WHO Says Burnout Is Now an Official Medical Diagnosis

Symptoms of burnout include feelings of exhaustion, negativism or cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy.

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Burnout official medical diagnosis

Do you often feel extremely stressed out at work? If so, it could be mentioned in your Electronic Health Record (EHR). Simply put, feeling of extreme work stress might be codified in your medical records.

According to the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), burnout is now an official medical diagnosis. ICD-11 is the latest version of the WHO’s handbook that guides healthcare providers in diagnosing medical conditions.

The WHO has mentioned burnout in the section of ICD-11 on problems associated with employment or unemployment. According to the latest version of ICD, doctors can now diagnose burnout if patients exhibit the following symptoms:

  1. feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  2. increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  3. reduced professional efficacy

However, before diagnosing, the handbook says physician should first look for symptoms and rule out adjustment disorder, anxiety, and mood disorders. The burnout diagnosis is limited to work environments. It should not be applied to other life situations.

Burnout has been long been embedded in the cultural lexicon.

According to literature published in the journal SAGE Open in 2017, “Psychologist Herbert Freudenberger is credited with inaugurating the formal study of the state of burnout with a scientific article published in 1974.”

Linda and Torsten Heinemann, the authors of that literature, said, “Over the next four decades, hundreds of studies appeared on the subject. During that time, they noted burnout was not considered an actual mental disorder even though it is one of the most widely discussed mental health problems in today’s society.”

The authors argued that one reason was that much of the research on burnout was based on the causative and associated factors instead of developing specific diagnostic criteria. They explained that this led to ambiguity and vagueness around the topic of burnout. Also, they noted that there was a question raised about differentiating depression and burnout, which was a major obstacle in considering burnout an actual medical condition.