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Burn-out an “occupational phenomenon” – International Classification of Diseases

In a press release on 28th May 2019, the WHO announced that burnout is included in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), a handbook that provides a guideline for medical providers when making a diagnosis. Burnout was also included in the handbook’s previous version, the ICD-10, but its definition is now more detailed.

According to the WHO, burnout is not a medical condition or illness, but it is a “factor influencing health status or contact with health services”—which means that people might reach out to doctors or other health professionals because of issues relating to it. Burnout is defined in the ICD-11 as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

Burnout is also characterized by three main 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; and reduced professional efficacy.

While these symptoms may also be visible in non-work related situations (like feeling overwhelmed with housework and family obligations, for example), the WHO states that this diagnosis should only be used in an occupational context.The World Health Organization is about to embark on the development of evidence-based guidelines on mental well-being in the workplace.

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