a 2006 Potsdam study, 60 percent of teachers are on the verge of psychological or physical collapse and show a tendency toward burnout syndrome. At 55 percent, employees of social welfare offices are similarly affected. At 44 percent, start-ups are also among the risk group.
Many teachers are affected
But even people who have achieved a lot and are socially respected can be affected. Miriam Meckel is such a case. Meckel was the youngest female professor in Germany and before that, in her mid-30s, she was already a state secretary and government spokeswoman in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Although she herself had written a book about the "happiness of unattainability she fell into the trap of constant accessibility and mobility and eventually collapsed: Burn-out .
Where do the roots lie?
The causes of a burnout predisposition lie partly in a person's personality. Very performance-oriented people with high ambition. A tendency to perfectionism are particularly at risk. Often these characteristics are associated with fear: for example, of criticism or of not living up to expectations or of failure.
It often hits enthusiastic, imaginative, over-committed people who voluntarily work longer hours. Behind it are often perceptual disturbances. Many believe that they are indispensable. Failures and disappointments are not accepted and the consequences are disregarded. One's own needs no longer play a role.
External circumstances can also promote a burn-out. Constant availability, no clear boundary between work and private life, overtime, excessive demands or fear of losing one's job can lead to emotional exhaustion.
Those who can never switch off risk burnout
Working to the point of total exhaustion
Burn-out develops over a long period of time, often insidiously and hardly noticed by the sufferer themselves. At first, the exhaustion is comparatively harmless: those affected experience sleep disturbances, pain or tinnitus.
However, the overload is often denied, physical exhaustion is eliminated with coffee and sleep problems are treated with tablets.
With time, exhaustion becomes more apparent. Affected people withdraw from friends and family, have concentration problems, are more easily irritable and continue to throw themselves into work without achieving meaningful results. Simple routine work can often only be accomplished with difficulty.
Only when the phase of complete exhaustion drags on over a longer period of time, one speaks of burn-out : The inner withdrawal sets in. This is associated with indifference and even helplessness in the face of daily tasks.
Now it is high time to seek medical advice, because a burn-out syndrome that has not been adequately treated can develop into depression.
"Being lazy is wonderful"
To treat burnout syndrome, it must first be recognized. This is often difficult, because the symptoms are unspecific and cannot be directly classified. The affected person needs professional help, however, because hardly anyone can free themselves from the state of exhaustion on their own.
Once the problem has been identified, patients must learn to listen to themselves and their bodies again, to set limits and to stop being constantly accessible.
Many clinics and therapists now specialize in the treatment of burnout patients. In addition to therapy discussions, the program often includes massages, relaxation exercises and sports.
However, the therapy takes time: Many affected people are not at work for about three months. Especially people who were previously under power every day and lived for their job find it difficult to let go of it.
If one is only in a preliminary stage of burnout, one can try to treat oneself. To do this, you should bring some important rules of life back into your everyday life, which have usually been lost long ago: going to bed earlier in the evening, gardening, doing sports – such as cycling, swimming or gymnastics, but without health-endangering ambition – and generally getting plenty of exercise in daylight, especially in the dark season of the year.
Relaxation techniques such as autogenic training, yoga or progressive muscle relaxation can also help. It is also important to maintain contact with friends, because interpersonal relationships protect against burnout.