You probably have heard about Burnout before. In today’s interview we hear more about it.


Louis: Burnout is an often used phrase. Some say it is caused by an achievement-oriented society. Medical practitioners and clinics have specialized in this area. So what is burnout actually?

miamo: Burnout is not an official term or diagnosis in the field of mental illness. It is a term that first was used to refer to a sense of fatigue and an inability to function normally in the workplace as a result of excessive demands on the individual, especially among helping professionals. If seen broader it refers to long term emotional exhaustion, reduced sense of personal accomplishment leading to diminished interest in work. Or in other words, burnout is the result of prolonged period of stress caused by life and/or work management difficulty. It is not a recognized disorder! Therefore it is not an illness but rather a disturbance of mental state.


Louis: Burnout seems to be a quite popular term and acceptable state.

miamo: Burnout symptoms may actually hint towards depression. Depression however is a stigmatized mental illness that people do not want to admit suffering from. Having a burnout is much more accepted. It implies hard work and earns you applause. Being burned out almost becomes a matter of honor. While depression is a negative label, burnout is a positive one. Therefore burnout is no illness but a cultural phenomenon.


Louis: Not being recognized as a disorder doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t one.

miamo: Today, there is no agreement among scientists as to how we should define burnout. Some see it as an exclusively work-related phenomenon, while others see it more broadly. I think most agrees that burnout is the result of a long period of stress. Stress can lead to physical as well as mental illnesses. Burnout is a feeling: People feel exhausted, tired, disinterested, frustrated, overworked etc. Burnout can result in decreased work performance, fatigue, insomnia and depression. It often goes hand in hand with working conditions. If you “die” to do something, if you are inspired and motivated, if you see meaning in what you do – then hard work, extra hours usually don’t get you into such the mental state of a burnout. People fully” in the flow” often don’t even recognise how hard they work. Here lies the deeper problem. We seem closer to assiduity vs achievement-orientation. Meaning, leadership, communication and corporate wellness are the issues society needs to work on.


Louis: Does that mean specialists for burnout cure aren’t necessary?

miamo: Obviously there is a need for remedies to deal with the mix of feelings and states that burnout seems to host. And if there is a need, there is a solution provider. There might be a bit of a risk that burnout becomes a marketing term for a new business model.


Louis: So how can burnout be avoided?

miamo: The burnout syndrome seems to be a result of a mix of things: obsolete understanding of work and achievement, unsuitable ideals and values, conventions and a wrong idea about self. Like I said on other occasions: Let’s create a corporate wellness culture which includes good leadership and personal development programs, realistic goals, meaningful work, relaxation phases, clear values, minimization of stress factors.


What do you think about burnout? Are you a possible candidate? And what are you doing about it?