Burnout Recognized As An Independent Mental Disorder

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Burnout Recognized As An Independent Mental Disorder
Burnout Recognized As An Independent Mental Disorder

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Burnout recognized as an independent mental disorder

For the first time, the World Health Organization has placed “burnout” in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The decision taken during the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva will help end decades of expert debate over how to define burnout and whether it should be considered a disease.

Burnout recognized as an independent mental disorder
Burnout recognized as an independent mental disorder

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For the first time, the World Health Organization has placed “burnout” in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The decision taken during the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva will help end decades of expert debate over how to define burnout and whether it should be considered a disease.

The first formal study of burnout is believed to be a 1974 paper by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, according to a 2017 literature review published in the SAGE Open.

The review authors, Linda and Torsten Heinemann, write that over the next four decades, hundreds of studies have emerged on this topic. However, burnout was not considered a real mental disorder, although it is "one of the most widely discussed mental health problems in modern society." The point is that most of the research has focused on "causes and associated factors" rather than trying to develop specific diagnostic criteria. Difficulties have also arisen in distinguishing between depression and burnout.

According to ICD-11, "burnout" is becoming a legitimate medical diagnosis that will guide healthcare professionals in diagnosing diseases. Burnout will be placed in a section on issues related to employment or unemployment.

The WHO defines burnout as "a syndrome resulting from chronic stress in the workplace that has not been successfully overcome." This syndrome is characterized by three components:

feeling depleted of energy or lack of energy;

  • increased mental detachment from work, or feelings of negativity or cynicism associated with work;
  • decrease in professional efficiency.

The document states that clinicians should first rule out adjustment disorder as well as anxiety and mood disorders. This diagnosis is limited to the work environment and should not be applied to other life situations.

The updated ICD list, drawn up last year in accordance with recommendations from health experts around the world, was approved on May 25. As we wrote earlier, ICD-11, which comes into force in January 2022, contains a number of additions. In particular, “compulsive sexual behavior” is classified as a mental disorder, although this condition is not summarized with addictive behavior. It is also the first time a video game addiction is recognized, along with gambling and drugs such as cocaine. Conversely, transgenderness is excluded from the list of mental disorders.

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