Burnout Syndrome can occur in psychologically healthy people and is not related to psychological pathology. It is usually accompanied by negative emotional symptoms such as a drop in mood, irritability or exhaustion, behavioral changes, loss of motivation to perform work activities and feelings of incapacity. "People for whom interpersonal communication is a key work tool are the most susceptible to burnout. The risk of developing burnout is even higher in professions where the individual encounters the problems of others and tries to support them emotionally. High emotional involvement combined with unrealistic demands on one's own person and performance and an unsupportive work environment can easily lead to burnout syndrome," explains clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Mgr. Kateřina Weigertová. Professions at increased risk of burnout include mainly social workers, health professionals or teachers, for whose work communication and relationship with clients, patients or students is crucial. "These are also professions that people choose as their mission in life and enter the workplace with high ideals. Burnout syndrome can be seen as a condition where, due to various external and internal conditions, ideals are lost and thus the will and motivation to work is lost," she adds. However, burnout can affect anyone in any profession. It mainly depends on the overall lifestyle, stress level, working conditions and environment, but also on the personality of each individual.
Symptoms Must Be Addressed
Burnout syndrome manifests as creeping psychological exhaustion caused by prolonged exposure to stressful stimuli. "The consequences come on gradually. The initial enthusiasm for work, the satisfaction of achievement and the excitement of self-fulfillment fade. Often there is a clash with reality, which is often quite different from the ideas with which the person started work. Professional behavior begins to change, and interest in the client or patient disappears. Irritability, depression, loss of confidence and feelings of inner emptiness appear," the psychologist outlined the course of the process. If these symptoms start to manifest, the person should consider seeing a professional. If left unaddressed, burnout can lead to depression, anxiety or sleep disorders, substance abuse and the development of other problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, digestive problems and chronic fatigue. "It is important to know that this is a serious condition. In the beginning, it is necessary to admit that something is wrong. It can be very hard to admit that one can no longer handle the situation at work and take responsibility for the changes that come with BS treatment. Therapy involves incorporating activities that act as prevention. It is important to rest, learn to relax and release the tension that arises at work," she says. Sometimes it is necessary to make a career or work change. Support from family, friends and co-workers is very important in treatment.
Options for Preventing Burnout
As with most illnesses, it is easier to focus on prevention than treatment. "In practice, this means preventing long-term exhaustion, living a healthy lifestyle and having enough time for your own activities, interests, family and friends," says Mgr. Weigertová. According to her, prevention can be divided into two areas. Employers can improve the conditions in which people work. "People who suffer from burnout often work under great stress and in a work environment where their needs are not taken into account, where supervision is lacking and where it is impossible to talk openly about the problems they encounter at work. All of this can be modified by the employer to alleviate stress from the work environment," she advises. On the worker's part, it is important to ensure quality rest, cultivate interests other than work and find time for relationships that are satisfying. At the same time, it is advisable to learn how to guard one's own boundaries and learn to say no in situations that overly stress him or her.
A Syndrome Hidden in Another Diagnosis
Accurate statistics on the prevalence of burnout in the Czech population are not available. Numbers vary because the picture of burnout syndrome includes symptoms such as depression or anxiety disorders. Patients who suffer from burnout are often given a different diagnosis. "Burnout syndrome is seen as a psychosocial disorder that affects physical symptoms and is accompanied by a variety of physical difficulties of varying intensity. The International Classification of Diseases lists burnout only as an additional diagnosis. Despite the growing awareness of its dangers, it is not yet recognised as an occupational disease in our country," the Health+ psychologist points out. This is also because the course and manifestations of burnout syndrome vary from person to person, depending on the stressors and personality of the patient. In practice, burnout is often replaced by a diagnosis of adjustment disorder or mood disorder. In general, however, if a person begins to experience any unusual psychological symptoms and signs, he or she should definitely consult a specialist, as early help can prevent the development of more unpleasant consequences in terms of mental and physical health.