How to Recognize + Recover from a Burnout Diagnosis

How to Recognize and Recover from a Burnout Diagnosis
Burnout is a buzzy word you've probably heard a lot about lately. 
But, what is burnout? Is it simply feeling overwhelmed in life or at work? Is burnout really that serious? Well, according to the World Health Organization, it is. Burnout was officially recognized as a legitimate medical diagnosis earlier in 2019. 
According to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) burnout can manifest itself through exhaustion, headaches, elevated feelings of cynicism related to a job, and reduced professional productivity. So yeah, burnout is pretty real. 
So, how do we differentiate real burnout from a bad week or a challenging project? And, when we do recognize it, how do we tackle it? Let's find out.

What Are The Symptoms of Burnout

According to the ICD-11, an individual can be diagnosed with clinical burnout if they are experiencing these symptoms:
  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job
  • reduced professional efficacy
To rule out general anxiety or mood disorders, the World Health Organization's handbook states that these feeling should be limited—or experienced largely within—the professional arena. While, of course, work burnout can bleed into other areas in your life, clinical burnout is mainly experienced as a result of work-related stressors. 

Types of Burnout

There are three archetypes of burnout. Do you fall into any of these categories? 

Frenetic Burnout 

Frenetic burnout is experienced by employees who put a ton of energy into their work in the hopes that the output will be rewarding. After a sustained period of dedicated work, the frenetic worker does not find positive outcomes.
Rather than becoming deterred from this, the frenetic worker continuously channels maximum energy into work—with little to no regard for health or work-life balance. Those who work more than 40 hours a week are more prone to suffer from this type of burnout—which usually ends in complete mental and physical exhaustion. 

Underchallenged Burnout 

This type of burnout occurs when an employee feels underchallenged and bored at work. Being unable to find any satisfaction in a job, the underchallenged employees find themselves in a lowered mood. 
The underchallenged employee needs to identify what she loves, what she excels at, and what matters to her. From there, she can best beat this type of burnout by finding a position that offers an intersection of these passions. 

Worn-out Burnout 

The worn-out employee is someone who is resigned about their work after experiencing consistent work stress over a long period of time. Having experienced negligible rewards, the worn-out employee feels disillusioned and uninspired by the job at hand. 
Worn-out burnout often occurs when an employee gives her power and work to others instead of taking it on her own. If you're suffering from worn-out burnout, identify why you aren't motivated by your work. Take the steps to either reclaim your ownership or look for a position that could better fulfill you. 

What Causes Burnout? 

According to medical professionals, burnout manifests as an inability to cope with the daily demands of a job due to the nature of the job itself. Not to be confused with outside stressors, chronic anxiety or depression, burnout is most often experienced as a direct result of the job itself. Here are some common reasons that employees experience burnout:
  • An extremely heavy workload at all times
  • No work/life balance
  • An extremely stressful or distressing line of work 
  • Unrewarding or directionless work 
  • No recognition from management
  • No support from team or management
  • Misaligned values in the workplace
  • No autonomy 
  • Discriminatory or toxic work environment

 How To Recognize Burnout 

One of the most common ways burnout is diagnosed is through Maslach's Burnout Inventory (MBI.)
The MBI survey determines burnout through a three-pronged point system as follows:
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Depersonalization
  • Personal accomplishment
There are several versions of the MBI survey, which work to classify burnout in different industries—this includes specialized surveys for those working in human services industries, in education, and in customer service or construction. 

Professions Most Likely To Experience Burnout

There are certain professionals who are more likely to experience burnout. In fact, the American Medical Association estimates that almost 50 percent of physicians experience symptoms of burnout—due to long hours, the stress of patient care, and administrative burdens. In fact, burnout among human services professionals is high—across the board.
Retail workers and fast-food workers also experience high levels of burnout, typically underchallenged burnout—due to low pay and repetitive tasks. Here are other professions that experience high levels of burnout. 
  • Physicians 
  • Nurses
  • Teachers 
  • Human Services Professionals 
  • Attorneys
  • Law Enforcement 
  • Retail Workers
  • Hospitality Workers 

How to Tackle Burnout 

So you think you are suffering from burnout? 
We aren't physicians here at Career Contessa, so we cannot begin to dispense real advice on treating a clinical diagnosis. What we can do is lend a helping hand to take the steps to get started on your way. 
While, as of the date of publishing, there is no set course for treating burnout, there are steps one can take to treat work burnout on their own. After determining that you are, indeed, experiencing burnout, you can choose to address the problem within the workplace. Whether by communicating a tough workload to other team members, by reporting an abusive or discriminatory practice to human resources, or by speaking to management about your responsibilities, an employee experiencing burnout may be able to "fix" the problem. 
However, in some instances, the employee's best option is to leave the specific workplace—or the job altogether. 

Where To Find Help For Burnout 

 If you are pretty sure you are suffering from burnout, here are some resources to get you started on facing it.