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Burnout: what it is, meaning and symptoms of chronic stress syndrome

burnout syndrome

Burnout is a condition of strong work stress, which also affects daily life. Let’s find out what it is and how to cure this disorder.

Burnout , or chronic stress syndrome, is a disorder that originates from professional and work environments that are judged and perceived to be too exhausting. People suffering from this condition often feel dissatisfied and listless, but most of all detached from their work.

The overwhelm resulting from burnout syndrome leads the individual to a feeling of psychic and physical exhaustion, which can also lead to more serious mental illnesses . Precisely for this reason it is essential not to underestimate this disease and the symptoms that accompany it, acting promptly. So let’s try to understand more specifically what it is, what its symptoms are and how it can be treated.

Burnout: the meaning of the term

The English term burnout usually indicates something exhausted, burned or burst . Given the connotation of this word it is easy to understand how the WHO wanted to indicate with this term a condition deriving from chronic stress. The source of the stress is at work, as the individual feels overwhelmed by the professional tasks he has to perform.

burnout syndrome
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Specifically, it causes fatigue, disappointment, tiredness and unproductivity. These conditions, in addition to weighing on the company, cause in the individual disinterest in his profession and outbursts towards the users of his work or private life. In any case, albeit serious, WHO has indicated that burnout syndrome is an occupational condition, however it is not labeled as a medical condition or pathology.

Burnout syndrome: main features

This syndrome can manifest itself in various ways, but nevertheless three characteristics remain common to all situations. The first and most important is the sense of exhaustion and the lack of energy that causes in the subjects feelings of emptying and cancellation of their work.

Secondly, mental detachment from one’s job takes over, resulting in isolation from one’s job. In these situations it is not uncommon to find individuals with reduced professional skills, but also poor ability to interact with colleagues.

The mood most of the time is centered on cynicism, negativity and resentment towards superiors , customers or even colleagues. Finally, there is the perception of psychological overload , inadequacy for the work being done, as well as a decline in self-esteem and personal efficiency.

Burnout syndrome: causes

The first thing to understand when looking for the causes of burnout syndrome is to be clear that it is a disorder caused by a multitude of causes. However, all of them concern the way in which subjects act in working and social life and how they tend to organize these two aspects.

In fact, in full-blown cases there are conditions of chronic stress inserted in a work context, in which an imbalance between professional demands and needs is felt. Furthermore, this condition is particularly frequent in individuals who have suffered repeated demotivations and disappointments.

All aggravated by the pressing work demands and duties, perhaps also due to positions of responsibility , determine a great waste of energy. In the long run, these intense rhythms can facilitate the appearance of symptoms or a real exhaustion.

Additional causes of burnout

Social, demographic and personality aspects may also predispose individuals to Burnout Syndrome. According to some experts, age, marital status and gender difference could contribute to increasing stress.

As regards age, the risks increase both in the elderly and in the young ones, whose expectations are often disappointed. Furthermore, individuals who are single or without a permanent partner are more vulnerable to psychophysical stress. Obviously, the personality also contributes to creating the picture of Burnout and some indicative behaviors can be:

-have unrealistic or unrealistic goals
-authoritarian, introverted attitudes and inability to work as a team
-consider themselves indispensable
-abnegation to work, understood as a substitute for the social way
– very high work expectations

The work context also plays a fundamental role and, if this is not very favorable, it causes tensions and psychophysical disturbances that have a serious impact on the personal sphere. Among these working components we can find:

-workload higher than capacity
inadequate activities with respect to skills
-increase of liability without proper compensation
-difficult interactions with colleagues or clients
– frequent conflicts or interruptions
– low levels of support
– unclear tasks and objectives
– lack of social or economic recognition

burnout woman
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Burnout syndrome: symptoms and complications

Among the most relevant symptoms related to burnout syndrome we can certainly find a rapid decline in work performance and psychophysical resources. However, it almost never occurs suddenly, and is the result of a slow and progressive decay.

If the worker initially commits himself strongly to his duties, also to demonstrate his abilities, after some time the workload becomes unsustainable . All associated with too few or too short rest phases can cause a real mental exhaustion.

In this regard, we can say that the most affected people are certainly certain categories, such as hospital workers, secretaries, shift workers, but also creatives and professionals who spend many hours in front of the computer. In any case, even if it is very sneaky , it sends alarm signals such as insomnia, headache, intolerance, stomach pain and lack of work motivation. Furthermore, there may be complications affecting the psychophysical and behavioral spheres such as:

feeling of suffocation
-lack of initiative
– rigidity of thought and resistance to change
agitation, irritability and nervousness
-lack of creativity
constant worry
– tremors
– sweating in the hands
– fertility disorders

Abuse of alcohol , drugs or psychotropic and psychoactive substances was also reported in many subjects. Normally these habits for those who practice them are designed to contain the disorder, but in reality the situation can only get worse. In fact, if action is not taken quickly, phenomena of self-harm, isolation and impoverishment of social life can occur.

Burnout prevention and remedies

In order to solve burnout it is necessary to take a multi-pronged approach to work both on the organization and on the individual himself. The first thing to do is obviously contact a specialist to undertake the right rehabilitation path, but in any case, awareness of the problem must be strengthened. Acceptance of the factors by those suffering from this syndrome is crucial.

Once you understand what causes the development and duration of exhaustion, you need to focus on yourself. In fact, even behavior has a relationship with the syndrome, as well as the experience and the working context. Finally, it is necessary to change behaviors, favoring coherence, but it is always advisable to follow a path of psychotherapy.

Having said this, it should be remembered that prevention is essential in order not to make this disorder too serious. In particular, it can be useful to respect one’s own needs, such as rest, food and physical activity, and set reasonable goals , avoiding being too demanding with oneself. Furthermore, if the workload becomes unsustainable, it is good to talk about it with the superior or, if possible, delegate part of the duties.

Leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle, or perhaps following a diet , can also help withstand stress and strengthen the body both physically and mentally.

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