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Burnout Syndrome

Burnout Syndrome

Burnout is a work-related constellation of symptoms that usually occurs in individuals without any prior history of psychological or psychiatric disorders. It is triggered by a feeling of discrepancy between the expectations and ideals of the employee and the actual requirements of their position. In the initial stages, individuals feel emotional stress and increasing job-related disappointments. It can happen to any professional exposed to a work environment that involves managing stress for a long period of time. First line healthcare professionals report the highest rates.


Burnout syndrome symptoms

Burnout syndrome causes a loss of the ability to adapt to the work environment and those who suffer from it can display negative attitudes toward their job, their co-workers, and their patients and/or clients. Ultimately, three classic burnout syndrome symptoms are exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment.

  • Exhaustion is generalized fatigue that can be related to dedicating excessive time and effort to a task or project that is not perceived to be beneficial. For example, a feeling of exhaustion, particularly emotional exhaustion, may be caused by continuing to care for a patient who has a very poor chance of recovery.
  • Depersonalization is a distant or indifferent attitude towards work. Depersonalization manifests as negative, callous, and cynical behaviors, or interacting with colleagues or patients in an impersonal manner. Depersonalization may be expressed as unprofessional comments directed toward co-workers, blaming patients for their medical problems, or the inability to express empathy or grief when a patient dies.
  • Reduced personal accomplishment is the tendency to negatively evaluate the worth of one’s work, feeling insufficient in regard to the ability to perform one’s job, and a generalized poor professional self-esteem.

Individuals with burnout syndrome may also develop non-specific symptoms including feeling frustrated, angry, fearful, or anxious. They may also express an inability to feel happiness, joy, pleasure, or contentment. BOS can be associated with physical symptoms including insomnia, muscle tension, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems.


Risk factors

Both individual and organizational risk factors are associated with an increased susceptibility to develop burnout syndrome.

The most common individual risk factors are having poor self-esteem, bad coping mechanisms, unrealistically high expectations, having financial issues. Organizational risk factor like heavy workload, conflicts with coworkers, diminished resources, lack of control or input, effort-reward imbalance and understaffing.

All of the above are important risks that can cause burnout syndrome and can lead to alcohol abuse, and even suicidal ideation.



Although circumstances might not be under your control, there are steps you can take to avoid burnout syndrome. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Understand that there are ways you can manage your work-related stress that put you at risk for burnout syndrome.
  2. Engage the support of management, co-workers and friends that may help you cope with stress at work and burnout syndrome.
  3. Take breaks from work. Go outside for a walk or fresh air. Exercise is known to enhance your physical state and mood.
  4. Understand what you enjoy about work and focus on your interests and passions.
  5. Practice techniques such as optimism when dealing with stressful work experiences and establishing and maintaining a supportive social network

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